O’Neil: Seahawks no longer the heavyweight they once were
Nov 21, 2017, 12:32 PM | Updated: 1:19 pm
It was in Atlanta five years ago that these Seattle Seahawks first realized how great they could be.
They had to taste their own blood first, though. Knocked out of the 2012 playoffs on a last-second field goal, spoiling an extraordinary comeback in which Russell Wilson gave the first full demonstration of just how dangerous he could be.
The Seahawks were the rising heavyweight then. A champion-in-the-making that needed a little seasoning and perhaps some scar tissue before making its title run.
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It was against that same Atlanta team on Monday night that we saw how much this Seahawks team has changed. They’re the former champion that is a few years removed from former greatness. Still formidable. Always dangerous even if it’s clear they don’t have the legs they used to. They’re trying to make up for that with a chin that seems to be made of granite and the heart of a (fuzzy) lion.
That’s what I learned about this Seahawks team Monday night. They’re not going to get knocked out and they’re not going to stop coming forward, so you better be ready to go a full 15 rounds (or 12 rounds now that we’re in an era of preventing people from willfully pummeling one another into senility).
Used to be that Seattle was capable of landing a combination capable of ending a fight early. The Seahawks could also run an opponent into exhaustion. But it has been three years since Marshawn Lynch effectively ran the ball for Seattle, and outside of a two-month stretch by Thomas Rawls in 2015, Seattle has become decidedly more sedentary.
They have to wait everybody out.
Which is exactly what Seattle did against Atlanta on Monday night without cornerback Richard Sherman. Without strong safety Kam Chancellor. With cornerback Shaquill Griffin having suffered a concussion on the second play of the game. Seattle stumbled early, throwing an interception that set up Atlanta’s first touchdown, and then committed a fumble that led to the Falcons’ third score.
But what looked like a lopsided matchup early turned into a slugfest that resembled the middle-round montage of a bout from a “Rocky” film, each side landing haymakers that left the other guy cross-eyed.
The Seahawks wage wars of attrition now. They have to win ugly. They did it against San Francisco, and in Los Angeles, and in Arizona less than two weeks ago. But sometimes it comes down to a judge’s decision, which is exactly what happened on Monday against Atlanta. And after Seattle’s game-tying field-goal attempt came up a few feet short, you’re left to second-guess the strategy and shake your head in disbelief. Not because the Seahawks lost. They weren’t the better team in Monday’s game. You shake your head in disbelief that they were able to hang in there even though they aren’t nearly as dominant as they used to be, and no sooner was the game over than the Seahawks were already talking about their readiness for the next match.
They’re not done. And even though it’s evident they aren’t the team they once were – and in fact may never reign like that again – they’re still very dangerous and always game.
On any given night, they could win the belt. At least that’s the hope that you cling to.