ATLANTA The Seahawks’ offense started its end perfectly.
It began Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Atlanta with a 14-play, 89-yard drive that used more than half the opening quarter, startled the Falcons and the entire Georgia Dome and suggested a regular-season of maddening inconsistency had turned into a postseason of sustainability.
The Seahawks had 49 yards rushing on that initial drive to Russell Wilson’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. They had just 22 yards rushing and 142 yards total over their next six drives (23 yards per drive) into the fourth quarter. They went from seven points on the opening march to just six -- two field goals -- combined over the next seven drives.
The Falcons out-scored them 36-6 in that span. Game over. Season over.
“I guess it’s the story of our season,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said in a hushed tone inside Seattle’s quiet locker room in the Georgia Dome Saturday night. “We (weren’t) able to be consistent drive in and drive out.”
He nodded his head ruefully.
This is Seattle’s second consecutive playoff exit in round two, after Super Bowls the previous two seasons of 2013 and ‘14. They have given away games in each of the last two Septembers and Octobers -- at the vastly inferior Rams each of the last two early seasons, for telling instance -- that they had won the previous two years. That forced the Seahawks onto the road into roaring stadiums and soaring foes in the divisional-round losses at Carolina and Atlanta the last two Januarys. They’ve fallen behind the Panthers and Falcons 67-13 in those two playoff losses.
The offensive line has remained inconsistent if not simply ineffective while being the lowest-paid if and among the youngest in the league.
Yet Baldwin joined quarterback Russell Wilson -- “we still believe” -- and coach Pete Carroll in saying the Seahawks have not regressed to the point their championship window is ending.
“I feel that way,” said Baldwin, who tied Bobby Engram’s single-season record for most receptions (94) in franchise history. “Jermaine (Kearse, his fellow wide receiver) and I were just talking about that. I’m ready to go starting training now, actually.
“I think we have all the pieces. We have all the tools. We were just missing some guys, health-wise, and we were kind of finding ourselves up front on the offensive line. We had some guys in new positions. So we got some years under our belt now...
“We didn’t finish. That’s a whole different story.”
“I feel like we have so much talent. We have so much potential. But potential doesn’t mean anything if you don’t put it in motion. At times we were able to do that. And at times we were stagnant. And that’s the frustrating part. Looking at it on paper and realizing how talented we should be and could be -- and it not coming to fruition on the field.”