Seahawks find themselves in a rare position vs Patriots: Being doubted
“It’s an emotional team. Emotional guys and we ride that emotion.”
Those were coach Pete Carroll’s words after the Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons earlier this season, and on Sunday night in New England, Carroll’s team will play what would appear to be its most emotionally charged game of the season.
Seattle is facing the team it lost to in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, a franchise that did no less than fire Carroll back in 2000, and oh and by the way, the Seahawks are bigger underdogs than they’ve been since the first half of Russell Wilson’s first season as quarterback.
When the Seahawks take the field to play the Patriots on Sunday night, they will have the kind of opportunity they haven’t had in a while: a chance to prove people wrong. Because for all the talk about the chips on the shoulders and the doubters, the fact is that since about December 2012 Seattle has been regarded with the respect and deference that is due a team with bona fide heavyweight credentials.
Now there are questions about this Seahawks team. The quarterback isn’t as quick as he was, the running game has slowed to a crawl and the defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league each of the past four seasons just went a span of more than 69 minutes of game action without forcing a single punt.
Seattle hasn’t faced this degree of doubt since the first half of 2012, back when this city worried that the Seahawks were wasting a championship-caliber defense by starting a rookie ahead of veteran Matt Flynn.
Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? It was. In fact, there hasn’t been all that much of a doubt about Seattle’s quarterback or its trajectory since the last time the Seahawks played the Patriots in the regular season. That was the game in which Wilson threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 78 seconds left. It was the second time Wilson led the Seahawks to a fourth-quarter comeback and the first time he did it without the asterisk of replacement officials making a questionable call on the final play of a Monday night game against Green Bay.
That next week the Seahawks went to San Francisco as seven-point underdogs. The 49ers won the game 13-6, which was not only the most lopsided loss Wilson suffered as a rookie, but it still stands tied for the third-most lopsided loss Seattle has suffered since Wilson joined the team. That’s incredible, isn’t it?
Seattle lost by nine points in San Diego in Week 2 of 2014. The Seahawks were beaten by 10 in Green Bay the following year after two fourth-quarter turnovers.
That’s it. Those are the largest losses Seattle has suffered in a span of four and a half seasons, which is what makes Sunday’s game so very interesting.
It’s not just possible that Seattle will be blown out in New England, but some people are expecting it. The Patriots are not only 7-1, but they are coming off a bye and Tom Brady has yet to be picked off in the four games since he returned from a four-game league suspension. The Patriots have averaged 34 points in the four games he has played, and won each of them by at least 11 points.
Seattle has a shortened week coming off the Monday night game against Buffalo. Seattle’s opponents have held a 50-minute advantage in time of possession over the past three games. The Seahawks defense has gone from being on the field for an average of 59.4 plays over the first five games to being out there an average of 81.3 plays over the past three.
The Seahawks will have Kam Chancellor back against the Patriots, but they’ll still be missing Michael Bennett and Mike Morgan. The Seattle offense – which has failed to reach the end zone in two different games this season – scored 28 points in the first half against Buffalo, but sputtered in the second half.
And now Seattle is facing more than just one of the best teams in the league. They are facing the doubts from some people who no longer include the Seahawks among that group.