O’Neil: Seahawks have a chance to revive their most important December tradition
Big, lopsided winning streaks used to be the Seahawks’ equivalent of egg nog.
They were a holiday tradition. An annual ritual that no one could fully explain any more than they could tell you why it didn’t happen at other times of the year, but it got to be so that just about every year, as soon as the calendar flipped to December, the Seahawks would start reeling off win after blowout win.
They won their final five games in 2012, including a three-game scoring binge in which they racked up 150 points. They won their final six games in 2014 by a combined score of 134-39 (!!!) and then, in 2015, they won six of their final seven games.
The past two seasons have been mediocre in comparison. Middle of the road, even. The Seahawks were 3-2 in December in 2016 and 2-3 in the final month last season, missing the playoffs for the first time in six years. But this weekend Seattle will ride a four-game win streak down to the Bay Area where they will play a three-win team named San Francisco in a stadium built next to a two-bit amusement park. If the Seahawks beat the 49ers they will clinch a playoff berth and match their longest win streak since December 2015.
Seattle’s holiday tradition will have officially been revived.
And really, this is one of the keys to understanding the Seattle Seahawks under Pete Carroll. His teams (almost) always get better. This speaks to not just the drafting that Seattle does, but the development of those young players. They improve. You can see it in the team’s record by month.
Since Carroll came to Seattle in 2010, the Seahawks are 17-13 (.567) in September, 21-14-1 (.583) in October, 22-13 (.629) in November and 27-13 (.675) in regular-season games played Dec. 1 or later.
That’s what made the past two years so puzzling because in each instance, the Seahawks tailed off. They peaked early. In 2016 it was a Sunday night victory in New England in mid-November that was the high-water mark and last year it was an early-December win at home over the eventual champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.
And for as much time as has been talking about the Seahawks and their culture and whether some of the team’s Pro Bowl veterans were as invested, the simple fact of how Seattle fared in December was all you needed to see to know it was time for a change. The Seahawks lost three of their final four games in 2016, showing that a team once known for its late-season surges was tailing off.
One year later, the Seahawks are again 8-5 entering the final three games, but the trajectory is totally different. Where Seattle was in the midst of a nosedive at this point last season, they’re just hitting their stride this year.
Look, no one thinks this team is back to being a Super Bowl favorite. Their quarterback is coming off what was the least productive game of his seven-year career and the defense is two weeks from letting some guy named Nick Mullens throw for 415 yards against them.
But this team is also getting better, and maybe Wilson’s game against the Vikings was an aberration and perhaps the defense’s performance will be a turning point.
There’s room to hope again. After all, it’s December and the Seahawks are a streaking.