Hard to see it any other way: The Seahawks are a pretty mediocre team right now.
With the loss to Arizona on Saturday, they’ve now lost or tied six games against teams without winning records.
Great teams don’t do that. Powerhouse Super Bowl contenders take care of business. Those are the things the Seahawks are used to doing.
The flaws we witnessed were all-too familiar. But they made it exciting, scoring 28 in the second half — thanks mostly to Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin — a pair of sometimes transcendent stars who seem able, at times, to lift and carry their team.
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It’s obvious that the offense can’t function without blocking, and for much of the game, the line was manhandled by the Cardinals.
Actually, “manhandled” wasn’t even a strong enough word. Let me check my electronic thesaurus. Let’s see, there’s “mistreated,” “roughed up” and “mauled.”
Yeah, let’s take that last one. That’s what happened once again to the Seahawks’ offensive line, it was mauled by a talented Cardinals front.
Wilson was sacked six times and hit 13 times. In the first half, the Hawks rushed for a paltry 21 yards on 13 tries.
It goes beyond the offensive line, though, as the Seahawks are being betrayed by their lack of execution and attention to detail in so many other areas.
Erratic long snapping, for instance, has repeatedly disrupted the kicking game. It can seem like a small thing, but when the score is tied at 31-31 and Stephen Hauschka is lining up the go-ahead PAT, a high snap can be just enough to throw off the timing — which it did.
Little things like that make the Seahawks look miles from a championship-caliber team right now.
A win Saturday would have been another step closer to securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC and getting a wild-card weekend bye and a home game the next week.
Now? They’re going to need help.
Asked if it seemed like they squandered an opportunity to secure their playoff position, defensive end Michael Bennett said: “The opportunity is when the playoffs start … it’s not now, it’s when the playoffs start.”
That’s operating on the belief that is often misplaced in sports, that a talented team can sometimes just turn on the talent and dramatically elevate its performance.
The flip-the-switch phenomenon is pretty rare.
There are times when the Seahawks remember where the magic is kept.
On Saturday, once again, the competitive alchemy was fired by Wilson and Baldwin.
Given slightly better protection after intermission, and an increased focus on quick routes, Wilson and Baldwin started looking like the pair that tore up the league late last season.
Wilson hit 21 of 29 attempts for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes.
Down 21-10 in the fourth quarter, Wilson seemed to take over, as he has so often before.
He scrambled for 7 yards, fired a 9-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse, then rushed for another 7 yards. His rushing yards seemed to loosen up the Cardinal defense.
Baldwin then took a short pass on the left sideline, made a cut and outran Cardinal cornerback Brandon Williams 42 yards for a touchdown.
Wilson would find Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson for touchdowns thereafter, but it was the scoring toss to Baldwin that lit the fire and reminded the offense how to move the ball. It seemed to rekindle the belief.
Baldwin finished with 13 catches for 171 yards, both career highs.
There’s more to it than that. Baldwin is so timely. There was that helicopter catch at Minnesota in the playoffs that ignited the team. The diving, fingertip masterpieces. And the ankle-breaking move at the goal line last week against the Rams for a touchdown.
Baldwin seems to be solidifying the argument that he’s among the toughest players, pound-for-pound this team has.
After watching his stunning string of success last season, I wondered in print if he could keep it up, and turn into something of a millennial Steve Largent for this team.
I was thinking about that sneaky toughness, that suddenness, the capacity to make the unlikely catches seem routine. The things that Largent did for so long in the ’80s.
Baldwin served that purpose on Saturday night.
The Seahawks underperformed in the loss, and another Super Bowl run is looking less likely.
But when they get it right, there’s still enough special players to elevate this team.
Saturday, Wilson and Baldwin weren’t quite enough.