John McGrath

Seahawks’ play might be ugly, but winning is what matters

Green Bay’s Quinten Rollins (24) breaks up a pass for Seattle’s Jimmy Graham on Sept. 10 in Green Bay, Wis. The Seahawks are expected to beat San Francisco this week, but don’t expect it to be easy on the eyes.
Green Bay’s Quinten Rollins (24) breaks up a pass for Seattle’s Jimmy Graham on Sept. 10 in Green Bay, Wis. The Seahawks are expected to beat San Francisco this week, but don’t expect it to be easy on the eyes. The Associated Press

The forecast in anticipation of the Seahawks’ home opener Sunday is calling for a two-touchdown victory over San Francisco, with a 90 percent chance of angst.

I can hear it in the voices of those calling the Monday-morning sports radio stations, Hawks fans desperately seeking soothing.

They will lament the ineptitude of an offensive line required to learn on the job, the failure to find a way to utilize former All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, the flickering light between the ears of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and a running game that lost its heart and soul when Marshawn Lynch left.

Almost forgotten will be the score. Which is crazy, because the score is what matters the most.

Let’s face it: In terms of cohesion, rhythm and grace, the 2017 Seattle Seahawks are clodhoppers on the dance floor, incapable of moving to the music. And while I’m certain the Hawks will polish some of the rough edges we saw last week in Green Bay, I’m equally certain ugly football is their destiny.

Winning ugly 11 or 12 times a year and qualifying for home-field playoff advantage beats the alternative, which is losing ugly 11 or 12 times a year and clearing out lockers before the wild-card round.

A smothering defense, with just enough offense to prevent the defense from exhausting itself, does not make for a particularly scintillating Sunday afternoon. But as some 75-year old rockers are still singing, you can’t always get what you want.

The Seahawks have advanced to the playoffs annually since 2012. A sixth consecutive trip is all but guaranteed this season, as all three of their NFC West rivals are in various stages of rebuilding.

It’s a pretty good place to be, no? Winning but not dominating, relying on such subtleties as field-position edge and creating more turnovers than turnovers allowed, that’s been the essence of most Super Bowl champions.

A few of them had it all — Chuck Noll’s Steelers, Bill Walsh’s 49ers, Bill Belichick’s Patriots — but those are the outliers. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks belong to the subset just behind the dynasties: consistent contenders with obvious, but not insurmountable, flaws.

It’s telling that two of the most memorable victories during the Carroll Era were frustrating slogs, three and a half hours of glaring imperfection.

In the 2014 NFC Championship game, the Packers achieved what was assumed to be impossible. They silenced the crowd at CenturyLink Field, nursing a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Besieged quarterback Russell Wilson had thrown four interceptions. There was a 12th man that afternoon, and he was positioned in the Packers defensive backfield.

But the Seahawks rallied, overcoming historically prohibitive odds. Before the comeback, no team had solved a deficit of 16 points in a conference championship game.

“You have the belief these guys have in one another,” Carroll said after the 28-22 overtime victory. “There is nothing you can’t do.”

The following year, against the Vikings in the wild-card round, the Seahawks were shut out after three quarters. Of the 45 NFL playoff teams entering the fourth quarter scoreless, 43 went on to lose.

Weather conditions at Minnesota were beyond brutal — minus-6 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of minus-25 — but the Hawks cobbled together 10 points for the victory.

Sure, it required celestial assistance — the Vikings’ Blair Walsh hooked a chip-shot field goal attempt at the end — but a sense of fate on your side can be a powerful psychological tool.

The 2017 Seahawks are keeping that faith. They’ll win games this season without entertaining the audience, without asserting themselves as dynamic.

Missed assignments, sloppy execution and dumb penalties — definition of dumb: a defender jogging off the field after Aaron Rodgers has broken the huddle, giving the quarterback a free pass on a penalty flag — loom as a source of frustration against the 49ers, and for the 14 games that follow.

Feel free to wince, and to bemoan how ugly it was on Monday morning.

Just know this: The idea is to score more points than the other team. Outscore ’em, that’s all.

Everything else amounts to a hill of beans.

John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath

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