By John Boyle
That was one heck of an exhilarating, but in the end, for Seahawks fans anyway, heartbreaking game. The Seahawks will have an entire offseason to wonder what might have been if they had just started a little better, or if they had gotten something out of those wasted red zone trips in the first half, or if the defense could have gotten a final stop at the end of the game.
Here are three quick thoughts on the game, then we’ll move on to dissecting the season during the week.
1. The start does matter
Pete Carroll loves to preach to his players that “It’s all about the finish.” And in a lot of ways, that is true. Last week the Seahawks struggled early, finished strong and beat Washington by 10 points. But the “It doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish” mantra isn’t entirely accurate either. When you spot a good team like Atlanta a 20-point lead, the margin for error becomes so, so slim. Russell Wilson and the offense were incredibly good in the second half, the defense finally showed up, and the result was a stunning rally that briefly gave Seattle the lead. But had Seattle played even a little better in the first half, that strong finish would have resulted in a double-digit win, not a situation where Matt Ryan could put his team in position to win with two throws.
The Seahawks finished incredibly well aside from that last Atlanta possession. It was mostly the start that did them in.
2. Seattle’s defense is legit, but needs to fix its late-game issues
The Seahawks defense had its flaws, to be sure, but when you allow the fewest points in the league over the course of 16 games, you’re a darn good defense, period. But when the Falcons got the ball with only 31 seconds remaining and still managed to get into field goal range, that wasn’t an isolated incident. The Seahawks also let the Bears tie a game late despite a lead inside of the final minute, and Seattle also surrendered fourth-quarter scores late in losses to Detroit and Miami and Arizona. A defense this talented and productive needs to figure out next season how to be better late in games, especially on the road.
3. The future is bright
One could easily argue that the Seahawks got to this point—11-win regular season, a playoff victory—ahead of schedule, and while Sunday’s loss in Atlanta is sure to sting for a while, the Seahawks have to head into the offseason feeling good about their future.
Nearly every important player is under contract for at least another year, and most importantly, the Seahawks have found a star in quarterback Russell Wilson, who was incredibly impressive in leading the Seahawks back Sunday. In his final game of the season, Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 and two touchdowns. His only interception came on a desperation heave into the end zone at the end of the game, and that yardage total was his highest of the year. Wilson also rushed for 60 yards on seven carries.
Seattle’s playoff run ended on the road, but based on the way the Seahawks finished this season, they have a chance to set it up next year so that they don’t have to travel in the postseason. They have the potential to be NFC No. 1-seed good next season.