Heading into the third game of the preseason, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson raved about the week of practice his team had just finished, comparing it to a week of postseason preparation.
Two days later, however, the Seahawks first-team offense was far from sharp in a 16-15 victory in San Diego, going three-and-out on three of its first four possessions and managing just a pair of field goals in six possessions before the backups entered the game. In all, the starting offense has been on the field for 12 possessions in the preseason, resulting in four field goals, seven punts and a fumble.
But if you're expecting Wilson and the rest of the offense to panic after not producing a touchdown in 12 possessions, well then you'll be disappointed in his take on where the offense stands. No, the results haven't been there on gameday just yet, but Wilson is confident because of what he sees in practice every day.
"We're not far away," he said. "We've had some unbelievable practices. We go against one of the best defenses in the National Football League every day. Our offense is really clicking in practice, we just haven't translated it quite yet in terms of finishing the drive on gameday but we will. I completely believe that. I believe that because of how we practice. I believe that we show it in practice every day. I think honestly I just didn't finish that throw (on the third-quarter field goal drive), didn't finish that drive. I normally hit that 99.9 times out of 100 to the left throwing to Kearse there."
Wilson and the Seahawks have good reason for optimism even if the preseason numbers don't show it. Jimmy Graham, who hasn't been targeted often in the preseason, has been a dynamic playmaker in practice and should upgrade the passing game, especially in the red zone; starting receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse looked better than ever in training camp; and of course there's a rather big asterisk on any preseason struggles when you consider that All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch has been on the field for all of three snaps. The offensive line, finally settled, should continue to build on the improvement shown over the past two weeks, and when it comes to Wilson, it's sometimes easy to forget how early he still is in his career considering how much he has already accomplished.
"He just continues to grow, and it's going to continue, he's not like a finished product," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's only a fourth-year guy here, so he's got a number of years to continue to bank on the learning and increasing command on what's going on."
Of course when it comes to Wilson, and really to the Seahawks as a whole, there is also the question of how they will handle a stunning Super Bowl XLIX loss. But from the beginning of offseason workouts in May, it has been clear that the team is moving forward, not looking back.
Wilson says he knows his teammates are over any Super Bowl disappointment, "By the way we work, by the way we've been preparing, there's no signs of any slowing down. We're just going to keep working, that's all we know."
As was detailed in a Sports Illustrated cover story this week, part of the healing process was the annual offseason trip Wilson organizes for teammates. Unlike in the past two years when offensive skill-position players went to Manhattan Beach, Wilson this year organized a trip for offensive and defensive players to Maui. There the Seahawks began preparing physically for the 2015 season, but they also worked on any healing that had to happen, including a cliff-side "airing of the grievances" that helped the team move forward.
"I think ultimately when we got together in Maui," Wilson said when asked when everyone got over the Super Bowl loss. "We experienced one another, felt one another in the sense of our energy and our focus with one another in what we're going to do, when we threw all the other stuff off the cliff into the ocean in Maui, and kind of just focused on what we're going to do to move forward and how we're going to focus on each other and build each other up, and how we're going to try to win a lot of football games and continue to do the same thing. We were on the 1-yard line, you know? We don't need to change much. I think that's kind of our focus."
The Seahawks aren't looking back, nor are they worried about a few hiccups in the preseason. Ultimately, Wilson and the offense know that a team that was "on the 1-yard line" with a chance to win a second straight Super Bowl will be just fine when the season begins.
"I'm not concerned, we're not concerned," Wilson said. "We prepare, we believe better than anyone else and that's how we're going to show up. We believe on Sundays we're going to make something happen."
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks players continuing what has now become an offseason tradition with a player-organized optional "camp". Sunday morning many players met at VMAC before heading off to Hawaii.