GREEN BAY, Wis.—The Seahawks locker room was quiet Sunday evening, which was to be expected considering their season just came to an end.
But there was also a lot of optimism about the future that was evident underneath the pain following a 28-23 divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Seahawks have battled back so many times to win games this season, and they nearly did it again, turning a 21-3 halftime deficit into a one-score game in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't quite finish this one out. Even so, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll saw a lot he liked from his team, and he feels like this season is one they can build off of moving forward.
"And I'm so proud of this team," Carroll said. "I mean, this is this team. The fans that follow us and watch us, they know. You've seen us. And I hope at home that as it started happening you could imagine it happening again because we surely did, and I hope that it conveyed to the people that follow us, the 12s and the great following that we have, this I think is the start of this team, and I think this is—it feels like 2012 all over again… This was so similar. I mean, there was not a guy on that sideline that we were connected to that thought we weren't going to win that football game, all the way until we didn't. That is what this thing has felt like the whole time, the whole year, and it's an amazing chemistry, and it's an amazing group, and the leadership and Bobby and K.J. and Russ and Duane Brown, who did an unbelievable thing today to play in this football game. I don't know how he did it. He got operated on three weeks ago. Just the kind of stuff that these guys are made of. So I'm really proud to be a part of it, and I know that they're proud of each other and proud, as well."
Proud as the Seahawks were of the grit they showed, they also know they missed out on a big opportunity to extend their season another week. The Seahawks couldn't get going on offense until the second half, and they struggled all game to stop the Packers, and in particular the duo of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, especially on third down. So in a season full of close games—the Seahawks were 10-2 in one-score games during the regular season and won another one in Philadelphia last week—they couldn't quite finish this one off.
"We're still terribly disappointed, because we should still be playing," Carroll said. "We were an inch a week ago, a couple weeks ago, and we're an inch on that one right there, too, one way or the other, and that's how close it is sometimes, so we've got to make those inches become on our side and do better in a lot of ways."
Still, as bad as things were in the first half, the Seahawks managed to fight their way back into it with touchdowns on three straight drives in the third and fourth quarters, and the defense came up with a couple of stops late to give the offense one more chance to win it.
"We have a mindset that's very resilient, that believes in one another, that feels that no matter what the situation is, good bad or indifferent, we are always in a good spot to win," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. "Today was no different. We started off slow, but we made our adjustments at halftime, and were able to fight our way back into the game. We just ran out of time."
A big reason Seattle was able to come back was the play of Russell Wilson, who passed for 277 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 64 yards. He said he finishes the season with no regrets even if Sunday's result was disappointing.
"It's part of the journey," Wilson said. "I've come to realize, being my eighth year, that it's part of the journey to leave it all on the field. You have no regrets. That's the thing, especially this year in particular, we have no regrets. Every play, every game, we left everything we have, every practice. That's the thing about this team that's been really special, a lot of fun. This being my eighth year, I feel like I'm just beginning. That's a good feeling. To be healthy through it all too, but just to be in my eighth year and realize that the journey is just beginning for the Seattle Seahawks, it's a good thing, a good feeling."
Added left tackle Duane Brown, "We've got a lot to be proud of, and a lot to build on… We've displayed that resiliency throughout the year, coming down to the last minute of the game. That's just who we are, and that's not easy. Obviously, we would have loved to have started faster, but to get down by that much in this environment against a Hall of Fame quarterback and fight our way back into it, that's just who we are as a team. I respect and love everybody in this locker room for the way we battled. You can't ask for much more."
One reason Carroll was particularly proud of this group was because of all the team has had to overcome to get this far. The Seahawks played Sunday's game with their starting center their top three running backs on injured reserve, as well as their starting tight end and one of their backup tight ends. They were without left guard Mike Iupati because of a neck injury, then his backup, Jamarco Jones left the game with a concussion, leaving rookie Phil Haynes to play his first NFL snaps in a playoff game. Brown, meanwhile, was playing only 20 days after having knee surgery and with one limited day of practice under his belt. And that's just on offense. On defense, the Seahawks were without strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been gutting it out through a core injury since Week 10.
"Think of all we've overcome, and think of how tough we were playing again," Carroll said. "Think of all of the stuff that you can just go boom, boom, boom, boom. And I don't even know. I mean, I don't have the list in my head because I haven't thought that way. But there's so many reasons why it was tough to do what we were doing, and the guys just kept coming through.
"I'm telling you, Duane Brown, he had his knee operated on three weeks ago and he played in this football game. He didn't take a step in practice that he could go from. He just willed it to happen on this day for this team, and he told them last night in the meeting, 'I'm playing, you can count on me, I'm going to give you everything I've got.' And he was an inspiration throughout the whole thing. I don't know how well he played; I don't care. Just the fact that he was out there was extraordinary. And these are the kinds of things that happen in the league now and then, happen in professional sports now and then that just blow you away, and this was one of them."
No, Sunday's game didn't have the storybook ending the Seahawks were hoping for, but they feel like this can be a launching off point for big things in 2020.
"If we use it how we're supposed to use it and we grow, next season should be a really good season," he said. "It kind of feels like 2012."