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Seahawks had their best season because their best players did
It was former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren who once said that for a team to have its best season the team’s best players needed to have their best seasons.
The recipe for success worked in 2005, when Holmgren got career performances from Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robby Tobeck, Joe Jurevicius, Lofa Tatupu and Marquand Manuel as the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
That same formula was on display during the 2013 season, when the Pete Carroll-coached Seahawks not only got to the Super Bowl but won it in convincing fashion because of the strong start-to-finish efforts of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, Steven Hauschka, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett.
All played pivotal roles, because they put up career-best numbers: Thomas with his 100 tackles and five interceptions; Sherman with his league-leading eight interceptions and a couple of timely end-zone tips; Wilson with his 3,357 passing yards and 26-to-9 TD pass-to-interception ratio; Lynch with his 14 touchdowns; Wagner with his all-around game at middle linebacker (119 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions); Hauschka with his 41-of-43 performance on field goals, including the postseason; Tate with his 64 receptions for 898 yards and 11.5-yard average returning punts; Baldwin with his team-leading 13 receptions in the postseason; Chancellor with his intimidating presence as the enforcer, as well as his production, in the secondary; and Bennett with his team-leading 8.5 sacks.
All of which made it that much more difficult to hand out the season-ending honors in this special season:
MVP: So many from which to choose. The 1-2 punch of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson on offense. The playmaking quartet of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett on defense. Even the precision kicking of Steven Hauschka on special teams. But we opted for Thomas, because of his production, leadership, consistency and accountability. In his fourth season, the Seahawks’ free safety was voted All-Pro for the second time and to the Pro Bowl for the third time. After a 2012 season when it seemed we had seen the best of what Thomas can bring, he turned in a you-ain’t-seen-nothin’-yet performance in 2013. He was second on the team in tackles (100) and interceptions (five) and third in balloting for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Previous picks: Sherman, first quarter; Thomas, first half; Wilson, third quarter; Byron Maxwell, fourth quarter; the entire defense, postseason.
Previous picks: Lynch, first quarter; Wilson, first half; Doug Baldwin, third quarter; Golden Tate, fourth quarter; Lynch, postseason.
Previous picks: Thomas, first quarter; Sherman, first half; Wagner, third quarter; Wagner, fourth quarter; Chancellor, postseason.
Best special teams player: It’s difficult to argue with near perfection, and that’s the kind of season Hauschka had. He was 33 of 35 on field-goal attempts during the regular season, with one of the misses a block. He was 8 of 8 in the postseason. He had 48 touchbacks on his kickoffs during the regular season, and nine more in the postseason. He scored 143 points during the regular season, second-most in franchise history to the 168 Shaun Alexander put up during his NFL MVP season in 2005. Hauschka added a playoff-best 33 points in the postseason.
Previous picks: Jeremy Lane, first quarter; Hauschka, first half; Hauschka, third quarter; Hauschka, fourth quarter; Hauschka, postseason.
Best rookie: The Willson with two L’s – and a third in his first name, Luke. It was a little more than a year ago that coach Pete Carroll said it would be difficult for the 2013 draft class to have much of an impact because of the depth he and general manager John Schneider had compiled in the first three years of their collaborative roster-stocking project. Willson played the most, and the rookie tight end made the most plays (20 receptions, including a 39-yard TD catch).
Most-underrated unit: Wilson’s good-hands guys. Tate, Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse spent much of the season – too much – hearing how they weren’t this and they weren’t that. All they did in an offense that ran the ball more (509) than every team but the Bills (546) was combine to catch 136 passes for 2,022 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s a by-committee approach to compiling beyond No. 1-receiver production.
Best performance in a cameo role: Percy Harvin. In a season where he could have called it quits on several occasions after having hip surgery Aug. 1 and then getting a concussion in the divisional playoff game, Harvin didn’t. The result of his perseverance was flashes of what’s to come when he’s healthy for an entire season: a 58-yard kickoff return and a falling grab of a 17-yard pass against the Vikings in Week 11, his only appearance during the regular season; a team-high three receptions and a 9-yard run before being knocked out of the playoff opener; and an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a game-high 45 rushing yards on two carries in the Super Bowl.
Best defensive play: Sherman’s tip of Colin Kaepernick’s pass that was intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone on the 49ers’ final play in the NFC Championship game. Smith intercepted the carom and the Seahawks had their six-point victory – and a trip to the Super Bowl. While Sherman’s postgame rant drew much of the attention – too much – the Seahawks would not be Super Bowl champions without the instincts and athletic ability he flaunted on that potentially game-tying pass.
Best special teams play: Harvin’s return of the second-half kickoff in the Super Bowl for a touchdown. It made the score 29-0 and slapped an early exclamation point on the Seahawks’ domination of the Broncos.
Best stat: It should be 16, the oh-so-sweet victory total. But there would not have been those franchise-record 16 wins without plus-27 – the Seahawks’ combined turnover differential from the regular season (a league-leading plus-20) and the postseason (a playoff-best plus-7). It’s all about the ball, as the signs posted throughout Virginia Mason Athletic Center proclaim. And then some. The Seahawks led the NFL during the regular season because they also had league-leading totals in interceptions (28) and turnovers (39). They topped the bottom-line category during the postseason because they turned the ball over once in three games while producing playoff-best totals in turnovers (eight), interceptions (four) and fumble recoveries (four).
Best quote: “He’s Houdini. There’s some Houdini in there somewhere. I don’t know if he’s a relation.” – All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman on the uncanny ability of QB Russell Wilson to escape from pressure situations