Almost two seasons of inconsistent performances create an argument that the long-term trajectory of the Seahawks has not only plateaued, but has started a descent, endangering their run as legitimate title contenders.
Anything can happen when a team has enough players with champions’ hearts and elite talent — and the Seahawks have those qualities, and have proven they can still summon greatness at times.
They have bounced back from dips and disappointments at times by refocusing and regaining the identity and unity that had allowed them to coalesce into such a tight and productive unit for most of the past five seasons.
But now? Having failed to defeat six teams this season who entered the game at .500 or below?
Does this team seem to play with the same sense of interconnectedness and brotherhood? With that rare sense of common cause?
The answer, pretty obviously, is no.
Last season started 2-4, but they got it turned around. Although not well enough to earn home field in the playoffs.
This year’s season looked ready to pivot on the impressive road win over the Patriots on Nov. 13. That made them 6-2-1, near the top of every power ranking, and sure to be favored in every game the rest of the way.
But instead of stacking up wins and rocketing into the postseason, they’ve gone 3-3 since, with the loss to Arizona on Saturday likely costing them a first-round bye.
Finishing with another 10-win season and a division title would be considered a success by most franchises.
But the expectations of this group are higher. They’ve been to the pinnacle once, and come achingly close to it another time.
And that may be a root cause to the seemingly inexplicable inconsistencies.
Maybe it’s natural to memorize the dramatic endings, but neglect the mundane processes. When you’ve been to the top, how do you stay amped for the weekly grind?
The last two seasons have seemed a collective fugue state where they’ve expected to reach the Super Bowl while forgetting how important is the regular season to honing and meshing their talents, and earning beneficial seeding.
They’ve overcome so many deficits with theatrical rallies, they sometimes seem to wait too long to fully engage.
On Saturday against Arizona, the ineffective offense came alive to score 21 points in the fourth quarter. But the defense gave up 20 in a 34-31 loss.
Another huge opportunity lost.
The rushing attack that has traditionally been among the league leaders, is now down to 22nd in the league. The yards-per-game rushing is roughly 100. It was 173 yards two seasons ago.
Quarterback Russell Wilson had one of the best second-half performances of his career, with four touchdown passes. It seemed to fuel another of the magical comebacks he’s guided over the years.
But the PAT kick went wide, and the defense allowed the Cardinals to get within range for the winning field goal. It was the kind of kidney-punch win the Seahawks used to deliver.
The Seahawks have surprised those tempted to write them off too early in the past. They have so much to overcome now, though.
Injuries to Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett have taken away the heartbeat of their defense and one of their most electric offensive playmakers.
But it’s the chronic inability to get consistent blocking from the offensive line that will be the lethal pathogen.
And if it comes undone quickly in the postseason, along the order of last season, it will force the re-evaluation of almost everything: Roster, staff, schemes, philosophies.
Because if you’re not continuing to grow, you’re falling behind.
Certainly, the collective frame of mind will need to be challenged.
At one point this season, Wilson said that the Seahawks were addicted to winning.
But that obsession seems less fierce to some degree, like they’re satisfied at times playing their best for only halves of games, or quarters, or only when the opponent really warrants their best.
If having made such a habit of winning has made them complacent, like some kind of competitive methadone, they’ve got to snap out of it immediately.
As coach Pete Carroll said on Monday, “It’s there to be had.”
Yes, everything is still possible. But theyneed to remember what it takes to latch on and take it.