Tuesday, March 9, 2021

This is the defining NFL record of the Russell Wilson era

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It’s records week across all 32 SB Nation NFL sites. Personally I’m partial to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life as my top record sorry, I misinterpreted the theme. We’re actually talking everything from unbreakable league records, to franchise records, unusual records, dubious records, and more. For the Seattle Seahawks, I think there’s one very recent mark that we can all agree is mighty impressive.

From September 9th, 2012 to December 20th, 2015, no one could ever utter the phrase “The Seahawks never led” at the end of a game without being factually inaccurate. Seattle was ahead on the scoreboard for at least a portion of the first 62 regular season starts of Russell Wilson’s potential Hall-of-Fame career. You could add in the 8 postseason games to extend the mark to 70, but usually regular and postseason stats are kept separate, so we’ll stick with 62. This NFL record was finally snapped by the St. Louis Rams in Week 16 of the 2015 season, when St. Louis jumped out to a 16-0 advantage and held on for a 23-17 upset in Seattle. I’m sure Jeff Fisher has a 7’x9’ banner that reads “broke Seattle’s 62-game streak of having a lead” somewhere in his home.

When you consider how commonplace it is in sports for even the very best teams or athletes to have the occasional lousy day at the office, it’s an astounding achievement that encapsulates the “Always Compete” mantra. Even the 14-2 New England Patriots squad of 2010 trailed from start to finish against an eventual 5-11 Cleveland Browns side. The 15-1 Carolina Panthers advanced to the Super Bowl and never led against the Denver Broncos’ vaunted defense. Your reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles never came close to going ahead against Seattle.

In 2012, not only did the Seahawks have a lead in every game — this obviously also meant that Seattle blew its fair share of 4th quarter advantages — they didn’t trail by more than 13 points in the regular season, which is just as phenomenal as the streak itself if you ask me. In the playoffs, they put themselves in an immediate 14-0 hole against Washington and crawled back to score the final 24 points. Against the Atlanta Falcons, they were 20-0 down at halftime and 27-7 heading into the 4th quarter. Russell Wilson spurred an epic comeback to take a 28-27 lead with under a minute to go. We will not rehash what happened after that.

A perfect example of how an unexpectedly bad day can (nearly) fell even a great side is the 2013 Seahawks vs. the 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not a soul would’ve predicted the Bucs storming to a 21-0 start at CenturyLink Field, but it happened. With under two minutes remaining and trailing 24-17, Wilson hooked up with Doug Baldwin for the overtime-forcing touchdown, and the Seahawks’ only lead of the day would be Stephen Hauschka’s game-winning field goal.

In the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks were unable to get their noses in front of the San Francisco 49ers for the first 46 minutes. With 13:44 remaining, this happened.

Comeback complete and a Super Bowl berth eventually achieved. By the way, Super Bowl XLVIII marked the only time that the Denver Broncos and their record-setting offense had not led at any point.

Seattle did not have a regular season close shave in 2014, although you could argue that their first touchdown against the San Diego Chargers should not have counted, as Percy Harvin clearly stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone. 7-3 was Seattle’s only lead of the day, but you also shouldn’t assume that Seattle wouldn’t have scored a touchdown on that drive anyway.

Moving on…

The playoffs rolled around, and the NFC Championship Game saw another annoyingly flat start. It was 16-0 Green Bay Packers at halftime, it easily could’ve been a lot more and a frankly insurmountable deficit even for these Seahawks, but the defense, Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch had other ideas.

The 22-19 lead lasted only 71 seconds, but their next lead was permanent, and one of the most iconic touchdowns in Seahawks history.

In two NFC Championship Game appearances under Wilson, the Seahawks were in front for a combined 14:55 out of a possible 123:19, zero minutes prior to the 4th quarter in those games, and they won both.

Seattle’s final streak-busting scare before the actual streak bust occurred on a Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals in November 2015. Arizona cruised to a 22-7 halftime scoreline, and obituaries were being written for the Seahawks’ NFC West dominance right there.

Not so fast. Enter Bobby Wagner.

Sadly, Arizona did win 39-32, dropping the Seahawks to 4-5, but the 2nd half comeback was the launchpad for Russell Wilson’s otherworldly stretch of dominance.

Even after the 62-game run was over, it would be another year before a different and slightly more specific Seattle streak ended. A 14-5 setback at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the only team Seattle has never led in regulation in the Wilson era — ended a 98-game spell of either having a lead or being within one score in the final quarter, which obviously precedes Wilson and includes a good chunk of the Tarvaris Jackson season.

Of course, things are a little bit more “normal” now, I suppose. Seattle was blown out 38-10 against the Green Bay Packers in 2016, essentially blown out 36-20 against the Atlanta Falcons in their most recent playoff game, and humiliated by the Los Angeles Rams 42-7 in their own stadium. In their seven losses in 2017, they trailed for the entirety of three of them.

With all of the personnel changes, injuries, decline in player performance, and just good ol’ statistical regression, you can expect the Seahawks to have a few more blowout defeats and failures to take the lead coming their way. It will almost certainly happen in 2018, and 2019, and 2020, not because the Seahawks are going to be a bad team, but because that’s perfectly normal in the flow of an NFL season, or really any major sports league.

There isn’t a more apt statistic to define the Russell Wilson era than this one. It shows that Seattle has not only been among the league’s most dominant teams, but that they were never totally out of a game. “Never” has become “very rarely” over the last two seasons, but it shouldn’t take away from what transpired from 2012-2015. It’s a record that I firmly believe will not be duplicated any time soon.

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