Boom, There Goes Seattle’s Legion

Some years ago, the Seattle Seahawks won a highly controversial game against the Green Bay Packers during the referee strike, when one ref clearly indicated that a play was a touchdown catch, while the other equally clearly indicating that it was not a touchdown. The play generated all sorts of controversy, and was discussed for several days afterward. It got so much attention, that it basically was credited for forcing the end of the referee strike.
I wrote about that, and also thought, at the time, that this might be a premonition that meant that the Seahawks were going to be the team of the decade.
Well, I know that sounds strange. After all, what does one have to do with the other. But again, the Seahawks were clearly a team on the rise at that point, and they were the beneficiaries of a hugely controversial call that was talked about not only for days or even weeks, but even for years afterward. It is no exaggeration to suggest that football fans still remember that call, much like they remember the “Immaculate Reception” that helped lift the Steelers as they won a game they otherwise likely would have lost, and allowed them to rise in prominence to the point that they would eventually become “Team of the Decade” for the seventies. Or, much less controversial but equally as attention grabbing and memorable, was “The Catch” that helped to lift the 49ers past the Cowboys in a game they otherwise likely would have lost, and helped also to let them reach greatness, and they went on to become “Team of the Decade” for the eighties. Or, the snowy playoff game in New England, when the Raiders seemed to sack quarterback Tom Brady and recover the football, but which was instead ruled in New England’s favor. That play also received a huge amount of attention, and it is where the “Tuck Rule” came from, but it helped lift the Patriots to glory in a game they likely otherwise would have lost, as they went on from there to win the first of three titles in a four year span, as they also earned “Team of the Decade” honors in the 2000’s.
So, I predicted that the Seahawks would benefit like that, as well. Like with the Steelers in 1972, the year that they won that “Immaculate Reception” game, they would not win the title that year, although they were clearly an up and coming team. They had the great defense, and they had explosive potential on offense. It would take another season for them to reach that elite status, but they dominated the NFC in 2013, going 13-3 and earning the top seed before working their way through the NFC playoffs and reaching the Super Bowl. There, they crushed the record-smashing Broncos in the Super Bowl, holding the NFL’s most explosive offense in history to a very pedestrian 8 points, and made Denver look inept both on offense and on defense for the first time all season, easily winning their first title.

Indeed, the Seahawks looked like serious favorites to repeat in 2014, and despite some troubles along the way, Seattle managed to finish 12-4, earning the NFC West title over a surprisingly tough challenge by Arizona. They once again earned the top seed in the NFC playoffs, then convincingly dispatched the Carolina Panthers, before winning yet another highly controversial, attention-grabbing game against Green Bay in the NFC Championship. They went back to the Super Bowl slightly favored to beat New England.

And in a Super Bowl that should be (but often is not) remembered as an instant classic, there were real fireworks in that big game. Both teams played very well, and showed much of why they both enjoyed so much success during that era. It went back and forth, but surely I was not the only one who was surprised when the Seahawks legendary “Legion of Boom” defense game up a seemingly comfortable 24-14 fourth quarter lead, and found themselves trailing entering the final minutes. Still, the Seahawks were able to get into scoring position following a miracle catch by Jermaine Kearse that instantly evoked memories of ‘The Helmet Catch” by Dave Tyree, or the incredible catch by Giants receiver Mario Manningham, both of which came against New England, and strongly contributed to the Patriots losing. But the Seahawks gambled, and lost big time, very shortly after the miracle catch. On the now infamous 2nd and 1, Pete Carroll opted to go for a risky pass down the middle, instead of a run by Marshawn Lynch that most assume would have led to a touchdown, and likely a Seattle win. Instead, the risky pass was famously intercepted by New England’s Malcolm Butler, icing the game in favor of the Pats.

Obviously, it was a devastating loss, one not easily forgotten or overcome. Frankly, I do not think the Seahawks have ever truly recovered. At the time, I was expecting them to return to the Super Bowl, because their incredible run for those two seasons reminded me a lot of the emerging dynasty Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990’s during their first two championship runs. I did not expect the Seahawks to suddenly fall silent, and just to kind of fade away back into the pack the way that they did. But they were not nearly so good the following season, nor the season after that. And this past season, they missed the playoffs altogether.

Along the way, they lost some of the talent that helped them to reach those two Super Bowls, but nothing like what we have seen just in the last few weeks. Michael Bennett is already gone. Now, there are rumors that the Seahawks are looking to get rid of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, and that Kim Chancellor may never play football again due to a neck injury.

If those players indeed do depart, and if the Seahawks lose any more talent this offseason, it might start to resemble a little bit how the 49ers were taken apart following the offseason following the 2014-15. In an unbelievable offseason, San Francisco lost almost all of the talent that had made them such a tough and highly competitive team from 2011-2013, when they qualified for three straight NFC Championship games, and almost won Super Bowl XLVII. But the team was completely taken apart after a disappointing 2014 season, and they only started to really recover late last year, when they won six of their final seven games.

Could the Seahawks be in for a similar crash and burn, one that surely would take them out of the ranks of serious contenders for years to come?

Well, it is not a sure thing just yet. Right now, however, it sure seems like it is a possibility.

Not the way that I envisioned the end of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” coming to an end. I, for one, keep thinking that the now infamous “2nd and 1” call was even more costly than it at first appeared, and everyone knew that it likely cost them a real shot at  achieving a very rare feat: winning back-to-back Super Bowl titles. At the time, I thought it was a brief interruption in what would be a feast of championships for Seattle. Instead, it seems that it was what ended the party prematurely for the Emerald City’s football darlings.

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