If ever a book is written about the 2017 Seattle Seahawks – suggested title: “Kings of the Middle of the Road” – it won’t rival “War and Peace” for length.
Leo Tolstoy wrapped up his tome in 1,225 pages, which is about 1,224 more pages than will be required to tell the story of a Hawks team that revealed everything we needed to know about it during a 17-9 defeat in the opener at Green Bay.
The season’s first play was an incomplete pass that Russell Wilson intended for Jimmy Graham. The second play was a Doug Baldwin end-around scamper that lost 3 yards. The third play set the Seahawks back 6 more yards, as Wilson had no time to set up behind an ambushed offensive line.
Their next possession began with an Eddie Lacy run for minus-2 yards, followed by a C.J. Prosise carry for no gain and a short completion – ta da! – from Wilson to Graham.
The visitors finally moved the first-down chains midway through the second quarter, but their inability to sustain drives translated into a worn-down defense that couldn’t stop the Packers’ drives. Time of possession is often a dim-bulb stat, but it meant everything on a hot and humid afternoon at Green Bay, where the Packers controlled the ball for almost 40 minutes.
Although the Seahawks would go on to win nine games, and put themselves in position for a 10th victory Sunday, the opener served as a microcosm of a season that has posed quandaries yet to be solved. Graham, the 6-foot-7 tight end, never emerged as a steady target outside the red zone. Lacy and Prosise never contributed to a ground game stalled by a line ill-equipped to execute power blocks. The worn-down, past-its-prime defense never really asserted itself.
And yet the Hawks could advance to the playoffs if they beat Arizona and Atlanta loses. The more likely possibility is that Seattle wraps up a 10-6 season but is nudged out of a wild-card spot by the Falcons, favored at home Sunday against Carolina.
The notion of a 10-6 team denied a playoff berth screams of injustice, but it’s happened 21 times since the schedule was expanded to 16 games in 1978. For that matter, two 11-5 teams – the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots – also were eliminated from the postseason.
I’d like to make a case why the 10-6 Seahawks deserve better than to follow the playoffs as spectators, but what strikes me about them is that aside from Wilson’s usually reliable improvisational skills on broken plays, nothing strikes me about them.
Between the eight division champions and four wild cards, 12 playoff berths are allotted. Which is to wonder: Are the Seahawks the NFL’s 12-best team?
They rank 16th in total offense (21st rushing, 15th passing) and 13th in points scored per game. They rank 13th in total defense (18th rushing, 9th passing) and 13th in points allowed per game.
The Hawks most impressive stat is a plus-7 turnover differential – good for seventh among 32 teams – a status achieved thanks to three defensive takeaways last Sunday at Dallas, where the offense took advantage of each while protecting the ball.
In the wake of the punishing it took from the Rams a week previous, Seattle’s 21-12 victory over the Cowboys showed the team’s resilience. It’s the most admirable of traits, but at this point, sheer resilience won’t assure advancement to the playoffs. Those consistently inconsistent allies of the desperate, The Fates, must allow.
“We know what the case is,” linebacker K.J. Wright acknowledged the other day. “We need a lot of help. That’s very unfortunate, but like always, we definitely have to focus on ourselves. No matter what happens, we’ll go out and play hard.”
Effort won’t be an issue for the Seahawks in the regular-season finale. But then, effort wasn’t an issue when the season began on Sept. 10. They’d rolled up a 4-0 record in exhibition games that didn’t count, and were primed for a challenge that finally did.
And then Wilson and Graham failed to connect on the first play, and a gadget-trick run was snuffed for negative yardage on the second play, and Wilson got clobbered on the third play: An omen of season that has taken the Seahawks to the fringe of amen.
“The Kings of the Middle of the Road.”
It’s a book that could be read on an elevator descent from the 32nd floor of a high-rise hotel to the lobby, leaving enough down time to risk making awkward eye contact with passengers boarding between floors 10 and 6.