As someone who spends much of my week writing and tweeting about the Seattle Seahawks, people often want to talk to me about the Seahawks. They don't really give a shit about what I have to think about politics, religion, philosophy, history, science, technology, dating, love, life, happiness, or woodwork. Just the Seahawks.
Which is fine, because I don't know jackshit about those other things. (I mean, "woodwork" is just another stupid politics issue that I have no opinion on because I have no knowledge of those events other than they were called "woodwork and bernstein.")
Well, when it comes to the Seahawks this week, much of the chatter I heard was ... "This fucking blows." And it did blow. The Cincinnati Bengals were down 17 points headed into the fourth quarter (the Bengals were 2-87 all-time when losing by at least that much headed into the fourth), and they came back and won it in overtime because of a total collapse in all three phases of the game by Seattle.
The Seahawks were 73-0 all-time when leading by 17 or more headed into the final quarter.
None of that is fun to think about. None of it helps you put the game behind you and move on to the next. What I said on the instant reaction show this week was that sports fandom was a "mental construct" that didn't really have any bearing on your real world life and that "hey, what if one of your parents died? That would be worse, right?" and that seemed to help some people.
But here are 12 more silver linings from the game on Sunday that I also think are pretty valuable.
1. Thomas Rawls' Enormous Balls
Rawls rushed for 169 yards against the Bengals, tied for the 13th-most by a Seahawks player in a regular season game. It was the most rushing yards by a Seattle player since Shaun Alexander in 2006. That's right, Marshawn Lynch has never rushed for more than 150 yards in a regular season game with the Seahawks; his overall career high with the team is 157 yards in their NFC Championship game win over the Green Bay Packers last season.
Rawls is also the youngest player in Seattle history to ever rush for at least 150 yards in a game.
He's only the second rookie in Seahawks history to rush for at least 100 yards twice during his first season. The other being Curt Warner in 1983, when he did it seven times. Hey, there are still 11 games left to go this year!
If you had said four years ago that Rawls would be a stud NFL running back (which I'm not saying he is yet, but I'm also not hating what I'm seeing so far either) it would not have been that crazy. He was a top recruit at Michigan with Heisman hopes. Things did not work out there, but there's some pedigree and talent there that you won't see with most undrafted free agents.
Rawls has rushed for 326 yards through five weeks and that's without playing much in the first two games. He is averaging 5.62 YPC, which is the most ever by a Seahawks RB through five weeks with at least 200 rushing yards. He's doing so behind an offensive line that most of us refer to as "turrible."
If you come away with one positive out of this game, or these past few games, remember this: Thomas Rawls is reinforcing the point I've been making over and over for the last couple of years, which is that you can find a lot of really talented running backs outside of the first round. Sometimes really, really, really far out of the first round. Is he as talented as Todd Gurley? Probably not. But would their draft value :: talent ratio be pretty close?
It might turn out that way, yes.
2. The Bengals are an AFC team
Your most important record is your overall record, and the Seahawks are an unfortunate 2-3.
Your second-most important record is your division record, and the Seahawks are an unfortunate (but it's early) 0-1.
Your third-most important record is your conference record, and the Seahawks are just 2-2.
Games against the opposite conference are bonus points where you try and prop up your overall record, but if Seattle is going to lose a shitty heartbreaker like this one, make it happen against a team from the AFC.
3. The game was on the road
The Seahawks are 0-3 on the road this season, which will have people start bring that up again, but let's not forget that they've had three fourth quarter leads on the road. So even if they had to go on the road in the playoffs -- should they make it that far -- they're competitive. Bad teams are not competitive in that way. The Seahawks are not a bad team.
They have six more home games and five more road games remaining.
4. The Bengals are actually good
It was pretty disheartening to see Cincinnati come into Seattle in 2011 and destroy the Seahawks unlike any way they've been destroyed since, but the two games and two teams are entirely different now. The Bengals were in their first season of turning around, and now they're looking right into the face of Bright Eyes.
Andy Dalton is playing like a maniac, in large part because of having A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Andrew Whitworth, Marvin Jones, Mohamad Sanu, and two more first round picks on the offensive line with Andre Smith and Kevin Zeitler. It's arguably the best offense in football. Their defense isn't too bad either, with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Adam Jones, Ray Maualuga, Reggie Nelson, and three more first round picks in the secondary with Darqueze Dennard, Leon Hall, and Dre Kirkpatrick.
Seattle had a 24-7 lead on the road to a team that could very well be going to the Super Bowl. It's just that every now and then they fall apart. They figure out that last part about how they stopped having a lead, and suddenly the Seahawks still look like the best team in the NFL.
5. The schedule isn't too untight
It's cliche and often comes back to bite people in the ass for saying it, but as the old saying goes: If I'm not being bitten in the ass, then what am I paying you for?
The cliche is that this really is the toughest part of the Seahawks schedule. Road games in St. Louis, Green Bay, and Cincinnati. If they come out of next weekend 3-3 after beating the 4-0 Carolina Panthers, then it's all pretty much as you could have expected going into the season.
After that, Seattle plays in San Francisco -- typically a difficult team to face, but arguably a dumpster fire of denim in 2015.
Then they go to Dallas -- also looked like one of the toughest games of the season beforehand, but could very well be against Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel by the time Week 8 rolls around. Not that the Cowboys will roll over, but if the Seahawks can't beat Weeden or Cassel, the playoffs were never meant to be.
After the bye week, the Seahawks get five of their last eight at home, including the Cardinals, 49ers, Steelers (what state of health and mind will they be in by then?), Browns, and Rams. Their road games are the 2-2 Vikings, 1-4 Ravens, and 4-1 Cardinals. At that point, perhaps Week 17 could still be setting up for a division-winning showdown. Or maybe Carson Palmer steps on a thorn midseason and the Cards blow another three-game lead in the division late in the season.
Not that that's ever happened within the last year.
6. How do we keep underrating Russ?
Russell Wilson makes so few mistakes that when we notice him make even one mistake, we blow it up to be the biggest mistakes a quarterback has ever made in the NFL.
Despite playing behind the worst pass-blocking offensive line we could have imagined, Wilson is having what I argue is the best start to a season of his career. He has posted a passer rating of at least 90 in each of the first five games (that's never happened before in franchise history) and he's also rushed for 198 yards. He and Matt Hasselbeck (2005) are the only QBs in team history to throw for 200 yards in each of the first five games, as well.
When people complain about Wilson, I turn into a teenage girl because I can't even.
I'm much more impressed with Wilson than I was for most of last season and he was still really good last season. He helped get the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl. His plus/minus rate stats were 100 or better across the board last year (100 is league average) as they have been during every season of his career. That's Y/A, net Y/A, adjusted net Y/A, completion percentage, TD%, INT%, and passer rating. He's never been below average in any of those categories during any one of his first three seasons.
And people still find a way to bitch about it.
Bitch about it? Watch Matt Hasselbeck play the last couple seasons of his Seattle career and bitch about it. Watch Charlie Whitehurt and bitch about it. Watch Tarvaris Jackson and bitch about it. Watch the entire rest of the NFL, find me five QBs who have played better since 2012 and this season and bitch about it because even with Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer rising up this year, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Matt Ryan are all playing worse than Wilson. Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo are out. Active quarterbacks today that are better than Wilson? There aren't possibly more than a few.
Bitch about that.
7. Jimmy Graham is coming along just fine
Wilson has been playing with Doug Baldwin for four years. He's been playing with Jermaine Kearse for four years. It's going to take more than five games to develop chemistry with Graham, who also happens to lead the team in targets this season. And as far as chemistry goes, Baldwin had the worst season of his career during Wilson's rookie year with many saying they had none and never would. That's obviously changed. Baldwin has been a free throw for Wilson this season, but pretty soon it's gonna be a lot of Graham dunks.
(That's a pun of "slam dunks" but also works because Jimmy used to have that touchdown celebration that was later ruled illegal because it owned the opponent too hard for sucking so much compared to Graham.)
The issue is that they get guys like Graham so that they can convert on third down, move the chains, and run the clock down as they should have in the fourth quarter on Sunday. That didn't happen, but if they have to learn their lesson about it, best they fix it now than not realize they have a problem until December or January.
8. The offensive line finally did a "this actually doesn't suck hella" job
Wilson was sacked four more times and I'm not gonna say that they did all that great, but their performance actually didn't suck hella. If they can string together 11 more games of not sucking hella, the rest of the team is gonna figure out a way to fix itself because the rest of the team is mostly very talented.
9. Cliff Avril should make the Pro Bowl this season
That's not something Avril has ever done but as a guy who has often fallen behind like six or seven other dudes on this defense in terms of "name recognition" or "importance," Avril is arguably the best player on the defense right now. He has four passes defensed, which is more than Richard Sherman.
This week had had a sack, three more QB hurries, four tackles, and three stops. He is second among all 4-3 DEs in QB hurries with 16 (Michael Bennett is first with 17), tied for second in tackles (with Bennett), and sixth in stops (Bennett is tied for second.)
Did I mention Michael Bennett?
10. You don't win the first quarter (especially when you lose mega hard in the fourth quarter)
But the message remains the same. The Seahawks are in the first "third" of their season. First "quarter" if they make the playoffs. They are 2-3. Let's look at some recent Super Bowl winners and see how they looked after five games:
2014 -- New England Patriots (3-2)
People were asking Bill Belichick if Tom Brady should be benched after a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs that sent them down to 2-2. They also lost 33-20 to the Dolphins. Seattle's biggest loss in the last four seasons is by 10 points.
2012 -- Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
The Ravens had no issues in the beginning of the season and started off 9-2, but nearly missed the playoffs entirely after losing four of their last five games. There was probably a lot less confidence in Baltimore going into the 2012 playoffs than there is about the Seahawks' SB chances right now.
2011 -- New York Giants (3-2)
Do I need to even go over the Giants or has this been covered in "Sports are fucking weird 101"?
The Giants rebounded to go 6-2 but then lost five of the next six games. They sucked. Hard. And they won the Super Bowl over a much better team.
2010 -- Green Bay Packers (3-2)
The Packers ultimately fell to 3-3 after back-to-back OT losses. They went 3-5 on the road that season. At one point they were 8-6. People thought they were definitely talented and that Aaron Rodgers was talented, but very few things went right for the Packers that season ... until the playoffs.
There are more and more examples of course. The 2007 Giants, the 2005 Steelers, the 2001 Patriots. But there's plenty of evidence just in the last five seasons alone. Including Super Bowl losers like the 2014 Seahawks (started 3-3, were 6-4 later after a loss to the Chiefs), the 2011 Patriots (were a ho-hum 5-3 at the midway point.)
The Seahawks are two OT losses from being 4-1. That's something that frustrates me, but it's not something I am going to panic about.
11. Seattle is still a top-tier rushing offense and rushing defense
The Seahawks are ranked third in YPC despite not having Marshawn Lynch for three games, basically. They are fourth in YPC allowed. This is an old school concept of how to win football games, but it's also a big part of why they've won so many football games. So really a lot has stayed the same, while it's really been a number of very unlucky, unfortunate, unpredictable, and fixable things that have been the difference between Seattle being tied for first in the division and being where they are now at.
By midseason, if they are 5-3 or 4-4, then they'll be in good position to rebound with a combination of Lynch and Rawls. With a receiving corps that also could include Paul Richardson and may also see Tyler Lockett get better at some of the issues he's had this year. That certain members of the offensive line will go from zero career starts at that position (which is three of the five starters) to perhaps eight, or even nine starts! That some of these QB hurries and QB hits from Avril and Bennett will turn into sacks, as you'd expect they would. That Frank Clark will be getting better and better as the weeks go by. That Cary Williams will have markedly improved in a new system by Week 10 than where he was at in Week 1. That Marcus Burley and Tye Smith will be healthy. That Kam Chancellor, who didn't practice with the team until three weeks ago, won't have nearly as much rust on his shoulders. That...
Do you see where I'm going with this?
If there's a 2-3 team in the NFL that's a serious threat for the Super Bowl (and there are a lot of 2-3 teams in the NFL right now) then obviously that team is the Seahawks. They're not "fine" but as long as they keep their head above water, then the team you see in December and January could be much, much more than just fine.
12. Losing is actually cool
A lot of people don't know this, but losing is actually cool. No really, it is. My cousin Brian, who is a sophomore at Riley High, told me that losing is cool and winning is for suckers. Why do you think all the finest babes at Central McKinley date the jocks at Riley? Because they haven't been to State in over 30 years. He said it makes you like, "more interesting" or something. I don't know. But if the Seahawks win another game this season, they'll never get the babes, bro.
Whenever one of my team's loses a game, that's just what I always remind myself of: Losing is cool, winning is for fools.
Hey, can you like, do my math homework, bro? Doing math homework is even like, more super cool. How do you think Steven Hocking got all them super fine baberinos in that movie with the guy from Jupiter Ascending?