October 20, 2014

SCHATZMAN | Seahawks Can Still Take Title

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The Seattle Seahawks lost to the St. Louis Rams, 28-26, on Sunday. The defending champs currently sit third in the NFC West with a record of 3-3. They have lost as many games thus far as they did in the entire 2013 regular season, and fans are now wondering whether the 2014 Seahawks are even comparable to the squad that beat the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII. And while NFL pundits are attempting to point blame in every possible direction, the answer is quite simple.

The Seahawks are still a great football team. They dominated Green Bay in the first game of the season, embarrassing one of the top teams in the NFC — the same way they embarrassed Peyton Manning and the Broncos in February. Seattle followed its week one victory with a tight road loss to San Diego. Seattle’s defense had no answer for Phillip Rivers, and he carved them apart for three touchdowns. But the Seahawks responded in a Super Bowl rematch, edging the Broncos in overtime. Following their bye, the Seahawks defeated the Redskins on Monday night, albeit in a lackluster performance all-around. Since the Monday night game in Washington, Seattle has not looked like the team of old greatness. They have dropped two consecutive games: at home against the Cowboys, where they have been nearly unstoppable over the past two seasons, and on Sunday, in a shocking loss to the 1-4 division-rival Rams. And while neither the Cowboys nor Rams are easy victories by any means, not many people predicted losses in either matchup. So then, what is Seattle’s problem?

First and foremost, the Seahawks are not perfect. They are not unbeatable. So while they are currently 3-3, it is far too early in the season to declare disaster. Remember, Seattle has defeated two of the best teams in the league. They handed Denver their only loss. They dropped a game on the road in San Diego, but San Diego’s offense always keeps them in games, even against a tough Seattle defense, and Seattle’s offense didn’t match San Diego’s. Then they ran into a scorching hot Dallas team that has proven itself amongst the best teams in the league with as potent offense as any, and a Rod Marinelli-coached defense that has far exceeded expectations. Dallas is a Super Bowl contender. Those are two of the three losses. And then Sunday, at St. Louis. This is one nobody expected St. Louis to win. But the Rams have been one play away from beating the Cowboys, Eagles, and 49ers, and frankly, they were due for a win like this. Seattle’s furious comeback fell short in the fourth quarter, evening their record to 3-3 heading into a week eight matchup against Carolina that should serve as a “get right” game for the Seahawks. There you have it. Three losses: all close games versus tough teams, and all games which, minus a few plays, could have easily gone Seattle’s way. While we all expected better than 3-3 for Seattle, remember that they defeated two great teams, and have not been close to full strength for the majority of the first six games of the season.

That is Seattle’s second problem: the injury bug. While every team deals with their fair share of injuries, Seattle has been plagued by several key injuries that have hampered their performance on the field. Major injuries can derail seasons. Two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger has been battling a foot injury and is expected to return in the next few weeks. Tight end Zach Miller has missed the last three games after ankle surgery, and he too is expected back in upcoming weeks. Seattle’s second tight end Luke Willson missed Sunday’s game in St. Louis, leaving them with only two healthy tight ends, one of which was promoted from the practice squad just days ago. There have been rumors circulating speculating that Seattle may be looking to trade for a tight end. Legion of Boom member Byron Maxwell, the teams’ second cornerback, missed Sunday’s game with a calf strain, and then his replacement Tharold Simon injured his ankle against St. Louis. Seattle’s full back Derrick Coleman, a key member of Seattle’s rushing attack, was scratched with an injury before Sunday’s game. Seattle is banged up. There is no questioning that. Until key players on both sides of the ball return from injury, we cannot expect their performance to be as fluid as it was last season.

Finally, Seattle traded explosive receiver and special teams whiz Percy Harvin to the Jets for a fourth round pick last week. And while some believe the move to be a major loss for Seattle, the fact of the matter is, it isn’t. Save for an epic kick return in the Super Bowl, Harvin, who the Seahawks signed to a six-year, 67 million dollar contract, was a huge disappointment in Seattle. He missed nearly all of last season with a hip injury. His best receiving performance as a Seahawk was a seven-catch-for-59-yard effort against Green Bay. Yes, he is explosive, but he was not living up to expectations. Reports last week revealed that Harvin was involved in an altercation during Super Bowl week that left teammate and fellow receiver Golden Tate with a black eye. Harvin clearly had internal issues in Seattle that the public was never made aware of, and that led to the Seahawks ridding themselves of their big-play threat and his huge contract. The move was certainly a distraction on Sunday versus the Rams, and receiver Doug Baldwin confirmed that to be true. While Percy Harvin was a threat on every play, he didn’t put up big numbers at all. Remember, the Seahawks went 13-3 last season without Percy Harvin. They will be as good or a better team without him.

The Seattle Seahawks are still one of the top teams in the NFL. They still have 10 games left to play, and several of their toughest opponents are out of the way. If they can get healthy and avoid other major injuries, the Seahawks have as good of a shot to repeat as champions as we expected heading into the season. They still have Russell Wilson. They still have the Legion of Boom, Marshawn Lynch, and the 12th man. It’s only week eight. The Seahawks will be just fine.

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