The Elephant in the Locker Room: Do You Believe in Miracles (Way Too Much)?
By Greg Wright
Remember that game when it all started, on the road in Chicago during Russell Wilson’s rookie season?
Yes, there had been the Green Bay “Fail Mary,” and it was thrilling. But it wasn’t convincing football.
And yes, there had been the bomb to Sidney Rice to win the “You Mad, Bro?” matchup with New England. Also very satisfying. But still not a “We Have Arrived” moment.
But in Chicago… oh, what a football game. They had won only one road game through 12 weeks, and that was against a struggling Carolina team. This was Chicago. Coming off an embarrassing collapse at Miami. The Seahawks were learning how to win, sure enough, but still they had to learn how to do it on the road to have hopes for a Championship, or a ring.
And here it was. A close, toughly-fought game, with the road team down by four with just under four minutes to play.
They had the ball at their own 3-yard line.
97 yards to go for the go-ahead score. Yeah, right. Like any Seahawks team in history had ever done that before.
And there was Russell Wilson, leading Tate, Rice, and Lynch to an unbelievable legendary TD with just 24 seconds to go.
The other problem?
Chicago scored a field goal with 3 seconds left to tie the game.And unbelievably, there the Hawks were again, 80 yards from a touchdown in OT, chipping away at the yardage against the Bears’ D, moving down the field convincingly for the winning score. And it took Rice getting knocked senseless at the goal line to make it happen.
It was as if every longing of a lifelong Seahawks’ fan’s dreams were being fulfilled. A defense that could keep you in games and come up with big plays. And a quarterback that had the mojo to do the impossible. For real.
It was too good to be true.
It remains too good to be true, because it wasn’t. And it isn’t.
The Seahawks did not win that day because Russell Wilson is a miracle maker.
Richard Sherman probably put it best that day. “I don’t think we’ve ever been out of the game at the end,” he observed of a 2012-seasonal trend that continues to this day. “I don’t think there was ever a blowout, it always comes down to the last drive, the last play.”
Sherman also put it the worst that day when he concluded: “The football gods were with us today and they helped us out.”
Miracles don’t really happen in the NFL. Gods don’t intervene. What happens is that teams put themselves in a position to win, as Pete Carroll iterated in an interview with Dori Monson just yesterday; then the bounce of the ball or the waft of a wind will shift momentum one way or another.
But you have to put yourself in a position to win first. Football gods don’t do that. Ordinary men do, when ordinary men step up to doing their jobs, play-in and play-out, and doing them well.
A team (or a quarterback) that relies on miracles to bail them out is a losing team (or quarterback) waiting to happen.
A “Yeah, we got this…” mentality is a “Gotcha!” reality ready to spring.
What really matters is the small things a team does through 3 quarters. Things like knowing when to throw the ball away, as Brock Huard observed in his “Chalk Talk” this week (see below). Things like not starting four straight offensive drives with penalties. Things like avoiding a delay of game. Things like not blowing coverage on deep passes.
I think it’s super that Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have great confidence in themselves.
Right now, though, they need to have greater confidence in sound football fundamentals–solid play through four quarters–and less confidence in pulling rabbits out of hats in the final minutes.
You can’t relive that 2014 NFC Championship game forever, Russell.
You can’t even make it happen twice.
The Seahawks seem to think they can can flip the “Win” switch anytime they want, but no team is good enough to rely on that for a championship. Separation is not in the desperation.
- Which reminds me… have you noticed Wilson hasn’t been dishing the “Separation is in the preparation” mantra this season? Clearly, the separation isn’t there. But maybe the preparation isn’t, either. I don’t begrudge the guy his opportunity to live the (chaste) playboy life… but did he really believe all that mumbo jumbo about the need to focus, or not?
- Which also reminds me… I wrote pretty thoroughly this summer about how the Super Bowl ended last year, and later embedded the NFL Films special feature on how that interception took shape days before it ever happened. Separation is in the preparation, indeed. So I marvel that fans and scribes alike are still taking Carroll and Bevell to task for that play call and outcome, demanding explanations and apologies. As if, somehow, this season’s close losses are proof that poor coaching lost Seattle that game. There’s no question that Belichick won the chess match that day; but why is it that Seattle fans and pro-football pundits can’t just live with the fact that Carroll and Co. simply got bested that day? Why is that we can’t just say, “Belichick is better” and be proud of the fact that the Seahawks came this close–this close–to beating the best coach and best team in NFL history on the biggest stage and in the biggest and best game of the century thus far? Oh, that’s right. We can’t do that because everyone really, really wanted the Patriots to lose that game. Apparently, we must hate Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell because they failed to beat the team we really love to hate. It’s some kind of weird hate-transference. Get over it, folks! You’re just gonna have to admit it. Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots are simply legendary. End of story. No one this season has been as close to beating the Patriots as the Seahawks were that day in February. No one. So give Seattle’s coaches some credit. They very nearly pulled off the impossible with the Seahawks’ most complete game in 1.5 seasons–truly their best performance since trouncing the Broncos a year before that.
- I didn’t get a chance last week to throw in the following great screenshot of Bobby Wagner’s reaction to Michael Bennett’s silly roughing the passer penalty in the closing moments of the Dallas game. Yes, Bennett’s starting to get on his teammates’ nerves, too.
I hate to say it, but I’ve called three of the Seahawks’ five losses correctly this year, and for the right reasons. Last week was no exception.
But I’ll stand by the meat of last week’s column as well. Despite losing to Arizona, the game signaled a return to form and motivation for the Hawks.
San Francisco is a better team without Kaepernick at the helm, so this will be as hard-fought a division contest as it usually is. But the Hawks will prevail in a fairly convincing fashion, getting them on a roll down the stretch.
Seattle 27, San Francisco 13.
After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.