More national media flocked to the Seattle Seahawks headquarters for a regular-season Wednesday press conference than any week in memory.
Chose your favorite metaphor: Buzzards circling dead meat? Sharks sniffing blood in the water?
Or maybe they’re here to write the obituary for a potential dynasty too-soon doomed by the usual pathologies: high expectations and competitive complacency.
The Seahawks are 3-3 with back-to-back losses, and now have to travel to the East Coast for a game at the Carolina Panthers.
I’d suggest that it’s too early for eulogies. The Seahawks have 10 weeks to rally a handful of injured standouts who can come back and spur a timely drive into the post season.
But the gloom has settled in like the autumn rainfall in the convergence zone, and the reasons for skepticism are valid and plentiful.
The Seahawks’ defense is a statistical shadow of last season, with only two interceptions, seven sacks and five total takeaways.
Last year, the defense was one of the best in the history of the league at swarming to the ball, tipping passes and making interceptions, and punching balls loose from ballcarriers into the waiting hands of another defender.
Cornerback Richard Sherman had a good description of them back then. Throwing passes against that defense, he said, was like “tossing raw meat out to a pack of wolves.”
It’s clear, though, that the 2014 Seahawks have been a few wolves short of a pack.
Pass rush and coverage complement the other, Sherman said. And those two parts of the game have not found the necessary rhythm and coordination.
The most alarming statistical shortcoming is that opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 103.7 — 40 points higher than it was through 16 games last season.
“It’s a lot of things uncharacteristic to the way we pride ourselves on playing,” said linebacker K.J. Wright of the troubles, “… with the turnovers, with the QB rating — there’s a lot not going our way right now.”
Opposing quarterbacks, he said, have learned how unwise it is to challenge the Hawks defense deep, and are now being cautious with safer underneath routes against the Seattle zones.
Every change, though, requires a response, and the Hawks haven’t yet adapted to the intel gained by opposing teams.
Sherman also cited the arbitrary bounces of the oblong ball, which aren’t heading toward the Seahawks as they were last season.
The key, in his mind, was to not be alarmed, to treat “the two imposters” of winning and losing with the same contempt. The scholarly Sherman was paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling’s classic “If—” as it referred to triumph and disaster.
To continue his thought, the Seahawks enjoyed the triumph last season, and still remain far from disaster. At least at this point.
“I think the team’s still confident in what we can do,” Sherman said. “If three losses can ruin a season, it would have ruined last season, because that’s what we had last year.”
Yes, but it took the whole season to get those three losses.
Throughout their rise, Sherman and so many of the other Seahawks were at their best when they felt spurned, doubted and disrespected. Fair to wonder how that froth of indignation can be sustained when so many players have national endorsements and massive contracts.
Fans will recall the way the team would be energized on the field and start dancing in the huddle when the CenturyLink PA played Da Posse’s “Deez Haters,” which is pronounced “Deez Hatas,” and contains, in its mind-numbingly redundant lyrics, the message that one should never succumb to the repression of doubters.
Maybe even more than the injuries and loss of personnel and the tougher schedule, the underlying problem is they simply ran outta hatas.
Well, lads, they’re in town now, waiting to pronounce you DOA.
You’ve got 10 weeks to prove them wrong.