I say embrace Adversity, then send her packing for playoffs

December 25, 2013 

The offense appears stagnant, and doubts are mounting about whether the electrifying athlete obtained to provide it with a jolt will be available for the playoffs.

A defense that prides itself for neither bending nor breaking has allowed two late scoring drives in three weeks. One culminated in a game-deciding field goal with almost no time remaining; the other resulted in a touchdown that stunned a famously boisterous home crowd into silence.

December has not been too kind to the Seattle Seahawks, who Sunday called upon Mystique and Aura – the twin sisters the team has come to regard as family in 2013 – only to meet their mysterious sibling.

Adversity.

Said wide receiver Doug Baldwin after a 17-10 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals dropped the Seahawks’ December record to 1-2: “I love adversity.”

Likewise, Doug. Adversity belongs on any list of a few of my favorite things, alongside torn fingernails, lost keys, broken washing machines, and early-morning phone calls received from area codes I don’t recognize.

“Everything is in front of us. Everything is still in front of us,” said defensive end Red Bryant, typically accentuating the positive. “That’s what’s so great about adversity: It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you respond.”

Adversity, in other words, is what you make of her, and the Seahawks are making it sound she’s Ma Kettle in the kitchen, fussing over the chicken soup that will warm their souls.

For all the character-building

lessons she figures to bring a football team that entered December on cruise control, adversity is better suited as a house guest between, say, Halloween and Thanksgiving rather than Christmas and New Year’s Day.

I could be mistaken, but I don’t remember anybody associated with the Seahawks – fans included – brooding about how the team’s 11-1 start needed to be peppered with concerns. I don’t remember anybody hoping that a running game built around Marshawn Lynch would lose its punch, or that a passing game, absent a consistently dynamic threat, would find quarterback Russell Wilson desperate to break a huddle positioning Percy Harvin on the flank.

I don’t remember anybody contending a 12-3 record after 15 games was preferable to 14-1.

But, hey, that’s what happened. Adversity appeared on the front porch, knocked on the door, and the Seahawks had no other choice than to offer a hug and say: “Hello, stranger! Where ya been? We thought you’d never show up!”

At first blush, the notion of a home-stretch struggle toughening up a playoff-bound team sounds absurd. Of the 47 teams that have won the Super Bowl, 17 went undefeated in regular-season games after Nov. 30.

The 1966 Green Bay Packers, champions of the inaugural Super Bowl, were 3-0 in December. The 1972 Miami Dolphins were as perfect during the final month of the regular season as they were in the three months preceding it. The 1976 Oakland Raiders took a 10-game winning streak into the playoffs and never looked back.

Same with the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, who finished the regular season on a nine-game winning streak. The 2003 New England Patriots? They were 2-2 in late September, then reeled off 12 consecutive victories before taking care of business in the postseason.

Those conspicuously flawed Pittsburgh Steelers of 2005, who beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, were familiar with the vibe of a late-season roll. After falling to 7-5 and facing elimination, they won their final four games on the schedule, and three more road games in the playoffs, before colliding with Seattle at the “neutral” site of Detroit.

And yet, if the Seahawks manage to win the Super Bowl after an anticipated December victory lap turned into an obstacle course, they’ll join some distinguished company.

The 1985 Chicago Bears, regarded among the best NFL teams ever assembled, suffered their only loss in a game in December. Of the 198 points scored against them, 71 were given up in the last four games. They surrendered 10 in the postseason.

More recently, six of the past seven Super Bowl champions have lost at least two games after November. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts went 2-3. The 2009 New Orleans Saints, at 13-0, were flirting with history before the Dallas Cowboys beat them on Dec. 19.

“This is going to sting for a while, but we’ve got to put this behind us,” quarterback Drew Brees said when the Saints were denied perfection. “It’s all about the next game.”

The next game was lost, in overtime, to Tampa Bay, and the season finale was a 23-10 drubbing taken at Carolina.

Speeches made by Saints players, after the parade that snaked through the streets of New Orleans, did not dwell on the three defeats at the end of the regular season.

And then there were the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, the reigning world champions. The Ravens weren’t the first team to encounter tribulation en route to the Super Bowl, and they won’t be the last, but it would be safe to describe the road they took as untraveled.

Seemingly entrenched for playoff competition, with a 9-2 record, the Ravens lost four of their five December games. Amid the skid, after a 31-28 defeat in overtime at Washington, Ravens coach John Harbaugh replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell.

The coaching staff shakeup, announced on Dec. 10, engendered assumptions the Ravens were a mess. Such assumptions were mistaken.

“We’re going to hit our stride during the playoffs,” running back Ray Rice said after Baltimore lost to Cincinnati in the regular-season finale.

Rice was right, the Ravens hit their stride. They survived a 1-4 record in December, going 3-0 in January and 1-0 in February. Adversity visited the Ravens, and adversity was embraced.

Adversity now has moved to Seattle. Stay as long as you want, dearest buttercup, but if you have to cut your stay short and leave in a few days, we’ll understand.

john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com

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