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10 years of Pete Carroll: The best win from each season - Part 1

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Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos

The moment that Pete Carroll coaches game one of the 2020 regular season (if there is one), he’ll be the longest tenured coach in Seahawks history. At the moment, he’s tied with Mike Holmgren at exactly 10 seasons, and not coincidentally they’re the only two men who have led Seattle to a Super Bowl appearance. Of course, Carroll accomplished the ultimate goal of winning it all.

There has been a hell of a lot of talk (a lot of it I’ve willingly pushed) that’s largely centered around more recent annoyances and concerns about Pete’s head coaching style, in-game decision making, and the state of the current roster. I figured it would be a good time to step back and look at the high points under Coach Carroll by naming the best win from each season as Seahawks head coach.

This is strictly my own criteria, which is fairly simple and consists of the following:

  • Quality of opponent. The better the team, the better the win.
  • How well the Seahawks played. Turnovers are kept to a minimum, among other keys to clean football.
  • The magnitude of the win. What the victory meant at the time, the rest of the season, or how it played into future seasons.

Sound straightforward? Then let’s go! It’ll be a two-part series or else it’ll be an endless scroll.

2010 - Seahawks 41 New Orleans Saints 36

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The game: Seattle was a terrible, rebuilding team that snagged a playoff spot by being less awful than the rest of the NFC West. At 7-9 they were the first team to clinch a division title with a losing record, and were understandably heavy underdogs against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

If you thought Seattle was toast down 17-7 against a vastly superior team, I wouldn’t have blamed you. But Matt Hasselbeck turned in a phenomenal performance in his final home start for the Seahawks, the defense made enough critical stops to help Seattle build a shocking 34-20 lead, and then with the Saints crawling it back to 34-30...

Beastquake. Game over.

What it meant: Arguably the greatest upset in NFL playoff history and the team’s first playoff win since 2007. For Carroll, the skepticism about his return to the league was slowly erased and Seahawks fans had reason for optimism.

2011 - Seahawks 22 Baltimore Ravens 17

Baltimore Ravens v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Stephen Brashear /Getty Images

The game: Optimism from 2010 turned into sourness when the Seahawks entered the halfway mark of 2011 with a 2-6 record. The Baltimore Ravens were 6-2 and had just beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, so this was a mismatch on paper. Instead, the late Tarvaris Jackson led the Seahawks offense to an opening drive touchdown, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s one-yard plunge.

Seattle would not get into the end zone the rest of the afternoon, but Stephen Hauschka tacked on five field goals, the offense did not turn the ball over once, and poor David Reed lost two fumbles on kick returns thanks to stellar Seahawks special teams. John Harbaugh was in ultra pass happy mode against a young, unproven Legion of Boom, and Joe Flacco could only muster up 29/52 for 255 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

With the score 22-17 in the closing minutes, Marshawn Lynch had Ray Lewis breakdancing on a critical third down.

What it meant: This marked the start of an unlikely surge to 7-7, with the team actually still in the wild card hunt until a loss against the San Francisco 49ers and a Detroit Lions win over the San Diego Chargers sealed their fate. Glimpses of the pass defense’s future greatness were on full display against a team that eventually reached the AFC Championship Game.

2012 - Seahawks 42 San Francisco 49ers 13

The game: After a 4-4 start, Seattle went berserk on the rest of the league and surged to 9-5, needing just a win to clinch a playoff berth. They had fallen 13-6 to the 49ers in primetime, but the rematch would take place at CenturyLink Field on a Sunday Night Football flex choice. The whole country got to see this version of the Seahawks for the first time, and a matchup against that vaunted 49ers defense and an offense that had first-year starter Colin Kaepernick in fine form.

What was billed as a potential classic turned out to be a thrashing.

Seattle’s second offensive play was a 24-yard Lynch touchdown. They were dominant in every aspect of the game, and while this resulted in a 15-yard penalty, there isn’t a more fitting play to signify the arrival of the Legion of Boom than Kam Chancellor’s destruction of Vernon Davis.

The penalty was a blessing in disguise, as Big Red Bryant got his paw up to block David Akers’ chipshot field goal, which Richard Sherman scooped and scored. Russell Wilson threw for four touchdowns, Robert Turbin had a big run that wasn’t called back for holding, and Jim Harbaugh’s birthday was ruined.

What it meant: The Seahawks were not just the new kids on the block, they were legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Although they didn’t win the NFC West, the shellacking of San Francisco meant that Seattle had a small chance of taking the division and a first-round bye in Week 17. It also represented a shift in the Seahawks-49ers rivalry, as the 49ers would only win one game against Seattle until the 2018 season.

2013 - Seahawks 43 Denver Broncos 8

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The game: Super Bowl 48. #1 offense vs. #1 defense. An all-time great (Peyton Manning) and a superstar in the making (Russell Wilson). Super receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker) against super corners (Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell). A wild Percy Harvin had time to recover from his concussion and play in the biggest game of his career after missing virtually the whole season. So much intrigue, so many fascinating talking points, there’s no way this game will be one of the biggest beatdowns in the history of the Sup——-

What it meant: The Seahawks won the freaking Super Bowl.

2014 - Seahawks 36 Green Bay Packers 16

Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The game: This is the most controversial pick, and I admittedly sought some input from the rest of the Field Gulls staff. I could’ve had the NFC Championship Game against the Packers in here, or the Thanksgiving win over the San Francisco 49ers, or the overtime thriller in the Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos. (EDIT: And the 35-6 thumping of what was left of the Arizona Cardinals)

Why is opening night against the Packers in here? Well it was opening night and the Super Bowl banner was unveiled. Also, think about the Seahawks’ Week 1 history under Carroll, and then shudder because they’ve looked unconvincing almost all the time. This remains the only time under Wilson that they’ve come out of the gates strongly... outside of the ill-conceived “Earl Thomas as punt returner” idea.

Percy Harvin had exactly 100 yards of total offense (good times before things unraveled by mid-October), Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and his only sack didn’t lose any yards, Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 and two scores, and the Packers offensive line was no match for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.

Oh yeah, and Ricardo Lockette was king.

What it meant: Remember how the Seahawks got the #1 seed in a three-way tiebreaker with the Packers and Dallas Cowboys? Well even though Seattle lost to the Cowboys in the regular season, the three-way tiebreaker was best conference record. Had the Seahawks lost to the Packers, goodbye to the #1 seed and hello #3 seed because they would’ve finished behind both them and Dallas. This proved to be a hugely important victory and a comprehensive one that capped off an unforgettable night in Seattle.

Check back later in the week for 2015-2019! Feel free to share your favorite Seahawks wins in the comments section.