Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead
Drop a leaf or a stick in a stream and it will quickly float out of view. You can jog alongside of it for a bit, but eventually it is gone. Every now and then the stream carries it into an eddy that provides a few extra seconds to savor the journey. This Seahawks team has enjoyed so much success recently that it is easy to forget the franchise has lost more games than it has won during its 39 year history. It took eight years before the first Seattle playoff game. There was a twenty year drought between 1985 and 2005 without a single playoff win. It took 38 years to win a Super Bowl, something thirteen NFL franchises have still yet to experience. Time will continue to flow at a relentless rate. It will be challenging to savor what this team is doing. Take this naturally occurring break in the schedule and reflect on the heights this team has reached. Your Seahawks are once again NFC West Division champs and the top seed in the NFC. Neither time nor opposing teams can stop them for long.
A team for the ages
They say a President cannot be judged while he or she is still in office. History needs time to assess the larger context of all the decisions made during a term. Others will need time appreciate the greatness of this Seahawks team. We do not.
The Seahawks have had three straight years of at least a 140 point differential between what they score and what their opponents score. Only the 1991-96 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-95 Dallas Cowboys, and 2009-2012 New England Patriots have had more
Another team that went three straight years with a differential like that was the 1971-73 Miami Dolphins. These are not just good teams. They are among the pantheon of NFL franchises. That is where this Seahawks team is headed.
The Seattle defense has allowed 254 points (15.9 ppg) or less in three straight years. The only other defenses to do that were the 1989-92 49ers, the 1984-86 Chicago Bears, the 1992-94 Cowboys, and the 2000-02 Philadelphia Eagles.
And the pattern continues…
The last team to hold their last six regular season opponents to a combined 39 points or less was the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers
Books are written about these teams. Documentaries are filmed. Kids grow up hearing about the legends that played on those squads. All future greatness is judged in comparison to what those teams accomplished. This Seahawks team belongs in that conversation now, and will have their next chance to prove it a week from Saturday.
For the third straight season, the Seahawks finished their regular season with a gritty win over a tougher-than-their-record St. Louis Rams team. There may have been no better way to get ready for what lies ahead than to play another physical NFC West team. Many fans revel in the flash of a primetime win in Arizona and want to believe that is the way every game should look for a team considered to be favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The truth is that teams who run and hide from opponents each week are ill-prepared for the titanic clashes that take place in the playoffs. Each game is a struggle. Getting acquainted with the struggle and understanding how to emerge as the victor is what often separates good teams from championship teams.
St. Louis played a smart game and were in position to sweep the season series from the Seahawks. Shaun Hill ended the day with two interceptions and passer rating in the 60s, but he was pretty darn good most of the day. The Rams employed a similar game plan to what they did in St. Louis and what the Chargers did in San Diego.
Passes were short and quick. Swing passes and screens were used liberally to combat a once-again ferocious Seahawks pass rush. It worked to the tune of 243 yards passing for Hill and over 200 yards passing as a team (sack yardage is taken away from team passing yards).
The Rams were just the second team in the last 11 games to eclipse 200 yards of passing against the Seahawks defense
What kept them from stealing a win was a running game that was stuffed for just 2.2 yards per carry, and was hovering around 1.0 yard per carry deep into the second half. Being that reliant on the passing game against this defense is almost always going to result in turnovers. It eventually did.
There may not have been two harder luck interceptions on the year than what Hill experienced Sunday. Jordan Hill made a ridiculously athletic play to pick off a pass thrown at the turf, and then Bruce Irvin joined the party by snatching a ball that fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner jostled free of the Rams tight end for what became a long pick six.
FACT: Bruce Irvin has two touchdowns this year. That is double the regular season total of Percy Harvin during his Seahawks career
Teams that are willing to stay disciplined with those underneath passes can string together some plays against Seattle, but very few of them are able to sustain it for a full drive and into the endzone. For so much of this season, the Seahawks defense was great at everything but red zone defending. They struggled to keep every offense out of the endzone once they got there. This Rams team was 3-3 in St. Louis in those situations. They were 0-2 yesterday, and have held their last two opponents to a combined 0-4 in the red zone.
That game would have been very different had the Seahawks fallen behind 14-0 or even 10-0. Their ability to limit the damage is hopefully a sign of things to come. Most opposing offenses failed to even reach the red zone during this win streak. Four of the six teams finished with just one red zone opportunity. That works, but finding the steel in their spine when their backs are against the wall is nice to see.
Hush the haters
When Seattle won the first game of this six-game win streak, naysayers pointed to it being just one game. When they won the second, they said they wanted to see the Seahawks do it against a top offense. Now that they they have done all that and more, there are those who are saying it was the product of playing a series of inferior quarterbacks. Those people clearly do not remember the Seahawks performance against Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady over the past few years. This defense beats everyone when they are playing at this level. Belittling their accomplishment makes you look silly, not them.
Heal and then hurt
The Seahawks now have two weeks to rest and recuperate. History has shown that securing the top seed a year after winning the Super Bowl is rare and valuable
Seattle has not had a bye week since September. They can hope to have Max Unger back, along with Tharold Simon. K.J Wright will be back after dislocating his finger in the game, and hopefully, Jordan Hill’s knee will get the rest it needs as well. The players who are not listed to have injury will benefit as well.
This has been joyous, but grueling, stretch of games against physical opponents. There were signs that energy levels were sagging just a bit. Celebrations were fewer and overall speed seemed a hair slower. That should all be back to championship level when the team returns to action against Carolina, Arizona, or Detroit.
Being a great team does not guarantee success. This group will need to recapture the hunger and togetherness they displayed to close the regular season. But unlike every other team in the playoffs, they have nothing to prove. Everyone knows they can win the Super Bowl. They are the measuring stick for every other team. These playoffs will not be about Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning. They will be about possibly the best defense in history, the best running game in a decade, and a quarterback who almost always finds himself on the winning side. Savor it.