The Morning After: Seahawks Have Fallen, And They Can Get Up
If you came here looking for fire and brimstone and doomsday cliff diving, you are going to be either disappointed or infuriated. The Seahawks played a stinker. The Rams played a very good game. Sean McVay out-coached and out-schemed Pete Carroll. The offense, and Russell Wilson, remain stuck in a lower gear. The defense was throttled for the first time sine Quandre Diggs entered the lineup. And yet, everything is going to be just fine. Better than fine.
I made the mistake of checking the playoff scenarios in the hours between the end of the 49ers game and the beginning of the Seahawks affair. What I found was that the outcome of this game barely mattered. Had the Seahawks won, and won the next two games as well, they would still need to beat the 49ers in week 17 to win the division, assuming San Francisco also beats their next two opponents (vs ATL, vs LAR).
If the Seahawks lost to the Rams, but still beat Carolina and Arizona, they will win the division if they beat the 49ers. The main difference that came with winning or losing was Seattle has no more wiggle room. They must beat these next two teams for the final game to have meaning. More on that in a bit.
But what about the #1 seed in the NFC? Well, the bonus truth I found in the playoff scenarios is that the Seahawks would win the top seed if they lost to the Rams, but won their final three games, as long as the Packers and Saints also win their final three, as they both will be favored to do. That would create a three-way tie at 13-3, and the Seahawks would win the tiebreaker.
Yes, the only certain way to get the top seed was to win against the Rams and win all the remaining games. Yes, it is always better to win than to lose. Yes, there were things to hate about what happened on Sunday night. All those things are true, and it was as close to a meaningless loss as you will ever find this late in a season for a team competing for the top seed in the conference.
You say, “Screw the playoff seeding mumbo jumbo! Focus on the way the team played! That was awful.” You won’t like my answer their, either. The Seahawks did not come to play Sunday night. It was one of the rare moments in the Pete Carroll era where we did not witness a team ready to match or exceed their opponents intensity level.
Every team has those games. The Rams had one a couple weeks ago. The Patriots had one last week. The Saints had one at home against the Falcons. We are fortunate to have a coach who has managed to get consistent effort nearly every week from his team.
Fans who remember the Chuck Knox, Dennis Erickson, or Mike Holmgren days know that these used to be commonplace, especially on the road. There was a whole thing around 10AM games because the team had a history over many coaches to just sleepwalk through those games. Carroll has mostly solved that issue.
The things in this game that mattered are few. Rashaad Penny being lost for the season with an ACL injury is a big deal. He has become a central part of the offense, and was even more important while the passing game continues to scuffle. McVay thoroughly outcoached Carroll on offense. Whatever fantasy Carroll had about how to slow down the McVay offense was blown up last night. He needs a new plan.
That was about it. The defensive line looked like they were running in molasses all night. That seems at least as related to the motivation level as it does to any issue to be concerned about.
Coverage was awful in the first half. I attribute that mostly to scheme and coaching, but Shaquill Griffin did get beat deep.
There were some dropped passes. I don’t think the outcome would have been different had those passes been caught. The Rams were far and away the better team last night.
Here’s what I expect to happen from here on out. The Seahawks are going to play two teams in a row who are not in the hunt for the playoffs and have fatal flaws that make them very inferior teams. That will be the first time since they played Atlanta that has been the case. Seattle will win both games.
They will then play what is arguably going to be the most important regular season game in the history of the franchise in week 17 against the 49ers. San Francisco should be favored to win that game, even in Seattle. It will take a performance we have not seen since the first game against the 49ers to win that one.
I continue to believe the 49ers are the best team in football. Beating them a few weeks ago was as thrilling a win as Seattle has had in a long time. Beating them twice, with the division and possibly the top seed on the line, would be pandemonium.
Seattle is not currently playing well enough to win that game. Wilson must return to MVP form. Tyler Lockett must regain his zip. The pass rush must reawaken. That is what these next two games will be about: finding their championship level of play.
Look at what a week against the Cardinals defense did to the Rams offense. Look at what having your backs against the wall did to that team. Some would say the Seahawks lost their wiggle room last night. I say they gained their edge.
You will read and hear many folks wringing their hands all week about this loss and trying to convince others to worry. Bobby McFerrin had it right in this case. Be happy the team is set up for a thrilling end to the season. Prefer Marley? Everything’s gonna be alright. Maybe you’re more a Stones person? You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need. Flush this one, Seattle. As Eddie would say, we’re still alive.