Remember when the Seahawks used to beat the Panthers so often they could have petitioned to rename their state Carroll-ina?
Remember when it was the opposing teams that came away feeling heartbroken and in disbelief they could have lost the game at the end?
Remember when the Seahawks were an elite conference powerhouse who intimidated opponents?
Another squandered lead led to a 27-23 loss to the Panthers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, dropping the Seahawks to 2-4 and forcing a serious reevaluation of who this team is.
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Searching for the answer to “why?” I recalled the best description of what the team used to be. It came from cornerback Richard Sherman, who used to say that the Seahawks played like a bunch of “raggedy dogs.”
He said that throwing the ball against the Hawks was like tossing out fresh meat to a pack of wolves.
The Seahawks still make plays; they still have tons of talent. But at the end, do we see that kind of rabid intensity, that sense of urgency, that slobbering aggressiveness of a pack of feral hounds?
Afterward, coach Pete Carroll pointed out “we just needed one play out there.” It used to be the other coaches with that old loser’s lament.
But why has this happened? Why are the Seahawks coughing up leads in every loss this season?
Why can’t they finish? They have all the talent, maybe even more than they used to. Why?
Other teams seem to want it more. You can’t measure such things, but how can you argue it?
It’s not that the Seahawks aren’t playing hard, but opponents have outscored them 61-27 in the fourth quarter and overtime this season.
“They just came up with the plays and we didn’t,” Michael Bennett said. Yes, exactly. And it’s happened four times in six games.
For at least the second straight week, the Seahawks have a gang of All-Pro secondary players watching opponents catch touchdowns on them and then casting questioning looks to their teammates.
They’re all holding their arms out, seeming to say: “I thought you had him. No, I thought you had him.”
Safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor had uncharacteristically inconsistent games last Sunday at Cincinnati, but each rallied back with an interception and a number of good plays early on against the Panthers.
But at the end? Carolina had three 80-yard scoring drives after the middle of the third quarter.
What’s the difference with this defense? Could a new defensive coordinator — Kris Richard — be the problem? It’s strange that there’s been so much miscommunication among a secondary that has three All-Pro veterans.
But unless you were in the headsets and listening to what the coverage calls were, it’s hard to tell where the short circuit is.
At least the focus can shift a little after this one. The early limiting factor for this team was the shaky play of the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked four times, but the line was not the lethal deficiency against Carolina.
And there can’t be any more questions about new tight end Jimmy Graham. For the first time this season, Graham looked comfortable with the scheme, and fully understanding of how to keep working to find openings once Wilson breaks from the pocket.
Graham had eight catches for 140 yards, while also throwing a few credible blocks. Now assimilated, he should be a prime target the rest of the way.
Funny things can happen in the NFL. The Seahawks have five division games coming up, which gives them the chance to make up ground in a hurry. And there have been any number of positive developments in the first three periods of the last two losses.
But the other possibility facing a 2-4 team — particularly one unaccustomed to this much disappointment — is that it unravels, that it starts pointing fingers, affixing blame. That’s a possibility, too.
Tackle Russell Okung set out something of a mission statement on this short week heading into Thursday’s division game at San Francisco: “We have to face adversity, look it in the eye and refuse to blink.”
I think instead of looking at adversity, they might be better looking inside themselves and trying to search for whatever fragments remain of those raggedy dogs that used to control them.