They thought it was over.
The back-up quarterback danced on the sideline like a kid hopped up on Pixy Stix. The starting quarterback crotch-chopped the Seahawks Stadium crowd like he had just won the PBA Championship. They treated escaping Seattle with a narrow win after blowing a 19-point-lead like they had just killed the bad guy, gotten the girl, and saved the world.
To be honest, at the time I thought they might have been right. I felt nauseous after that loss. It felt worse than the collapses against Cincinnati and Charlotte. It felt like a fulcrum, and in a bad sort of way. I'm very much a "don't give up until mathematical elimination" sort of girl, but after losing to our bitter divisional rivals and falling to 4-5, 2015 felt destined to be an unpleasant footnote in Seahawks history ala 1985: An aberrant stumble into mediocrity by a supremely talented team.
Then, the completion of a sweep of the execrable 49ers, followed by a rousing victory over the loathsome but lethal Steelers. The benching (and release) of Cary Williams helped. The offensive line coalescing into collective greatness helped. The emergence of Thomas Rawls helped. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin suddenly becoming drift compatible? That helped a LOT. Seattle tore through Minnesota, Baltimore, and Cleveland. They dropped a weird decision to the otherwise ordinary Rams, and entered Sunday's game at Glendale against the surging Cardinals at 9-6.
Arizona boasted one of the NFL's best offenses, led by legitimate MVP candidate Carson Palmer. They also had plenty to play for, given that they still had a chance at securing home field through the playoffs at kickoff. The Seahawks were missing five key starters, and were 6-point underdogs according to Las Vegas.
The Seahawks proceeded to go at everyone's trendy Super Bowl pick with steel wool and rusty straight razors. Seattle ran out to a 30-6 halftime lead before their beret-wearing fake-ass coach cried uncle and pulled Palmer from the game before Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril could split him in twain.
The defense, maligned by so many all season, ended up leading the league in scoring defense for the 4th consecutive year. Deshawn Shead and Kelcie McCray have filled in capably in the secondary, and Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are playing dominant football- But this defense has become absolutely smothering against the run. They only allowed Arizona 27 rushing yards, and no defense in the NFL has allowed fewer yards on the ground than Seattle this season. While the Legion of Boom remains dangerous, it's the front seven that is now the biggest strength of the Seahawks defense.
The Seahawks have the best defense in football. Based on the last two months, they might have the best offense, too. Despite losing first Marshawn Lynch and then Thomas Rawls, the Hawks have still run the ball effectively. Christine Michael has seemingly resuscitated his career, running for 102 yards on 17 carries yesterday (his 2nd highly effective performance in 3 weeks). Doug Baldwin wrapped up easily the finest season of his career, scoring 14 TDs and going over 1000 yards receiving for the first time. Tyler Lockett had another stunning outing, shredding Arizona's punt coverage team over and over and making tough, important veteran catches like.. well... Doug Baldwin. Even Jermaine Kearse has become a reliable target for Russell Carrington Wilson.
Wilson? He's just ascending faster than the Ares IV MAV whisking poor ketchup-deprived Mark Watney from the Martian surface. He just had the best season ANY Seahawks quarterback has ever had, my 12s, 34 touchdowns. 4000+ yards passing. Only 8 picks. A QB rating of 110. Oh.. and over 500 yards rushing. NO ONE is playing the position better than the WolfBadger right now. Not Carson Palmer. Not Tom Brady. Not Cam Newton. Nobody.
So Seattle is now the 6 seed in the NFC. They'll have to win in Minneapolis, Charlotte and (probably) Glendale to get to Super Bowl 50. It seems improbable, but the 2010 Packers won the title from EXACTLY this position- and these Seahawks are a demonstrably better team. These Seahawks have also won five straight road games. They are talented, confident and battle-tested. You'll hear about how it's going to be 12 degrees in Minnesapolis Sunday. Who gives a fuck? They could play this game in a clearing on Starkiller Base and it wouldn't affect this team.
The Seahawks have the best defense. They have the best offense. They have the best quarterback. And, oh hi Marshawn... They'll have the best playoff running back since Emmitt Smith on the field Sunday, too.
Turns out that it's not over, is it?
Would You Like To Know More?