After losing three straight blowouts, falling by a mere 17-13 score to the Tennessee Titans might seem like a belated but significant step for the Seattle Seahawks in their season finale Sunday at Qwest Field.
Don’t kid yourself.
As coach Jim Mora pointed out afterward, if you try to make too much out of losing close “it’s empty.”
And there’s no way to spin a 5-11 record into anything but a disappointment. Put it together with last year’s 4-12 mark and only three teams (Detroit, St. Louis and Kansas City) in the NFL had fewer wins in the past two seasons than the Seahawks.
Any positive you might try to squeeze out of this loss only reflects poorly on the awful performances the previous three weeks, and on so many other Sundays this fall.
The Seahawks appeared to be more emotionally engaged against Tennessee. So … where has that been?
Receivers Deion Branch (four catches, 77 yards) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (three catches, 66 yards) had nice games. Houshmandzadeh said afterward, sure, that there have been times when he didn’t give 100 percent on every play. That’s common in the league, he said. How do you think the fan in the stands feels about that?
The defense held Titans back Chris Johnson to a 3.7-yard average, but he still picked up 134 yards and cracked the 2,000-yard barrier for the season – an obvious Tennessee goal coming into this one.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck competed fiercely all day, even tossing a cross-body block when he had the chance. But he got intercepted on the final possession to kill a potential comeback.
At least there was a spark on Sunday, a fundamental element required to be competitive, which had been missing in a number of games.
Mora said he thought that the Seahawks had grown despondent at times this season and fell into the “here-we-go-again” attitude when things started going badly.
“When you have two seasons that are unsuccessful, like we have, back to back, that’s common,” he said. “But it can’t be accepted, so we have to find a way to purge any of that from our culture.”
The old linebacker in Mora came out at one point, challenging the media to go ahead and hit him with the toughest questions. He sounded as if he were ready to chop his feet in the hole, waiting to shuck a fullback and take on the running back.
OK, he was asked if he was confident he’d be back as this team’s head coach. He said he hadn’t given it a second’s thought. But he later used the clause “… if I’m fortunate to continue coaching” in an answer.
Hasselbeck has a history of accountability, and of supplying solid postgame perspectives.
“If you have a season like this, I think you have got to really take a long, hard look in the mirror … each of us as players,” he said.
But he also voiced an opinion that’s tough to figure.
“I’m sure we’re not that far away,” he said. The recipe for closing that gap, he said, is “believing and buying in, and part of it is just straight up hard work and execution.”
This team looks a lot further away than that. This team needs a dramatic talent upgrade.
Only two of the 11 losses were by less than double-digit margins. The Seahawks were outscored 100-37 in the first quarter of games this season.
They allowed opposing quarterbacks to put together a cumulative passer rating of 93.4 compared to their own 76.7. They came up with only 13 interceptions to opponents’ 19. They operated at a 5-minute deficit in average time of possession. They sacked opponents 28 times compared to the 41 they suffered.
Three of their five wins came over 1-15 St. Louis (twice) and 2-14 Detroit.
Soon they’ll replace ousted president Tim Ruskell, and the new man will either support or condemn Mora and his staff. The big work will start after that, as they sort through the roster to find keepers. There are some.
But this team is a lot further away from being competitive than Sunday’s 17-13 loss might indicate.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440