Seattle moves on after seeing reign as NFC champs end
Carolina Panthers defensive back Robert McClain and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (15) vie for a passed ball during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
RENTON, Wash. (AP) The ending to the Seattle Seahawks season was a microcosm to the year as a whole.
A horrific, forgettable and unexpected start, followed by a furious finish and ultimately falling short of what the end goal was all along.
''It gives us something to reach for, something to play for,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said on Monday.
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''Definitely adds a chip to our shoulder, and you know, we're not a team that needs a chip on our shoulder.''
The Seahawks did not get back to the Super Bowl for a third straight season after Sunday's 31-24 loss at Carolina when a second-half rally from a 31-0 deficit fell short.
They were not able to reach that final Sunday and try to erase the bitter feelings of what took place a year ago when the Seahawks ended up 1 yard short of a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
The two-time NFC champs are done with football in January for the first time since the end of the 2012 season when this group of Seahawks were experiencing the postseason for the first time and fell short in the divisional round at Atlanta.
Back then Seattle was on the rise. Now they are a team still with a young and talented core, but facing important free agent decisions and an offensive transition to be based more around quarterback Russell Wilson.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll acknowledged again on Monday the aftereffect Super Bowls create, both when Seattle won two years ago and the crushing nature of last year's loss to New England.
The loss to the Patriots was a legitimate burden that took time for Seattle to shake and by the time the Seahawks found a path to success this season, just getting to the playoffs was the goal.
''We were trying to catch up the whole time,'' Carroll said. ''It was very much like yesterday. We were catching up the whole season.''
Here's a look at some takeaways from this season and a look to 2016:
WILSON'S EVOLUTION: Seattle made a clear shift at midseason to become less run-oriented and based more around Wilson and the pass game. The results were record-setting. Over the final seven games of the regular season, Wilson had 24 touchdown passes, one interception and a 132.8 passer rating. He set franchise records for yards passing in a season at 4,024 and touchdown passes with 34.
Wilson is now the focal point of Seattle's offense and will be even more so with the potential that Marshawn Lynch's time in Seattle is nearing its end.
NEXT IN LINE: Thomas Rawls rolled his way through the Seahawks locker room on Monday as he continues to recover from a broken left ankle suffered in December. Rawls flashed enough as a rookie that if Seattle does move on from Lynch, Rawls will be the one to take over. Rawls, who rushed for 830 yards, said he expects to be ready in plenty of time for next season.
NO LONGER PEDESTRIAN: Seattle's receiving group might have finally put to rest the belief they are just an average unit. Doug Baldwin tied for the NFL lead with 14 touchdown catches despite being tied for 29th in the league in targets. Jermaine Kearse capped his season with a career-high 11 catches and two touchdowns in the loss to Carolina. Tyler Lockett proved he was more than just an All-Pro returner finishing second on the team with 51 catches – 30 in the final seven games – and six touchdowns.
''We've shown that we have the capabilities to do that, but we have to do it at a more efficient rate and more consistent rate. We'll get better at that,'' Baldwin said.
STILL ELITE: The Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense for the fourth straight season, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s. Seattle was also the top run defense in the NFL giving up 81.5 yards per game in the regular season.
TOUGH DECISIONS: Seattle faces important roster decisions with a lengthy list of pending free agents that were important pieces to the success of the past three seasons. Left tackle Russell Okung, right guard J.R. Sweezy and Kearse are three offensive starters facing free agency. Defensively, both of Seattle's starting defensive tackles – Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin – along with outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and cornerback Jeremy Lane. Irvin indicated Monday he may be willing to take a little less over the life of a new contract to return to the Seahawks.
Seattle also must decide if it's worth bringing back Lynch and could face another round of Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett seeking reworked contracts.
''There are difficult decisions we have to make and we'll make them,'' Carroll said. ''And we'll move forward in hopes of making our roster more competitive.''
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