MINNEAPOLIS – If the Seahawks have reinforced anything over the past two years, it’s to appreciate the struggle.
The 2012 season was a surprise. The 2013 season had moments of tension, but they were like earthquakes that registered on the Richter scale yet otherwise went undetected. The 2014 season was different – a hot start, a shocking midseason trade, locker-room issues and, finally, an explosive run to finish the season. It had all the volatility of great theater, even down to the ending.
This season has presented something else entirely. The Seahawks were favorites to play in their third consecutive Super Bowl. They were high on talent and expectations, and then they were 0-2 … 2-4 … 4-5.
But they have won three in a row, are 7-5 and firmly in the playoff hunt. They once again are surging toward the finish line, their calling card under coach Pete Carroll.
This season hasn’t been different just in trajectory. It has also been different in tone.
The 2013 Seahawks reacted to losses like a young team that didn’t expect to lose, ever, because that’s pretty much who they were. The 2014 team was savvier, but losses sometimes brewed a dark cloud in the locker room.
This team has handled losses with a calmer public face, and when they struggled that led to reasonable questions being asked. Were they fat and happy with their previous success and new contracts? Had they lost their edge?
Now that they are winning and dangerous, that calmness has taken on a different dimension – that of the old, unflinching hand.
“Why would we panic?” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We’re battle-tested. When you’ve been to the top and you’ve been to the bottom, you understand that neither one of them is fatal. Neither one of them is the final decision. You always have another chance. Next week is always coming. You can’t always control things. Things aren’t always going to go as planned. When you fold when things don’t go as planned, what are you going to do when things are going well? Do you change? And that’s what I appreciate about our team. We don’t change our approach, regardless.”
He called that mentality this team’s most important trait and explained why.
“I’ll use a boxer as an example,” he said. “A boxer might lose the first couple of rounds. He might get knocked to the ground at one point. But a boxer, a champion, never gives up. A champion always understands that if he gets another punch, if he just gets in rhythm, the fight can turn.”
The Seahawks have turned the fight. Their next three games are against opponents who have lost a combined 13 consecutive games before they close the year with a tough game at Arizona.
Who knows what becomes of this season, but it has been fascinating to watch. This team was impossible to get a read on earlier in the season, but its identity is clearing up. As much as any team, the Seahawks have faced every fire – sometimes they’ve been burned, but more often they’ve come through a little warm.
Those past experiences have determined how this team has handled losses, searched for hard answers and now is dealing with its winning streak.
“There were some locker-room issues last year,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “This team as a whole is much more stable than it was a year ago. It’s huge, because we don’t have any distractions. We don’t have anything that’s taking away from us finding ourselves. Once we capture that feeling again, there’s nothing in the way of it. And we’re seeing that now.”
The Seahawks have matured over the past few seasons, and as they’ve done so they have taken on the identity of Carroll, who players swear is nothing if not the same.
“It stems from philosophy,” Sherman said. “He beats it into your head that nothing changes.”
He looked around the locker room after Sunday’s victory over the Vikings. Sherman, as much as anyone, has come to appreciate the struggle and the steady hand.
“It’s just a veteran group, I guess,” Sherman said. “We’re young in the league, but we’re old in experience.”
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