Rost: Just how similar was Seahawks’ surprising 2019 to the 2012 team?
In the end, it was a controversial fourth-down spot that acted as the anticlimactic finale both to the Seahawks’ thrilling rally in Green Bay and to a season that defied the odds.
The question left with fans now is whether an end that felt hardly fitting of the comeback staged by quarterback Russell Wilson could also be the beginning of something much more encouraging.
At least one person thinks so.
“I think this is the start of this team,” head coach Pete Carroll said after Seattle’s 28-23 loss to the Packers. “It feels like 2012 all over again. I don’t want to talk about that game – you can go back and figure it out. But this was so similar. There was not a guy on that sideline that we were connected to that thought we weren’t going to win that football game, all the way until we didn’t…
“And that’s what this thing has felt like the whole time, the whole year. It’s an amazing chemistry and it’s an amazing group; the leadership of Bobby (Wagner) and K.J. (Wright) and Russ and Duane Brown… just the kind of stuff that these guys are made of. I’m really proud to be part of it.”
The comparison is a fair one on its face. In the 2012 playoff game Carroll was referencing – also a divisional round contest – the Seahawks got off to an abysmally slow start and trailed the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons 20-0 by halftime. But Wilson, a then-rookie quarterback, marched the offense down the field to open the third quarter with an 80-yard touchdown drive. It was the first of four second-half touchdowns by Seattle, all part of an effort that fell just short of a phenomenal upset when the Falcons nailed a field goal to pull ahead and a Hail Mary pass from Wilson was intercepted in the game’s final seconds.
It was a similar resurgence on Sunday. A Seahawks team that trailed 21-3 at halftime scored three touchdowns in the second half – the first a 7-yard pass from Wilson to wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and the second and third scores coming on short runs from tailback Marshawn Lynch. Seattle outgained Green Bay by nearly 100 yards in those quarters and the defense finally found a way to stop the Packers’ offense after allowing 88 yards and a touchdown from receiver Davonte Adams in the first half.
Unfortunately for Seattle, this year’s divisional round shared the same heartbreaking outcome. Seattle had the ball less than five minutes remaining and trailing by five points, but a dropped pass and a sack on third down brought up a punt on fourth-and-11 with 2:41 remaining. Seattle never got the ball back. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed a 32-yard pass to Adams for one of two necessary first downs. The second first down was awarded on a controversial spot when Rodgers found former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham for a gain of 9 on third down.
Despite similarities between these two failed rallies, though, there are a few important differences between the 2012 and 2019 Seahawks. And if Seattle wants to find the postseason success enjoyed by its previous iteration, it might need a different approach, because one of biggest differences is the impact and importance of Russell Wilson.
The 2012 Seahawks saw promise in Wilson but also boasted burgeoning young talent on defense with cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. Seattle would go on to lead the NFL in total defense in its Super Bowl-winning 2013 season, but they were still fourth overall in 2012, allowing 306 yards per game (and 203 passing yards).
This year’s Seahawks, meanwhile, finished near the bottom of the pack in that regard. They also had promise with the acquisitions of safety Quandre Diggs and edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, plus improvement from cornerback Shaquill Griffin and defensive end Rasheem Green, but they struggled to limit opposing offenses. Just six teams allowed more yards per game than Seattle (381.6) and all but one had a losing record.
Meanwhile, it was the offense that served as the Seahawks’ strength through most of the year. Led by Wilson and with a strong supporting cast of Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf,and Chris Carson, the Seahawks’ offense finished eighth in total yards per game (374.4), fourth in rushing yards per game (137.5) and ninth in points per game (25.3). Wilson finished with 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
The 2012 Seahawks were a couple pieces away from a Super Bowl team – they signed free agent defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett ahead of the 2013 season – but they certainly had the upper hand on this year’s version.
The shift in power on this team to offense – or to Wilson, more specifically – won’t prompt Carroll to abandon his philosophy. He’s a defensive-minded coach who values ball security, establishing a powerful run game, strong special teams play and explosive plays on offense. But to take advantage of the spark Carroll saw Sunday, they’ll need some help. From where and from whom are important questions that haven’t been answered yet, but they’ve got a full offseason to find out.