Pete Carroll now has the reason the Seahawks started so poorly this season. It’s the reason they are headed to arctic Minnesota this weekend instead of into a playoff bye resting for a home game.
They had a hangover.
For the first time publicly, the Seahawks’ coach used that term while admitting this week it took his team much of the first half of the regular season to get over the stunning effects of Seattle’s last-second interception from the 1-yard line and loss 11 months ago to New England in Super Bowl 49.
“I think we had some hangover from it,” said Carroll on Monday, during the start of preparations for the sixth-seeded Seahawks (10-6) to open their NFC playoffs Sunday at third-seeded and NFC North-champion Minnesota (11-5).
“We had to get through (it) to finish the season. There was no question it had a big impact. And we did it. We made it.
“But it had an impact.”
Carroll says now the players’ and coaches’ reactions to coming so close but not winning a second consecutive Super Bowl were natural.
They were also time-consuming. The Seahawks started this most uneven of seasons 0-2, 2-4 and 4-5.
“That’s just a microcosm of life. You have to deal with stuff and then you move ahead,” Carroll said. “You have to deal with it properly, and put it in the right place, and then get on. It just took us some time. I think we had some hangover from it.
“Look at the history of the teams coming out of the Super Bowl. How well are they doing the next year? It’s a most challenging event to endure for a program, and staff, and players, and fans, and all of that.
“I’m proud to say we’re still fighting and here we go again. We’ll see what happens.”
There were other factors, of course, to the Seahawks’ poor start before this now-customary December rush into a fourth consecutive postseason. Strong safety Kam Chancellor’s holdout dragged on through the season’s first two games. Those were losses at St. Louis — when his replacement, since-released Dion Bailey, fell down in coverage in the final seconds to allow the tying touchdown — and at Green Bay.
The offensive line had starters in three new positions, including a former undrafted college defensive tackle, Drew Nowak. Nowak was making his NFL debut at center to replace two-time Pro Bowler Max Unger, who was traded. Nowak eventually got benched after five games. His replacement, Patrick Lewis, has been a revelation.
Russell Wilson was sacked a league-high 31 times in the first seven games behind that line, and looked spooked by attempting to stand in a pocket that kept collapsing on him. Over the last half of the season, after Lewis entered to recognize defenses and make protection calls, the pocket has mostly been trustworthy. Wilson became the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and at least 30 touchdown passes in a season.
But until now, Carroll had dismissed the talk of a Super Bowl “hangover” as a figment of imaginations belonging to those outside team headquarters. He blew off the notion as recently as Dec. 13, when he was asked about it by an East Coast writer during his postgame press conference following the win at Baltimore.
“That’s the furthest thing on our minds right now,” Carroll said that day. “It has nothing to do with nothing.”
Now, admittedly, it has everything to do with why the Seahawks are the conference’s second wild card, why they are heading into the possibly coldest game in the franchise’s 40-year history.
The updated forecasts for Minneapolis on Sunday should shock the Seahawks — any human, really — out of any lingering hangover of any kind: a high temperature of 5, a low of minus-6 and a windchill of minus-25.
Now that’s sobering.
The Vikings are in the final weeks of playing outside at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. The on-campus venue across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis is the Vikings’ temporary home between the demolition of the Metrodome downtown and the construction of Minnesota’s new, domed U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Seahawks say the coldest game they’ve ever played was 16 degrees on Dec. 3, 2006, a 23-20 night win at Denver. The coldest they’ve been in recently was last season, Nov. 16, 2014, a 21-degree day at Kansas City with a windchill of 10.
It’s going to be even cold for Minnesotans on Sunday. The Vikings’ coldest home game in their temporary stadium was Nov. 30, 2014, when it was 12 degrees.
In fact, this could be the coldest Vikings home game in 44 years. It was zero degrees with a windchill of minus-18 on Dec. 10, 1972, at old Metropolitan Stadium when Minnesota hosted rival Green Bay.
Marshawn Lynch might not mind the cold. The Seahawks cornerstone running back, who had abdominal surgery Nov. 25, hasn’t played since Nov. 15 against Arizona. In that game last season at Kansas City, the coldest November game the Chiefs have hosted at Arrowhead Stadium, Lynch almost-defiantly stayed on the field throughout halftime instead of joining his teammates thawing inside.
Lynch was scheduled to work out again Tuesday at team headquarters after rejoining the Seahawks there Monday. He had been in his native Bay Area rehabilitating with his personal trainers in a San Francisco gym from the first week of December through last weekend. Carroll said Lynch will practice Wednesday, and that will give the team a read on how game-ready he is for his expected start Sunday against the Vikings.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
Seahawks’ next opponent
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (11-5)
10:05 a.m. Sunday, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Line: Seahawks by 5 1/2.
Against the Seahawks: Seahawks lead the regular-season series 9-5. This is the first meeting in the playoffs. The Seahawks beat the Vikings in Minneapolis, 38-7, on Dec. 6.
What to know: The Vikings are the NFC’s third seed. They won the NFC North, the franchise’s 19th division title, by winning Sunday at Green Bay. … The Vikings are 13-7 all-time in home playoff games. … The Vikings last made the playoffs in 2012, when they lost in the first round at Green Bay as a sixth seed. … This is the first outdoor home playoff game for Minnesota since 1976 at old Metropolitan Stadium. … The current forecast for Sunday in Minneapolis: a high of 5 degrees, low of minus-6 and a wind chill of minus-25. That would be the coldest Vikings home game since 1972, when it was zero at “The Met” with a minus-18 wind chill for a December game against Green Bay. … RB Adrian Peterson returned from a one-season suspension to win the NFL rushing title for the third time in his career. He had 1,485 yards with 11 touchdowns in the regular season. … Against Seattle last month, Peterson gained just 18 yards, the third-lowest of the 30-year old’s career and second-lowest since his rookie season of 2007. … Seattle had 433 total yards Dec. 6 to just 125 for Minnesota. The Seahawks’ edge in yards rushing over what was then the NFL’s top-ranked running game was 173-31. Seattle’s bulge in first downs was 25-9. … QB Teddy Bridgewater’s 118 yards in 28 passes against Seattle last month were his season low until he had 99 yards Sunday at Green Bay. The interception he threw against the Packers was a bad choice he threw left-handed. Before that, Bridgewater had completed 70 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in the three games after facing Seattle. … WR Stefon Diggs’ 52 catches led Minnesota. TE Kyle Rudolph had a team-high five touchdown receptions. … For the season, Bridgewater had 14 TD passes and nine interceptions. … The Vikings had the 29th-ranked offense in the regular season (fourth in rushing and 31st in passing). They were 16th in points scored. … Minnesota’s defense was missing four starters last month against Seattle. DT Linval Joseph and S Andrew Sendejo were out. Standout LB Anthony Barr and S Harrison Smith left injured in the first half. All are expected back for this one. … DE Everson Griffen led the Vikings with 10.5 sacks. The first meeting with the Seahawks was one of his six games this season without a sack. … Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 32 yards per kickoff return and had Minnesota’s only score last month against the Seahawks. … Minnesota was 13th in total defense in the regular season (17th against the run, 12th against the pass). But the Vikings were fifth in scoring defense, allowing 18.9 points per game.
Quotable: “Apparently, we just need to watch St. Louis play them and do what they do.” — Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway to USA Today on what his team needs to do to beat the Seahawks as he exited Lambeau Field on Sunday night.