BY Art Thiel 01:25AM 01/13/2020

Thiel: Seahawks believed, until they couldn’t

After three long touchdown drives in the second half, Russell Wilson was poised for a fourth and a win. But it was still Lambeau, still Aaron Rodgers, and the season is done.

Marshawn Lynch was a force inside the five-yard line, scoring two touchdowns. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Not long after the game, snow began to fall at Lambeau Field. The hard Midwest winter, delayed, was under way. Also underway was an off-season for the Seahawks, who delayed its start until they ran out of absurd ways to confound.

Season-enders are always awkward, especially this season, when so many times they looked deader than dead, only to pop off the gurney. Per usual, against the 13-3 Packers, the Seahawks, populated by more walk-ons than most college teams, looked terrible until they were about to win.

Few in the crowded, muffled Seahawks locker room Sunday were accepting of the notion that a 28-23 defeat (box) actually had been dropped on them.

“I can’t believe it,” said LB K.J. Wright.

“I thought we were really rolling,” said TE Luke Willson.

“I’ve seen so many games (where) this organization is able to pull things off like that,” said FS Quandre Diggs.

“As it started happening, you could imagine it happening again, because we surely did,” said coach Pete Carroll.

“Shouldn’t have lost,” said RB Marshawn Lynch.

All were convinced a win would happen because QB Russell Wilson said at halftime that it would happen, despite being down 21-3.

“We were going to win this game,” Wilson said. “Everybody in the stadium, and I think everybody watching it, felt like that too.”

After second-half touchdown drives of 69, 84, and 79 yards, the second-biggest playoff crowd (78,998) in the venerable joint’s history was looking upon the final five minutes of the  fourth quarter as if it were the first scratch on a new car.

 

Green Bay’s defense seemed broken and exhausted after chasing Wilson. QB Aaron Rodgers seemed to be Mr. Three-and-Out. Wilson was everywhere, and it was driving rookie Packers coach Matt LaFleur bats.

“It just seemed like every time I looked up, he was making somebody miss in the pocket and creating and extending plays,” he said. “I mean, he’s done it his whole career. That’s why he’s who he is. He’s so good at that.

“Those guys, they do a great job. He was able to create a lot of big plays.”

Just not quite enough. It would be easy to say the script was flipped, but there is no script for Wilson. It’s always night at the improv. But his supporting cast let him down.

With 4:54 left, down five points and cheeseheads in full droop, the Seahawks abruptly went three-and-out. They punted, the Packers converted two third downs to run out the clock and moved on to the NFC Championship next Sunday in Santa Clara against the 49ers. The Seahawks lost for the 10th time in 11 games at Lambeau, the hardest place in club history to prevail, but for only the second time on the road this season.

As with almost every game, margins were thin. The season’s roster was never Super Bowl caliber, but if they limited errors, Wilson’s uncanny ability to see around corners would allow them to lurk until the other guys spit up.

On the first play of the final possession, WR Malik Turner, wide open, dropped a first-down pass at midfield. After a five-yard gain, the battered offensive line — operating with a third-stringer, rookie Phil Haynes, at left guard, a backup, Joey Hunt, at center, and a left tackle, Duane Brown, who was three weeks removed from knee surgery and had no business playing — allowed a sack by LB Preston Smith.

At fourth and 11 at their own 36, the Seahawks had no real choice but to punt it away.

“We felt our odds were low,” Carroll said. “We had he opportunity to stop them and get the ball back.”

They never did.  On third-and-eight at the Packers 22, Rodgers saw rookie CB Ugo Amadi matched up against star WR Davante Adams. He dropped a perfect ball over Adams’ shoulder for a 32-yard gain, part of a 160-yard night that set a Packers playoff record.

After the two-minute warning, third-and-nine at the Seattle 45, Rodgers struck again, barely and diabolically. TE Jimmy Graham, the disappointing former Seahawk who was let go in free agency, took a nine-yard pass in front backup FS Lano Hill. It appears Graham was tackled just shy of the first down, but replays were inconclusive, the first down call stood and the game was over.

Carroll is never shy about playing his youngest players, which, long term, pays dividends. But in the short term of various health emergencies, they will make enough mistakes that even Wilson’s wizardry can’t overcome.

The late-moment misfires can’t overshadow the accomplishments of a splendidly entertaining season that produced Seattle’s eighth post-season appearance in Carroll’s 10 years. By mere inches on Dec. 29, they lost a 26-21 game against San Francisco that would have produced a more favorable playoff seeding and avoided another dreary outcome at Lambeau, where the Seahawks are now 0-3 in the playoffs.

“It was terribly disappointing because we should still be playing,” Carroll said. “We were an inch a couple weeks ago, and we were an inch (with Graham). That’s how close it is.

“There was not a guy on that sideline that we were connected to, that thought we weren’t going to win that football game.”

His highest praise went to Wilson, who after the slow start finished 21 of 31 for 277 yards and a touchdown for a 106.5 rating on a cold, but dry and mostly windless night. And for the second playoff game in a row, he led the team in rushing with 64 yards in seven carries.

“The throws that he made, the runs that he made, the escapes he pulled off,” Carroll said. “It was awesome.

“Really proud of him and the of the guys.”

Wilson acknowledged that the facts intruded on his beliefs.

“The reality is, we didn’t make the one or two plays that we needed to,” he said. “I know we have winning habits. To be a championship-caliber team, to win a championship, to win multiple championships, you have to make one, two, three more plays here and there.

“I look forward to that next year.”

A team that began the season with the fourth-youngest roster ended up 12-6 and in the NFL’s final eight, inches away from a conference title shot, has more than $60 million in cap room and an array of youngsters who grew abruptly.

As always in the NFL, things change fast. Unlikely to change, however, is Wilson’s unwavering will to carry a team to maximize its talent and improvise beyond that. Ask the cheeseheads, should their jaws unclench in the next week.

Lynch takes to the podium for a dutch-uncle chat

Marshawn Lynch had 26 yards in 12 carries and scored two touchdowns, but his most unusual feat was to take a turn at the post-game podium, where he offered perfunctory answers to a couple of questions about himself before launching unprompted into a one-minute advice column for his younger teammates.

Asked about his three-game return to the Seahawks, he said, “It was solid.” How about four touchdowns in three games? “Pretty solid.” And will he have another year with the Seahawks? “We’ll see what happens.”

Then Lynch, 33, who apparently spoke to the team after the loss, speechified to make sure the young guys don’t drift.

“I’ll say this though, it’s a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes,” he said. “They need to be taking care of their chickens (money), right, you feel me? If it was me, or if I had an opportunity to let these young (players) know something, I’d say take care of your money, African, cause that shit don’t last forever.

“Now I’ve been on the other side of retirement, and it’s good when you get over there. You can do whatever the fuck you want to. So I’ll tell y’all right now, while you’re all in it, take care of your bread so when you’re done, you go ahead and take care of yourself. So while y’all at it right now, take care of your bodies, take care of your chickens, take care of your mentals. Because we ain’t lasting that long.

“I had a couple players I played with, they’re no longer here. They’re no longer. So start taking care of your mentals, your bodies and your chickens so that when you’re ready to walk away, you can be able to do what you want to do.”

With that, he walked away with a grin. Chickens, apparently, need tending.

DE Jadeveon Clowney was in on seven tackles, shared a sack, had two hurries and a quarterback hit. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


YourThoughts

  • DAntoniWaltz

    On the first play of the final possession, WR Malik Turner, wide open, dropped a first-down pass at midfield . It was actually the 2nd play. The 1st play was a 1st down pass to Lockett. Tough game to swallow. Both the Seahawks offense AND defense had their shot to win this game in the final 5 min and neither could do it.

    • Husky73

      That was a BIG play. That drop and the delay of game penalty against SF were the two biggest plays of the season.

      • art thiel

        They were the final miscues, but bigger mistakes earlier forced the Seahawks into depending on perfection late.

        • Husky73

          I saw very close to offensive perfection last night— LSU.

          • art thiel

            One of the best college teams ever.

    • art thiel

      Correct on the play. But the outcome was familiar regarding playoff exits. Slow starts requiring perfect finishes to move on. Wilson is as good as it gets in that regard, but perfection isn’t possible.

      • Kristafarian

        Perfection isn’t possible?
        Now you tell us…

        • art thiel

          Except when calling Ukraine. ;)

          • Kristafarian

            Or King Felix’s in the (I know, baseball) House…

  • Darrell Roberts

    I also fault PC for not giving one of the best 4th Quarter QB’s in the NFL four downs to get it done on that final drive. I know 4th and 11 is a long shot to succeed but give the guy who brought you back this far a chance to pull it off.

    • Chris Alexander

      Time + timeouts + field position. If Seattle was in Packers territory, I would agree with you. But inside Seattle’s 40, not so much. Fail to convert and you dig a REALLY big hole; one where a touchdown ends the game and a FG forces you to score AND convert a 2-point attempt.

      • art thiel

        Giving Rodgers the ball back after failing at 4th and 11 would have sealed it. Forcing him to make two good third down throws was the better chance.

    • Husky73

      That’s a decision that will be debated. Good reasons on both sides. I can be hard on Carroll sometimes, but not on that call. I was probably 51-49 myself to punt.

      • art thiel

        Carroll appreciates your support.

        • Husky73

          “Thank you for listening.” (Pat O’Day)

    • art thiel

      I would agree at fourth and 5, not fourth and 11. Carroll put it on his D for another stop, which had better odds. Didn’t work, but the decision was reasonable.

  • Effzee

    There is exactly one way this team can win big games against the better teams with Russ at QB: Fall behind early, wait it out until the other team goes into two-minute or garbage time “prevent” defense, and then let Russ try to bring them back from behind. This is not a sustainable model. Russ is what he is: Short and limited. You spoke a few weeks ago about Brian Bosworth being a “pure con job.” I have the same suspicion about Russ. He knows damn well that there are ways a defense can completely neutralize him. When was the last time the Thirty Million Dollar Man took the field against a good team and led a dominating (or consistent) offensive performance? He doesn’t do that. That’s not the way it works here. Give him credit for figuring out a scam. 2013 was the anomaly, and I’ll take the SB win as a fan, but what we are seeing is the norm. Also, boy howdy that Aaron Rodgers sure looked washed-up didn’t he?

    • Kevin Lynch

      Hard to avoid dark thoughts after a stinging loss but you’re misreading Russ. This team is probably 7-9 without him no matter who would be taking snaps. They have a lot of average players who played with a lot of above average spunk and together with Russ pulled out a lot of close wins.

      • art thiel

        Probably true. RW’s playmaking was worth at least 4 wins above an NFL average QB.

  • coug73

    The Little Engine That Could ran out of steam. Valiant effort and a darn good season.

    • art thiel

      Everyone wants the dominant ’13 team again, but that was once-in-a-generation talent. This was fun in its own way.

  • Alan Harrison

    Nicely written – I watched Marshawn at the podium and while his word usage is unfamiliar to me, I got the gist very quickly. A real leader, and I only hope all these brutal hits over the years do not make his mind deteriorate too quickly. As far as the team goes – a running team needs to play from ahead in order to dominate, and that has been an issue for years. I know Pete keeps saying that you win a game in the 4th quarter, but that shouldn’t mean that your strategy in the first quarter should be allowed to fail so miserably. That – and clock management: the Packers did what the Titans did earlier in the playoffs and let the clock run for a full minute and a half in the time surrounding a punt (about 6 minutes left) and the Hawks should have called a timeout to save those precious seconds. They’ll change that rule next season, but still.

    • Effzee

      “… and while his word usage is unfamiliar to me…” LMAO!

      • coug73

        Winner, winner, chicken dinner. I understand that.

        • art thiel

          You probably remember bee’s knees too.

      • art thiel

        Lynch also taught you how to grab your crotch in public.

    • art thiel

      The point about needing a good defense is fundamental to a run-first offense. Will be writing about this shortly, after I recover from traveling to Siber . . .uh, Green Bay.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    Woulda, coulda shoulda. It was a season of smoke and mirrors for the Hawks. In the end they couldn’t ignore the man behind the curtain, injuries and players not ready for prime time. All in all it was a fun season of Seahawk football that hopefully will build for the future. Hawks have a nice cap space nest egg and hopefully they’ll be able to address some glaring weaknesses with wise choices. Can’t wait for next season. Go Hawks…

    • art thiel

      I don’t call it smoke and mirrors when a team finds workarounds to obvious shortfalls. That’s what smart coaching staffs do. To get to 12-6 with the worst defense of Carroll’s tenure is a feat.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Knife edge parity in the NFL now. If Graham doesn’t execute a catch and dive that is borderline absurd for a man his size then Russell may well have found a way to win, once more. You have to have the QB. Look at the final 8 playing this year. They are probably all in the top 12 or 14 in the league. Next year will find the Hawks having to play more of them, as injuries subside. Great credit to the coaching this year as the Hawks maximized their talent and very nearly pushed a superior 49er’s team out on the road. If Seattle had home field advantage they are probably still playing.

    • art thiel

      One inch on Hollister’s final catch vs. SF and the Seahawks world changes.

      • Kevin Lynch

        The Cola Can Analogy. That was the general distance Hollister needed. But while injuries on both sides affected the two S.F./Seattle games the Niners proved in common games they were the better team and deserve to host the NFC title game. They also beat Rodgers and then Brees in New Orleans. Seattle lost to Rodgers and Bridgewater, Brees’ backup, in addition to dodging five starting QB’s.

        • art thiel

          I get your point on common games, but SEA obviously was the equal of SF, home and away. That often happens with division rivals. GB needed last-play FGs to win each game with lousy DET.

      • Chris Alexander

        I would argue that it wasn’t even the difference of an inch … on the Hollister play, on the Graham play near the end of the GB game …. on the “oh so close but I don’t think the ball crossed the plane of the goal line” Green Bay touchdown earlier in the game ….

        I think the difference is less about the inch and more about “the call on the field” not being corrected / overturned upon review.

        That and consistency. (from the officials)

        • art thiel

          Carroll suggested after hearing from NY that the PI no-call was a result of refs unwilling to decide a big game on a 50-50 play. The foul had to be egregious to throw the flag. Everyone in Seattle thought it was egregious, but voting is not an option.

  • Effzee

    Every Seahawks game feels like its own unique scramble drill.

    • art thiel

      Well said.

  • tor5

    Any 12 should be proud. They played with all the heart they could muster all season. Heck, I’ll let that Beast Mode press conference stand as a final victory. Pure performance art. No one’s gonna top that!

    • art thiel

      Give Lynch credit for seeing and understanding the far horizon.

      • tor5

        That’s the thing. As incomprehensible as it was in the moment–at least to me–it was sage advice. Worthy of study, like all the best poetry.

        • art thiel

          I’m not mistaking Lynch for Robert Frost, but I do get his concern for exploitation. Happens so many times to athletes unprepared for sudden wealth.

          • tor5

            Frost: Since he was old enough to know, big boy
            Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart
            Beast: It’s a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes,
            you feel me?

          • art thiel

            +1

  • ll9956

    Why does it frequently seem like Seahawks losses are so tragic and frustrating and avoidable. In this one a dropped pass by Malik Turner could have easily been a game-changer. On top of that Pete Carroll burned a timeout, needless in my opinion, when there was 2:08 left in the game. What did that accomplish??? It saved eight seconds. They sure could have made good use of that timeout later. By my count this is the third straight game that a time management error was a strong candidate for the play could have made a difference in the outcome. It pains me to say it, but the Hawks could have and should have pulled out a victory. All that said, they played their hearts out and need not make any apologies to anyone.

    • Chris Alexander

      Using the timeout 8 seconds before the 2 minute warning or a few seconds after the 2 minute warning is sortof immaterial; it wasn’t a game-changing direction either way. Had the defense made the stop, using it before the break gives the offense 8 additional seconds and it’s a move most coaches make most of the time (IMO).

      • art thiel

        True.

      • ll9956

        Normally when someone disagrees with me I don’t respond, but in this case I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. It’s a hypothetical, but I contend that if the Hawks had been able to get the ball back, the lost timeout would have come in mighty handy in talking over a difficult play call during the last two minutes.

    • art thiel

      Every coaching staff makes game-management blunders, although some are caused from health/matchup issues that we outsiders can’t know in the moment. Carroll, for example, isn’t going to have Wilson roll left when he knows Duane Brown’s repaired knee won’t allow him to move much laterally.

  • Stephen Pitell

    It was a really fun season. I’d like us to play from ahead more, but this team has a lot of holes that need filling and fixed. In previous years there might have been a single weak link. How those teams didn’t win three SB’s is hard to explain.

    Well, on to free agency and then the draft. More fun times, especially since we have significant draft capital compared to this time last year when we had, I think, four draft picks. With 11 or 12 we should make some noise.

    Why did I know LJ Collier was too slow to make it in the NFL, and why did I know that DK Metcalf was going to be a future hall of famer? I wish they had asked me.

    • Husky73

      Collier and BBK were mysteries…..and in positions where they really needed help.

      • Chris Alexander

        Collier was a reach when drafted and then got hurt and never seemed to fully recover / catch up. I’m cautiously optimistic that a full off-season with the team and a return to health will justify his spot on the team.

        BBK is undersized and while he may have been a tackling machine in college, he’s competing against much bigger guys as a pro. I suspect that he’ll crack the lineup within the next year or two and make a difference but I doubt he’ll have the impact in the pros that he did in college.

        Overall though, I’m okay with both picks and still have hope that they’ll be good players for the Seahawks over the next few seasons.

        • art thiel

          If the coaches thought Collier could help, he would have been in there, given the problems with Ansah/Clowney. Could be another first-round bust.

      • art thiel

        BBK is just a little too small. I didn’t see enough of Collier in games to know why he wasn’t more effective.

      • ll9956

        Speaking of BBK, whatever happened to him? Is he injured?

    • art thiel

      Please submit your application to 12 Seahawks Way, Renton. Scouting help has been in short supply. Especially helpful would be knowing these things ahead of the draft and not after.

  • jafabian

    As some, including some Seahawk coaches and players, have noted this team has some parallels to the 2012 team which finished with an 11-5 record and lost a close game to the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs. If they could have matched the Packers health who’s to say what would have happened? Some good positives were learned that can carry into next season. Jacob Hollister, Travis Homer, Marquise Blair, Shaquem Griffin and DK Metcalf have shown they belong. The experience they’ve garnered this season is more valuable than bringing in a big name free agent and risk firing up the Delorean for another Percy Harvin. A few things will be addressed in the offseason and the draft: a pass rusher, a speed WR, depth at the O-Line. But all the pieces are there to build on a Super Bowl run. It will be interesting to see if Marshawn remains involved with the team. He seemed to make a connection with the younger players.

    Sadly, the two teams I didn’t want in the NFC Championship are playing one another. The Seahawks lost to the teams that Jimmy Graham, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are on. I’m an AFC fan for the Super Bowl this year.

    • art thiel

      Among your listed players, I agree only on Metcalf. The others contributed, but weren’t NFL average players. Blair might be another, but I don’t know whether his understanding of the game will happen. He was so often out of position. The contrast with Diggs was remarkable.