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Worst Moments under Ken Norton Jr: Failing to get stops when they mattered most

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Norton Jr. is gone. The Seattle Seahawks are on the prowl for a new defensive coordinator. A new leaf will be turned over on at least one side of the ball for the 2022 season.

As we take a look back on Norton’s four seasons as the Seahawks DC, it is undoubtedly a mixed bag. There are some positives to take away, but there was probably a little bit more bad than good.

Starting off both 2020 and 2021 at a catastrophic pace on defense is certainly a footnote (the Seahawks pass defense ranked 32nd in the league by far through most of the first half of both seasons before turning things around). But what may stand out above all was the lack of the clutch pedal. An inability to seize the moment when the lights shined brightest.

Look no further than his first two playoff losses as the defensive coordinator.

The one that may forever sting the most was down in Jerry World. The Dallas Cowboys held a three point lead. Two and a half minutes to go. 3rd & 14 for Dallas. If the Seahawks held, the Cowboys would be forced to kick a field goal and give the league’s best QB operator of a two-minute drill the ball back with a chance to win.

Instead, this happened.

A crushing blow. Seemingly unprepared for the possibility of a QB draw, Norton and the defense allowed Dak Prescott to ice the game away.

Then a year later in the frozen tundra, it was more of the same against the Green Bay Packers. After letting Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams team up to torch the secondary all night long, racking up 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the Seahawks had multiple chances to stop the Packers offense on third down to get Russell Wilson the ball back to lead a potential game-winning drive. But even after Rodgers found Adams mismatched with rookie Ugo Amadi to convert a 3rd and 8, the Seahawks still managed to force yet another third and longer just a few plays later.

But they couldn’t get the key stop.

Sure, the offense shares a fair portion of the blame pie in both of those games and often couldn’t get out of their own way. Still, in both games Norton’s defense had chances to get the ball back in the hands of the future Hall of Fame quarterback in a one score game with time on the clock, which is just about all one can ask for in a postseason game. But they just couldn’t quite finish the job.

Who the next Seahawks defensive coordinator will be is yet to be determined. But cross your fingers that he is prepared to put his defense in a place to succeed and execute stops, particularly at those times when they are most necessary.