Long before kickoff of a crucial NFC showdown with the Green Bay Packers, there was a certain energy in the Seahawks locker room that convinced Doug Baldwin that he and his teammates were going to have a good night.
“When we walked in this locker room earlier today, 2:30 this afternoon, you could feel the energy,” Baldwin said. “All of us knew we were going to be successful tonight. That’s a feeling you’ve got to have when you’re in a tough situation going against a talented opponent.”
So naturally the Seahawks took that good energy and immediately jumped out to an early… no wait… they fell behind 14-3?
Yes, football is strange sometimes, and one bad play—in this case a turnover on the first play from scrimmage—followed by some Aaron Rodgers magic and a few other Seattle miscues can turn good intentions and positive vibes into a pretty big deficit in a hurry.
But where the Seahawks are different than most football teams at just about any level is in the way in which they never let early mistakes and even double-digit deficits take them out of games. So even if people watching on TV or in CenturyLink Field figured the Seahawks were doomed after Rodgers hit tight end Robert Tonyan with an absurd 54-yard touchdown pass, or after Seattle’s offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Seahawks knew there was still plenty of time left to get back in the game.
And sure enough, the Seahawks found themselves leading late in the second quarter, then again in the fourth quarter before a Packers field goal put the Seahawks in the position they’ve been in on a few occasions this season—down by one score late in a game with the ball and a chance to take the lead. And this time around, Russell Wilson and the offense came through in a big way, driving 77 yards on 13 plays to take the lead for good on a 15-yard Wilson pass to Ed Dickson that ended up being the final score in a 27-24 Seahawks victory.
“We’re resilient,” center Justin Britt said. “This year especially, we have so much fight, so many young players who are hungry and want to go show who they are. You’ve heard it, we preach it all the time—it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish—we’re all about finish here. And the last couple of weeks, we haven’t finished. We’ve been close, real close, but we didn’t finish right. So to come out here and take care of business and kind of get over that hump, it gives us a good three-day weekend.”
The Seahawks have done a lot of things well since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, most notably winning a Super Bowl, going to another and making the playoffs six times. But one of the most impressive and underrated traits of this era of Seahawks football is how resilient their teams have been over the years. Even the NFL’s best teams have bad days, and so often around the league early deficits turn into blowout losses, but year after year, the Seahawks find ways to turn their even their worst starts either into improbable comeback wins or at the very least competitive games they had a chance to win. From the middle of the 2011 season to late in the 2016 season, the Seahawks went 95 games, postseason included, without losing a game by more than 10 points. And since Week 9 of the 2011 season, the Seahawks have only four double-digit losses over the last 125 games, postseason included.
“I would like to think that we’ve instilled a belief that it ain’t ever over, and that they’ll keep hanging,” Carroll said. “We have for a long time, there’s a lot of games on the record, it’s hard to beat us when we just keep battling. Scores, even when we lose games that we think we should have won, they’re always close and we’ve been really good at that for a long time. I think the belief is deep, and that’s what sustains you when you keep thinking something good’s going to come if you just keep working. We’ve been preaching that for years and I think it’s in the mentality.”
That mentality shows up not just in veterans who have been through a lot of ups and downs with the Seahawks, but even players who are relatively new to the team.
“It’s the mentality we have,” said left tackle Duane Brown, who joined the Seahawks in a midseason trade last year. “We always fight, we always believe. Fight until you can’t fight no more, that’s the motto around here. And we truly believe that, we truly believe we’re never out of a game. I don’t care if we’re down two scores, three scores, we feel like at some point we’re going to get back in the game and have a chance to win. Our defense played lights out at the end of the game, and having a quarterback like Russ, you always feel like you’ve got a chance. That’s just the mentality we have, that’s the way we work, that’s the way we prepare throughout the week, and it’s been working for us. We had a few games this year where we came up short, but this was a great night to turn it around.”
While the Seahawks make a point of not treating any one game as being bigger than another, they understood coming into Thursday night the playoff implications of a game between two NFC teams with 4-5 and 4-4-1 records. So for a team that didn’t have the right mindset, an early deficit in such a critical game could have been demoralizing. But for a Seahawks squad that always preaches the value of finishing—regardless of what happens early in the game—that 14-3 first-quarter deficit was more of a minor inconvenience than it was a crippling blow.
“Football, it comes down to finishing,” Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of things that can happen in the first quarter, the second quarter, the third quarter—I know you guys have heard this before, and it sounds cliché to say, but the truth of the matter is that you can’t win a game in the first half or in the third quarter, you win a game in the fourth quarter. Obviously we made a lot of mistakes in the first three quarters, but we kept ourselves in it, and when it counted, we were able to get a stop on defense, then also get the first down we needed on offense.”