The Seahawks thought they'd be spending their Sunday recovering from a game and looking ahead to a Divisional Round matchup, the next step on what they expected to be a deep playoff run.
Instead, players had a final team meeting of the season on Sunday before packing up their lockers and heading home for the offseason. Saturday's loss to the Rams was an abrupt end to a promising season that saw the Seahawks finish 12-4, their best record since they went to the Super Bowl six seasons ago, and a day later players were still having a hard time wrapping their heads around an early postseason exit.
"It's a lot to process," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "There's a lot going on, it's a long season, there's a lot put into the season. I definitely felt like we had the group to go further than what we did. It feels weird that we're done, I didn't expect that, I didn't think that at all. So I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it."
Linebacker K.J. Wright, the team's longest-tenured player who wrapped up his 10th season with the Seahawks, thought this was the team to get back to the Super Bowl, or at least past the divisional round, which is the furthest the Seahawks have advanced since the 2014 season that ended with a Super Bowl loss to New England.
"Out of all the years since we lost to New England, I thought that this year was our best chance of going (to the Super Bowl)," Wright said. "I truly felt like we had all the pieces, we had all the confidence in the world to go back. Twelve-and-four, that's a really good season, it's just unfortunate that yesterday was just one of them days, and we faced a really good opponent. We know that playoff time is going to always be tough, but the way that we fell short, I'm still in shock that we lost in the first round. I'm like, 'OK we at least will go to the NFC Championship, and see what happens then,' but it's very frustrating, it's very disappointing. We've got to get better. We've got to get better and we've got to find ways to just get to those playoff moments and just make it happen, because somebody's got to be there, and I felt like it should have been us this year."
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap II, who came to Seattle in a midseason trade, was looking not just for the first playoff win of his long career, but for a chance to play in a Super Bowl, and while he said he hopes to stick around in Seattle for a long time to chase that goal, he echoed the comments of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll a day earlier that he didn't even know how to process the loss.
"I didn't have the mental capacity to think we'd be ending the season this way, this week," Dunlap said. "Not that I overlooked L.A., we knew it'd be a challenge, but I thought we would come and do what it took, and we did not deliver yesterday, so that's why we're here."
While the Seahawks looked like Super Bowl contenders in all phases at different parts of the season, Wagner pointed out that the key to reaching their potential going forward is having the whole team playing at a high level at the same time. Through eight game, the Seahawks had the highest scoring offense in the NFL, but a defense that was giving up yards at a record level and far more points than anyone is used to seeing from a Carroll-coached team. The defense then managed to turn things around dramatically in the second half of the season, allowing the fewest points in the league over the last eight games, but that happened as the offense cooled off while facing better defenses down the stretch, and while, as Carroll said Saturday night, not adjusting as well as it should have to the way defenses were playing against the Russell Wilson-led passing game.
"I think what we were able to do the second half of the season needs to be sustained throughout the whole season," Wagner said of the defense. "Obviously we didn't start the way one start defensively, but I think we all just need to be playing at a high level at the right time and together. I think that was the thing, there was a point time with offense was playing well and we weren't playing well; there's a point in time where we were playing well and offense wasn't getting going, so I think we've just got to play at a high level at the same time."
The best photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Wild Card game vs. the Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Fueled by Nesquik