DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Remember the Decembers? Why Seahawks’ closing kick could be back

Dec 3, 2020, 11:00 AM
Seahawks Pete Carroll Russell Wilson...
Nine of the Seahawks' 17 December losses under Pete Carroll have come since 2016. (Getty)
(Getty)

Remember the Decembers? That was the month when Pete Carroll’s Seahawks used to truly distinguish themselves, their closing kick becoming a signature during his first six seasons as coach.

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Ah, yes. Those were the days. Like 2012 when the Seahawks went on an epic scoring binge, totaling 150 points in a single three-game span, which included a fake punt in the second half of a game where the Seahawks scored 50 points. Seattle went 5-0 in December that year, winning by an average score of 39-12. Yep. That was the average score: 39-12.

Two years later, the Seahawks went 4-0 in December, hitting their stride just in time to earn the top seed in the NFC for a second straight year and greasing their path to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The Seahawks gave up an average of 8 points per game that month. They allowed one touchdown over the final 12 quarters of the regular season.

A December like that would go a long way toward putting Seattle (8-3) atop the conference and earning the first-round bye that would come with it. Except it has been a while since Seattle has finished with that kind of flourish. The team that once made a habit of streaking to the finish line of the regular season has been prone to stubbing its toe.

In Carroll’s first six seasons as Seattle coach, from 2010-2015, Seattle was 21-8. Over the past four seasons, the Seahawks are 11-9 in regular-season games played after Dec. 1.

So what happened?

Well, the Seahawks got older for one thing, and this isn’t just about the gradual erosion of the stars who formed the nucleus of the franchise’s Super Bowl champs. One of the reasons Seattle tended to peak so late in the season early in Carroll’s tenure was the team’s willingness to play its younger players. Those younger players tended to improve over the course of the season, their roles expanding as their confidence grew.

After three or four years in the league, players tend to reach their ceiling and it’s not a matter of improving their level of play but sustaining. Injuries are an issue for every player in the league, but they tend to be even more of an issue for veterans who’ve accumulated years of wear on their bodies.

Or maybe it was more psychological. That the teamwork improved, the trust deepened over the course of a year.

The reasons may have been intangible; the results were measurable, though. Seattle’s defense used to get better in the final month of the season. In five of those first six seasons under Carroll, Seattle allowed fewer points in December than it had in the previous three months. The one exception was Carroll’s first season in 2010.

Over the past four seasons, Seattle has reduced the points it allowed in December only once, and that exception is what proves the rule. In 2018, the Seahawks went from giving up 22.1 points in the first three months of the season to allowing 20.8 in December. The Seahawks were 4-1 in December that season, their best record in that month of any of the previous four seasons.

Turning back to this year, that defense has played better the past two games, but there’s certainly still room for improvement. And maybe this year the Seahawks can find a way to turn the corner like they used to, getting on a December streak that will make this season worth remembering.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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O’Neil: Remember the Decembers? Why Seahawks’ closing kick could be back