SEATTLE – Looking back to when the NFL schedule came out, this was the stretch of games that was destined to elevate the 2023 Seattle Seahawks – or doom them.
Some holidays. Their schedule looked like an Advent calendar of competitive nightmares.
Well, looks like “doom” it is. The 31-13 Thanksgiving Day carving applied by the San Francisco 49ers was the Hawks’ second straight defeat, with three more losses in a row a genuine possibility.
Dallas (8-3), San Francisco again (8-3) and Philadelphia (9-1) all will be heavily favored over the Seahawks as they slog toward Christmas.
Doom? Isn’t it a little too early for such talk? After all, the essential beauty of sports is that anything is possible. Teams can become inexplicably inspired, others surprisingly deflate. Happens every year.
But with an offense that, literally, is tripping over itself, and a defense continuing to observe its non-aggression pact against opposing ballcarriers, the Seahawks were unwatchable for long stretches of the game at Lumen Field Thursday night.
Appropriately, they wore their ghastly antifreeze-green uniforms, which once seemed edgy now having become a cause of widespread retinopathy.
This game was the fourth straight loss to the Niners, having dropped three last season, including a 41-23 thumping in the playoffs. Whatever numerical nearness the Hawks have to the Niners in the standings is only an illusion. San Fran owns them.
And so it all looks dismal for the Seahawks.
Except for this: Most other teams in the league are equally flawed – to the point where bad teams can get into the playoffs. Many bad teams remain in contention.
Thus far, the Seahawks (6-5) have stayed in touch in the division by notching a couple good wins and collecting a few other Ws by fattening up on other marginal clubs.
This encroaching reality in today’s NFL has brought any number of critics to decry an unprecedented outbreak of mediocrity. (Note: The NFL trumpets this as “parity”).
Remember, the Niners also went on a three-game losing streak in October. They’re beatable. Just apparently not by the Seahawks.
Although, after thorough dominance in the first half, the Niners played sloppily in the second half and allowed the Hawks to rally, at least briefly.
None of this is an insult to the individual players in the league. The Seahawks, in fact, have some great athletes, many strong-hearted and competitive. It’s just that the game has withered around them.
As much as I hate to agree with Tom Brady, because, man, there are fewer human males with which I have less in common, but his recent criticisms of the NFL make sense. “I see a lot of mediocrity in the NFL,” he said.
The Seahawks show all the major symptoms Brady lamented.
The league has legislated hard-hitting defense out of the game, while the players themselves have negotiated fewer contact practices and preseason games. Hence, nobody can tackle. They get fined and penalized for it.
For some time, the Seahawks have coached rugby-style tackling, taking the head out of it, laudably trying to adapt in the face of rules changes and concern over concussive head injuries.
Over the past couple seasons, though, the Hawks have been chronically unable to bring down opposing running backs.
A play in the first half Thursday night was an example of a defender being cautious about the rules and getting burned by it.
Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a holdover from the time when nearly every member of the Legion of Boom defense would be penniless from excessive fines if current rules had been in force.
Wagner tried to execute a rugby-roll tackle on Niner quarterback Brock Purdy, but it allowed Purdy to get rid of the ball as he was being brought down in a gentlemanly fashion.
Former Seahawk Richard Sherman concurred with Brady, saying this week that “the product is suffering.”
True enough. Hawks fans can remember those hits that safety Kam Chancellor had leveled on Niner tight end Vernon Davis, and San Francisco fans surely miss those withering Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman shots on Hawk backs.
All those guys would be doing time in San Quentin for those hits now.
Player health is absolutely a valid concern. But while trying to address the problem, the rules have become biased in favor of the offenses, administration of the rules inconsistent, and suspensions and fines unfairly onerous.
On the “up” side, the Seahawks still have a shot this season, even if some of the games will be difficult to watch.