Playing With a Chip on Their Shoulders

Seattle Seahawks @ San Diego ChargersSAN DIEGO-The Seattle Seahawks had just had their hats handed to them in a 30-21 defeat to the San Diego Chargers in Week 2. The setting was Qualcomm Stadium on a bright and sunny, Sunday afternoon. But the mood inside of the Seahawks’ locker room that day right after Chargers tight end Antonio Gates lit them up for seven passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns, burned just about every member of the Seattle’s now becoming legendary “Legion of Boom” defense.

The “Legion of Boom” just got the hammer dropped on them by an aged, but still effective Gates and a a frisky Philip Rivers. Granted, it was just the second regular season game of the year, but the vibe felt in Seattle’s postgame cubicles felt like they had just lost something bigger. Sure, the Seahawks would go on and drop three more games after their encounter with the Chargers before righting the ship to get back to the Super Bowl for a second straight year.

However, that defeat painted a picture of a Seattle team that looked as if it was just robbed of its dignity Players bemoaned as if they had their pride snatched. Star quarterback Russell Wilson had a terrible afternoon. The team’s defensive unit played lost in space for much of the game against the tandem of Rivers and Gates. This kind of showing earlier in the season against San Diego has led pundits to theorize that the Seahawks will have issues with New England’s All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in this year’s Super Bowl matchup between the two teams. I would argue the opposite.

One, it was Week 2 of a long, long season that featured 16 regular season games, two other playoff contests and now the Super Bowl. The second thought here is that Seattle will not allow Gronkowski to beat them. They will take him out of the game. While many in the media have the ballyhooed Gronkowski playing well, it is my guess that the Seahawks will render Tom Brady’s best offensive weapon to a mere spectator, therefore interrupting the Patriots’ offensive schemes.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson have led his team to two straight Super Bowl appearances. Photo by Kevin Reece/
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson have led his team to two straight Super Bowl appearances. Photo by Kevin Reece/

Which brings this writer to this point about the Super Bowl and the mindset of the Seahawks players. No one can really get into a player’s head to know what they’re thinking, but when you’re around this game long enough, you can get a good idea of what’s going on. This is why I harken back to the Seahawks’ game against the Chargers and what the aftermath of that calamity said.

An individual or team can learn more in defeat or near defeat than winning. Why? Because it exposes the truth. While winning is the cure for all ails, losing opens up the floodgates of what went wrong and why. It makes you not a happy camper. Self-doubt and re-assessment takes place. You could see that within the confines of the locker room with Seattle’s players after the loss to the Chargers. Those guys really wear their emotions on their sleeves.

The team’s defensive star, Richard Sherman, dressed quickly and vacated the area without comment to reporters. Bobby Wagner, linebacker and the “Legion of Boom” soul, sat in front of his locker stall, still fully dressed in his playing gear on, pondering what had happened on the field. And this is after the allotted 15 minutes cooling off period had taken place before reporters were allowed inside. Safety Earl Thomas field questions from members with just about as much intensity as the way he plays on the football field.

You could feel the intensity of what this game means to the players. It was as if the Seahawks players took this defeat personally. They were angry. What this showed me about the Seahawks then is that they cared. This was not just another paycheck week. They took that loss to heart. Whereas many of teams have been felled by complacency in the year after winning the Big One, the Seahawks gave off the impression to this writer that it is personal for them.

Many of the stars that we will see playing in the Super Bowl for Seattle are guys people didn’t give much thought to when they came out of college. They are constantly playing with something to prove. They have a very large chip on their shoulder. Come Sunday, Brady, Gronkowski and the Patriots are going to discover just how big that chip is.

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