SEATTLE – Nothing lasts forever. Not life, not luck and not football glory.
The Seattle Seahawks five-year run as a playoff team and a championship contender has ended, at least for now. It’s been a hell of a party.
The Seahawks lost 26-24 Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals after Blair Walsh was wide right on a 48-yard field attempt in the final seconds, a somewhat predictable demise for a kicker who missed eight times this season from outside the 30-yard-line.
It left the Seahawks 9-7, the first time Seattle failed to reach double-figure victories since 2011. A few minutes before that ugly boot, the Seahawks learned they also would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Atlanta’s 22-10 home victory over Carolina sealed that fate.
When time ran out, the scoreboards at CenturyLink Field read Happy New Year. Maybe saying A Better New Year would feel more appropriate to the deflated New Year’s Eve crowd.
Fans become spoiled by success and the Seahawks have enjoyed so many wonderful moments under coach Pete Carroll, including a Super Bowl victory and back-to-back appearances in the final game.
Five consecutive playoff seasons, Beastmode with Marshawn Lynch, the Legion of Boom with the talented Seattle secondary, and Pro Bowlers galore on both sides of the ball.
It was a five-year run of fun, so falling short after such a remarkable stretch is hard to accept.
“Painful,’’ said Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin on how he feels. “Honestly, before the game I was preparing myself because there were a lot of things we couldn’t control. I prepared myself for the worst-case scenario, but I didn’t realize how painful it would be.”
Baldwin had two touchdown catches in the second half as the Seahawks came back from a 20-7 halftime deficit and led 24-23 late in the game. But it was a game like so many others this year when the offense was virtually non-existent at the start.
Seattle had 24 yards of offense and only one first down in the first half. The only TD was a spectacular 99-yard kickoff return by Tyler Lockett.
The Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde offense finally got going in the second half, but the pattern of horrible starts, stupid penalties and senseless mistakes were a death knell long before Walsh’s inevitable missed kick.
“The first thing I want to say is this has been a really challenging season for us,’’ Carroll said. “The game today almost was a microcosm for the season, getting in our own way.”
Russell Wilson led the NFL this year in TD passes with 34, incredible considering the team had no running game, a porous offensive line and was all but dormant for a lot of quarters in 2017.
“I think we had all the pieces at the beginning of the year,’’ Wilson said. “I thought this was going to be our best team, honestly. Then we had a lot of injuries. But there still is no excuse for losing because I believe we have a lot of winners.”
The Seattle defense lost cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive Cliff Avril and safety Kam Chancellor to season-ending injuries. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner played the entire second half of the year on a bad hamstring that limited his effectiveness and defensive end Michael Bennett basically played all year on one good leg.
But injuries alone don’t come close to explaining the team’s downfall. This is a group that has lost its identity. These Seahawks are no longer a power-running team. They no longer have that intimidation factor on either side of the ball. And they are an aging group of stars that leave the team with enormous salary-cap issues moving forward.
Things must change and they will change.
“For it to end this way is really just so disappointing,’’ Baldwin said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for all the years we’ve had getting in the playoffs, but there definitely is more out there for us.”
Is there? Possibly, if the right moves are made in the offseason. It’s still a team loaded with talent, along with some promising young starts like cornerback Shaquill Griffin, defensive tackle Naz Jones and defensive back Justin Coleman.
The offense, however, needs a complete overhaul, and maybe, a new assistant coach or two to give a new perspective. Some of the beloved stars will be gone in 2018, but with Wilson and Wagner as the anchors, the Seahawks can rebound quickly.
“The most important thing we can do now is self-reflection,’’ Baldwin said. “I hope all the players and coaches do some soul searching.”
It’s a new experience for many of the Seahawks. This is the first time Wagner and Wilson have missed the playoffs.
“It’s part of the journey,’’ Wilson said. “It’s not easy to be great. You have to do all the little things right. A few times this season we missed the mark, for whatever reason. I have no regrets. We laid it on the line every day.”