Over the next six weeks, we’ll be preparing for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season on September 10 by attempting to answer the most important question facing all 32 of the league’s franchises in order of their 2019 finish, from worst to first. Today’s team: the Seahawks.
No. 6: Seattle Seahawks
2019 Record: 11-5
Points For: 405 – Points Against: 398
Projected 2020 Over/Under Win Total: 9
As a second-year quarterback at the age of 25, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a 13-3 regular-season record followed by tight playoff wins over the Saints in the divisional round (23-15) and 49ers in the NFC Championship game (23–17). Then, in Super Bowl XLVIII, Wilson and Seattle uncorked a bottle of pure, unfiltered ass-whooping on Peyton Manning and the Broncos, smiting the Super Bowl favorites and their record-breaking offense 43–8 in the most lopsided Super Bowl in recent memory.
The following year, Wilson and the Seahawks were back in the Super Bowl, and had a chance to win with only seconds remaining on the clock after an improbable drive against a stingy New England Patriots defense.
Then Malcolm Butler happened.
Since Wilson’s infamous interception at the goal line with 20 seconds left ended the book on the 2014 season and gave the Patriots their fourth Super Bowl win, the Seahawks have not advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs. They had a great shot at setting themselves up to do it last year: winning the division title with a win over San Francisco would have given them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but another goal-line play got in the way.
Trailing 26-21 on Sunday Night Football at the end of December, the Seahawks had eight chances to score from inside the red zone, their last one coming on fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line. During the play, Russell Wilson found tight end Jacob Hollister at the goal line, but a huge hit by 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw stopped him short of the end zone and the win.
Seattle lost, and instead of winning the NFC West and hosting a Wild Card game, they had back-to-back away games against the Eagles and Packers, losing at Lambeau Field 28-23. Football is a game of inches, and two plays at the goal line that could have resulted in the Seahawks having at least one more Super Bowl have instead helped them pile up a series of near-misses in recent years.
As is, Seattle has gone 86-41-1 in Wilson’s first eight seasons, winning at least 10 games and making the playoffs in seven of them. (They finished out of the postseason at 9-7 in 2017.)
Outside of New England, it is hard to find a more consistent team than the Seahawks, but with Wilson on the verge of turning 32, Seattle coach Pete Carroll weeks away from turning 69 and the team’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense nearly dismantled, the pressure is starting to mount on the franchise to make another Super Bowl run. As Seattle’s best player, a good deal of that pressure falls on the shoulder pads of Wilson.
Second only to Aaron Rodgers in all-time career passer rating among qualified quarterbacks, Wilson has thrown for at least 31 touchdowns in four of the past five seasons, and with 3,993 yards on the ground in his career, he’s still a major threat in the rushing game as well. Often playing with a mediocre offensive line and a lack of playmakers at receiver outside of 27-year-old Tyler Lockett, Wilson has still established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, as well as one of the most clutch. In his career, Wilson has led 21 fourth-quarter comebacks and 28 game-winning drives, the most of any quarterback since he entered the NFL in 2012. Of his 227 career touchdown passes, 77 have come in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Wilson’s ability to make plays when it matters was vital to Seattle’s success last season: the Seahawks were 9-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer despite giving up the 26th most yards in the NFL (381.6) and 22nd most points (24.9) to end up with a tiny +7 point differential despite winning 11 games.
Seattle’s defense may be better this season after securing All-Pro safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets in exchange for two first-round picks, but Wilson is still going to have his work cut out for him if Seattle’s Super Bowl aspirations are going to become a reality. That work could become a little easier thanks to two skill players: the Seahawks added veteran tight end Greg Olsen this offseason, and 6’4, 230-lb. second-year receiver DK Metcalf could blossom into the dominant no. 1 option many expect him to be.
As a rookie, Metcalf got off to a relatively slow start but still posted a 58-900-7 receiving line in the regular season and then erupted for a 160-yard game (the most yardage an NFL rookie has posted in a postseason game) in the team’s first-round playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles. If Metcalf can play like that on a consistent basis, Wilson will almost surely take advantage and the wins will follow.
The potential for a Super Bowl run, as it has been nearly every year, is there. If that potential is going to become something more than that, Wilson will have to be great — and he’ll need the gods of the goal line on his side in the fourth quarter for once.