Neither team playing at Levi’s Stadium today will win the Super Bowl this year. For the Seattle Seahawks fanbase, that’s as upsetting a statement as it is obvious for the 49ers Faithful.
When Jim Harbaugh was still calling the shots, before the team moved to Santa Clara, these Week 12 opponents were seen as the future powerhouses of the NFL.
Seattle briefly made a claim on that title, but it’s been the New England Patriots’ league for most of the 21st century and apparently will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Of course, it was Bill Belichick’s team that led to the unraveling of the Hawks. According to ESPN, Seattle’s decision to throw the ball from the two-yard line on the final play of Super Bowl XLIX created animosity between the offense and defense that has been a problem since it happened four seasons ago.
It led to Marshawn Lynch retiring for a season, essentially earning his freedom from the team, and the coinciding collapse of the Seahawks’ run game. They’re the only team in the NFL to not have a running back in the top-50 for rushing yards. (Although, quarterback Russell Wilson — the player carrying the team in every way he can — clocks in at No. 34.)
The lack of a ground attack is also symptomatic of how bad their offensive line is, a unit they’ve neglected for years.
And on the defensive side of the ball, where they dominated during their quasi-reign, the Seahawks have been decimated by injuries. Niner fans won’t have to worry about Richard Sherman tormenting their receivers — perhaps calling them “sorry” — because he’s out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles. Kam Chancellor won’t be flattening any pass catchers inside the five-yard line because he has a neck injury and also isn’t expected back this year.
That attrition, mixed with the Hawks’ propensity to shoot themselves in the foot — for example, running a fake field goal from outside the red zone with seconds remaining in the half — has led fans and the media in Seattle (not to be redundant) to wonder if this team has run out of gas.
“Whatever it was that made this entire group special — and the Seahawks were radiant, brash and endlessly engaging over what certainly must be called a golden era — seems to have slipped past, as happens inevitably in a sport as violent and ephemeral as NFL football,” wrote longtime Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone earlier this week.
For what it’s worth, Pete Carroll disputed any notion that the Hawks are done. In a conference call with the Bay Area media earlier this week, an irritated Carroll pointed to his team’s record in November and December since 2012 (34-9 not counting this year). New players will step up and perform, he said. They always do.
Robert Saleh, former Seattle defensive quality control coach and current 49ers defensive coordinator, also thinks tales of the Seahawks’ demise are premature.
“When I watch that team, I see a team that flies around, they play their tails off, and they’re going to bring everything they’ve got,” he said on Thursday. “Because they’ve lost to some really, really good football teams, in my mind, does not change what you see on tape.”
But you’ll find by watching the tape that the Hawks are trending downward. They’ll probably win today, but the best teams in the NFC have passed them by. And after this year, they may be looking at a rebuild because there’s a strong chance it’ll make more business sense to cut Sherman this offseason and there’s some concern that Chancellor may never be able to play again, according to ESPN.
That would represent the official end to an era. All of a sudden, Seattle would be just a franchise quarterback (and a couple offensive weapons) ahead of the 49ers in the rebuilding process.
Time is coming for all of us. Except Tom Brady, somehow.
Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.