With a resounding victory over the organization boasting the NFL’s best record prior to Sunday night’s game, the Seattle Seahawks once again shook the notion that they were embattled or declining in week 13. It has become almost a routine performance at this point of the season, as Seattle has made a signature triumph part of its recipe for cooking up double-digit wins in each of the five previous seasons since Russell Wilson came to town. Indeed Sunday’s outcome, surprising to outsiders, has such a near analog in every year from 2012 to 2016 that many of in the Seahawks community found it entirely familiar.
Take a look at this history of dynamic theatrics in similar situations, based on the criteria of a momentous win during the “third quarter” segment of the schedule right when Seattle seemed most encircled by creeping doubts or a possibility of misplacing the enormous potential of this almost dynastic group:
December 2, 2012—Chicago, Illinois
Seattle entered this matchup on the brink of elimination, 6-5 after a disappointing loss to a subpar Miami Dolphins outfit, and seemingly incapable of matching the burgeoning excellence at home (5-0) when playing in unfriendly confines (1-5). But Russell Wilson powered a comeback by matching his then-career high in passing with 293 yards and adding 71 more with his legs, including several long scampers on the Seahawks’ tying drive before overtime, suddenly dropping 14 points in the last half minute of regulation and then in the extra period. Wilson had never produced more than 35 yards on the ground to that point in his rookie season, but his virtuoso execution of the read option previewed a multi-layered attack with mobility that became inappropriately interpreted as his best skill until at least as late as 2015.
The clutch effort probably saved the season, and struck a match under the bonfire we’ve come to know as a championship organization. It didn’t have quite the quality of wire-to-wire control that Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles demonstrated, and people tend to forget about this Bears group because they ended up ravaged by injuries and getting squeezed out of the playoffs at 10-6, but Chicago started 2012 7-1 and were a considerably scary 8-3 heading into this game, so I pick it over later more one-sided hallmark outputs that announced the Seahawks as a championship-caliber club way back then.
December 2, 2013—Seattle, Washington
It’s strange to describe the build-up to this game in retrospect as one of uncertainty surrounding Seattle, because it was the one bringing a 10-1 record into the tilt. Yet the Seahawks at that time still had not shed a reputation as a plucky group digging out wins with a suffocating defense and occasional fortune. Despite bulletin wins in weeks 2 and 3 that hinted at the forceful supremacy of Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle had survived overtime against bad Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers teams, lost to a mediocre Indianapolis Colts unit and recently struggled to generate offense on a national broadcast versus the St. Louis Rams. New Orleans showed up as the NFC favorite, 9-2 and scorching hot on offense punching in 28 points per game.
But the Seahawks pass rush throttled Drew Brees, forcing a three and out right away to set the tone. On the next possession, Cliff Avril introduced his glorious quarterback-stripping technique to the primetime audience with a sack-fumble that Michael Bennett returned for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Seattle limited Brees to 147 yards and the Saints’ only score came courtesy of Jimmy Graham, of all people, in the second quarter.
December 7, 2014—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Despite its championship pedigree, Seattle in 2014 established an unsavory habit of stumbling early, dropping back to back games against the Dallas Cowboys and Rams to fall to 3-3. Later, a gut-wrenching failure at the Kansas City Chiefs put the defending NFC West champs at 6-4 and three games behind the streaking 9-1 Arizona Cardinals. It looked like the promise of a young dynasty was already doomed, but the Seahawks put it together for a pair of 19-3 wins over division rivals the Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers before visiting Philadelphia.
But the Eagles that season were considered a contending club themselves, hampered only by the loss of their starting passer Nick Foles, but had surpassed Seattle in weighted DVOA after crushing their opposite division leader the Cowboys 33-10 the week before. With Philly hosting, the contest seemed like a stiff task for the challenged Seahawks and Seattle made it harder when Jon Ryan fumbled a punt attempt on his own 14 yard line setting up a remedial drive by Mark Sanchez. But the Seahawks defense otherwise dominated, holding the Eagles to 139 total yards including less than three yards per rush by LeSean McCoy. Although the Niners game on Thanksgiving and a 35-6 pummeling of nosediving Arizona later in December were more public games, in the fashion of the national broadcast of Sunday Night Football that helps convince the masses, this game played after 4 pm on the East Coast had the feeling of a night collision and was probably the most instrumental game in solidifying Seattle’s chances of a title defense that year after the hardships in October.
November 29 & December 6, 2015
I’m cheating here by picking a combination of games, but it was really the total effect of these back to back weeks in 2015 that carries the feeling of Sunday’s win over Philadelphia. Both Pittsburgh (6-4 but after missing Ben Roethlisberger for four games) and Minnesota (8-3) were in the thick of the playoff hunts, while Seattle limped into to this stretch just 5-5 after dropping four of the first six games and having nothing resembling a quality win on the year.
Roethlisberger threw for 500 yards, but the Seahawks also intercepted the Steelers four times, and the game was so back and forth that I couldn’t consider it on its own an equivalent to 2017 Eagles victory. That’s why the Vikings result is built into this, because it provided the relief of stomping a legit team and reasserting Seattle’s characteristic swagger—although that one is also probably too comfortable a beating to compare to Sunday’s win over Philly. With nine total touchdowns combined in the eight quarters, these performances initiated a period when Wilson ruled the NFL most uncivilly—throwing for better than 70 percent completion rate in each of five straight victories and surging the Seahawks back to the playoffs almost as single-handedly as he is doing this year.
November 13, 2016—Foxborough, Massachusetts
This game comes a bit earlier in the calendar than these other examples, but seems like the most fitting showdown from 2016 because it pitted Seattle against the consensus best team in the league at that moment and renewed hope that the club that had looked middling after a ragged tie in Arizona, a loss to New Orleans and a terrifyingly close win at home against the Buffalo Bills, might again have the Super Bowl ambitions it had flashed during a 4-1 start.
You might prefer the win a week later because it was also over Philadelphia, who was at that time again the top-rated squad by Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics. But the Eagles at that time were merely 5-4 and the clash didn’t possess the same stakes or league-alerting substance of play as the New England affair did. Unfortunately what seemed like an intriguing championship preview/rematch turned into just another regular season memory after injuries struck down C.J. Prosise, Tyler Lockett and Earl Thomas later for the Seahawks, but Prosise was extraordinary against the Patriots before defense again closed the win with a Richard Sherman fumble recovery and finally Kam Chancellor’s fourth-down pass breakup against Rob Gronkowski.
Without Sherman or Chancellor for the remainder of 2017, it’s possible Sunday’s convincing win over Philadelphia ends up resembling this artifact of the previous season, a brief resurgence of pride and glory rather than a true signal of Seattle’s ability to play at the very height of professional football. For now at least the 24-10 final does carry some of that promise, and demonstrates for at least the sixth straight year that right when you start to count the Seahawks out they can summon the form of an elite ensemble.
What do you think? Can you find other games from recent years that better represent the feeling of what Seattle accomplished Sunday on primetime? Or do you dismiss the notion that there is any meaning to regular season games interpreted as a kind of statement? How does this win stack up against the best moments from Wilson, Bennett, Thomas and the Seahawks organization since 2012?