Expectations were high. The Seahawks, who have been to the past two Super Bowls (with the most recent trip requiring an upset over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship), lost their season opener last week. And this week, they knew their opponent, the Green Bay Packers, would have their teeth showing in the rematch. Not to mention Seattle is hungry for a win after a gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss to the hated New England Patriots last February.
But after the week 2 game, just like week 1, Hawks fans were disappointed and the team fell to 0-2.
The following question lingers like thick air on a humid day: Is their magic gone?
Of course there is still loads of talent on the team, but do they have that je ne sais quoi that allows them pull off incredible plays and win playoff game after playoff game? Can Marshawn Lynch still own the line of scrimmage? Can their receivers, including the newly acquired Jimmy Graham, make significant plays up field? Can their defense intimidate like a seventh grade bully?
I’m an optimist. I think the Seahawks are slow starters, both in first halves of games and their seasons in general, and I think they can be a playoff team and a contender for another ring. Here are eight reasons why I am holding onto hope.
Tyler Lockett is amazing. He’s a 22-year-old rookie, which means he’s a young player and will be around for a while with fresh legs. On his first play in the regular season he returned a punt for a 57-yard touchdown. He’s also a reliable, fast, quality receiver who made a huge third-down play in Sunday’s game to keep a drive alive. On a team with questionable receiving and a penchant to seem spark-less for periods of time, he’s the glint in the proverbial eye.
Not every game will be against a division rivalry or against the offensive juggernaut, Green Bay, on the road. The Rams were waiting the whole summer for their week 1 game against the 'Hawks as a way of saying to the world, or at least to the division, TAKE US SERIOUSLY! PLEASE? TAKE US SEROUSLY? And now we have to. The same can be said after the Packers’ devastating loss to the 'Hawks in the playoffs last year – they needed this win to salvage their psyche. Not every game will be this way. Some patience is required.
Kicker Steven Hauschka is clutch and accurate. Even when he misses, he makes them. He hit the goal post on a 50-some yarder Sunday and the damn thing banked in. Over the past two Super Bowl seasons I heard people cheering for S.H. as the team’s MVP. It’s a little farfetched when you consider the efforts of Russell Wilson and the rest of the stars, but it’s not too far off. It’s like having a lights-out closer in baseball; having a great kicker is priceless.
The coaches still haven’t figured out Jimmy Graham. This could be looked at as a negative, but if you look at it hopefully, it’s the nowhere-to-go-but-up philosophy. He’s an agile, strong, quick, verticle-minded receiver that they have blocking too frequently and haven’t figured out how to free up. Who knows: He might still be reeling from his departure from New Orleans where he practically had a psychic connection with quarterback Drew Brees. When he’s unleashed, perhaps next week at home against the lowly Chicago Bears, he’ll open eyes and spark celebrations.
Kam Chancellor will come back. Soon. He will, right? RIGHT?? Right. He has to. Let’s stop talking about this. Because when he does, we can all sigh, relieved, knowing the strong safety and leader of the defense, the Yang to Richard Sherman’s Yin, has returned.
In 1993, the Dallas Cowboys started off 0-2 with a star on the bench holding out. And his name was Emmitt Smith and they won the Super Bowl that year (their second in a row) after Dallas decided to pay him what he was worth. The 'Hawks and Chancellor are reportedly $900,000 apart and I expect this difference to not exist anymore after the Hawks 0-2 start. They’ll sign him, and soon.
The team might have stirred something in the offense after a second-half discovery of the read option, putting Wilson on the move. The beginning of Sunday’s second half moved quick on the back of Wilson and his speedy legs and his sharp decision making. They need Lynch to bring more to the table (as discussed above) to sell the play even more, but rolling Wilson out shakes the rust of the at-times stagnant offense. It’s more than a glimmer of hope. And is damn exciting to watch.
The NFC West is weaker than people think. Granted it’s early, but the team leading the division right now is the Arizona Cardinals who are, like last season, one Carson Palmer injury away from not mattering. The Rams, who, yes, beat the Hawks last week, lost to the Washington D.C. football team this week and the San Francisco 49ers will stink this year. It’s a fact. So fear not, Seattle, it’s a long season (at least that’s what I’m telling myself right now).
But, after all that, let me offer a big HOWEVER or three… the team could totally be on the path to a subpar campaign. So, for balance, here are four reasons the team might be in a season-long slump.
Richard Sherman is getting crushed. At least by his standards. He gave up a huge play on an albeit perfectly thrown ball by Nick Foles last week to crush the 'Hawks and he gave up a huge touchdown in the opening quarter of Sunday’s loss. He was also responsible for a pass interference call that moved the ball for the Packers. He’s not bad, of course, but he’s not playing shutdown, which really hurts the swagger of a defense that somehow doesn’t seem devastating anymore.
The team still gives up crucial penalties. Michael Bennett was called for several offside penalties Sunday, which resulted in long gains for the Packers. The 'Hawks always get called for a ton of penalties and when their margin of error is bigger, with a full compliment of players. Now, though, with their margin of error much thinner, it’s not so cute.
Marshawn Lynch still hasn’t figured out the line, at least on the road. Toward the end of Sunday’s game he got some larger gains, but more often than not when he got the ball it looked like he just plowed into the defensive line, crushed. Part of that is the weaker, younger offensive line and part of that is he’s getting older. But it’s a huge concern for a team who was one yard away from the Super Bowl last year and didn’t get it.
Not enough money to go around. Football has a salary cap. There’s only so much money that can go around to players and for years the 'Hawks have been incredible at spreading it out because their best players – like quarterback Russell Wilson – were making way less than market value. Now, though, after their successes, the players demanded to get paid (and rightfully so) but this makes winning much harder.
Winning in the NFL is super hard. And right now the team has yet to win a game.
But they will soon. Next week, at home.
I’m almost positive.