O’Neil: Seahawks have a new identity — the team you can’t put away
The Seahawks used to swagger.
Now they’re steady.
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They used to be a team that entered without knocking and busted up your house for three hours before leaving without saying goodbye.
Now, they’re the opponent that’s friendly enough, respectful even, but you can’t get rid of no matter how hard you try, and in fact no matter how hard they try to shoot themselves in the foot.
In the wake of Seattle’s second overtime victory in the span of nine days, we should all pause to note that this team clearly has a different identity this time around, one that was on full display Monday night in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Seahawks are that team that remains calm in the face of a double-digit deficit, unfazed by a pair of red-zone turnovers and so stone-cold resilient that they can stare down their own overtime screw up to knock off the last unbeaten team in the NFL.
These Seahawks are Russell Wilson’s deadpan demeanor in the face of a double-digit deficit.
They are Shaquill Griffin’s determination to come back to make a play, stretching every inch of his frame in a headlong dive to deflect a pass thrown to a receiver who had run past him.
They are Duane Brown – with a strained biceps and sore knee – running from the opposite side of the field to keep a 49ers linebacker from breaking a fifth tackle to return an interception for the game-winning touchdown.
This is no longer the team that swaggered and strutted its way to back-to-back Super Bowls. It doesn’t have that team’s personality nor its volatility, and there’s still a long way to go before we can say that they’re anywhere near as good, but we know one thing for sure about this season’s version of the Seattle Seahawks: They are incredibly tough to put away.
They’ve got alligator blood, as Teddy KGB famously described it in “Rounders.” You can’t get rid of them. They’re going to keep hanging around, hanging around and pretty soon we will stop shaking our heads at the field-goal attempts that opponents happen to miss and notice that when one team so consistently gives itself a chance to win, it’s going to catch a few breaks in those decisive moments.
The fact that all this happened in a game against the division rival that currently employs the player who best embodied the swagger of that Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl only made the difference more stark.
Seattle doesn’t intend to go anywhere. The Seahawks made that clear on Monday night in San Francisco in a game that was as puzzling as it was exciting. The Seahawks ground their gears for most of the first quarter, scored 21 points off San Francisco turnovers and won only after a replacement kicker hooked an eminently make-able field goal. But just about the time you want to chalk Seattle’s second overtime victory in nine days up to good fortune, you remember that Seattle won in spite of committing four turnovers, two of which were within 20 yards of the opponent’s end zone. And this Seahawks defense – which couldn’t seem to force so much as a punt the previous two games – kept the 49ers offense from reaching the end zone for the final 57 minutes of the game.
That gave Seattle a chance on Monday, and many times, that’s all that these Seahawks need.
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