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Matt Calkins: The way this year’s Seahawks are built, it’s Super Bowl or bust

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 25, 2020

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, scrambling for yardage in last Sunday’s 20-15 victory at Washington, has his sights on a third Super Bowl appearance.  (Associated Press)
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, scrambling for yardage in last Sunday’s 20-15 victory at Washington, has his sights on a third Super Bowl appearance. (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

Seattle Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed might not have the locker-room clout of a Russell Wilson or a Bobby Wagner. He might not have the popularity of a DK Metcalf or the résumé of a K.J. Wright.

But after Sunday’s 20-15 victory at Washington, he said what everybody on his team and in its fan base should be thinking right now.

“We just clinched a playoff spot, and our goal is to win the Super Bowl,” Reed said. “If we don’t win the Super Bowl, in my opinion the season was a failure.”

That’s the kind of talk you tend to hear from many, if not most players in the league. There were likely guys from the Jets who said something similar before this season.

Often, despite the bluster, making the playoffs is the benchmark for a successful season. But not for the Seahawks this year. They were constructed for something more.

Perhaps the biggest indication this year was more about winning than it was building was the acquisition of safety Jamal Adams. To get him from the Jets, Seattle traded starting safety Bradley McDougald, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick. Seahawks general manager John Schneider wouldn’t have sacrificed all those pieces if he didn’t see this season as a shining opportunity to strike.

This is about now. Later is an afterthought.

Of course, a few weeks ago it didn’t look as though a Super Bowl run was in the cards despite Schneider’s blockbuster deal. At one point this season the Seahawks were last in the NFL in yards allowed per game and were on pace to give up the most passing yards in league history. Additionally, they had recorded just nine sacks through their first seven games – and went four quarters in Arizona without a single QB hit.

Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner would come to news conferences livid, even after wins. It was clear that the defensive shortcomings weren’t sustainable.

But then Adams returned from injury, Schneider got Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap from the Bengals, cornerback Shaquill Griffin re-entered the lineup, and Seattle has blossomed into – dare I say – one of the best defensive teams in the league.

The Seahawks now have 41 sacks through 14 games, good for sixth in the NFL. They have allowed an average of just 14.6 points over their past five games. Combine that with an offense that is fourth in the league in points per game (29.5) – not to mention a Pro Bowl-level punter in Michael Dickson and a placekicker in Jason Myers who has made 31 field-goal attempts in a row – and you have a concoction that could very well see the Seahawks hoisting a Lombardi Trophy in February.

There have been other playoff seasons the past few years in which that never seemed like the case. The Super Bowl hangover season in 2015, when the Seahawks finished 10-6, for example. Or the 10-win season the following season, when they were 25th in the league in rushing yards and were manhandled by the Falcons in the second round.

This team feels more balanced. It seems more cohesive, too. Maybe it’s because reporters haven’t been allowed in the locker room all year, but the roster appears to be devoid of tension.

It’s been devoid of major injuries, too. That wasn’t the case in 2015, when running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to just seven games. It wasn’t the case in 2016, either, when a broken leg forced safety Earl Thomas to miss the playoffs.

Granted, that could all change in an instant (when Metcalf limped off the field in the first half Sunday, Seattle held its collective breath), but for now all the weapons are there.

With Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde healthy, Seattle has rediscovered the pass/run balance that was crucial to their Super Bowl runs in years past. And though Wilson may have lost out on his MVP bid, he still has the fifth-best passer rating in the league at 107.1.

Where is the Seahawks’ glaring weakness right now? An offensive line that has allowed Wilson to be sacked 40 times this season, the third-most in the NFL? Maybe. But how much of that is on the O-line vs. Wilson holding on to the ball for too long?

Right now the Seahawks have a prime Wilson on O and a prime Wagner on D. They have one of the most explosive receivers in Metcalf and one of the most dynamic safeties in Adams – both of whom are on rookie contracts. They have adjusted their offense, reinvigorated their defense and have displayed picturesque efficiency on special teams.

In other words, Reed is right: The Seahawks have had a fine year, but only a Super Bowl would make it a success.

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