For the fourth time this season, Seattle lost a game it had a chance to win in the final quarter. Playoff teams can afford one or two of those games to go the wrong way. There have been a few seasons where Seahawks fans could look back at one game, and credibly say, “that was the one that cost us.” This year, people have been given a variety to choose from. There was the season opener in Arizona, when the team ahead 16-13 in the fourth quarter before giving up an 80-yard touchdown drive, and finally being unable to score a game-winning touchdown with what felt like a dozen chances at the end. There was the Rams game, where the Rams offense never scored a touchdown, Russell Wilson threw three interceptions, Pete Carroll kicked a ridiculous onsides kick to start the second half, and the defense gave up a 74-yard field goal drive in the fourth to require a touchdown to win. Seattle thoroughly outplayed the division-leading 49ers for one half of football, but were only up 6-3, and then were beaten in all three phases in the second half. Then, there was yesterday when the team with three extra days of rest and prep got beaten by the team coming off a short week. Take your pick. Pick a couple, if you like.
The thing is, this first half of 2012 looks completely different with just one win in those four games. A win in any of those division games would put Seattle at 1-2 in the division, with a chance to still take the title if they held serve at home. A win yesterday would have put Seattle at 5-3 after a brutal opening schedule, a clear sign of progress for the coaches, players and fans. The truth is, the Lions offense played a fantastic game. Their coaches deserve credit for out-scheming the Seahawks defense. They took a page out of the 49ers game plan, a page out of the Patriots game plan, and sprinkled in some of their stuff to keep Seattle off-balance all day. I never believed the Lions were as bad as their 2-4 record indicated. This would be a forgivable loss, or at least digestible, if Seattle had taken care of business in St. Louis, or Arizona, or San Francisco. The team surrendered margin for error by losing every one of those games. What a shame.
The season is not over. The second half schedule is still favorable to Seattle. A 6-2 finish is entirely possible, would would get the team to 10 wins. The fair question is, what have the Seahawks done to give fans any reason to expect better than mediocrity? Sure, there have been signature victories over the Cowboys, Patriots, and Packers. Those highlights have been surrounded by disappointments. It is almost unthinkable that the Seahawks could finish the first half of their season mired in mediocrity with wins against those teams on their resume. If you told me Seattle would win those three games, and beat the Panthers on the road before the season started, I would have put the odds of a 4-4 record at about 0.0%. Yet, that’s exactly where the team is.
I will publish my 2012 Season Progress Report for the mid-point in the season later this week. In it, you will see signs of the maligned passing game making significant progress, while the defense, running game and special teams, have taken large steps backwards. You will see a team that talks an awful lot about turnovers has only won the turnover battle once in eight games. There will be evidence that the pass rush improvements are not reliable enough to be a factor in more than a few games. This is a team that has been offensively challenged, yet has scored first in every game this year. You will see a muddy picture that befits a .500 team.
The frustration is high right now, but anyone that claims this team has not improved should re-visit the first half of last season. The team was 2-6, allowing 23.1 points/game, while scoring only 15.3. They had lost two home games, were allowing 3.5 sacks/game (1.8 this year), and were averaging only 88.3 rushing yards. Has the team improved? Undoubtedly. Are they playing to their potential? Not even close.
More and more, it appears that this will be a season where Seattle will attempt to break free of their adolescence. So much potential, so much drama, such little predictability. Everything they want is still within their reach. The quality of the individuals is just as strong now as it was before the season started. The dedication to improvement and greatness is still there. This team will be great. Their opportunities to prove that this season, though, are nearly gone.