The king is dead.
Or at least mostly dead.
The Seahawks deserved their fate, to lose 39-32 on Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
A championship team can’t play this poorly for so much of a game, as the Seahawks did, and hope to beat another good and highly motivated team.
Arizona came into CenturyLink Field and ripped the division crown off the Seahawks’ heads.
The Seahawks, now 4-5, have very little hope of catching the Cardinals (7-2) in the NFC West division. While a wild-card playoff berth is still possible, who can say how the Seahawks will react to being so ruthlessly deposed on their own field?
Who’s to blame?
I’ll put this one on coach Pete Carroll and his staff, the same guys who built this into an elite team over the past few years and who deserved all the credit they received for so long.
Here’s why: When a team comes into a crucial game like this one, and its first-half offense is little more than a slapstick series of holding calls and drops, and penalties plague both sides of the ball, it’s clear it’s not prepared well enough to win.
Is it the coaches’ faults that a lineman holds on a big gain, or a defender interferes? Well, yeah, to some extent it is.
The 14 penalties for 131 yards repeatedly sustained Cardinals drives and killed Seahawks drives. That many penalties, in so many crucial plays, isn’t being aggressive — it’s being undisciplined.
That’s been the way the Seahawks have operated in recent seasons. But this team isn’t good enough to be this lawless.
The biggest failing was not getting the Seahawks ready to come out and take on the team that leads them in the division. The team that has been the biggest threat to depose them in the division.
This game was so clearly the tipping point. A huge head-to-head duel with a team that was trying to take it all away from them, that was coming into your place and stealing the things dear to you.
And you start almost every drive with a penalty that kills your hopes.
How were they not ready? The offense was inexplicably sleepwalking for much of the first half. After 26 minutes of play in the first half, the Hawks had generated 23 yards of net offense.
And this was a team coming off a bye week? That’s the best the offense can do?
There are still a lot of guys on this team that play with the heart of a champion and have the level of competitiveness that got them to two consecutive Super Bowls. But sometimes that’s not enough. That can’t totally overcome flawed execution and penalties.
That competitive heart started to show in the second half, when the defense simply started to score on its own.
With all the honors and accolades the Seahawks defense earned in the past few seasons, 2015 has been characterized by good statistics but little fireworks.
There have been blown coverages and squandered leads. There has been competitiveness but no dominance.
But in the course of the second half Sunday, the defense harassed Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer into a pair of forced fumbles that led to 12 points to get the Seahawks back in the lead — 29-25.
The Seahawks defense had been on the field for so long, though, that the Cardinals gashed them for two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to take it all away.
Now what? The Hawks aren’t used to this. How will they respond to this?
Defensive end Michael Bennett said a couple weeks ago that after you’ve been to a couple Super Bowls, anything short of going back seems like a waste of time.
Well, if even a few of the guys on this team start viewing the final seven games as a waste of time, this will turn into a lost season indeed.