By Mike Salk
With 10 minutes left against Washington, things looked bright for the Seahawks. They led the inept Redskins by 10 points and they appeared poised to enter the playoff hunt.
It seems silly to think about now, but the playoffs were a very real possibility at that point. A win would have put them at 5-6 on the season; they would have been the fifth team looking for one of two wildcard spots.
No, it wouldn't have been an easy journey, but with Philly dropping out, Chicago playing without its quarterback, Detroit riddled with injuries at running back and safety (not to mention an impending suspension of their best defender) and a tiebreaker over the Giants, it was imaginable.
A loss to the 3-7 Redskins cost the Seahawks a legitimate shot at playoff contention. (AP)
In a span of just under 10 minutes, the Seahawks did everything nearly wrong and it cost them a ballgame. It also cost us the opportunity to dare to dream. At 4-7, they find themselves tied with the likes of Arizona, Tampa, Philly and Washington. That is not exactly great company.
More importantly to many fans, the team blew their opportunity to arrive. The surprise wins over the Giants and Ravens were nice, but winning three straight heading into a nationally televised game with playoff implications would have introduced this team to the nation. Moreover, it would have shown that the Hawks had turned a corner -- maybe not the big turn towards Super Bowl contention, but a little corner towards a satisfying season of progress.
I don't know about you, but I find myself increasingly frustrated by this team. Just when you think you have them figured out, they do something totally unexpected. At 1-3, they went on the road to beat the Giants. At 2-3 and with hope rising, they lost two straight to beatable opponents then lost in Dallas. At 2-6 with all hopes dashed for this year and the focus turning to a great draft pick, they improbably beat the playoff-bound Ravens, then knocked around the Rams to crawl back into the conversation.
So, who are these Seahawks?
To start, there is plenty that we don't know about them. We don't know whether Pete Carroll's experiment with large, physical cornerbacks will work in a league in which corners are penalized for looking cross-eyed at a receiver. We don't know if Kam Chancellor can maintain his furious style without drawing fines on a weekly basis.
We don't know yet whether they have their running back of the future. Marshawn Lynch is great when he gets rolling, but do you feel comfortable giving him a long-term contract in a league where running backs tend to disappear long before their deals do?
We don't know if anyone on this receiving corps is a long-term solution. Sidney Rice has shown flashes but has missed time with a handful of injuries and hasn't taken over games with explosive playmaking ability. Mike Williams regressed badly (see the multiple jump balls he could not haul in against Washington) and while Doug Baldwin is promising, he is more likely a role player than a star.
We do know, however, that they need to find a quarterback this offseason. Tarvaris Jackson's ability to play through obvious pain is commendable and there is a role for him in the NFL. But the Seahawks need to find a better option at the most vital position in all of sports. Andrew Luck is off the table, but could they still draft either Matt Barkley or Landry Jones? I think those two will come off the board before they pick, so they'll have to consider the fourth or fifth quarterback in this draft if they go that route.
We know the Seahawks have found their defensive line and they plan to build around it. Red Bryant is an undeniable force that commands double and triple teams. It was no accident that Bryant combined with Brandon Mebane to sack Rex Grossman (technically intentional grounding) in what should have been the biggest moment of the game. Unfortunately, the ensuing third-and-19 resulted in a 50-yard touchdown strike.
We also know that the Seahawks are strangely undisciplined. Young teams are often penalized, so that shouldn't surprise us, but the timing of those penalties is troubling. Golden Tate's silly excessive celebration with 12:45 left to play changed the game. It forced the Hawks to kick off from the 20-yard line which started a Washington touchdown drive.
Continuing on the undisciplined theme, the Hawks were twice forced to call timeouts because they failed to substitute correctly. This has been a recurring problem for them -- don't forget that they had only 10 men on the field when Jason Witten made the key catch against them in Dallas! How hard can it be for a professional team to consistently line up 11 men on the field? Not nine or 10, not 12, but 11!
After watching the Seahawks lose, I'm frustrated because I want to know which direction this team is headed and I'm not sure that I know. The trends are mostly positive, but it's hard to see sunshine and roses after giving up a late lead and watching playoff contention slip from their grasp. It's especially hard given that they lost to a bad Washington team with a terrible quarterback at the helm.
Now they'll regroup to host the reeling Eagles in front of a national audience on Thursday night. Who knows what will happen next.