Score one for the strategic throwbacks. All season long, the Seahawks have bucked the increasingly pass-heavy trend of the modern NFL in favor of an old school approach: stifling defense, run-first offense, and physical to the bone in all phases of the game. Just a typical kneejerk, conservative, play-it-safe game plan from a stubborn old defensive coach, right?
Wrong. Once the Hawks started winning games, the genius of Carroll's thinking became evident to all who were willing to look. The lighter, faster personnel and steady diet of nickel packages increasingly favored by defenses around the league the last few years are great for battling high-octane passing attacks, but at the same time that shift has made them increasingly vulnerable to rushing games spearheaded by battering rams like Marshawn Lynch. And on the other side of the ball the team went against the grain too, eschewing quick little guys for big, physical defenders who could obliterate the precision timing of West Coast offense-based route combinations and make ball carriers pay with every punishing tackle.
Of course, the plan isn't quite that easy to implement.. As it turns out, the necessary catalyst to bring Carroll's plan to fruition is a healthy dose of incongruity. For instance, the most important part of Seattle's big, powerful defense is a quick, ball-hawking safety with the speed and instincts to let them comfortably dial up cover one shells all day long. Likewise, the keystone that separates the Hawks' offense from run-heavy also-rans like Adrian Peterson and the Vikings is the addition of a legitimately great passer who is selfless enough to do what's best for the team at the expense of his own stat line.
As the media analysts struggled to come to grips with what the Seahawks were doing under Carroll, they continually (and predictably) confused themselves by looking in entirely the wrong direction. While they busied themselves opining about minutiae like Seattle's low passing yards per game — the 2013 Hawks had the 7th lowest stats in the NFL in that category — they somehow managed to overlook that at the same time they were also the proud owners of the 5th best passer rating in the league. Yes, Wilson didn't throw as often as most of his starting peers, nor did he rack up tons of yardage, but he made damn sure that the throws he did make counted.
On most other teams, Wilson would be a fantasy football bonanza, racking up scores and stats like a pinball machine. A guy with his level of talent who is willing to hand off the ball thirty times a game instead of airing it out is rarer than a red emerald.
The other thing that seemed to befuddle the pundits was the way this team was built. It's easy to swoon for a roster filled to the brim with sexy big names and high-round picks, but Seattle's cupboard is stocked almost entirely with misfit players whom most dismissed out of hand. According to the prevailing wisdom, Wilson is too short to be a successful passer, Baldwin is too slow to get open, Chancellor lacks the ball skills to defend the pass, Clemons is too light to be an every-down starter, and the list goes on — too big, too tall, too small, too deaf, too unknown, too undrafted. If Mel Kiper says a guy isn't good enough, well, who are we to argue, right?
Well, as it turns out all those outcasts put together are just good enough to throttle an historically prolific offense spearheaded by a five-time league MVP and win themselves a Super Bowl. Fuck the talking heads — this Seahawks team isn't great because someone anointed them as such, they're great because they stormed the field every Sunday, took what they wanted, and left a debris field of broken championship hopes in their wake.
Now if you'll excuse me, there's still a lot more alcohol around here that I think would really like to party in my bloodstream. This is a celebration that for me is 33 years in the making, and I intend to make the most of it.