Some version of music blared in the Seahawks locker room Sunday, but not everybody was happy.
Richard Sherman, typically a charming chatterbox after his team wins, showered and dressed without saying anything other than “I ain’t talking.”
A few feet away, Kam Chancellor was asked why the Hawks’ 37-18, never-in-doubt knockout of the San Francisco 49ers found his Legion of Boom colleague in such a sour mood.
“Same reason I’m upset,” said Chancellor. “We just want to finish. When you’ve got a team at three points, you want to keep ‘em there. You don’t want to do anything different. You want to finish well.”
Through three quarters, the Seahawks held San Francisco’s no-huddle offense to 132 yards. Six of 10 drives ended without a first down. So incapable were the 49ers of mustering anything that could be interpreted as progress, the question wasn’t whether they’d score a touchdown.
The question was whether head coach Chip Kelly would replace quarterback Blaine Gabbert with backup Colin Kaepernick.
But early in the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks leading 37-3, Gabbert led the Niners on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by running back Carlos Hyde’s virtually uncontested jaunt into the end zone. Moments later, after quarterback Trevone Boykin threw an interception at midfield, Hyde bulled in for another touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion.
Nothing about the garbage-time rally mattered, of course, except to arouse Sherman’s fury. The cornerback apparently wasn’t inclined to consider how a 37-3 lead might tend to produce some complacence in a defense that’s been going full-throttle against the no-huddle.
“That shows you the passion we have about some of the stuff we do out there,” said defensive end Cliff Avril. “We gave up too many points at the end. That’s not our type of football. That’s not what we do. That’s not what we pride ourselves on.”
Passion is an admirable trait, but as every coach in NFL history has pointed out at one time or another, it’s hard to win games in that league, much less achieve something akin to perfection. Enjoying a victory for a few hours — any victory — is probably healthier than stewing over two inconsequential touchdowns.
At least that’s how defensive end Michael Bennett sees it.
“I don’t know why everybody’s mad,” he said. “It’s all about wins and losses. If you win, it’ a great game. If you lose, it’s a bad game. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
“We’re the best defense in the NFL. We haven’t given up a lot of yards, and we’re doing the things you’re supposed to do to win.”
A source of the frustration about surrendering 15 fourth-quarter points might be an absence of respect toward Gabbert. Nothing personal — they don’t know the guy, probably never have met him — but when a quarterback destined to finish the afternoon with a 51.9 rating (in layman’s terms, a grade of “F”) presided over a pair of touchdown drives, it rankled a defense that had given up only one TD in two games.
Asked about the challenge of trying to contain Gabbert, Bennett smiled.
“There is no challenge,” he said. “He threw for 100 yards.”
Actually, he threw for 112 yards on 24 attempts, but you get the idea.
“The challenge,” Bennett continued, “is him reading the defenses and staying in the pocket. What’s the point in running when you have to throw the ball? I think Kaepernick gives the team a better chance to win, but that’s just my opinion.”
As for Sherman’s opinion, it’s almost always accessible. But not on Sunday, when a dominant victory was not finished with a flourish.
Winning is hard. For a defense in quest of perfection, enjoying winning is even harder.