CHARLOTTE — Jarring as a smashed window in a new car, the Seahawks season was in unexpected pieces. TE Luke Willson groped to explain.
“As arrogant as it sounds,” he said, “since I’ve been here, I’ve never not been to the Super Bowl.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do next week.”
An empty feeling shared by exactly everyone who goes, at least part-time, by the nickname Twelve. For all but the champions, a season always ends with cruel abruptness. The Seahawks were particularly attuned to that from a year earlier, when one magnum gaffe in the final moments denied them a second consecutive Super Bowl triumph.
Sunday’s 31-24 loss at Bank of America Stadium was different. Rather than drifting into the familiar high-wire episode in the final minute, this game was not only over in the first six plays, it was finished last week.
While the Seahawks were off doing winter-survival drills in the sub-zero Midwest, the Panthers were here at home in a bye week, dissecting game films to discover how to convert the Seahawks of the season’s second half into the Seahawks of the first half.
They did it.
The result was why coach Pete Carroll puts such importance on winning the division title and its chance for a bye, which they had done the past two seasons.
It’s not everything. But it’s a lot.
The Panthers’ well-regarded front seven blew past the Seahawks’ under-invested offensive line for five sacks and 14 QB hits of Russell Wilson. On offense, the Panthers turned the Seahawks’ hyper-aggression against them, waiting for defenders to over-run their assignments.
“They had a great game plan,” said LB Bruce Irvin. “They came out faster. We came out flat. Unfortunately, they were the better team today.”
Plain and simple — the Panthers were the better team. No excuses about a slippery field, or burdensome travel or re-integrating RB Marshawn Lynch into the offense.
The Panthers were the better team starting in the fall. They were the better team when they beat the Seahawks in Seattle in October, 27-23. They were the best team in the NFL in the regular season at 15-1, and they are the best team among the final four that play Sunday for the conference championships.
The Quest for the Lost Yard is over. It was too difficult; no team in NFC history has been to three Super Bowls in a row, and only two in the AFC.
The Seahawks took some solace from their stout comeback in the second half, a 24-0 run that pushed them to the outskirts of one of the most preposterous comebacks in NFL annals. And while they played well, the major impetus for that was that the Panthers, in the words of their QB and the NFL’s likely MVP, Cam Newton, played “butt-tight.”
The priority on avoiding turnovers or other errors caused Carolina to play cautiously, which allowed the Seahawks back in. The Seahawks like to flatter themselves that they “ran out of time,” when the more salient point was they had been run out of town in the first half.
The two quick early strikes — the 59-yard run by RB Jonathan Stewart that keyed the opening 80-yard touchdown drive, and a pick-six by All-Pro LB Luke Kuechly — induced mayhem in the normally poised Seahawks.
“When you’re down, a bunch of stuff is happening,” said FS Earl Thomas. “The energy is very weird. We’re not ourselves. Lack of communication.
Carrroll was stunned.
“We don’t ever play like that,” he said. “You never see us like that.”
Certainly, it has been rare for the Seahawks. But it is hardly rare in football. Do you know who the Seahawks looked like in the first half? The Denver Broncos in the first half of Super Bowl XXVIII in New York.
The young, overlooked NFC champion Seahawks — the Panthers in roster profile look very similar — stunned a very good Broncos team with a 22-0 halftime lead en route to the 43-8 rout.
Following Sunday’s stark take-down, those heady times for the Seahawks seem a bit distant. The Seahawks management, coaches and players made a valiant four-year run with a formula that had way more hits than misses. It’s not necessarily at an end.
But it will certainly end for some players, who will move on in free agency or be cut. That reality was apparent in the locker room. Lynch made a point of seeking out the offensive linemen for handshakes. Hugs were plentiful. Among the melancholy was Irvin, the former first-round draft choice whose option was not picked up in the summer by the Seahawks.
As he sat shirtless in front of his locker, Irvin talked about how, if this was to be it, they weren’t going to let the 31-0 deficit stand as the tombstone.
“We said we’re not going out like this,” Irvin said of the halftime conversation. “Some of these guys, including me, it might be our last time together.
“I’m thinking about it now. That’s why I don’t want to take my (uniform) pants off.”
As with most of the rest of his teammates, he knows the Seahawks have created a rare environment for success, Sunday notwithstanding.
“If it is (over), it’s been a great four years,” he said. “I would love to come back to Seattle, but I understand the business side of it. I’ll handle it when the time comes.
“We faced a lot of adversity. We continued to fight. We didn’t reach our goal this time. It will be different next year.”
Certainly a noble sentiment after a defeat. But being different is a guarantee every year in the NFL with its unsentimental salary cap.
The question of the offseason? Getting better.
Art thanks for your thoughtful coverage of the Hawks this year! Hawks will need to cogitate on this one, it was a shocker
Incredible year for any team, any team but the Seahawks. Thanks Art.
Another great ride. How lucky we are to have such a competitive and entertaining team, and such a great local writer covering them. But on this piece, Art, you are way off – a sour headline and bitter reaction to a bitter playoff defeat. It’s OK, I’m hurting too.
Congrats to Carolina, and certainly they played a conservative second half …and maybe Greg Olsen is simply uncoverable. But once Seattle regained its footing (so-to-speak), they stopped the Panthers’ run game and rung up 24 unanswered points on a superb defense without the benefit of a turnover.
The only thing the Seahawks have in common with the Broncos of that Super Bowl was one horrific half of football.
Denver went into their off-season after getting shellacked the entire game and then completely overhauled their philosophy and much of their defense. Nothing I saw from the Seahawks today – or all season, for that matter – suggests this team is anywhere close to that. The only thing Seattle needs is the only thing it has lacked the entire year – a decent offensive line. It was exploited early and often today as it had been for most of the season. If we get that unit some much needed attention this off-season, I don’t think there’s another team in the NFL that will play with the Seahawks.
‘Til next year, Go Hawks!
You are right, my friend. The only thing the Hawks have in common with the Broncos was the awful first half. The Seahawks did not let up in the second half of the Super Bowl with the Broncs, as the Panthers let up today. And the Seahawks are not hosting a conference title game, as Peyton Manning and the Broncos are doing next Sunday.
A great organization that addressed it’s off-season needs. In that regard, let’s hope the Seawawks are very much like the Broncos.
That’s a very large commonality,
Bitter? I only get bitter flying in middle seats.
The Seahawks rally in the second half was commendable, but wouldn’t have come so close if Carolina hadn’t decided to play “butt-tight” to avoid mistakes. Seahawks kept on the throttle in SB because they were up against the greatest scoring offense in NFL history and led by only three scores.
I was thinking the same thing Art – the first half was a tidal wave, just like Denver experienced. That the Hawks came back and played as they did the second half tells us just what a solid group they are. They payed lights out as though they didn’t know the score and fans should be proud, regardless of the abyssal first half.
The challenge John and Pete have is retaining unrestricted free agents. Following is the list and there are a number of starters that given the salary cap won’t be re-signed. The team will not be the same, unfortunately.
Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, Ahtyba Rubin, Jermaine Kearse, Sweezy, Tarvaris Jackson, Jon Ryan, Michael Morgan, Jeremy Lane, Will Tukuafu, Demarcus Dobbs, Ricardo Lockette, Deshawn Shead, Fred Jackson
My own preferences are Mebane and Rubin on fairly short term deals, Kearse, Ryan, Lane, and Shead. Not Okung or Irvin, unless the market allows something cheaper than I think it will. On the fence on Sweezy. I’m sure Cable will want him back, but notice there is no longer any talk about this guy being “the best guard in the league,” which we heard a while back for a bit. He has strengths, but his weaknesses clearly do not allow him to be in that league, or frankly even close.
Good list of priorities. Sweezy probably will get bigger money on the market than Seahawks want to pay for vet OLs. They like Glowinski and Sokoli a lot, and none of us outsiders can know much about their progress. Mebane and Rubin were an underrated tandem, but Bane is 31.
Since RW became the starting quarterback, the Seahawks’ offense has been a notorious slow starter, especially in the playoffs. In the past, their defense was good enough to make up the difference. This season their defense, while stout, was not dominant. I think at least one of two things will have to happen for them to return to Super Bowl form: (1) they’ll need to add depth and another hard hitter to the defense and/or (2) they’ll need to find consistency on offense, particularly in the playoffs. RW almost seems to prefer to start in a hole, but that will inevitably catch up with a team, no matter how good or gritty. This game was a microcosm of the season: start slow, catch fire, fall short. My biggest concern is how much the coaching staff appears wedded to a certain style of play. They love to run and grind out low-scoring wins, but what if they have accidentally assembled an offense that can throw and play at a fast tempo? Will they adjust, or force their philosophy on the players? I guess we’ll find out. Either way, they’re going to need a better offensive line.
Two critical stats we lost today: Time of possession, 35 to 25, and turnovers, 2-0.
Losing TOP by 10 minutes is truly remarkable, especially for the Hawks, indicating the D can’t get the other team off the field.
The team is built on ball possession, therefore running, and keeping the other teams’ O off the field, therefore keeping the D fresh, limiting the opponents’ scoring.
They will never play uptempo unless dictated by the other team, which we saw in the second half today.
Carolina played the Hawks game today,
Down 14-0, the run game goes away, and TOP automatically goes down. Those stats are symptoms, not causes. Their front seven dominated from the first play.
Many great points within this piece. Thanks for calling out Pete’s oversimplification. They didn’t simply “run out of time”, as he would have us believe. That’s like blaming the refs. For whatever reason, they simply weren’t ready to play. Maybe that’s on the coaches, maybe not, dont know. And I’ll be darned to bring it up again–the super bowl last year and now this game–russell has thrown two crushing and crippling INTs which have pretty much meant the difference. As your last sentence states, something about getting better.
Yup, that’s classic Pete–seize on the good, downplay the bad, and live to fight on.
You can only hope that he doesn’t completely buy his own bullshit. That first half was “not us”, just like the Rams game was “not us”? Don’t think so. It certainly was not the “us” he would like us to be, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes, playing like crap IS “us.” It’s his and Schneider’s job to make those times as rare as they can possibly be.
Specifically, as a fan, I am holding my breath in the hope that neither of them, nor Tom Cable, confuses the performance of the O-Line during Wilson’s amazing 5 game stretch with the performance of an actual good NFL O-Line overall. Because it is not a good NFL O-Line. When we played good front seven defenses, this becomes very clear. That stretch DID establish how well Wilson can play if he gets protection. Up to the braintrust to get it for him over an entire season.
Okung and Sweezy are FAs, so change is afoot right there. The bosses know the line was inadequate, but they can’t say so publicly. That’s your job and my job.
Wilson’s mistakes are often, not always, tied to the guys in front of him. And when down 14-0, he no longer has a running game. His mistakes are a shared experience.
OK, so the Seahawks were not able to do what no NFC team in history has ever done, go to 3 straight Super Bowls. Hardly a reason to mope, unless we’ve become, as Richard Sherman would say, “spoiled”. So I refuse to mope. I refuse to be a spoiled fan. I’ll regroup, like the team, and once again next season be “all in”. Go ‘Hawks.
No fans should mope, beyond disappointment. Seahawks were a final eight team and the premier franchise for four years. And counting.
A great run. Very few NFL teams make the playoffs four straight years with playoff victories each season and get two Super Bowl visits and one title. Well done.
But…a comeuppance was needed. WAY too much talk of another Super Bowl when it was clear you didn’t have the offensive line to get there. Arizona would have shredded that line if you made it to Phoenix.
Rebuild the lines, sign Bennett and Baldwin, release or trade Lynch and Chancellor. Do not offer multi-year multi-million dollar contracts to players who are hurt or absent half the year (Okung).
Make sure everyone is ready to go at the season’s start and the emphasis is to start games strongly in addition to starting the season strongly. You need to win the division and have playoff games at home. You still have not beaten an elite QB on the road in the playoffs. Ever. In fact, the only road playoff games won in the last 33 years were against an injured QB (Griffin) and a young one (Bridgewater) with a botched FG attempt needed for a Hawks win.
You can get back next year but I’m thinking you need a fast start. Arizona will likely have that as well.
“Arizona would have shredded that line if you made it to Phoenix.”
Cough, cough! Would that be the same Arizona the Seahawks shredded two weeks ago?
Arizona will show better in the first half next week. They were a better team than the Seahawks this year. They would have been favored in a home playoff game.
Carolina was only favored by three at home, which is the standard for a home game that is effectively a toss-up. And you think a home game in Arizona, after the Cards had been demolished by the Hawks three weeks earlier, would have favored AZ? Hittin’ that legal pot shop again, are we?
I think Bruce Arians said it all when they asked him who he wanted to play before the Carolina/Seattle game and he said “Seattle in Seattle”.
What’s that supposed to mean? Arians is suicidal? The game wasn’t going to be played here regardless, so apparently Arians isn’t very smart, either..
How’s that AZ first half looking now, KL? So your idea of “show better” is one touchdown and three costly turnovers? Way to pick ’em.
Oh gosh, I don’t care about Arizona. Say hey, my Broncos goin’ back to the Super Bowl! Two years have meant a surprising twist of fate for QB’s Manning and Wilson. Never underestimate the home field advantage in the playoffs.
It’s too early on a Monday for any of your stuff to make sense. Even to you. ;)
What does make sense, 24/7, a cool little reality check, is that the Seahawks were the third best team in their conference this year. Very good team, but Arizona and Carolina had better seasons.
Actually, the Seahawks’ first road playoff win was against Dan Marino and the Dolphins, so “ever” is a bit of an overstatement.
Also, I enjoyed your condescending tone and your complete dismissal of the Seahawks’ last game against Arizona because it suited your narrative about the OL. It really drove home the point that you are superior to the Seahawks fans who read this column, and that we should look up to you and seek advice from you if you feel inclined to be generous and throw us a bone. So, thank you so much for dropping those coins into our empty cup as you passed by.
Arizona had nothing to win in that game. Marino was a rookie and not elite. Better than Peyton was as a rookie but not the Marino of later years. I apologize if it appeared condescending. Did you miss the praise at the front? It was sincere.
“nothing to lose”………
To repeat: Any team with the bye is at a big advantage in prep. Rivera took advantage to outcoach Carroll, especially w/a young line. Seahawks would have done better vs. AZ, which is not the same AZ as earlier in the year. They miss Mathieu as Seahawks missed Chancellor.
Teams tend to ‘run out of time’ after allowing their opponent to go up by 31 points…
The second half was a false positive.
May be so. But there’s a small silver lining. That great Denver team rolled from a 22-0 half time deficit to the final 43-8 score. Seahawks came back from the 31-0 deficit to make it one play away. This speaks to the killer instinct that we had in the SB and Carlina does not have. And Denver giving up when we didn’t. Small victories.
Good article. Thanks…
Denver didn’t give up. Denver got pounded by a team with a killer instinct. That was a great club. Carolina does not have that hammer. Arizona has a chance. Denver did not.
Learning to play from ahead is a learned experience that few teams get to enjoy.
At 22-0 at half, Seahawks had every practical reason to keep pressing. At 31-0 the Panthers admitting throttling back to avoid turnovers. They still have a game to play. Or two.
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The start was atrocious. I am not talking about the first series, I am talking about the first play. Just like in the opener when we handed the ball to Lynch on the critical 4th down, the Rams were expecting it just as the Panthers knew he was going to get the ball first play and stuffed it. Bevell really needs to figure out what the other team expects and do something else. That play set the tone for the offense for the entire first half.
Denver managed one score the entire game…and Seattle manages to set records even in a loss.They are the 1st team EVER to outscore an opponent in the 2nd half 24~0 and still lose. Your title belies how hard Seattle worked with what they had to make it a game at the end. There was no such script with Denver.
The Panthers get their due.They earned it. They are 16~1 and likely will go to the SB.
The loss of Rawls was a big one this year.If Rawls was spinning off 100 yard games they might have just shut down Lynch for the year.He just didn’t look quite right Sunday.
They were beaten in part because they didn’t win the division and home field.I just do not see them down 31~0 playing in their yard with the crazy energy they feed off of in the Clink.
When Seattle met Denver in SB48 it seemed like a home game.There were so many 12s there they really did help their team to a victory.I know Carroll will drum an drum that point home. Win home field and you have a lot to look forward to…maybe even another SB.
First thing on the to-do list is retire Lynch, next to replace the offensive line with only the best draft choices available. Keep Irvin trade Graham. Find a TE the size of a giraffe and the attitude of a T-Rex that has missed dinner. This game has exposed our greatest problem and to keep R W in one piece the O L must be addressed. A bitter pill to watch and in the end the QB child grabbed the 12 flag and tossed it away. I want some one to remember that cheesy smiling QB and wipe it off of him, are you listening Cardinals?
If the situation were reversed, any number of Seahawks would have done same to an opponent flag thrust in their faces.
Food for thought: Why didn’t we put Sherman on their best receiver, Olson? He burned us the first game and continued this game: 6 recep, 77 yds, 1 td. He converted several critical third downs that kept the ball in their possession.
Wagner and Cam did their best but Olson is one of the top TE’s in the league and is Newton’s go-to guy. He was clearly, next to Cam, the Panthers difference maker on offense. Lane and Shead could have handled Ginn, etc.,
Sherman is in charge of the perimeter. Nothing over the top from the speed receivers. TEs are the responsibility of Wright and Chancellor. They didn’t do well.
Understood – this idea was simply getting our best DB on their best receiver. An out of the box, contrarian idea, yet given Olson’s value (he is easily Cam’s go to receiver) I submit he would not have had 6 receptions and possibly no td’s.
Actually, didn’t Olson do most of his damage on the outside this last game? One good seam route for a touchdown, but otherwise on short crossing routes and hanging out on the perimeter. In marked contrast to the first game, as I recall.
Certainly he doesn’t run the same routes every play. They use him as well as Pats use Gronk, who goes outside sometimes too.
Not sure I agree with the analogy. Hawks never give up period. They never get blown out period. Kudos to the Panthers for starting out red hot but the 2nd half is where the Hawks finally showed up. Simply ran out of time. The game was never put into Cam’s hands unfortunately. I didn’t see a whole lot of mvp out of him yesterday.
Broncos didn’t give up either, and neither did Seahawks — it was the Super Bowl. They were that much better.
And CAR was better all season long than SEA. Panthers didn’t need to take risks with Cam passing because the Seahawks made it unnecessary.
So why was Seattle ahead by two touchdowns in the first game entering the fourth quarter? Not at all sure how clear it was that Carolina was the better team that game. It was at the very least a close question. And they played like crap in beating teams like the Saints by three points and giving up 38, losing to Atlanta, etc., while the Hawks were burning it up. The trouble with memes like this is that they take on a life of their own,and they are almost necessarily overstatements. At no point in the season was Carolina not a better team than Seattle? Don’t buy it. But they were better when it mattered most..
The Panthers played a consistently high level longer than the Seahawks and any other team. I didn’t say the were perfect, or that they were never behind or didn’t have times of poor play. This is the NFL, Bruce — you know that parity is a designed part of business.
“And CAR was better all season long than SEA.” That, my friend, was the overstatement to which I was referring.
Not quite Art. The Bronco’s didn’t show up that entire game and were never a threat.
A successful onside kick by the Hawks after their last score would have made this game a threat to make history and quite possibly have awaken Mt Rainier by the 12 collectively shouting at full volume from that moment forward to the last throw in an attempt for a game closing score to go into overtime. Not even close in comparing them to the Bronco’s.
Again. Read the part where it says “first half.”
I’ll take my 30 lashes with a wet noodle.
Yes, the entire Bronco team was not prepared for the Super Bowl game. That was on John Fox, the coach. He simply was unable to get them ready. But regarding the Carolina game, it was over at halftime. Anything else is superfluous in terms of argument. Yes, once in 335 games a team came back but that was against the Houston Oilers. Enough said. Over at halftime.
I don’t see how this game can be accurately compared to the Denver Super Bowl game. First, the Broncos never mounted anything remotely close to a come back and, second, the Seahawks kept scoring points in the second half of the Super Bowl. There are other games that would be an accurate comparison, but not this one. Unless, of course, you are only referencing the first half.
I also think it’s bogus to discard the Seahawks second half effort as meaningless, even though it may not be an accurate reflection of how good the Seahawks are it did show character and something that will be carried over into next year.
Feel free to read it again, especially the part about “first half.” The Panthers deliberately throttled back at 31-0, as they should have. They have more games.
I don’t think I or anyone questions the the Seahawks character. It’s simply that the Panthers eased.
Thanks for the reply, Art. I see some others here have the same perspective as I do. Perhaps your “first half” reference is being swallowed up by your huge headline? Regardless, I still think there are much better comparisons if you are talking about a 60 minute game. Oh, and I did read it again.
Read my story posted Tuesday morning. It wasn’t about Carroll’s prep.
Interesting article – thanks.
I went back and did some research, Art. I’m assuming you know this, but historically, the Pete Carroll era Seahawks have been absolutely horrible in the first half of every road playoff game. 0 points in the first quarters of every game, and only 14 in the second quarter, and that was against the Redskins. This doesn’t mean the terrible start at Carolina was Carroll’s fault, but this statistic at least makes my last post about slow starts worth a second look.
I’m not sure they “eased” in effort. But the playbook got a lot smaller….
Sunday was the fifth game this season CAR has eased up with a big lead. Be it play calls or energy, the Panthers let the Seahawks back in, and Seahawks were good enough to take advantage.
The one thought I can’t shake is that it’s going to be a long six months until things get cranked up again.
This had to be the worst first quarter performance in Seahawks history. Although other articles I’ve read named names, I’ll use some will power and refrain from placing blaming specific O-linemen. But the bottom line is that, at least in the first half, the O-line was bad–very bad.
There’s been a lot of talk about not letting the slippery field be an excuse. Thomas was quoted as saying he should have listened to “Coach” and changed his cleats, referring to the first Carolina play when Stewart ripped of 59 yards, and Thomas slipped and fell, missing the tackle. This suggests that PC, when realizing the field was mushy, suggested or advised his players to change their cleats. It seems to me that he should have ordered them to do so. I sure as hell didn’t see any Carolina players slipping and sliding. I’m not claiming that if Thomas making that tackle would have changed the entire remainder of the game, but if any play turned out differently, who knows what effect that would have had on what followed.
Marshawn has been described as a non-factor. Maybe so, but 3.3 ypc isn’t all that shabby. Here I agree with PC. Marshawn didn’t really get a chance. He may well have one more good-to-great season in him.
My faves for keepers are first and foremost Kearse, followed by Mebane, Rubin, Irvin, Ryan, Lockette Tukuafu, Lane and Shead. I don’t think any of these will break the bank.
As the LA coliseum is natural grass, I hope they get the cleat thing fixed.
Your list is nice, but unlikely. Seahawks won’t have to play Lynch, but the first three will get more on the open market and should take it.
“never take points off the board”. Don James.
When the Hawks passed on 4th and 5 at the end of the first half they were well within field goal range. These 3 points affected the fourth quarter drives and possibly the outcome.
Kept Bush on the sideline in USC’s 4th down play against Texas, passed at the goal line in the SB and now passed on a first half field goal.
Pete has an issue with critical time decisions that at this point must be called into question.
Great coach, overall. Not convinced of his “heat of the moment” judgment. Too many “hormones,” as he has admitted occasionally.
In hindsight, the two missed FG opps in first half were large. Pete is not immune to impulse in his decisions. On the fourth-and-5, he let desperation override logic.
Graham is more valuable in a trade than as a TE – Willson is very good,with hands, speed, blocking and size. Graham is key in the Hawks rebuilding, in a TRADE. he is definitely good for a first round choice, and that translates to a new LT. He would also get a few lower round picks, for more OL.
Imagine if RW played behind an excellent line, much less an average one. The first 6 games, where we lost four? No way this happens with a solid OL, no way.
So trade Graham, applaud Willson, draft OL and we will be in great shape. The marginal benefit of Graham over Willson just isn’t there.
This service ranked the Hawks line at 32nd of 32. No other site has them much higher.
Your link was to an eighth-week summary. The second half of the season was far different. Not enough to be NFL-average. But they like Glowinski an Sokoli. Don’t be surprised if they don’t draft any OLs.
Here;s one from Pro Football Focus dated this week and the Hawks are ranked 30th. They are very weak Art and need a LOT of help. Can one imagine how good RW would be, therefore the Hawks, if he could go into every game knowing he was getting protection and could reply on his running back, instead of himself, for a consistent running game?
It would be incredible.
why coach Pete Carroll puts such importance on winning the division title and its chance for a bye
are there coaches who fail to put such importance on it?
About 20 coaches are not in position to even have it as a concern.