They never really had to do it like this before.
Though the Seahawks success over the last 11 years goes largely unnoticed around the league, with eight playoff berths and five 10-win seasons, they were never really able to prove that they were the best of the best. At their actual best, Seattle was either the best of the worst (2005), the second best of the best (2012), the least-worst of the worst (2010) or just the best of the rest (most other playoff appearances.) Only once in franchise history really have the Seahawks had an opportunity to prove that they were the best team in the league during the regular season, and that resulted in a loss to the Denver Broncos nearly 30 years ago.
On Sunday, it turned out that the Seahawks were either going to need to win or they'd complete one of the biggest and unlikeliest collapses of recent memory. They couldn't just be good, they couldn't just be tied for the best, they had to have the best record in a strong conference.
And they did.
As per usual, every team in the NFL got 16 games to prove themselves and at the conclusion of the season, only the best record gets the number one seed. That's not something that can ever be taken away from Seattle. They can't say that they got lucky (the last game against Arizona would certainly suggest otherwise) or that they squeaked by (eight wins by at least 10 points, zero losses over a touchdown) or that they played an easy schedule (seven games against teams that finished with a winning record.)
The 2013 regular season is concluded and the Seahawks accomplished every goal that they had set out for, which also happens to be every goal the the 49ers or Cardinals or Rams would have set out for. The division, the bye week and the number one seed. Game meet set meet match.
On the regular season.
Which might as well just be calling the regular season the "jump-off" so just jump-off my brothas. Now it's up to Seattle to actually use that jumping off point to their greatest advantage, because history does not really care about winning the regular season. We lose track of division winners (hell, by simple math, 25% of the league is a division winner) and we don't give a shit if you're the number one seed if you don't make the Super Bowl.
A third of the playoff teams get a bye week, and logically I would have to say that half of the teams in the playoffs get a home game. So while we sit here and revel in the opportunity, remember that we can't celebrate a single thing right now.
Winning the number one seed is sort of like officially signing Tom Cruise to star in your movie. Yeah, the guy's got serious Hollywood heat (I've lived in LA too long) but you don't know if you've got Mission Impossible or Rock of Ages until your big premiere.
All you really won was an advantage, which is another way of saying that "you've raised the stakes on your potential embarrassment."
Last year, the Denver Broncos won the number one seed in the AFC and didn't win a game. The Falcons won the number one seed in the NFC, nearly lost their first game, and then eventually did lose the following week. There's a long history of regular season champions becoming the biggest postseason loser, and that's exactly what we need to remember as they head to the playoffs.
They need to remember it too, because a dangerous team is coming to Seattle in the divisional round. Whether it's the 49ers, the Saints, or the Aaron Rodgers-led, adrenaline-fueled Packers, there is no such thing as an "easy road" in the NFC this year. All we know is that after coming up with perhaps their most-needed regular season win in franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks don't have to go on the road at all.
Let's make like a John Cusack film and Grosse Point Bullet:
- You'll have to excuse my "youth" for not being old enough to watch the '84 Seahawks, but if I could break down some textual history for you, I think it's a good thing to remember. Seattle was 12-2 with two games left to go, having overcome their season-opening injury to star running back Curt Warner to remain in division title contention to the final week.
To be honest, being unfamiliar with tiebreak procedures at the time, I'm not sure what would have happened if the Seahawks had won their final two games but I do know that they would've tied the Dolphins for best record in the AFC at 14-2. They lost 34-7 to Kansas City in Week 15, but if they had beaten the Broncos in the finale, Seattle would have finished 13-3; One game ahead of Denver.
Though John Elway threw four interceptions, the game wasn't even that close, as the Broncos won 31-14. I think some people would say that the '84 team was better than the '05 team and they might be right. They definitely compare more favorably to the 2013 team, I can tell you that much. Except in one area where they differ quite a bit:
The '13 team rebounded from losing their second-to-last game and did come away with the number one seed. The '84 team won their first playoff game, but got blown out when they had to travel to Miami. There won't be any plane trips for Seattle this time, unless it's to New York.
(New York, New Yoooork)
- The Seahawks have seriously only missed the playoffs three times since 2003. Do you remember how the Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001?
- Seattle finished with 417 points on offense, the third-most in franchise history behind 2005 (452) and 1984 (418).
They allowed 231 points, the
second-fewest in team history after just ahead of last year's team (245).
The +186 point differential is the best in franchise history. Two of the three best point differentials in team history have now come under Pete Carroll.
- The Seahawks play on Saturday the 11th at 1:35 PM, providing an extra day of boozing whether winning or losing.
- Was Russell Wilson's game underwhelming again? I would admit that of course it could have gone better, of course he's struggled to live up to the expectations we've set for him, but he finished 15-of-23 for 172 yards and a touchdown. If not for a Luke Willson drop and a touchdown that was called back, he's looking at more like 220 and two touchdowns without an interception.
He played good enough to put up those kind of numbers and at certain times he was extremely on point. I think we also remembered that this offense is at it's best when Marshawn Lynch is running well and finding holes, like he did on Sunday.
Lynch had his best game on the ground since Week 10 and gained big first downs when Seattle needed it. We love Wilson because we want to have him carry us when we need him, but sometime the team's gotta carry him. Sunday was a good combination between Wilson, Lynch, and Golden Tate on offense.
- Speaking of not speaking of anybody else... It's kinda crazy to see your top receiver have 129 yards, your second leading receiver being at 21, and nobody else getting double-digits. I'm not sure what the franchise record is for "percentage of yards" (I do believe off the top of my Kingdome that Steve Largent once caught like both total completions in that -7 yard game) but really nobody else contributed besides those three.
Not including the hidden contributions, like blocking, though Russell Okung had his struggles as well.
I never thought that an injury to Willson would worry me more than an injury to Percy Harvin. Right now, I think I'd rather have Willson in the playoffs, but I'm worried we won't have either. Still, it was a poor game for Willson, it was a poor game for Doug Baldwin, it was a poor game for Jermaine Kearse (since he didn't play), it was a below-average game for Zach Miller.
It's pretty amazing how often players on defense step up to highlight themselves week-to-week, especially compared to an offense where we're usually looking for anybody to to consistently step up besides Wilson and Lynch.
- You would think that multiple poor offensive performances would highlight an elite defense, but instead I think we underrate how great this defense might really be. If they manage to win the Super Bowl, then the "2013 Seattle Seahawks" should start to enter conversations about "the greatest of all time."
They held their seventh opponent this season to 10 points or less, including just 52 points allowed over their final five games. The defense added two more interceptions on Sunday, giving them 28 picks on the year, and basically the cumulative of the quarterbacks they faced this year turned in a stat line similar to Eli Manning:
3,050 yards passing, 5.8 yard per pass attempt, 16 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, 3-13 record
When the defense holds your rushing game to 13 yards, as they say in my hood, "You're done, son."
They allowed just 13.75 points per game at home. Their next game is at home, and it will come against a quarterback that you hope plays like Eli Manning...
- Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Colin Kaepernick will be that next quarterback. It just so happens that all three have played in CenturyLink over the past two seasons, all three on Monday Night Football. All three lost.
Rodgers had 5.72 Y/A in his 14-12 loss in Seattle, the sixth-lowest such mark of any full start in his career, and was held without a touchdown while being sacked eight times. Nothing else of significance happened in that definite-win for the Seahawks.
Brees had 3.87 Y/A in his 34-7 loss in Seattle earlier this season, the third-lowest such mark of his career. He threw for 147 yards and just one touchdown. Of course, the Saints went just 3-5 on the road this year.
I hear-tell that in Kaepernick's career in Seattle, he is 32-of-64, 371 yards, 5.8 Y/A, one (garbage-time) touchdown, four interceptions, and an 0-2 record. In Week 2 of this season he threw three interceptions against the Seahawks, and it is still the only game in his career when he's thrown more than one interception. But against the team that led the league in interceptions, he has not played well. In San Francisco's win over Seattle, he completed 51% of his passes for 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
One of those dudes is coming to the Northwest on the 11th. Winning any of those games won't be "easy" but at least we know that we've done it before, and recently.
- And isn't it interesting to think about where the Seahawks could be right now? Because honestly, my overwhelming feeling all season long has been "we're the best." Other fans don't want to hear it, but the truth is that since the middle of last season, many numbers do say that we are the best team in the NFL.
Seattle has gone 20-4 over their last 24 regular season games. They haven't lost by more than a touchdown since the middle of 2011. They're the number one scoring defense for two years in a row. They did it against the best competition, in the best division, and are 15-1 at home in Wilson's career.
It didn't have to be that way.
The Seahawks could have lost to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, and then the Panthers would have the best record in the NFC.
The Seahawks could have lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, and then the 49ers would have the best record in the NFC.
Can you believe that it's been less than one month since the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks faced off against the 9-2 New Orleans Saints in a game that could determine the number one seed in the NFC? Lose that game, or any other game, and it's San Francisco that's taking the week off and Seattle that's heading on the road.
Except that it didn't go that way. Because only team can assert themselves atop everybody else in a given conference, and for that, the 2013 Seahawks are winners.
If only history gave a shit about the regular season, but it doesn't. There's only one measurement (unless it's BCS college football) of who is the best in a given sport in a given year, and that's the team that wins the championship. Seattle has done everything that could be asked of them up to this point...
And now it really begins.