The break is complete. The transformation is striking. The Seattle Seahawks bear no resemblance to the powerful, charismatic, star-laden team that made five straight playoff appearances, won a Super Bowl and came one ill-fated play on the 1-yard line from winning another.
The Seahawks are rebuilding. There’s no way around that, two games — and two losses — into their season of transition.
They lost, 24-17, Monday night in Chicago, dropping to 0-2. They already are two games behind the new kings of the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams. They will spend this season vying with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals to be the division’s second-best team, and it will be a distant second. Playoff contention seems like a long shot. Super Bowl talk is a fading memory.
It was mostly unsightly Monday night. The Seahawks trailed, 17-3, in the fourth quarter before temporarily making things interesting. That didn’t last.
There were some familiar sights, as quarterback Russell Wilson ran around behind a deficient offensive line and was left to try to do too much on his own. He was sacked six times by the Bears.
But, in uncharacteristic fashion, Wilson contributed to the Seahawks’ undoing. He lost a fumble and he threw a fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown by Prince Amukamara. It was only the second time in Wilson’s NFL career that he had a regular season interception returned for a touchdown. The other one came during his rookie season in 2012.
Wilson has been sacked a dozen times in two games. But he chose to cast things in a positive light during his postgame news conference Monday.
“There’s things that we’ve got to fix and we can fix,” Wilson said. “And that’s the exciting part about what we can do and what we’re going to do. The fourth quarter, I think, really showed us who we are, who we can be. We’ve got to get a better start and try to figure out how to, I think, catch that fire that we had in the fourth quarter. Let’s put it in the first, second and third [quarters]…. I don’t think we’re far off, by any means …. I really believe that. I’m normally really optimistic. You guys know that. But I really believe that.”
Wilson was one of the few familiar players on the field Monday for the Seahawks. The once-so-dominant defense has been revamped: Cornerback Richard Sherman is in San Francisco. Safety Kam Chancellor is retired. Defensive end Michael Bennett is in Philadelphia. Safety Earl Thomas played, but only because his training-camp holdout did not produce the trade some predicted.
There have been hopes the Seahawks might remain in playoff contention by building around Wilson on offense and linebacker Bobby Wagner on defense. But Wagner, fellow linebacker K.J. Wright and wide receiver Doug Baldwin sat Monday with injuries, taking even more mainstays out of the lineup.
The Seahawks have begun the season with consecutive road losses at Denver and Chicago. They finally have a home game Sunday, when they host the Dallas Cowboys. They should be competitive in their four divisional games against the 49ers and Cardinals. The season is not exactly a lost cause. Not yet, at least.
But the franchise’s first losing season since 2011 appears possible. That was the year before the five straight playoff appearances, a run of prosperity that included the Super Bowl triumph over quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos to cap the 2013 season. The Seahawks returned to the Super Bowl the following season. But the interception thrown by Wilson, when the Seahawks opted not to give the football to tailback Marshawn Lynch one yard from the end zone with the Super Bowl on the line against the New England Patriots, kept them from being repeat champions, the sort of team destined to never be forgotten.
The past couple years have brought reports of discord and speculation about internal unrest over an inability to accept the Super Bowl defeat and the supposedly preferential treatment given to Wilson within the organization. There were signs of decline last season, when the Seahawks went 9-7 but missed the playoffs. Now the glory days feel like such a long time ago, and the Seahawks are struggling just to get into the win column.
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