The Seattle Seahawks have failed to find their championship form nearly two years removed from the devastating 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots in SB XLIX. As time goes on, that loss appears more definitive than any previous success Seattle experienced.
It was like watching destiny unfold right in front of you. After Jermaine Kearse corralled the ball into his lap while falling to the ground, the Seattle Seahawks were five yards away from consecutive Super Bowl titles. With All-Pro Marshawn Lynch in the backfield and an offense — better yet, an entire team — that seemed to be rolling sevens for two years straight, the Lombardi Trophy was as good as theirs. That was until one final gamble on a meaningless goal-line pass play came up snake-eyed when Malcolm Butler’s interception stopped the Seahawks dynasty dead in its tracks.
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Ever since that fateful moment, things have gone quite differently for the once invulnerable Seahawks. Lynch parted ways with football midway through the following season, CenturyLink Field became less imposing, the Legion of Boom lost its edge and postseason success has been more haphazard than hard-earned.
Optimists will look at Seattle’s five straight appearances in the NFL’s Divisional round as testament to their consistent excellence. But following Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks needed a shanked field goal and to beat a four-fingered quarterback to even make it that far. In their last two Divisional round games, they’ve been steamrolled, with Saturday’s 36-20 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons serving as the sealant on their now closed Super Bowl window.
That reality isn’t being acknowledged by the Seahawks. Head coach Pete Carroll enthusiastically reminded The Seattle Times that, “It ain’t over. We’re right in the middle of it. Everybody in the locker room knows that and they felt that.” But wouldn’t a team in the middle of their Super Bowl run be less defensive about one bad game? Michael Bennett begged to differ in his postgame confrontation with a reporter, asking about Seattle’s absent pass rush against Atlanta.
“We got a lot of pressure,” Bennett replied. “He threw the ball really fast. There was some busted stuff going on so obviously you don’t know football. He threw the ball pretty fast. He did his thing. We rushed as good as we could. Don’t point and say we didn’t do what we needed to do, OK? Don’t do that.
“Get out of my face now. Don’t tell me I didn’t do my job (expletive). OK, exactly. Get the (expletive) out of my face. Like I said, get out of my face. Don’t play with me. Don’t play with me. I just put my heart on the (expletive) field. Don’t (expletive) play with me. Get the (expletive) out of my face then. Try me again, see what happens. I ain’t one of these (expletive) out here. Don’t try to tell me what I didn’t do (expletive).”
“It’s time for Seattle to shut up. Bennett, all of them, I love them. Shut up. All they are is an ordinary washed-up former champion. And they run their mouths and tell you what they’re not going to talk about and not going to do. Them and their over-caffeinated coach (Pete Carroll) who clearly stops at every corner in Seattle and drinks something, one of those lattes. … Shut up Seattle. You guys are overrated now. You don’t win anything. Shut up. It’s over.”
It was an inconsequential play meant to kill some time and torture New England for a few more minutes before reasserting their seat on the throne. Instead, it was the first of many reminders that their well of luck had dried up.
Seattle may have the same names and faces steering their franchise, but they aren’t the same people. They’re a team scarred by fallacy and frozen by fear of repeating it. The tangible air of invincibility that prompted a fake-field goal in the 2014 NFC Championship game and guided a bobbling ball into Kearse’s mitts is now a chalk outline on the 1-yard line at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It haunts them, and will continue to do so until they prove otherwise.