All the experts predicted this for the Seahawks.
Except they expected it to happen last season.
The Seahawks probably deserve a lot of credit for making it as far as they did before all the institutionalized pitfalls of NFL success struck with this much force.
After the Super Bowl win two seasons ago, the list of perils were enumerated by everyone who had borne witness to the death of dynasties in the era of free agency.
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Everybody wants more money, they warned. You can’t pay everybody.
Other teams save their best games and most fervent effort for your meeting. They study you harder and slowly a blueprint gets built on how to best defend your best plays and players.
The psychology had proven itself over time: The hungry hunter is more fierce than the fatted prey.
Off-the-field distractions become more pronounced. Fame brings opportunities, but also diversions from the task at hand — getting better as a team.
After all, how can anybody sustain those motivational shoulder-chips when every time they turn on the TV, their faces are on an endorsement, or their pictures of weekend beach get-aways are fodder for the on-line tabloids?
No matter how earnest the preparation and drive, the change in lifestyle has to dull an athlete’s competitive fervor. Has to.
More practically, you play all those extra games in the playoffs — year after year — which leaves you with so much more punishment but such a short offseason to recover. Those players needing surgery simply aren’t ready to be back on the field come training camp. That obviously affects the readiness for the regular season.
With careful planning and budgeting, you might keep a good number of your veterans, but then there’s scant room for the young depth-chart guys to get experience and ripen.
And that impact is only heightened when you miss on some key draft picks.
All of that was supposed to derail the Seahawks in 2014. But they still won the NFC title and came a yard from a second Super Bowl win.
Congratulations, Seahawks, you forestalled what everyone said was the inevitable.
But this is it. Sunday’s 39-32 loss to Arizona at home was by most indications the closing of the “window” of realistic title contention.
They haven’t given up that many points at home since a Nov. 28, 2010 loss to Kansas City (42-24).
Against the Cardinals, they surrendered more than 300 passing yards, more than 100 rushing yards, and saw two opposing receivers have 100-plus yards in catches.
They countered with only eight Marshawn Lynch carries (42 yards) and 14 Russell Wilson pass completions (the same number as accepted penalties against them).
The defense was spectacular at times, even dominating again, with Kam Chancellor making 19 tackles, Cliff Avril creating great pressure, and K.J. Wright ball-hawking.
But so many of the basic tenets held as true have been proven wrong.
It turns out you can win the turnover battle and lose the game. You can have so many penalties it kills you in the end. And you can lose the game by getting too far behind in the first half.
And maybe even games get officiated differentially because everybody is attuned to your reputation.
Maybe opponents have been quicker to learn exactly what the 2015 Seahawks are than the Seahawks have been. Maybe losing the Super Bowl pulled back their veil of invincibility. Maybe other teams came to believe they can beat the Seahawks, while they, themselves, still don’t quite believe other teams can.
They still seem so surprised in the locker room after losses.
It’s possible, though, that the Seahawks are better situated than most defrocked champs to open the next window of contention, considering they have so many of their core guys under contract.
The talent is still there. But talent alone doesn’t win. Talent can get distracted. Talent can get satisfied.
The fix? Most mental, I’d say. They have to play smarter, and once again capture the air of plucky underdoggery that drove them in the first place.