December 2, 2014

The Pivot Toward Greatness (Via Chicago)

Two years ago today, the Seahawks were 6-5 and coming off an excruciating 24-21 loss at Miami. As I said back then...

Today's defeat in Miami had the hallmarks of familiar Seahawks tragedies: TWO blown 4th quarter leads to an inferior opponent, aided by incredibly questionable officiating. It felt like New York in 1998 or Baltimore in 2003, didn't it? It was the sort of loss that stimulates the "Same Old Seahawks" lobe within the brains of a million Twelves. We saw our excellent defense fail comprehensively in the 4th quarter, and we saw our Pro Bowl running back get held to only 46 yards on 19 carries. A consensus emerged quickly in the wake of this dark afternoon: The 2012 Seahawks are good and fucked, and their playoff hopes are deader than a barrel of fish entrails.

For the second time in a month. Russell Wilson led the Hawks on a late scoring drive to put the Seahawks ahead, only to see the defense immediately turn around and surrender that hard-won advantage. Seattle was on the verge of falling out of the NFC playoff race, and went into Soldier Field as underdogs against the 8-3 Bears. Trailing 14-10 late, Wilson led the Seahawks on yet another dramatic 4th-quarter scoring march, punctuated by the go-ahead touchdown pass to Golden Tate with only 20 seconds left on the clock. Then....

Effervescent joy turned into black, curdled despair in an instant. Jay Cutler chucked it deep to an inexplicably open Brandon Marshall and Chicago was in field goal range. Our old nemesis Robbie Gould banged home the tying field goal... Overtime. The most painful Seahawks loss since Super Bowl XL loomed. I started dreading the aftermath, and plotted my strategy for avoiding media coverage of this devastating collapse. Every Seahawks fan alive KNEW that if Chicago got the ball back, we would lose. We no longer trusted our defense to secure victory- Our only chance was to win the coin toss and drive all the way into Bears territory and score ANOTHER touchdown.  I was a wreck. I was left shaking and frazzled... and with no real expectation of victory. 

Eighty MORE yards (and the Bears defense) stood between the Seahawks and a narrative-shifting, season-altering victory. Russell Wilson's temperament is thankfully much more stable than mine, and he led the Hawks on a triumphant 12-play, 7-and-a-half minute march. Wilson personally chewed up 28 of those yards on the ground, and only threw two passes over the entire drive. One was a perfect dart to Doug Baldwin to convert a 3rd-and-10, and the other was the game-winning touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, who got over the goal line before getting absolutely DESTROYED by a Bears defender. 

Two drives. 177 yards. Two game-winning touchdowns. That's what Russell Wilson delivered on Seattle's last two possessions. On a day that seemed to fit all the cliches of failure in Seahawks lore, Wilson decided to punch up the script and write a more interesting ending. Instead of leaving me calculating playoff scenarios and plotting out who needed to win or lose for Seattle to sneak into the tournament, Wilson has allowed me to think about seeding and... GASP! ...possibly still winning the NFC West. At 7-5, the Seahawks probably only need two more wins to get a Wild Card, but they have a real chance at winning the West if they can sweep their final four games. 

You know the story from there: Seattle closed out the regular season on a 5-game winning streak, winning the last 4 games by an aggregate score of 170-43. They traveled to DC and notched the franchise's first road playoff win since 1983, but then the season ended thirty seconds away from the NFC Championship Game. Starting with that OT win at Soldier Field, the Seahawks have gone 30-8 (including the playoffs), with two playoff appearances, 4 playoff wins, an NFC West title and a Super Bowl victory. With Arizona imploding and the Legion of Boom surging, Seattle looks to be on a trajectory toward another NFC West crown and a first-round bye (or even HFA if Green Bay stumbles in the last month of the season). 

Two years ago today, the Seahawks pivoted towards greatness, and now it's clear they intend to continue cluttering up the trophy case back in Renton. 

What Do You Think, Sirs? 

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