BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 10/25/2014

Seahawks: 4-3 or 3-4, Super Bowl is elusive

After Sunday’s game at Carolina, the Seahawks will be 4-3 or 3-4. Either way, those are marks that rarely result in Super Bowl appearances.

Marshawn Lynch had a 15-yard TD run called back Sunday at St. Louis, the fourth time this season Seattle has had a touchdown nullified by penalty. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After refusing to provide meaningful insight into the Percy Harvin fiasco other than to suggest it’s time to move on, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll used part of one of his pressers this week to diffuse angst about his team’s 3-3 record, as well as reports, national as well as local, of a divided Seattle locker room. As he habitually does, Carroll stressed the positive.

“We’re six games in — that’s a long time for some people but there’s a lot of football to be played,” Carroll said. “Hopefully we’re going to make a turn and get the same kinds of results that we had before that were crucial to the way we played.”

Still without an interception, cornerback Richard Sherman piggybacked on Carroll’s remarks with some uplifting spin of his own.

“I think our team is mature enough to move past the losses and continue to grow and to continue to improve,” Sherman said. “Balls haven’t bounced our way. Even when the ball does bounce your way, it doesn’t bounce your way. You don’t catch the breaks every year and this year we haven’t caught the same breaks that we caught before. We’ve got to play better football and I think that’s coming.

“I think the team is still confident in what we can do, still confident in our abilities. If three losses were to ruin the season, then it would have ruined last year’s season too because we lost three last year. I think our team is fine and understands what we need to do to turn it around.”

True, the Seahawks lost three games last year, but not three in a row, as is possible Sunday at Carolina. En route to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks didn’t even lose two in a row. The Seahawks will need a 10-game winning streak (franchise record is 11) to end this regular season with the same 13-3 mark they enjoyed last year.

Also, last year the Seahawks sacked quarterbacks. This year they haven’t. Last year, they generated turnovers, leading the NFL at +22. This year, they’re +3. Last year, the Seahawks didn’t lose to sub-immortals named Austin Davis. This year, opposing quarterbacks have a combined 103.9 passer rating. Last year: 63.4.

If not for a few plays – the third and 20 that Dallas converted late with the Seahawks leading 23-20, and the special teams tricks successfully executed by the Rams – the Seahawks might be 5-1 and nobody’s worrying. If not for a league-worst 25 pre-snap penalties, the Twelves are probably elated (by contrast, Dallas with 13 and Green Bay with 10 have 23 combined first-snap penalties).

“There are so many great things that we’re doing,” said quarterback Russell Wilson. “There are a few things we need to fix. We believe that we’re going to step up and make the plays when we need to.”

Sunday’s 10 a.m. PT battle with the 3-3-1 Panthers is technically not a must-win game, but practically it might as well be if the past is any guide to the present.

A loss would leave the Seahawks with a 3-4 mark and their first three-game losing streak since 2011, Carroll’s second year in Seattle. The Seahawks failed to make the playoffs that season.

Over the past decade, there have been 120 playoff teams. Of the 120, only nine  — 7.5 percent — reached the postseason after starting a season 3-4 or worse. Put another way, 92.5 percent of teams starting 3-4 –  or worse — stayed home for the holidays.

Even gloomier, of the nine that eked into the playoffs, seven lost in the wild card round and the two that reached the divisional round failed to advance to a conference championship game. If the optimism expressed by Carroll, Sherman and Wilson pan out, the Seahawks obviously can stand history on its head.

But if the positive rhetoric proves empty, a 3-4 start would, while sparing the Twelves from splurging on face paint, practically kill the Seahawks’ chances of a Super Bowl repeat.

These are the nine teams that reached the postseason after starting 3-4 or worse, led by the 2011 Denver Broncos, who opened 2-5, won a weak AFC West at 8-8 and made it to the divisional round before getting obliterated by the New England Patriots:

Year Team Start Finish Division Playoffs
2011 Broncos 2-5 8-8 1st AFC West L division to NE 45-10
2004 Packers 3-4 10-6 1st NFC North L wild card to Minn 31-17
2008 Vikings 3-4 10-6 1st NFC North L wild card to Phil 26-14
2008 Colts 3-4 12-4 2nd AFC South L wild card to SD 23-17
2008 Chargers 3-4 8-8 1st AFC West L division to Pitt 35-24
2008 Dolphins 3-4 11-5 1st AFC East L wild card to Bal 27-9
2012 Bengals 3-4 10-6 2nd AFC North L wild card to Hou 19-13
2012 Redskins 3-4 10-6 1st NFC East L wild card to Sea 24-14
2013 Eagles 3-4 10-6 1st NFC East L wild card to NO 26-24

As noted, seven of the nine won division titles, but all ran out of gas fast in the playoffs.

If the Seahawks win at Carolina Sunday – they won there 12-7 to open the 2013 season – their playoff odds go way up. But accompanying that silver lining are several dark clouds.

While only 7.5 percent of the teams that started 3-4 (or worse) reached the postseason in the past decade, 33.3 percent of teams that started 4-3 did so. For Seattle, that’s a far more favorable number if it wins at Carolina.

Of the 40 (out of 120) such clubs, 27 went on to post 10 or more wins and 21 earned division championships. But  . . . only nine reached a conference championship game and a mere two played in a Super Bowl.

If the Seahawks win Sunday, they can model themselves after the 2010 Green Bay Packers, the only team in the past decade to start 4-3 and win a Super Bowl. But . . . The Packers, who finished 10-6 and second in the NFC North that year, had to win three road playoff games before getting to Super Sunday, where they beat Pittsburgh, 31-25.

In the entirety of the Super Bowl era (since 1966), 10 teams reached a Super Bowl after starting 4-3 or worse. Only three besides the 2010 Packers won (1971 Dallas Cowboys, 1980 Oakland Raiders and 2001 New England Patriots).

The ’01 Patriots are the only team to start 3-4 and win the Super Bowl. If the Seahawks find themselves with the same mark after Sunday’s game, at least they will have one flimsy straw to grasp.


YourThoughts

  • PokeyPuffy

    good analysis, altho i tend to think history has less bearing on this than the realities of our upcoming opponents.

    With our schedule i think our best playoff path is as divisional winner. Its bizarre to say this but we basically control our own destiny in the NFC west if we win out, even as badly as we’ve played. We would own all the tiebreakers with SF and the Cards (who i believe will begin implosion this week against Phili). Its the eternal optimism of only being two games back.

    Otherwise, for a wildcard spot we are competing with the likes of Green Bay/Phili/Detroit/Dallas (all of whom are playing well) and we would likely be a road team in that case..

    I’m not holding my breath for any of these scenarios BTW, given injuries we are a pretty mediocre team at this point. Gotta patch together wins until we get our full crew back.

    • Big

      I agree we will need to win our division which at this point looks wide open for the team that takes it.

  • jafabian

    The Hawks just need to get to the playoffs, period. Look no further than the Giants who won it all with a 9-7 record in 2011. The NFC West has become the NFC Weak this season with all teams getting hit hard with injuries, plus some key suspensions (Yeah 49ers, I’m looking at you.) so the Hawks can still win their division title with the proper focus.