Monday, January 18, 2016

Too Little, Too Late -- Seahawks 24 Panthers 31

A roller coaster of a season comes to a disappointing end in a stadium where these Seahawks have had so much success in the past. It wasn't the abrupt end we saw last season, but it was still unexpected in many ways.

No one expected Seattle to be down 31-0 going into half time.

The Seahawks looked like garbage in the first half.  There is no denying that.  The players and coaches will tell you the same. But even as the teams were heading to the locker rooms at the midway point, most Seahawks fans had a feeling that there was still a chance.

This team is never down.

In the second half, Seattle's defense shut out the Panthers offense.  Russell Wilson launched into a furious comeback attempt. All said and told-- the Seahawks were an onside kick away from winning this game.

Alas, it wasn't enough.  The Seahawks dug themselves a hole too deep to pull out from. Our season ended in Charlotte yesterday afternoon.  So close to an improbable third consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

Congrats to the Panthers.  I've long been a fan of Ron Rivera, Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. They deserve the success they've attained this season.  I look forward to a continued rivalry with them and await our match up next season.

As for the Seahawks.  It was a fun season. It was a frustrating season.   There will be plenty of memorable moments as well as disappointments that stick with us for a long time. This team will not look the same next year and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

This might come as a shock to anyone that follows this blog, but I actually hope Darrell Bevell is back next year as the offensive coordinator. As much as he has driven me mad this year, he has potential to be great. But, he will certainly have to change his philosophies before next season.

The Divisional Playoff game was the perfect example of how this entire season went for this team.  Slow start with an exciting finish-- you could flip a coin to determine how it would end, but it would always be exciting.

What that has shown us over 16 regular season games and a pair of playoff match ups is that we have extraordinary talent on this team that's only rivaled by the fight in these players. Bob Condotta even offered this fascinating observation on Twitter:

What does this tell us? To me, it shows an arrogance, a stubbornness that Darell Bevell and Pete Carroll have in adhering to a specific identity they insist that this team possess. There were several instances throughout the season, and yesterday was no exception, where I felt that it was more important to the coaches to adhere to their identity and philosophy than it was to win the game.

You can say that I'm being irrational or over-reacting, but the evidence is there.  Look at the play calling.

Carolina is a team with a dominating defensive front. Arguably as good as ours-- perhaps even better. Our offensive line is not our strong suit.  You'd think that a team who was as dedicated to the run game as we are might invest more heavily in building up an offensive line that can impose it's will on teams.  That is not the case for us.

We have an offensive line that is patched together.  There's as many early-round draft picks as there are players converted from other positions.  While Tom Cable has done remarkable work in making that line perform, it's certainly had it's share of struggles.

You would think a team with shifty play-makers like Lockett, Baldwin, Kearse and Russell Wilson, you would go into a match up with a team like Carolina looking to spread that defense out and get the ball out of your quarterback's hand early.  You'd want to use a hurry-up tempo to wear them out.  Once the defense is softened up and tired-- hit 'em with Marshawn Lynch.

Instead, we thought we could shut them up by running right at them.  First play was what appeared to be a read option that Wilson should've kept.  Lynch was met in the backfield for a 3 yard loss. The next play, the offense still bunched together, they tried again to get Lynch involved on a screen play that took too long to develop.  The result was an interception returned for a touchdown.

However, when Bevell's back is to the wall, he finds a way to dial up great plays. Sometimes, he reverts back to appeasing their 'identity', but you can't be a run oriented team when you're down multiple scores.

My hope is that this team changes their identity this offseason. Don't be a run-first team.  Don't be a

Be the team that does whatever it takes to win games.  Be a team that is fluid and flexible.  Be a team that is so talented, they'll beat you in any way they can.
team that relies on its defense to close out games.  Don't just expect Wilson to make magic in the 4th quarter.

The Panther's secondary was decimated going into that game, yet they were the ones who won the turnover battle.  They shut us out until we took it to them in the second half.  Imagine how the game might have been different if we came out the gate playing like we did in the second half.

The Seahawks have some holes to fill in the offseason.  We're going to lose some pieces that have been vital to our success over the past few seasons.  I have confidence that we'll fill those holes and come back next season as a competitor.

But, until we change that philosophy and stop being so damned stubborn about what is our 'identity', we're going to have to sweat out every game to the finish.  This team has always made great adjustments at the midway point-- mid-play, mid-game, mid-season-- but it shouldn't have to always come to that.

Thanks for another great season, everyone. Can't wait for the next one.

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