Rost: Seahawks find uncertainty after decade of success
In a December game against the Chicago Bears in 2012, a then-rookie quarterback marched Seattle’s offense down the field from its own 3-yard line. Facing fourth-and-3 from midfield with just 1:11 remaining in the regulation, he found veteran tight end Zach Miller for a seven-yard gain.
Convert. Keep moving.
Two plays later, he found wide receiver Golden Tate for a 14-yard touchdown.
A Bears’ field goal forced overtime, where Seattle began on offense. The rookie once again marched down the field (this time with a boost from one of the league’s best running backs) and capped the drive off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Jones.
Game over. Seahawks win.
It wasn’t Russell Wilson’s coming out party – earning the starting job and stringing together a few wins before that game against Chicago was enough to put the rest of the NFL on notice – but it was yet another indicator that something special was happening in Seattle.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called Wilson “beautifully poised” and confident. It was clear the rookie had a belief in himself despite being overlooked in the draft. As that game on the road against the NFC North leaders headed into overtime, Wilson took charge and rallied the rest of the team.
“I just told the guys, ‘This is what the season comes down to, right here and right now,’” Wilson said at the time.
That win helped to save Seattle’s season after all. The Seahawks won their next four games to finish 11-5 – their first winning season since 2007 – then beat Washington in the wild card round before losing a thrilling divisional round heartbreaker to the Atlanta Falcons.
After that season, it was clear the Seahawks were one of the league’s most promising teams. They were young, they were hungry, they had star power on defense, and they looked to have found their new franchise quarterback.
For the next decade, the Seahawks never experienced a losing season. They never even finished .500. They missed the playoffs just once and made two trips to the Super Bowl, winning one championship in 2013. As members of their once vaunted defense trickled out – either by injury, trade, or release – and their battering run game became less reliable, the Seahawks struggled to find postseason success; they haven’t been back to the NFC Championship since that second straight Super Bowl appearance.
But this at least felt certain at the dawn of each new season: Russell Wilson would be good, Pete Carroll would rally the newest iteration of the team, and the Seahawks would be in the playoffs.
Now after another December game against the Bears, Seahawks fans see a different version of their team. There were highlights, of course – including another stellar outing from running back Rashaad Penny and a solid day from defensive end Carlos Dunlap – but the Seahawks fell at home to a Chicago team that ranks as one of the league’s worst offenses. Worse still, this loss was no fluke; rather, it was a continuation of an ugly season.
The five-win Seahawks once again struggled to stay on the field on offense (30% on third down) and Wilson struggled to stay consistent, throwing for two touchdowns but also making a few key errors, one of which included taking a sack on a critical third down. A Seahawks defense that had limited opponents to about 20 points per game let Chicago gain 122 yards and a 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter alone and allowed another 99 passing yards and a touchdown from backup quarterback Nick Foles in the third quarter.
New game, same story. Third down struggles, surrendering big plays on defense, inconsistencies from Wilson – all have contributed to losses this season, but the last of those is the most perplexing. The Seahawks’ defense shouldn’t be leading the league in yards surrendered for a second consecutive year; on the other hand, they have a decimated secondary and have managed to keep opponents out of the end zone more often than not. But Wilson struggling? Third down failures? Those two things keep an offense from being elite. Being knocked out of contention should’ve been obvious long before the Rams all but eliminated Seattle from the playoffs Tuesday, because a team that doesn’t excel anywhere is a team that’s not going to a Super Bowl.
Getting back to a Super Bowl is exactly what the Seahawks want to do. But the road there suddenly feels murkier. Perhaps they run it all back and try to rekindle the magic run they found in 2012. Or perhaps they tear down and start fresh.
The only thing clear now is that as the regular season nears a close, the Seahawks have found themselves facing something new: uncertainty.