Seattle Seahawks

We have to stop holding Seahawks to last year’s expectations

It’s wrong to think that Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs marked the end of the great run of success by the Seattle Seahawks.

Because, in the first place, you can’t credit the 2014 team with the Super Bowl win by its predecessor.

This is a different team and a different group of players.

Safety Earl Thomas made that point inadvertently in the locker room after the 24-20 loss at frigid Arrowhead Stadium.

Thomas was wrong when he was critical of his own play, because he was brilliant in forcing two fumbles and serving as the back-line savior when many other Seahawks missed tackles.

But he was so compellingly accurate when he said the Seahawks are “still a good football team.”

That’s exactly what they are, at 6-4: A good football team.

But “good” doesn’t get you back to the Super Bowl.

And at this point, “good” may not get you back into the playoffs, either, especially when your final six games are against five teams with winning records, and another one that already defeated you.

Defensive end Cliff Avril, meanwhile, said that the Seahawks “gotta get back to being ourselves.”

But there’s the root of the problem. That’s why they’ve been downgraded from great to good — they aren’t their old selves. These are the new “selves.”

This is a new team, one that doesn’t have Brandon Mebane and Bobby Wagner, injured defenders who filled their run gaps and tended to make the kind of tackles that would have helped slow down Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

Charles ran through or around seemingly dozens of ineffective Seahawks tackle attempts on the way to 159 yards rushing.

“Obviously, we couldn’t stop the run,” Avril said. “That was the biggest challenge — tackling, making the plays we’re supposed to make, being where we’re supposed to be. We pride ourselves on being a sound defense. I guess today we weren’t as sound as we’d like to be.”

Coach Pete Carroll pointed out that the defense had been giving up fewer than 80 yards rushing a game, so that would indicate they’d tackled well this season.

“I don’t know why we didn’t tackle (today),” Carroll said. “We really take great pride in that.”

But Sunday, the line didn’t get off blocks and the linebackers didn’t fill their gaps, and almost nobody wrapped up ball carriers.

Beyond that, the Seahawks not only didn’t get a sack of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, they didn’t get a single quarterback hit, either, while K.C. racked up a pair of sacks and nine hits.

And on offense, this version of the Seahawks, down the stretch, had Patrick Lewis at center for injured Max Unger, and two newly acquired players — tight end Tony Moeaki and fullback Will Tukuafu — playing key roles.

Those guys are still learning the playbook, and I’m still trying to figure out where all their vowels go.

Still, the offense rushed for 204 yards, another statistical accomplishment after last week’s 350 yards. And Russell Wilson passed for two touchdowns and added another 71 rushing yards to Marshawn Lynch’s 124.

The numbers are fine. But when they needed the big play, the game-changing play, the play that lifts a good team to great, they came up empty.

On a fourth down on the 2-yard line, receiver Doug Baldwin got bumped off his route in the end zone. No flag, no points.

And on a fourth-and-1 rush when they were fighting to sustain a fourth-quarter drive, Lynch got stuffed for no gain. On five trips inside the red zone, the Seahawks came up with two touchdowns.

Asked about the team’s four losses, relative to the three they had all last season, linebacker K.J. Wright made the important point.

“We’re not going to try to compare last year to this year,” Wright said. “This is our season. And we control winning the rest of our games.”

Exactly. Being great last season has made them the target of every opponent this season.

They still have six games to go from good to great.

But they’ll have to start by tackling better, because they have the division-leading Arizona Cardinals coming to CenturyLink Field eager to add to Seattle’s woes.