Seahawks’ Carroll admits Super Bowl hangover

RENTON — That’s it!

Pete Carroll now has the reason the Seattle Seahawks started so poorly this season. It’s the reason they are headed to arctic Minnesota this weekend instead of into a playoff bye resting for a home game.

They were hung over.

For the first time publicly, the Seahawks’ coach used that term while admitting this week it took his team much of the first half to this season to get over the stunning effects of Seattle’s last-second interception from the 1-yard line and loss 11 months ago to New England in Super Bowl 49.

“I think we had some hangover from it,” Carroll said Monday, the start of preparations for the sixth-seeded Seahawks (10-6) opening their NFC playoffs Sunday at third-seeded and NFC North-champion Minnesota (11-5).

“We had to get through (it) to the finish to the season. There was no question it had a big impact. And we did it. We made it.

“But it had an impact.”

Carroll says now the players’ and coaches’ reactions to coming so close but not winning a second consecutive Super Bowl were natural.

They were also time-consuming. The Seahawks start this most uneven of seasons 0-2, 2-4 and 4-5.

“That’s just a microcosm of life. You have to deal with stuff and then you move ahead,” Carroll said. “You have to deal with it properly, and put it in the right place, and then get on. It just took us some time. I think we had some hangover from it.

“Look at the history of the teams coming out of the Super Bowl. How well are they doing the next year? It’s a most challenging event to endure for a program, and staff, and players, and fans, and all of that.

“I’m proud to say we’re still fighting. And here we go again. We’ll see what happens.”

There were other factors, of course, to the Seahawks’ poor start before this now-customary December rush into a fourth consecutive postseason. Strong safety Kam Chancellor’s holdout dragged on through the season’s first two games. Those were losses at St. Louis — when his replacement, then-released Dion Bailey, fell down in coverage in the final seconds to allow the tying touchdown — and at Green Bay.

The offensive line had starters in three new positions, including a former undrafted college defensive tackle, Drew Nowak, making his NFL debut at center to replace traded, two-time Pro Bowler Max Unger. Nowak eventually got benched after five games. His replacement, Patrick Lewis, has been a revelation.

Russell Wilson got sacked a league-high 31 times in the first seven games behind that line, and looked spooked by attempting to stand in a pocket that kept collapsing on him. Over the last half of the season, after Lewis entered to recognize defenses and make protection calls, the pocket has mostly been trusty. Wilson became the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and at least 30 touchdown passes in a season.

But until now, Carroll had dismissed the talk of a Super Bowl “hangover” as a figment of imaginations belonging to those outside team headquarters. He blew off the notion as recently as Dec. 13, when he was asked about it by an East Coast writer during his postgame press conference following the win at Baltimore.

“That’s the furthest things on our minds right now,” Carroll said that day. “It has nothing to do with nothing.”

Note

Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ cornerstone running back, is coming back this week after not playing since Nov. 15 against Arizona and then abdominal surgery Nov. 25.

Lynch was scheduled to work out again Tuesday at team headquarters after rejoining the Seahawks there on Monday. He had been in his native Bay Area rehabilitating with his personal trainers in a San Francisco gym from the first week of December through last weekend. Carroll said Lynch will practice Wednesday, and that will give the team the read on how game-ready he is for his expected start Sunday against the Vikings.

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