This week: No choking around, TGIPA, and unsung or seldomsung special team heroes.
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1. The loose talk of "Here Comes Another Typical Seattle Team Collapse" forgets an important point.
Pundits, hosts, writers, basement-dwelling bloggers -- all have mentioned the fact that a Seahawks loss plus a Niners win in Week 17 drops the Hawks all the way to the fifth seed. Gone would be the bye week, the HFA, the shorter path to the Owl. Oftly repeated is the myth that all successful Seattle teams fall victim to late-season chokes.
Fine. It's not entirely a myth. Too many local franchises have made a habit of wasting great seasons, either with a late-season gut-punch flameout or a painful playoff malfunction.
Listen, or don't, to this table of used-to-be joyous seasons:
|Seattle Team||Season Facts||Unhappy Ending|
|1994 and 1995 Sonics||120-44 combined record||Zero series wins. Dikembe'd. Poop.|
|2001 M's||116 wins, allegedly||Lost in ALCS|
|2002 and 2003 M's||1st place in late summer||No playoffs|
|2011 M's||In contention at All-Star break||17-game losing streak|
|2009-13 Sounders||Made playoffs every season||No title game appearances|
|Future M's||Felix!||No playoffs|
No need to rehash every Mariners or Sonics heartbreak. But as an addendum, consider the melancholy case of the Sounders. The "other" Seattle football team has reached the postseason in all five years of its MLS life. In the Sounders' first four campaigns, they finished anywhere from second to fourth in the conference, then failed to reach the championship round even once. In 2009-2010, the team went 356 playoff minutes without scoring a goal.
Then, most recently, to close out 2013, the star-studded Sounders needed two wins in their final seven games to win the regular-season title. Instead, they went winless the rest of the way, getting outscored 15-5, and finally bowing out in the postseason's second round.
So, Seattle teams fold at the worst possible time. It's what they do!
Um, not so fast, C. Little. What do all those teams have in common? They don't have "Seahawks" in their name. It's hard to find a time the Hawks pissed away a golden opportunity at the end of the season, or early in the playoffs, to do something special.
There's the 1999 team that started hot (8-2) and ended sputtering, but it was never that good to begin with.
There's the 2004 team that blew a wild-card home game to the Rams, but those two teams were pretty evenly matched in their mediocrity.
There was the Super Bowl trip, that one time, that one year. But as poorly as the Hawks played in XL, they got some significant help blowing it, and they weren't even the oddsmakers' favorite to win in the first place, and it's still an accomplishment to even reach the Big Game at all.
If you go back far enough, there is a spot of semi-damning evidence across the Seahawks' ledger. Fresh off an appearance in the '83 AFC title game, the '84 team started out 12-2, then lost the season's final two games, including the finale at home. Except that team had already overcome the loss of Curt Warner in the season opener. And then they beat the defending champs in the playoffs before falling to Marino's Dolphins.
If you're looking for a reason to expect the worst, you might be thinking of the wrong team.
2. Ownership: Still Legendary
NFL owners making the news recently:
And, ho-hum, Daniel Snyder continues feuding publicly with his coach (his seventh coach in 14 years), taking his star QB's side, while doing nothing to quell the controversy surrounding his team's name.
Meanwhile, an NFL owner not making any news recently: Paul Allen.
The Seahawks' ultimate boss is still the sauce one pours all over the awesome. He's still perfect in his position. Truth be told, this section could be written on a weekly basis, because a rich, invested, passionate, hands-off, generous, local owner is a true rarity. The one we have here is all those things, yet he goes under-appreciated, under-recognized, and almost every week, under-reported.
As the Hawks make yet another postseason run -- their eighth in the last 11 seasons! -- it's worth remembering that very little of their success is possible without Mr. Allen.
3. Very special teamers
These two guys don't get the headlines, but they've put in the hard work this year on special teams.
One dude is a big reason why the Hawks have their sights set on the league record for fewest punt yards allowed. The other is a big reason why Steven Hauschka is close to automatic (last game notwithstanding) on field goal attempts.
One guy is tasked with preventing the big play on kicks. The other guy's job is to never ever screw up. Both guys have succeeded mightily in 2013.
Guy One, Heath Farwell, is the captain of the special teams unit. Many serious fans already knew that. What fewer folks know is that Farwell led the team in coverage tackles in 2011 and 2012, plus he's one behind supergunner Jeremy Lane for the team lead this year. Watch tomorrow for the conclusion to this race.
Oh, and Farwell's main defensive contribution came on this series, the last time the Rams and Hawks met. That third-and-one was his only defensive snap of the game.
Guy Two, Clint Gresham, is paid $1,650,000 over two seasons to do one job a few times a game, under intense pressure, without ever doing it wrong.
The list of things that can go wrong for a long snapper is very short. He can snap the ball poorly, or get overrun by opponents so consistently that he's useless. Either way, he gets fired.
The list of things that can go right is even shorter. Get the ball right to where the man with the golden foot wants it, always, on time, without messing up, ever.
Gresham has avoided the first list and lived on the second. When was the last time you heard his name called? Things can go wrong in a hurry for a long snapper. Google Brad St. Louis and Trey Junkin for confirmation. That kind of drama is not happening here.
In case you needed more reasons to like Gresham beyond snapping excellence, take a moment and realize that he was the second-highest paid LS in the league entering the year, but he redid his deal for less money and additional security. The team also benefits from a smaller cap hit as a result.
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Note: this marks the final "Swept Under The Turf," though it might return in a slightly different form during the many, many, many weeks of the upcoming postseason.