The Best 'Losing' Team in Football
Seahawks enjoying their playoff ride.
By: Mitch Light | 1/16/11, 9:00 AM EST
By Ralph Vacchiano
The fact that the Seattle Seahawks were even in the playoffs didn’t sit well in New York and Tampa Bay, where the 10-win Giants and Buccaneers were already dispatched to their offseason vacations. And collectively, the nation laughed that, for the first time in NFL history, a 7-9 team would play in a playoff game.
But the Seahawks didn’t laugh. And nobody’s laughing at them anymore.
They shook up the world and the NFL playoffs on Sunday with their hard-to-believe 41-36 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. They were the only home team to win, and they did it against a team many thought might be the most dangerous in the NFC.
They did it in style, with an unheralded quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, standing toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and throwing four touchdown passes. They did it wan unwanted running back, Marshawn Lynch, finishing the Saints off with a touchdown run so powerful, the cheers from the Qwest Field crowd literally shook the Earth.
And when they did it, they were still facing this unfathomable reality: They still are not a .500 team.
“We just beat the world champs and that’s a great feeling,” Hasselbeck said. “And we worked hard to do it. It wasn’t like it kind of happened. We worked hard this week, and we prepared, and we believed and we laid it on the line.”
“It’s funny I’m so calm about this,” added Pete Carroll, the coach in his first year back in the NFL. “You’d all think that I’d be all pumped up and jacked up, but there is just a calm about it. I’m just so proud to be part of this thing.”
Nobody really knows what “this thing” is yet for the 8-9 Seahawks, who next travel to Chicago on Sunday to face the Bears (11-5) in an NFC Divisional playoff game. There’s a pretty good chance that the thing was a fluke, aided by one of the loudest home crowds in the NFL, injuries to their opposition, and a bit of a Super Bowl hangover for the Saints.
But the beauty of the thing is that the possibilities are endless for a team that, incredibly, would need to win the Super Bowl to finish over .500 for the season. It’s a testament to what players around the NFL always say this time of year — it doesn’t matter how you get to the playoffs, just that you get there.
And once you’re there, all you need to do is believe. And the Seahawks definitely believe.
“I think what’s clear to me is that we have a bunch of guys that are really together on how we think and how we approach our opportunities,” Carroll said. “And they realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s outside. It has to do with what we do. The lessons in the last two weeks (when they beat the Rams to win the division, and then upset the Saints) are so clear about that. The way we performed last week and the way we came back this week, they’re starting to own it.
“And that’s what makes you powerful.”
Still, it’s not enough to make anyone outside of Seattle feel they were deserving. Certainly the Bucs and Giants took note of the fact that they each won three more games than the Seahawks and still didn’t earn a playoff spot. And the Saints took note of the fact that they won four more games and had to make the trip to the Seahawks’ home.
Critics also point to their 7-9 record despite playing six games in the worst division in football (where they went 4-2). They were just 2-6 on the road. They were outscored during the season by 97 points — a wider margin than all but three other teams, and all three of those teams finished last in their respective division.
Not surprisingly, the Seahawks’ appearance has sparked the predictable cry for re-seeding so that the teams with the better records host games in the wild card round. Many simply believe that a team with a losing record does not belong in the postseason.
That’s fine, and you can certainly debate that all you want — and the competition committee undoubtedly will in the coming months. But here’s the thing: The Seahawks did what they had to do under the current rules. There was no requisite number of wins. They won their division. They got in.
And now that they’re in, they may still be a losing team, but don’t try telling that to the Saints. The football world can laugh all it wants, but the Seahawks are still playing while 24 other teams are watching them on TV.
“I’m having fun with this,” Carroll said. “I’m enjoying it. And we’re going to see how far we can ride it.”
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