(Shh! The Seahawks are coming for y'all. Don't tell anyone, Boss.)
It's far too easy for media bobbleheads to fall back on team "identity" as a lazy explanation for NFL success (or failure). Usually, it's a great example of confirmation bias. A team strings a few wins together? They've "found their identity." Drop a few games? Now you've "lost your identity." Typically it's super-predictable but nonetheless maddening. However, I think there might be something to this when it comes to the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.
In hindsight, it's pretty clear that Darren Bevell fell for Percy Harvin after the Super Bowl like JGL fell for Zooey in 500 Days of Summer. Why wouldn't he have? Harvin was a devastating weapon against Denver in XLVIII, and what OC wouldn't want to torture the opposition with a talent of his caliber? The Hawks were so confident in Harvin as an offensive centerpiece they let Golden Tate bolt for Detroit in free agency, and sure enough Percy made the Packers cry "Mercy" in the season opener. The former Viking accumulated 160 tantalizing all-purpose yards, and it looked like he'd be an invaluable part of a Seattle offensive assault that would be one of the NFL's best. To borrow a bit from The Simpsons, everything was coming up roses for the Seahawks, but those roses contained ready-to-sting bees.
The general public had no idea how much of a locker room malcontent Harvin had become, and he began to protest not getting the ball enough by refusing to enter games in the 4th quarter. PCJS reached the limits of their patience after the Dallas loss, and JETtisoned (See what I did there?) Harvin to New York. The Twelve Army was also frustrated by how much the offense became skewed towards Harvin. I'm not the only one who was on the verge of losing their shit if they saw one more failed bubble screen to Percy during that Cowboys game, and the demand of Seahawks fans everywhere was clear: GIVE MARSHAWN THE FUCKING BALL!
I'm not going to pretend that I have any insight into the the mindgrapes of Darren Bevell, but he seems to have finally corrected course. Has the increased emphasis on running the ball come because of our lack of downfield threats on the outside? Because Russell Wilson's passing accuracy has dipped to disturbingly Mirerian levels? I can't say, but I do know watching our offense physically dominate the enemy yesterday was the most satisfying thing I've seen since opening night against Green Bay. For the first time since that zesty grating of Cheeseheads, these Hawks felt like their 2012-2013 ancestors. The common thread (at least on offense)? BEAST MODE.
22 touches. 163 yards. FOUR touchdowns. Lynch once again showed that he's one of the best backs in the game (and despite a slow start he's 5th in the NFL in rushing yards), and his intensity cannot be matched by anyone else on the field. Through nine games, he's CLEARLY the team MVP. While both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael showed encouraging flashes yesterday, it's hard to imagine the conventional wisdom of Lynch's 2015 departure from Seattle coming to pass. I'm increasingly optimistic that the front office will find some way to allow Lynch to finish his career as a Seahawk. It's fashionable to view running backs as "fungible" assets. To paraphrase Rambo: First Blood Part II, Marshawn, you're not fungible.
I'm having a hard time understanding what's up with Russell Wilson lately. Yay! He rushed for 107 yards and a TD! Boo! He put up a putrid 53.7 passer rating. Yay! He escaped from pressure and found Jermaine Kearse for a 60-yard gain to set up the tying field goal! Boo! He threw two of the worst interceptions you'll see this season. The good news is that until he finds his accuracy again he can still gain yards on the ground and keep plays alive with his ability to improvise under pressure. Another crazy number from yesterday's game? Wilson is 15th in the NFL in rushing (and is on pace to rush for 889 total yards this season), but only 24th in passing. He's like Michael Vick from 10 years ago, but without all that dog murdering!
In total Seattle buried NYG with 350 yards rushing, which was evidence of progress for the Seahawks' injury ravaged offensive line. The defense also continued taking small steps back to their dominating ways of 2012/13, holding the Giants to 54 yards rushing, forcing two turnovers (highlighted by Earl Thomas III's game-flipping pick late in the 3rd quarter), and notching two sacks. After allowing almost 200 yards passing to Eli Manning in the first half, he was held to just over 80 yards in the 2nd half (in which New York was held scoreless and never seriously threatened to score).
Every win since week 1 has come with caveats, with an asterisk of some sort. You beat Denver, but you blew that big lead. You beat DC, but barely. You beat Carolina, but it was shaky. You beat Oakland, but doesn't everyone? Finally, the Hawks simply WHOOPED someone, and they seem to have "found their identity" as a brutally physical team on both sides of the ball. Now, they enter the toughest 7-game stretch any NFL team will face this season. All but one team the Seahawks will face is a playoff contender, and they will play both Arizona and Santa Clara twice within a calendar month. The good news? Arizona will be at least somewhat hobbled by the loss of Carson Palmer.
The Seahawks look like they're on the verge of playing Championship football once again. This week's game at Arrowhead will tell us if Seattle is back on a Super Bowl trajectory, or if they'll have to scrape and gouge and claw just to reach the playoffs again. 24 years after one of the most surprising and inspiring wins in team history, I believe the sprint to XLIX starts in Kansas City this Sunday.
What Do You Think, Sirs?