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2023 Seahawks season: If it all goes right!

Follow-up to the downer post from a couple days ago. Guess what? More wins this time.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
yes, sit down. your time has elapsed
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

(For Part 1, wherein the Seahawks never get fully healthy or lucky and finish with a losing record, click here. But why?)

In retrospect, as we get ready to watch Super Bowl 58, in which the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs — the highest-scoring offense of all time! — are ten-point favorites over a sacrificial lamb from the NFC, we should have known all along about the Seahawks. Good signs kept multiplying, good fortune kept raining down, good wins kept stacking up. In retrospect, Jaxon Smith-Njigba told us this would happen. Not so much in words, as in grit, the purest grit, the kind that can only be described as tone-setting.

Two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist, JSN scored the first points of a special Seahawks season. They came after an overturned call where replay proved he indeed did get both feet in, after he had fumbled his very first pro catch earlier in the drive, which happened to be on 4th and 2. All hail Pete Carroll, taker of risks.

So many unmistakable signs, all congregated in the first quarter of the first game of the first year of the Seahawks’ New Golden Age (2023-????).

It’s no wonder, with the benefit of 20 games’ worth of hindsight, that the Rams got rolled in the opener at Lumen, 38-9. It’s no wonder Seattle solved Jared Goff and the Lions’ swiss-army-knife-offense often enough in Week 2 to escape another shootout unscathed. It’s no wonder Jamal Adams immediately made game-changing plays the moment he hit the field again. Tipped that pick right to Tre Brown’s breadbasket as time expired in Detroit. All three Lions turnovers traced right back to Adams. Then assured everyone he was completely back by sacking Bryce Young not once, not twice, but thrice — in the end zone, the red zone, and the regular zone. We should have known! The Seahawks traded two firsts and a third back in 2020 not for a walking PUP resident with bad hands, but for someone who could win Player of the Week honors in successive weeks. So thoughtful of Prez to oblige so early in the season.

A last-second missed Jason Myers field goal in New York dropped the Seahawks to 3-1 entering the bye, an artificial pause that felt early and unwelcome at the time. Ha! Devon Witherspoon laughs at your idea of unwelcome. The Seahawks’ top choice of the 2023 draft saw his first live game action in Week 2, shut down everyone the Giants threw at him, and with the benefit of all that extra practice he’d missed out on earlier, came bursting onto the national scene in Cincinnati. Pundits were already framing Seahawks-Bengals as a possible Super Bowl preview, with how Burrow (119.4 rating) and Geno Smith (15 passing TD in four games) had kicked off their seasons. It also didn’t hurt that the teams had just one combined loss.

Witherspoon left no hurting undone. 11 tackles, two forced fumbles, four passes defensed and one corner blitz sack later, the Seahawks were celebrating their 35-10 victory all the way home on the most raucous plane ride you wish you could take but never will.

Successive home blowouts of the Cardinals and Browns (I swear Uchenna Nwosu made Deshaun Watson physically weep) had the Hawks at 6-1. Which meant the naysayers — numerous still — had one limp arrow left in their saggy, rotting quiver.

“Who have the Seahawks really played, besides the Bengals?”

Week 9, SEA @BAL. November 5

They say Odell Beckham didn’t retire specifically because of Riq Woolen’s defense. They say a lot of things, most of them incorrect. Watch the tape. OBJ knew he was cooked. Jordyn Brooks had the game of his life, finally leaving all remnants of his injury in the rear view mirror. (We should have known he’d look elite after a few weeks!)

The plot within the plot was a kickers’ duel — Myers and Justin Tucker combined to go 11-of-11 on field goals. The Seahawk just happened to make one more than the Raven, and Seattle just happened to win by one field goal. Convenient!

Fun fact: the 25-22 win marked the third time Seattle had beaten a first-place AFC North team this season.

Week 10? Defensive slugfest win over Washington, the wrong Washington. Week 11? Comfortable win over the Rams — Seattle’s fourth straight over LA. End of an era indeed. We should have known. Fast forward to...

Week 12, SF @SEA. Thanksgiving

It was a game engineered by the NFL scriptwriters, set up for the 49ers to exact some measure of revenge after this Turkey Day massacre:

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers

The revenge would have to wait. Ken Walker’s bum ankle, combined with Zach Charbonnet’s shoulder flare-up right before kickoff, forced Kenny McIntosh into the spotlight. He stole it like Chiefsaholic holding up a midwestern Bank of America.

Only they’ll never catch Kenny. The 49ers certainly never did. Doing his very best Darren Sproles imitation, McIntosh rolled up precisely 200 all-purpose yards. 50 on a wondrous punt return that set up a TD right before half. 90 more on four catches, two of which landed him in the end zone. And the final 60 yards on 10 nifty carries that had Dre Greenlaw looking around like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Mistake-free quarterbacking by Smith, timely third-down snags by Tyler Lockett and Jake Bobo, stingy red zone defense — all that added up to a three-TD laugher in favor of the Seahawks, whose vibes suddenly felt very late 2012-y.

Again, not anticipating their rise feels inexcusable now. We should have known! After the Rams abdicated and the regent 49ers stepped in to manage the kingdom temporarily, the Seahawks’ ascension was all but assured... someday. It felt too early in 2022 and practically inevitable in 2024, which made 2023 somewhat of a borderline proposition. Well, sometimes the monarch-in-waiting up and assumes the throne in his own timing, a la Louis XIV, thank you very much. If a Sun-King can rule for fifty years, a cabal of Sea-Kings can definitely rule for the next five.

You can’t win them all, however, and a costly series of late events in Dallas (Week 13) served as the perfect example. 7:00 left and the game is tied, as it should be between the two best teams in the conference. Feels like another Seahawks win is inevitable, but instead McIntosh muffs a punt, leading to a Cowboys quick strike for six. Deejay Dallas picks his teammate up with a kickoff return to midfield and the Seahawks are in business, as usual. Three plays later it’s 4th and 2 again, and again Carroll puts the ball in Geno’s trusty hands. What used to feel like a gamble has become commonplace, and Smith easily finds Noah Fant on a stick route — only the ball caroms off his hands and drops to the turf. Two plays later, CeeDee Lamb strolls into the end zone to put the game out of reach.

There’s not much to say about the one-point loss in San Fran a week later. Hard place to play, the offensive line had its worst showing of the year, all the breaks went the wrong way, tough day at the office for everyone. Two painful back-to-back losses meant there was nothing left to do but win out, so... that’s what the Seahawks did. Cam Young and Derick Hall left their injury-checkered starts to their careers behind and got up to NFL speed. With all the other hits in the 2023 draft class, such as cornerstone Olu Oluwatimi, the suddenly deep Seattle roster could afford for some rookies to take their time arriving.

We should have known, right?

Film study had the heavily rotating d-line always fresh and always ready to stop Jalen Hurts’ sneaky sneaks. Philly went 1-5 on fourth down and became the first domino to fall, by a 31-16 margin.

The Titans de-myrrhed on Christmas Eve. 28-7 Seahawks.

All that remained was a perfunctory sweep of two last-place teams. Both the Steelers and Cardinals games went to form and the Seattle Seahawks, winners of the NFC West, claimed the conference’s second seed.

In 2022, the NFC South was the Seahawks’ kryptonite, so of course they would populate the playoff bracket. But the seventh-seeded Saints’ holey defense was no match for Shane Waldron’s playbook and playmakers; the Falcons were decimated by injury in the wild-card round, causing them to fold in the divisional round in Seattle.

Ten years since the Seahawks had breached the round of 8’s postseason dam, and a sure-to-be-epic NFCCG awaited in top-seeded Dallas. Due to the tie-breaker. Ironically, the Cowboys defense would’ve loved playing the title game in Seattle, in the elements; the Seahawks offense loved even more being in Jerryworld, where they could operate at their highest level. Sometimes a regular-season loss is actually a win, you know?

Consider that Dallas had to defend:

  • Smith: 4,200 yards, 38 TD, 11 INT, 400 yards rushing;
  • Lockett: 999 yards, 9 TD
  • Metcalf: 1,203 yards, 8 TD
  • Smith-Njigba: 665 yards, 6 TD
  • Two thousand two hundred yards rushing combined from Walker, Charbonnet, McIntosh and Dallas
  • Another thousand yards and 11 TD from the tight end group
  • And the constant threat of Jake Bobo, obviously.

Plus, in this scenario The Boys don’t even have a Homelander to even out the playing field. So when the Seahawks took the lead for good on a McIntosh toss sweep to begin the third quarter, then added three more unanswered touchdowns, topped by a Derick Hall scoop-n-score, it felt right. A quarter left to play and the NFCCG was already a laugher. We should have known all along the Seahawks would lift the George Halas trophy.

Results (14-3)

September: 3-0

@SEA 38, LAR 9

SEA 42, @DET 36

@SEA 29, CAR 6

October: 3-1

@NYG 21, SEA 20

SEA 35, @CIN 10

@SEA 28, ARI 13

@SEA 30, CLE 16

November: 4-1

SEA 25, @ BAL 22

@SEA 20, WAS 17

SEA 17, @LAR 11

@SEA 41, SF 20

@DAL 30, SEA 23

December: 3-1

@SF 28, SEA 27

@SEA 31, PHI 16

SEA 28, @TEN 7

@SEA 26, PIT 17

January: 1-0

SEA 21, @ARI 10

NFC West Final Standings

Seahawks 14-3, 5-1 division

49ers 13-4, 4-2 division

Rams 6-11, 2-4 division

Cardinals 3-14, 1-5 division

Epilogue: The closing seconds of Super Bowl LVIII

ANNOUNCER 1: Well Tony, one thing we haven’t mentioned since kickoff is the age gap between these rosters. It’s admirable what the Seahawks coaches have done with the league’s third-youngest starting lineup. Nearly half of them are rookies or second-year players!

ANNOUNCER 2: For sure, they’ve played above their experience level and established themselves as the team to beat in the NFC for the near future. But c’mon, we’re in crunch time, the last minute of the title game. Jim, for all the talk of cultivating a championship mindset every week, has Pete Carroll truly prepared his troops for this moment?

JIM N.: I’d say yes, except it didn’t go so well for Seattle the last time they found themselves one yard from immortality. [Your TV screen replays the Malcom Butler interception, again.] One of the more iconic finishes in Super Bowl history, and here comes the Seahawks offense back on the field.

TONY R.: They’re out of timeouts, Jim. Instead of second and goal, it’s third down this time around. Still down by four so it’s touchdown or bust for Geno and the rest of the Seahawks, with 20 seconds to get it done.

JIM N.: Smith settles in under center with 12 on the play clock. In the backfield is Walker, your probable MVP in case of a Seattle win. Chiefs are in goal-line, wait, their defensive line shifts. Metcalf goes in motion right to left, and here’s the snap! Drops back, play fake to Walker, and now Geno’s got time in the pocket. Surveys. Throws! Back of the end zone, and it’s —