Hooked on a Feeling
With one game left in the regular season, the defending Super Bowl champions are a win away from securing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. But the Seahawks’ robust 11-4 record doesn’t tell the full story of their season. At one point in October, back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Rams put them at 3-3. Then, in November, a close loss at Kansas City necessitated a team meeting between Pete Carroll and several core players. Since then, the Seahawks have rattled off five straight wins. During the streak, receiver Doug Baldwin talked with The MMQB about what’s changed, what hasn’t, and—as the Seahawks’ mantra goes—what’s next.
VRENTAS: Earlier in the season, after the Week 6 loss to the Cowboys, you were vocal about the offense not living up to the talent it has. How different has this offense looked late in the regular season?
BALDWIN: I feel like it’s still not clean. It’s still not what we want it to be, but we’re getting there. We’re obviously a run-first offense, because we’ve got the best running back in the NFL. We want to be able to make things happen with [Marshawn Lynch] as a running back and also in the passing game, when we get our opportunities to do so. We’ve been able to do that [recently], but it isn’t always consistently clean. We want to be more consistent when it comes to making plays down the field.
VRENTAS: Some of those big plays have come after your quarterback, Russell Wilson, scrambles before throwing downfield. Every team has “scramble rules” for when the quarterback takes off. How do yours work?
BALDWIN: We have a diagram that we go over. But in all honesty, that goes out the window when it comes game time, because it’s very difficult to judge what is going to happen in those situations. Russell is going back left, right, left, right, and so as receivers we just kind of have to figure out what’s the best option at that time. So we try to find an open spot. We do have rules, but at the same time, it’s very difficult for us to figure out what he’s doing.
VRENTAS: I always think he looks like a wind-up toy back there, zipping around with no sense of direction.
BALDWIN: Yeah, as confusing as it may look to you guys on the outside, it’s very confusing to us as receivers. It’s very hard on us. But fortunately enough, we have a quarterback who keeps his eyes down the field and allows us to make plays down the field.
VRENTAS: What has been the biggest challenge about defending your Super Bowl title? Was there something you didn’t anticipate going into this season?
BALDWIN: More so the physical part. Yes, the mental part, there is some of that, human nature-wise. Not necessarily complacency, but forgetting how difficult it was. It was extremely difficult to get to the Super Bowl—to get to the playoffs last year, and then to win it, it was extremely difficult. Sometimes you kind of forget how difficult that was. So that was the mental part of it. But you don’t think about the physical part of it as much. Because we didn’t have as much time to heal and recover in the offseason, we had to spend a lot of time making sure our bodies were on point. And that’s difficult. You saw at the beginning of the season, we had a lot of injuries, and now we’re finally getting to the point where we’re healing and getting back to playing Seahawks football.
VRENTAS: There was a team meeting right before the Cardinals game in Week 12. At that point, did you feel the season was at a crossroads and that leaders had to step up and make changes?
BALDWIN: I just think a few of us felt like something needed to be addressed. And we met with Pete, and we were able to figure it out. We all felt good about it when we left the meeting and were able to spread that throughout the team. But, the specifics, we’re going to keep that in-house.
VRENTAS: Would you say this team is similar to or different from last year’s team?
BALDWIN: It’s a very different team, but a similar style. But the feeling that we had last year, it’s coming back, in terms of the energy on the field, the enthusiasm, and just having fun playing football.
VRENTAS: Why did that go away?
BALDWIN: Because it’s hard. This is football. As fun as it is, it is draining—emotionally, mentally, physically. There’s a lot that pulls on us. So from going to the Super Bowl, not really having that long of an offseason, and then being able to come back and do the same thing, it pulls on you a little bit.
VRENTAS: When Percy Harvin was traded in October, you called it a “shock” to the team. Looking back, how do you feel the team has responded?
BALDWIN: We responded the best way we could. Percy was one of our guys in the locker room. He was one of our brothers. Regardless of what’s been said in the media, you never want to see a brother that you fight with, that you prepare with for so long … it’s hard when they leave. The locker room handled it the best way we could.
VRENTAS: The receivers room is different now. Golden Tate has also left. Has your role changed?
BALDWIN: A little bit. In terms of the leadership role, I don’t really have to lead our guys—they work hard, and they do all that stuff on their own. More so, my role is trying to be a better teammate to them; the best teammate that I can be. And they are doing the same thing. It’s not necessarily a leadership role, it’s just all of us collectively going toward a common goal and doing it together. Not only as teammates, but as family.
VRENTAS: You talked about the “feeling” from last year coming back. How important is it for the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs?
BALDWIN: It’s huge. It’s very important to us, because we wanted to feel it on the field, feel it in the locker room, feel it on the sidelines, and just go out there and play for one another. And that’s coming back.
VRENTAS: How would you describe the team’s focus?
BALDWIN: What we can control is what we can control. That’s all we have in front of us. If we just go out there and play each week like it’s a championship week, like it’s a championship opportunity, then we’re going to give ourselves the best opportunity to make it to another Super Bowl. Fortunately we have the mindset where we’re not looking ahead, we are just looking at one week as it comes to us, and that’s all that really matters.
VRENTAS: Do you think the ups and downs of the season could help this team in the end?
BALDWIN: Without a doubt. My mother always used to tell me, “Find value in the valleys.” When you are down in the dumps and things aren’t going your way, find value in that, learn from it, and appreciate it, because it’s going to make you better in the long run. So yeah, I do believe that when things weren’t going our way the first half of the season, we found something to kind of lean on and hold onto so that when we get into [tough games]—games when we turn the ball over on special teams or offense, whatever it may be—it’s not the end of the world. We know that we can come back and fight from it.
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