Sleepless in Seattle
Although Dallas appears unbeatable, there’s one team you shouldn’t sleep on — Seattle, possessing a kryptonite for the Cowboys’ high-powered offense, by way of the “Legion of Boom.”
Down 5–0, with 55 minutes to play in Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton Manning threw a cross route to Demaryius Thomas, for a gain of three yards, except, once Thomas caught the ball, Seahawks’ Safety, Kam Chancellor, sprinted in and delivered a hit that knocked Thomas back five yards, for a loss of two on the play. You could hear the pop from the TV. It wasn’t so much the physical impact of the hit, that led to jaws dropping around America, rather, seeing a 6'4", 240 pound, receiver, get tossed aside like a rag doll.
After the next three hours of play featured more of the same, culminating in a 43–8 drubbing, and one of the most impressive defensive showings in Super Bowl history, Seattle’s young team, led by second-year Quarterback, Russell Wilson, and anchored by their defensive secondary — Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor — looked to be on the cusp of a modern-day dynasty.
As we’ve been constantly reminded, assumed dynasties are too commonly crowned. And although, back in 2013, it was safe to presume that the Seahawks would have one or two more rings by now, they don’t. Now, it’s year five for the Carroll-Wilson-Sherman-Thomas-Chancellor era. While five years appears to be a short tenure for a group of players in their late 20s, it’s a long time in football years.
This may not be the last chance Seattle has, but for the first time in five years, the window has begun to close.
In sports, for as much as we act like we hate the loud, brash, in-your-face, villain, we love them. We need them. Naturally, it irritates us more when an up-and-coming player or team exudes a self-assured swagger, before winning anything. And while winning a championship shuts the doubters up, it’s funny how time, experience, and familiarity, can turn the villian into a hero.
For instance, take the 1980s Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. In the late ’80s, during a time when the Celtics and Lakers ruled the league, the Pistons were the young, cocky up-starts. After winning back-to-back championships, although they weren’t liked, they were respected. By 1991, the defending champions experienced a dose of their own medicine, by way of the Jordan and Pippen-led, Bulls. Sure, Jordan, Pippen, and the Bulls weren’t as bold as the Bad Boys, yet, they carried themselves with entitlement that hadn’t been earned. Thus, some, not most, fans did a 180 on the Bad Boys. Instead of rooting for the upstarts, they chose to root for the experienced, veteran, villians.
Over the last five years, the Seahawks became the de-facto Bad Boys of the NFL. While their personality, molded after the outspoken, Richard Sherman, is respected — due to their success — it wasn’t always that way.
Back in 2012, the Seahawks were a young team on the cusp of contention. Following an October win over the Patriots that pushed their record to 4–2, Richard Sherman birthed the Seahawks’ audacious identity, by getting in Tom Brady’s face after the game.
Seattle’s newfound swagger grew following a Wild Card win in Washington —when Redskins’ Offensive Tackle, Trent Williams, punched Sherman in the face during a post-game jawing session — and during its Divisional Round loss to Atlanta — in which the Seattle secondary spent the entire afternoon jawing with Falcons’ receivers.
While the Seahawks’ arrogance gained steam during the 2013 season, through their physical and trash-talking secondary — the self-proclaimed “Legion of Boom,” they established themselves as a villain with Sherman’s famous post-NFC Championship game rant — in which he yelled about the softness of 49ers wide receiver, Michael Crabtree.
While The Legion of Boom may have talked the talk, they dismissed any doubt that they walked the walk, with their drubbing of one of the best offenses of all-time — the Broncos — in the Super Bowl. After the win, they approached Bad Boys a la 1989, territory. Like it or not, they were champions. And so, we had to eat our words, and listen to Sherman spew his.
After a last-second loss in Super Bowl XLVIX, the following year, Seattle succumbed to injuries, chemistry problems, and fatigue, last year, losing in the Divisional Round to Carolina.
While the “Legion of Boom” still embodies the same brashness, it’s obvious that they have toned down the trash-talking, with even Sherman, not taking part in his previous “I Told You So” act. Presumably, losing brought them down to earth. Further, seeing the obnoxious champions dethroned has quieted, the once loud Seahawks’ haters. The previous loathing surrounding their defense, has turned into a deep respect.
This year, the Seahawks’ role as villians has been usurped by a young up-start that mirrors their former selves, in the Dallas Cowboys. Led by rookie superstars, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, the offensive juggernaut appears unbeatable, having strung together eleven consecutive wins.
Although the Cowboys’ young duo carries themselves opposite the loudmouthed Seahawks of the past, granted, they’re still the Cowboys. Like their professional sports’ counterparts — Yankees and Lakers — any success acheived by “Americas Team” will be frowned upon. With that said, the hate surrounding Dallas’ success is rooted in three things — the Cowboys as an institution, Jerry Jones, and Dez Bryant.
Ironically, this decade’s version of the Cowboys, led by the heir to Michael Irvin’s throne as the biggest prima donna in the NFL — Dez Bryant — brings hate upon himself, which doesn’t mirror the Cowboys’ future trajectory, by way of Prescott and Elliot. Then again, the Cowboys’ dynasty in the ’90s was also made up of respected, humble superstars, in Quarterback, Troy Aikman and Running Back, Emmit Smith. Only superstar wide receiver, Irvin, celebratized the team, with his unprecedented swagger, bringing forth the distaste surrounding the team’s success.
And so, naturally, it took the historically despised, Cowboys, for the Seahawks to be seen in a new light. And so, in a conference made up of pretenders, Seattle and Dallas appear to be on a collision course toward a January meeting in the NFC Championship Game. The chance at that has me giddy.
Dallas hosting its biggest playoff game since their dynasty in the ’90s; Dak and Zeke’s chance to prove their testicular fortitude under the weight of huge expectations, against the league’s best defense, no less; the Cowboys’ league-best offensive line and Elliot vs. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avrill, and Bobby Wagner; Prescott vs. the Legion of Boom; Dez vs. Sherman; Dez vs. Thomas; Dez running a slant down the middle toward Kam; Wilson’s reputation in big games; Jerryworld vs. the 12th Man; Potentially the NFC’s best team of the late ’10s vs. the NFC’s best team of the early ’10s; And an inevitable post-game rant from Dez or Sherman.
Whatever happens over the last four weeks of the season, even if Dallas goes into the postseason on a fifteen game winnings streak, pause before you crown them as NFC favorites, because, there is veteran defense out West that has proved time and again, it’s not wise to bet against them.
If the Seahawks’ newfound role as a non-villian doesn’t get you excited, than maybe this will — the “Legion of Boom” going into a playoff game, against a rookie quarterback and running back, no less, as overwhelming underdogs.
The last time that happened, it was February 2, 2014. Ask Demaryius Thomas how that worked out.
Here comes the BOOM.