I have become accustomed to being let down over the decades when Seahawks teams I believed in fell short of their potential. That frustration played a large role in my passion for blogging as I wanted to research and find indicators to help me better anticipate just how hopeful I should be about my favorite team. Those indicators have served me well as a useful counterweight to my oversized and irrational fanatical side. This team, though, surprised me. Time after time, they surpassed my expectations.
It would have been another wonderful surprise had they found their way past the Cowboys last night. That they fell short leaves me less upset than almost any end to the season I can remember, outside of the Super Bowl. This was a season that never should have been, and almost never was. They rediscovered their identity, both as a hard-nosed team and as the underdog.
How they accomplished this feat cut against league trends, and rankled many fans who see fault and foolishness where I see beauty and conviction. This game will serve as validation for the naysayers.
No doubt, the Seahawks coaches were far too stubborn with running the ball against Dallas. It was easy to see this coming.
From my Tale of the Tape preview
“This may be a game similar to Carolina, though, where the team needs to take advantage of the Cowboys overcommitment to defending the run by roasting them through the air.”
Unlike the Carolina game, Brian Schottenheimer never adjusted. People will say the final touchdown drive was what they should have been doing all along, but that ignores the fact that Dallas was playing different defensively in that situation and Seattle always scores touchdowns in those situations.
Also unlike the Carolina game, the Cowboys mounted a more effective pass rush that had men in Russell Wilson’s face almost every time he dropped back. They also had far better cover corners than Carolina.
I will not defend the way the game was called by Schottenheimer because I agree it was a good example of his limitations as a play caller that has serious implications for the ceiling of this offense while he is at the helm.
The idea that Seattle would have clearly won this game had they just passed more is flawed. There was enough disruption from that Cowboys defensive line and the coverage was good enough from their secondary that more throws might have meant swapping 0-1 yard gains on the ground for negative yards from a sack or turnovers. Part of what kept Seattle in this game was not turning the ball over.
Losing sucks. People will always look for whipping boys. Schottenheimer is an easy target here and deserves some lashing. I also think Dallas wins this game 55-60% of the time no matter how the Seahawks called plays on offense. The Cowboys defense played well. Their offensive line played far better than I expected. Dallas won this game more than the Seahawks lost it.
Even with the offense sputtering, the Seahawks had the lead going into the fourth quarter, and very possibly could have been leading at halftime if not for two of many defensive miscues from Shaquill Griffin on the night.
Even after giving up the lead, had Seattle not allowed Dak Prescott to run for a first down on 3rd and 14, the Seahawks would have had the ball with plenty of time to score a touchdown and take the lead.
One of the worst red zone offenses in football was allowed to go 3 for 4 scoring touchdowns. Turn one of those into a field goal, and Seattle might have won.
Special teams was bad again. They allowed one punt return for a touchdown that was called back due to penalty, and then allowed another massive return.
Had this game been played in Seattle, I believe the Seahawks would have won. Dallas is a completely different team on the road, and the Seahawks have one of the league’s best homefield advantages. The focus has to be on getting back to contending for a Super Bowl, and that was incredibly unlikely to happen with this roster and this path of three straight road games.
The Seahawks have to find a way back to hosting playoff games, and that means winning division titles. Their roster was cobbled together this season with lots of players who may not be back.
This is not like 2012 where the Seahawks just need to add a few pieces to an elite young core. They need to both be smart about which veterans they re-sign, and which they let go to make way for younger and cheaper options.
The offensive line is a perfect example where J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker are both free agents. Both were key to the Seahawks success this year, and yet they have injury concerns that will not simply get better with age. They may be costly as well given the premium for offensive linemen these days.
Sign them both, and you will have less money to spend on defense, where the roster is most in need of a talent infusion. Nobody who played next to Bradley McDougald looked promising. Both corners were decent, but pretending they were more than that could lead to more disappointment.
Linebackers were a mess. Bobby Wagner was brilliant, but he was mostly surrounded by ineptitude. Barkevious Mingo should absolutely be cut. Shaquem Griffin has not shown himself capable of stepping in, and Austin Calitro is a backup.
K.J. Wright played wonderfully in what is likely his last game in a Seahawks uniform. Wagner pleaded his case in the postgame for why his teammate deserves to get paid. It is true. He does deserve that. I would also be disappointed if they paid him much.
Wright has been injured all season, and is turning 30. Rookies can step in and have an impact at the linebacker position. There is also an argument to be made that Mychal Kendricks is more valuable than Wright at this stage in their careers. Kendricks is a better athlete, a year younger, and does not have the injury concerns that Wright does.
Those represent just a sampling of the decisions John Schneider and Pete Carroll will have to make this offseason. While this season was incredibly fun and joyous, it was not a clear step forward toward building a championship roster. Young players like Jacob Martin, Rasheem Green, David Moore, and the corners must show dramatic improvement next season. Schneider must have a terrific draft, and make wise use of his cap space.
Having Wilson at quarterback and Carroll as a coach who can architect a defense, represent significant advantages for Seattle in making this new ascent. Brace for more change this offseason. For now, savor a year that was far more than any of us could have reasonably expected.