Friday night, the Seahawks square off against the Chicago Bears in week three of the 2014 preseason. Since preseason football has now been mathematically proven to be meaningless, I can use this opportunity to talk about my favorite Seahawks playoff loss of all-time.
The date was January 14, 2007. The location was Soldier Field, Chicago. The event was the Seattle Seahawks versus the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the 2006 NFL Playoffs. The Seahawks were the defending NFC champions, but on this occasion they were 8.5 point underdogs. Suffering from a severe Super Bowl katzenjammer, the ’06 ‘Hawks were simply not a very good team. They won an extremely weak NFC West with a 9-7 record and a negative point differential. By DVOA they ranked a lowly 24 — one spot below the 6-10 Minnesota Vikings. With the same basic personnel as the year prior, the defense inexplicably went from being an above average unit in 2005 to being a well below average one in 2006. And the offense fell even harder. The ’05 O was the best in the league; the ’06 unit was the sixth worst.
The reasons for the offensive plummet are many, but the biggest one was Shaun Alexander contracting a rare football disorder that would later bear his name: Sudden Onset Shaun Alexander Disorder (SOSAD, for short). SOSAD is a disorder in which a great running back suddenly becomes a terrible one. It is often caused by aging and injury and can be aggravated by the loss of a good offensive lineman; it’s symptoms include decreased speed and power, which are often manifested by a reduction in touchdowns and rushing yards-per-carry. In Alexander’s case, he went from being league MVP and setting the single-season touchdown record in ’05 to making Seahawks fans pine for the days of Derrick Fenner in ’06. SOSAD indeed.
In the ’06 wild card round, Seattle hosted Dallas. The Cowboys were a superior team by nearly every measure, and they probably should have won the game, but this happened, and the ‘Hawks advanced to play the Bears in the divisional round — a Bears team who, I might add, pummeled them 37-6 in the regular season. The Bears were led by an elite D, featuring in-their-primes Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. On offense, they had a decent running game, and their quarterback, Rex Grossman, although he would later become a punchline, was not that awful. At least he wasn’t consistently that awful — he certainly had a penchant for turning the ball over, but he could also sling it deep (see clip below), which, given the Bears’ trio of downfield receivers (Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, and Rashied Davis), was a useful skill. I fully expected the Bears to crush the ‘Hawks like they did before.
But they didn’t. And that’s what made this game so great. The Seahawks stepped up and went toe-to-toe with the best team in the NFC, losing 24-21 on an overtime field goal by Robbie Gould. And but for a failed 4th-and-1 attempt late in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks almost certainly would have won. Every time the Bears punched the Seahawks counter-punched, until the very end. If you were trying to pick a “karmic winner” based on which team played better, you wouldn’t have been able to — it was a dead heat. Watching Gould’s kick hook through the uprights was excruciating (especially since I was watching with two Bears fans) but also weirdly satisfying. It was a bit like seeing Rocky go the distance with Apollo Creed — only instead of Burgess Meredith, we had Mike Holmgren, and instead of Talia Shire, a fat man with a Sea-Fence sign.
This game was also memorable because it was Shaun Alexander’s last hurrah. He went for 108 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, including a late third quarter score from 13 yards out on a 3rd-and-10 draw play. At that point, Alexander’s disorder was an open secret among Seahawks fans; we knew he probably didn’t have much time left in football, so watching him dance around a stout defense once last time reminded us fondly of the running back we used to have oh so long ago, the year before.