The 2015 Seahawks Re-Watch. Week 1: The Rams…Again
The hype for the 2015-2016 Seahawks season was unlike any season before it. Coming off of two straight Super Bowl appearances, and the belief that the Seahawks had lost the Super Bowl more than the Patriots had won it, fueled the perception that the Seahawks were as unbeatable a squad as any in NFL history. The Legion of Boom was in its prime. Bobby Wagner’s and Russell Wilson’s contracts were settled, the latter’s contract having been a controversial subject for fans. Beast Mode was back, and who didn’t love to see those Lynch runs? Everyone was confident, including the Seahawks themselves.
However, not all was right with the team. For one, Kam Chancellor’s holdout loomed large over week 1. Considered the leader for an elite defense, the holdout smelled of the “more” syndrome accompanying success. Kam’s contract had years left on it, and the Seahawks refused to renegotiate; meanwhile, far more important players, like Michael Bennett, were playing on deals well below their market value. Kam’s absence left Dion Bailey, an undrafted safety with virtually no experience, to start in a divisional match-up against the St Louis Rams, a team who had a reputation for playing the Seahawks tough.
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If any word described week 1, it was “slow.” Outside of Tyler Lockett, an explosive rookie who ran a punt return for seven and the game’s opening touchdown, the team was incapable of matching the aggressive St Louis Rams, who used speed and strength to close on Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, to keep Kearse and Baldwin off their routes, to send Russell Wilson to the ground or to flush him out of the pocket. If the Seahawks wanted to establish anything in week 1, it was the run. Instead Lynch found himself zigging and zagging instead of driving and pressing. As Lynch collapsed, the Seahawks tried to run screens, or throw horizontally, anything to get their athletes in space. At one point, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell began calling multiple plays with Marshawn Lynch lining up as a wide-out. Or he had Russell Wilson chucking the ball to free-agent acquisition Jimmy Graham, most of which were fruitless attempts or poor throws.
Coming out the half, Pete Carroll said the Seahawks needed to run the ball to get the rhythm going, but the run wasn’t bringing it, including a fateful failure to convert on fourth and one on the final play of the game, what many considered the play that should’ve been called in the Super Bowl. The final score would be 31-34 and a Seahawks overtime loss. The numbers sounded promising—Wilson finished with 251 yards passing while Lynch added 73 on the ground. Kearse led with 76 yards in the air, and Graham came in second, logging 51 and his first touchdown as a Seahawk—but the offense had improvised instead of executing, making their bread and butter on broken plays and continuations.
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The Seahawks leaned on and trusted their historically great defense, which had led the league in the least points surrendered for three straight seasons. The strategy continued to prosper. While the Legion of Boom saw big yards being thrown on it—Nick Foles would finish the day with 297—a corner blitz, strip fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown from Carrie Williams put to bed concern over the early jitters. If the memories of the Super Bowl were not haunting enough, the Seahawks choose to strand Dion Bailey alone on Lance Kendricks, a tight end for the Rams, which Nick Foles exploited by throwing the jump ball. It was eerily familiar to the jump ball passes Tom Brady had thrown to Rob Gronkowski when the Seahawks oddly chose to strand KJ Wright on the superstar tight end.
The result of the throw to Kendricks was a touchdown. It began a trend for the 2015-2016 Seahawks, as the defense gave up a fourth quarter lead for the third consecutive game.
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No one panicked. In fact, many Seahawks fans, including many TV and radio personalities, observed that a road game in St Louis, a 10:00AM game no less, might be a loss. It was the Rams. They always played the Seahawks tough. The team came up short this time, but they had a big fourth quarter. Lynch had an off game. It happens. While fans stayed positive, TV broadcasts continued to replay the Butler interception during the Super Bowl juxtaposed with clips of the Seahawks recent dominance, essentially asking the question, “Can a team lose like this and not be fundamentally changed?”
Week 1 offered no answers.