Divisional Playoff: Just Short.
The 2015 season for the Seattle Seahawks will go down as a year of transition. Coming off a heart-breaking Super Bowl loss, the Seahawks began the year in sluggish fashion. Stumbling to a 2-4 record, the Hawks strung together many fourth quarter meltdowns, a dominating win against a Cutler-less Bears and perhaps the worst victory in Seahawks history against the Lions. Picking up steam as the year went along, Seattle finished by running into a 15-1 Carolina Panthers team who looked fresh and rested, jumping to a 31-0 nothing lead in the first half. In the end, it was too big of a hurdle for even Seahawks magic to overcome.
In confusing fashion, the Seahawks not only went with Marshawn Lynch early, they played him as a starter. The offense was immediately stagnant with him. The lack of chemistry between Lynch and Wilson led to a first quarter pick-6 when Wilson looked to dump it down to Lynch, who was late coming out of his break. it wasn’t until the Seahawks were down huge that they gave up on the power-running game, throwing for the entire second half except for one play. The result was another three touchdown passes for Russell Wilso
n and the chance for another miracle comeback.
The Seahawks are now a passing team. With Kearse, Baldwin and Lockett, the Seahawks have big playmakers and tight route runners. Given its past success, the Seahawks were slow to give up on their signature running offense but the results in the 2015 season were obvious. When the Seahawks run-to-throw, they are a sluggish and below average. When the Seahawks throw-to-run, anything is possible and big plays are abound. There will be no regression next year. The Hawks will part ways with Marshawn Lynch, spend the ten million in savings smartly and this passing offense will find a way to work in Jimmy Graham. Potential challenges for the Seahawks is the probable loss of Russell Okung, who it is anticipated will get overpaid in free agency.
The Seahawks defense turned in another signature year that saw its formula be cracked. Picked apart by Tom Brady in Super 49, great quarterbacks–who possess Brady-like ability to diagnose coverages and deliver darts–lost their fear of the Legion of Boom and many quarterbacks turned in signature games against the once legendary secondary. The off season signing of cornerback Cary Williams contributed to the problems, and Seattle tightened the screws by using the home grown Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead after cutting Williams in week 9.
Putting up a second half shutout against the Panthers, the Seahawks defense surrendered only 24 points, including a touchdown on a short field after a second Russell Wilson inception. Given the massive lead and the Panthers going into run mode, the secondary was never tested in the second half but did give up big first quarter plays with major coverage mistakes. While the Seahawks have struggled against great quarterbacks, they’ve also played well enough to win every game, so the end of the 2015 season leaves us with one question: “Where do we go from here?”
The answer is to build-up the offense. The Seahawks offense has the potential to be the best offense in the league, and the Seahawks need to approach the 2016 season with the mentality of, “Our offense will get a lead, our defense will blitz the opponent to death.” Whether the 2016 Seahawks defense ends up being legendary good is as yet unseen, but they will be a good defense regardless and it’s hard to see where big dollars will fix its tiny problems. The Hawks will probably stick with the Lane/Shead cornerback combo and will hope for continuing development from Ahtyba Rubin and Frank Clark.
The loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoff round is a hard loss, as it was the tale of two halves where Seattle needed a few extra minutes to have a real shot at victory. The Panthers were relatively flawless, having only one fumble. The opportunistic Seahawks love to feed on an opponents mistakes and, while the Panthers mailed in the second half, they played a solid game, refusing to give up easy points.
The 2015 Seahawks ends in disappointing fashion but how the team evolved and improved is a testament to the organization. Whether it was going to Rawls or cutting Cary Williams or dumping the run-first offense, the Hawks always embrace change and take big risks to improve. From 2-4 to 11-7, the Seahawks showed us the entire gamut of what a football season can be. Through dramatic highs and dramatic lows, the Hawks ultimately found their stride in a rebuilt offense led by its superstar, Russell Wilson.
The future is bright.