The Seahawks (and Seattle) have a target on their backs. It isn’t deserved, at least not the way they got it, but it’s their new reality for the 2012 season. The Seattle Seahawks, the only team to ever make the playoffs with a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks, the team that should never have even been in Super Bowl XL against the Cowher and Bettis et al., who deserved to be there sooner. This is what the rest of the country thinks about when they think of the Seattle Seahawks. After Monday night’s game, Seattle now has another item to add to that list: The Seattle Seahawks, the team that “cheated” and “stole” a game away from the perennially popular Green Bay Packers. It isn’t right, and it sure as hell isn’t fair, but that is the message that has occupied the agenda-driven echo chamber of ESPN and other sports media outlets. Seattle didn’t “deserve” to win – even though they outplayed Green Bay in most aspects of the game. Golden Tate “cheated” by pushing Sam Shields in the back – even though one of the best receivers in the game said it was par for the course on Hail Mary plays (is Fitzgerald a cheater too, Rick Reilly?). The refs blew the call even though the picture becomes less and less clear as time goes on.
Seattle must now focus on the coming weeks against opponents such as the Patriots and 49ers. They can’t let the unwarranted abuse get inside their heads. The Seahawks must avoid any sort of letdown at all costs. The team needs to have a chip on its shoulder the way the Patriots did after spy-gate (although that was actual cheating). The defense needs to be play angry and smart. Emphasis on smart. The offense needs to add a second level. Right now it’s extremely one dimensional and it won’t take very long for other defenses to start putting eight and nine in the box on every play.
Pete Carroll has taken responsibility for such repetitive play calling, which is fine, but at some point the Seahawks are going to need to take some chances and make some throws. Interceptions might have killed the Seahawks against the Packers, but Russell Wilson is going to need to get some experience making decisions under pressure. A franchise quarterback must lead the team on the field during crunch-time and get touchdowns. Game managers are generally not franchise quarterbacks. At this point, Wilson is hardly even a game manager. It might be Carroll’s decision and it might be that Wilson simply doesn’t have the ability at this point. Either way, there will come a point in this season when the Seahawks will need to drive down the field at the end of the game on their own, without the benefit of question pass-interference calls. Game one in Arizona comes to mind but I’ll let it pass since it was the first game of the season.
The reason I’m focusing on this is because the only way that Seattle is going to get the target off its back and show the country that the win against Green Bay wasn’t a fluke and are capable of winning the big games on their own. If Seattle has a let-down and loses to the Rams, or gets blown out by the Patriots or 49ers, the talking-heads will start back up about how Seattle is barely good enough to compete in the NFL.
I don’t think the Seahawks will let down, but I hope they also have a little bit of attitude. Play smart and have attitude. No more dumb penalties. Don’t try to explicitly prove anything to the country, because most of it will never give the Seahawks due credit, but take away their arguments one by one. The way Seattle shut up the critics of a 7-9 playoff team was by soundly beating the Saints in the first round. The way to show that Seattle can beat teams like Green Bay is by beating other good teams (Bears, Patriots, Niners, Lions) and not losing to struggling teams (Dolphins, Rams, and Jets).
Seattle also needs to expect the deck to be stacked against them. As far as fans and, I have no doubt, the league are concerned, Seattle is due for the ultimate make-up call to occur against them. Seattle is going to have to fight uphill for at least the near-term and not complain because nobody else is going to acknowledge it. Hopefully the field will level if Seattle can make its case, but they are going to have to play through adversity, of various kinds, first (which is where a more diverse offensive scheme comes in).
The Seahawks know that the 12th man is behind them and I like to think that’s all they need. Seattle tends to have smart players that understand the big picture and don’t get emotionally rattled by the garbage that gets tossed around. They haven’t so far this week, so I have faith. The Seahawks have handled themselves with class (especially with some of the horrific things that have been leveled at some of them on a personal level) and (correctly) apologized to nobody. Now they need to play smart and hard, have pride and attitude, and, at all costs, avoid any kind of letdown, especially against teams that Seattle should beat.