Seattle Seahawks: Reliving the Road to Their Super Bowl XLVIII Win

Keith Myers@@myersNFLContributor IFebruary 3, 2014

The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl XLVIII champions. While the destination is what matters, fans should not forget the road the team took to get to this point. 

General manager John Schneider assembled a special roster, and head coach Pete Carroll and his staff led it to the franchise's first Super Bowl title. From the top of the organization to the bottom of the roster, the Seahawks played like champions all year.  

No season, not even a Super Bowl season, is ever without mistakes and adversity. Seattle had to overcome both just to get to the big game. The team persevered and delivered. 

The Seahawks started strong, stumbled at times but ultimately made the plays that had to be made. In a way, their season mirrors their performance in the Super Bowl. 

For all Seattle fans, it's time to celebrate. Begin that celebration by reliving the team's super season.


Offseason Additions

Seattle made headlines early in the offseason by acquiring one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL. The team traded three draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was quickly signed to a massive six-year, $67 million contract extension. 

The Seahawks didn't stop there. They rebuilt their defensive line by signing defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel in free agency, adding to a defense that was already stacked with talent. 

Unfortunately, the team ended up getting very little out of its 2013 draft class. Seattle lacked a first-round pick because of the Percy Harvin trade and ultimately didn't make its first selection until the last pick of the second round. It then used that pick on a project running back, Christine Michael, who rarely saw the field this season. 

The Seahawks ultimately ended up drafting just two players who would make an impact on the 2013 season. Tight end Luke Willson, selected in the fifth round, and seventh-round offensive lineman Michael Bowie were the only drafted players to see extensive minutes for the Seahawks this year. 

Ultimately, Seattle's offseason was about quality over quantity. It didn't add many new faces to the roster, but those few additions proved critical in turning a good team into a Super Bowl-winning squad. 


Training Camp Injuries

Training camps are meant to be uneventful. When big news stories break during camp, it rarely means good news for the team. Unfortunately, Seattle's training camp was full of big stories. 

The trouble started for the Seahawks before the players took to the practice field for the first time. Harvin, their headlining offseason addition, arrived with a hip that was still sore from a June minicamp.

The team doctors believed that two months of rest would be sufficient for Harvin's hip to heal, but that didn't come to fruition. He ended up having major surgery to repair the labrum in his hip, which caused him to miss all but one game during the regular season. 

Things became worse just one week later when Sidney Rice, the team's other star receiver, suddenly left camp to fly to Switzerland for a procedure on his knee. Rice never played a down in the preseason, and his knee left him limited early in the season. He would later tear his ACL against the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 28, ending his season prematurely. 

The preseason injury problem wasn't restricted to Seattle's wide receivers. For the defensive line, the injury bug turned into an epidemic.

Defensive tackles McDaniel (groin), Brandon Mebane (groin) and Jordan Hill (biceps) all entered the season limited or ruled out by injuries. Defensive ends Chris Clemons (knee) and Avril (hamstring) both ended up missing the Week 1 game against the Carolina Panthers as well. 


The Fast Start and Offensive Line Injuries

Seattle's season began with a rare combination of high expectations and extreme uneasiness. The Seahawks faced two very tough opponents in the first two weeks of the season, but they were banged up along the all-important defensive line. 

The concern was for naught, however, as the Seahawks jumped out to a 4-0 start to the year. The defense turned out to be healthy enough to shut down the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, helping the team kick off the season with a 12-7 victory.

By the time Seattle's pivotal Week 2 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers rolled around, its defense was close to full strength. The Seahawks blew out the Niners, 29-3, providing the team a lead in the division they would never relinquish.

Just as the defense was finally getting healthy, the offense suffered some catastrophic injuries. Starting left tackle Russell Okung sustained a turf toe injury against San Francisco and landed on short-term injured reserve, while starting right tackle Breno Giacomini injured his knee against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3 and missed seven games as a result. 

After a blowout win over the Jaguars, the 3-0 Seahawks headed to Houston to take on a 2-1 Texans team that was still playing good football. The Seahawks entered the game down both of their offensive tackles and starting center.

Without three starting offensive linemen, Seattle's offense struggled for much of the game. The Texans built a 14-point lead, but the Seahawks defense kept the game from getting out of reach. 

The game changed in the fourth quarter. The offense found its footing and put together a 98-yard drive to bring the team to within a touchdown, but time was running out. The Texans had the ball and the lead inside of three minutes remaining. They needed just two first downs to ice the game. 

The Seahawks were in search of a miracle, and cornerback Richard Sherman delivered it. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw an ill-advised pass while under pressure, which Sherman picked off and returned for a touchdown. 

That score tied the game, and Seattle later won in overtime. The win moved the Seahawks to their first 4-0 start in franchise history and showed that they could overcome adversity and win even when they didn't play their best football. 


Midseason Dominance and a Roller-Coaster Offense

The Seahawks followed up that miracle win over Houston with a disappointing 34-28 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. They looked tired throughout that game, especially on defense, and played sloppy football.

Seattle wouldn't lose again for two months. 

The loss to the Colts was a wake-up call for the Seahawks. They followed up the lackluster game against Indianapolis with an impressive streak of victories that would push their record to an NFL-best 11-1.

The string of victories included a number of blowouts. The Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints all ran into the steamroller that was the Seahawks, with the latter three each losing by three touchdowns or more.

However, the wins masked some serious struggles by the Seahawks offense. Their patchwork offensive line proved unable to reliably protect quarterback Russell Wilson, which led to inconsistency.

The worst of the offensive performances came in Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks only picked up seven first downs and 135 yards of offense in the entire game. Eighty of those yards came on one play, a long-distance strike from Wilson to receiver Golden Tate that included a 40-yard-long taunt by Tate as he ran toward the end zone.

Ultimately, Seattle's offense did just enough to win that game. In doing so, it bought enough time for the offensive line to start getting healthy. The Seahawks were at full strength and ready for the final stretch before the playoffs. 


End-of-Season Adversity and the Race for the No. 1 Seed

Things didn't go exactly as planned during the stretch run. Harvin re-injured his hip after playing in just one game, and he wouldn't be seen on the field again until the playoffs. 

Seattle also lost two of its top three cornerbacks to suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The league suspended Walter Thurmond for four weeks and Brandon Browner for a full year. 

Additionally, the Seahawks suffered a pair of tough losses within the division. The first came at the hands of the 49ers in Week 14 when Seattle had a chance to clinch the division and a first-round bye. The other was to the Cardinals just two weeks later. Arizona handed Seattle its first home loss since the 2011 season. 

That set up the Seahawks with a must-win game in the final week of the season. A win would clinch the division and give the Seahawks the No. 1 seed in the NFC. A loss coupled with a San Francisco win would give the Niners the division title, and Seattle's road to a Super Bowl would likely be spent entirely away from home.

Seattle's Week 17 opponent was the same Rams team that gave it so much trouble back in Week 8. Left tackle Russell Okung also injured his foot in Week 16, so it appeared as though the offense might struggle once again. 

All the worrying by Seattle fans was for naught, however, as the Seahawks cruised to an easy 27-9 victory. Running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Golden Tate added 129 yards and a touchdown through the air. 

Though Seattle's offense had very little trouble moving the football, its defense was even more dominant. The Seahawks held the Rams to just 13 yards rushing and 158 total yards of offense. 

Powered by their dominant defense, the Seahawks finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC at 13-3.  


Playoff Success

By finishing the regular season with the NFC's best record, Seattle secured both a first-round bye in the playoffs and the right to play both of their NFC playoff games at CenturyLink Field. 

The first test came from the Saints, who had upset the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round. The Seahawks blew out the Saints back in Week 13, but that was before Seattle's offense began its late-season struggles. 

The unexpected return of Harvin provided some life for the Seahawks as they jumped out to an early 16-0 lead. However, Harvin left the game with a concussion just before halftime, and the Seattle offense sputtered after that point.

The Seahawks needed their defense to come up big, which is exactly what happened. The Saints could only manage to put up 15 points against Seattle, despite racking up over 400 yards of offense. Most of those yards came in the fourth quarter, once the game's outcome appeared all but certain.  

The 23-15 win over New Orleans pushed the Seahawks into the NFC Championship Game, where they would face a familiar foe: the loathed 49ers.

Things got off to a very rocky start for Seattle in the championship game. Wilson fumbled the football on the very first play, setting up the Niners with great field position and an early lead 3-0 lead. A 58-yard run by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick set up another score, and the Seahawks found themselves down 10-0 early in the second quarter. 

Seattle didn't panic, however. Its defense took over and held the 49ers to just seven additional points over the final 40 minutes of the game, while the offense finally found its rhythm.

The Seahawks stormed back to get the game tied up at 10 early in the third quarter. Lynch busted up through the middle for a 40-yard touchdown. The reaction to that run by the fans in Seattle led to an earthquake being measured across town at the University of Washington's Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Seattle used the next two quarters to build a six-point lead, but the 49ers got the ball with 3:32 left in the fourth with a chance to win the game. Eight plays later, San Francisco had driven down to the Seattle 18-yard line.

Kaepernick took the snap and floated the ball to the corner of the end zone for wide receiver Michael Crabtree. What happened next was an image that Seahawks fans will remember forever.

Sherman tipped the ball to linebacker Malcolm Smith for a game-icing interception. The pick secured Seattle's place in Super Bowl XLVIII in New York. 


Seahawks Cause Stir in the Media

The two weeks between the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl became dominated by stories about how much the Seahawks were (or weren't) talking. 

It began within seconds of the end of the NFC Championship Game. Erin Andrews of Fox Sports caught up with Sherman for an interview as he was leaving the field following the game.

The cornerback was still caught up in the excitement of making the key play to send his team to the Super Bowl. He decided to take the opportunity to proclaim his own greatness and to call out Crabtree for being average. The interview lasted about 30 seconds, but that was all it took. 

What followed was a media firestorm where almost everyone seemed to have an opinion on Sherman and his rant. He was called "classless," a "thug" and everything in between. Many of the takes even came off as nothing more than thinly veiled racism. 

Sherman himself decided to join the conversation when he wrote an explanation for his rant for Sports Illustrated's MMQB. The cornerback later apologized for putting himself above his team and penned another column for SI on what he learned from the experience

Just as the media had finally gotten over criticizing Sherman for saying too much, it found another target on the Seahawks for its criticism. This time it was Lynch, whose apparent mistake was not saying enough. 

Lynch made only a token appearance at the Super Bowl Media Day and spoke for under seven minutes during the hour-long session. That was enough for Lynch to avoid a massive fine from the league, but it wasn't enough to prevent him from coming under fire from media members looking for better access to the running back. 

The Pro Football Writers of America even issued an official statement, saying they were "appalled" by Lynch's conduct at the event.

Lynch wasn't fined and didn't seem to care about the media backlash. He did grant an interview to Hall of Fame cornerback and current NFL Network correspondent Deion Sanders that turned out to be very entertaining. 


A Super Ending

Super Bowl XLVIII got off to a great start for Seattle. On the first play from scrimmage, the snap sailed over Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's head for a safety and two quick points for the Seahawks. A pair of Seattle field goals stretched the lead to eight by the end of the first quarter. 

Seattle's defense dominated the early portion of this game as well. The Broncos didn't move the chains for the first time until five minutes into the second quarter, but the drive ended in spectacular fashion for the Seahawks. Smith, who iced the NFC Championship Game with an interception, picked off a Manning pass and took it 69 yards for a touchdown and a 22-0 lead. 

The Broncos moved the ball on the next drive as well, but that ended when defensive end Chris Clemons tipped Manning's pass on fourth down, causing it to fall incomplete. The Seahawks went into halftime up by three touchdowns. 

The second half began in dramatic fashion for the Seahawks. Harvin took the opening kickoff all the way back for an 87-yard touchdown, extending Seattle's lead to 29-0. 

If there was one play that represented the entire game, it was wide receiver Jermaine Kearse breaking four tackles to get into the end zone after catching a pass from Wilson. That score put the Seahawks up 36-0.

Peyton Manning broke up the shutout in the fourth quarter, but nothing could slow down Seattle's march toward victory. 

The Seahawks defeated the Broncos 43-8 to win the Super Bowl. 


A Magical Season

The Seahawks treated their fans to a magical season. It was the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, and the first major-sports title for the city since the SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979. 

All that's left is the parade through the streets of Seattle. It simply doesn't get any better for the team and its fans. 


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