GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — In the silence of the locker room, Byron Maxwell was already addressing the most important challenge Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks will face going forward.
One play on Sunday night changed the story for the Seattle Seahawks.
Instead of becoming the first repeat champions in a decade and having the chance to be the next NFL dynasty, the question now is whether the Seahawks can avoid becoming a fractured team because of what happened.
“Like I said earlier, we have to stick together,” Maxwell said. “That’s the most important thing right now.”
The fallout from Seattle’s 28-24 loss is only beginning and the game will be debated until the 2015 regular season begins. Facing second-and-goal at the New England 1 with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Seahawks opted for a slant pass from Russell Wilson to Ricardo Lockette, which was intercepted by Malcolm Butler, instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch.
It was a puzzling decision to call for a pass play in the situation. In the immediate aftermath, it was already being considered one of the worst play calls in Super Bowl history. Some Seahawks players were openly questioning why the ball wasn’t handed to Lynch.
And that’s what Carroll will have to confront, to make certain what happened does not shatter what the Seahawks have built.
They will still be young and fiery and talented when next season begins. But they’ll also have this game hanging over them.
“I’m not sure it does much to our legacy,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “I think we’ve got a bunch of fourth- and fifth-year guys and we’ll have a chance to, through God’s grace, get back here and have another chance at it.”
Seattle was on the cusp of pulling out one of the great Super Bowl victories. They were resilient in the first half, capped by their 31-second touchdown drive at the end of the first half to pull even at 14-14.
They dominated the third quarter while building a 10-point lead. And even after watching Tom Brady pick apart Seattle’s defense in the fourth quarter and rally for two touchdowns, Wilson led one final drive to put the Seahawks on the doorstep of an amazing rally, including Jermaine Kearse’s remarkable juggling catch that is now an afterthought.
It was everything Carroll has tried to build in Seattle, a team that, as Bill Belichick said earlier in the week, will “play for 60 minutes.”
“It was us. It felt like it was meant to be after Kearse caught that ball,” Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “It was like it was meant to be and we couldn’t finish it.”
There’s no reason to think Seattle can’t put itself in position to be playing for another championship next season due to the continuity of its defense. Most of the important pieces are locked up at least through the 2016 season, including three members of the “Legion of Boom” secondary: Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright are also taken care of long-term. Bobby Wagner will be in line for an extension this offseason as well.
Aside from trying to shake the sting of what happened, who the Seahawks want to be going forward will be defined. Wilson will get paid this offseason, likely with one of the largest contracts ever for a quarterback.
But what does Seattle do with Lynch? He was the hottest name of the Super Bowl for his antics and remains one of the most respected players in the locker room. He’ll be 29 when next season starts with a history of a balky back and a cap hit of $8.5 million for the final year of his deal.
“It’s a similar situation to last year,” Carroll said. “Everybody has difficult decisions you have to make this time of year. They’ll come up in time. How we’ll make it back is one day at a time. One day at a time.”
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