RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Now that it's over, Russell Wilson's belief in the comparison of where the Seattle Seahawks were during his rookie season in 2012 and this season has only grown stronger.
Seattle fans can only hope Wilson is correct in his vision because, if so, 2019 could end up being a special year for the Seahawks.
"It makes you a little sick to wake up this morning and know you don't get to compete with your guys today," Wilson said Sunday, a day after a 24-22 wild-card round loss at Dallas. "It's part of the journey. I look at this season very similar, as I've said 100 times over to you guys, like 2012 a lot. We weren't able to beat Atlanta at Atlanta, but coming off the field, we felt like great things were in store.
"We feel like with this team great things are in store."
While there was a healthy dose of optimism as the Seahawks packed up their lockers Sunday, there also was a level of regret after Seattle lost its opening game of the playoffs for the first time since January 2005. The loss to the Cowboys on Saturday was littered with missed chances and what-ifs all around.
Whether it was an offensive game plan that was seemingly too stubborn to make adjustments away from the run, a defense that gave up a handful of big plays in the fourth quarter, or the special teams issues, the Seahawks were left with plenty to lament about the loss.
"It's still frustrating, especially watching football and knowing you still could be competing," Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "We had to do a little bit more to win the game and we didn't do enough."
Seattle's loss was the first time it dropped its opening playoff game since losing to St. Louis in the NFC wild-card game after the 2004 season. Whether it was the wild-card or divisional round, Seattle had won at least one game in nine straight postseasons until losing to the Cowboys.
A major issue was the struggles on offense as the best running team in the NFL couldn't get going against a stingy Cowboys front. Seattle had just 73 yards rushing against Dallas and seemed almost determined to run no matter the success rate. Wilson compared it to Seattle's win at Carolina in late November when the Seahawks were held to 75 yards rushing and Wilson threw for 339 yards.
This time, though, the switch to being more pass heavy didn't happen in time for Seattle to have enough offensive success.
"We were throwing it pretty well in the game and I think we could have kept doing that some more, but you also want to stay true to running the ball, too," Wilson said. "So I think that, like I said, this game was kind of similar to the Carolina game, I felt like, a little bit. They did a pretty good job stopping us on the run and in that game we had to throw the ball and make some plays, and I think this game was kind of similar in a sense."
While there was anger among fans about the lack of adjustments on offense, the Seahawks also had defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter that played just as large a role. Dallas had 234 total yards through the first three quarters, then had 148 in the fourth quarter with a pair of long scoring drives. Dallas had touchdown drives of 67 and 54 yards in the final quarter, the last one capped by Dak Prescott's scramble to convert third-and-14 and led to the deciding touchdown.
"To let him have a third-and-14 and allow him to get that close to scoring again is bad," Wagner said. "But you know, I'll see him again."
Seattle doesn't have many major contract issues going into the offseason with K.J. Wright, Frank Clark, D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy the most notable unrestricted free agents among starters. Carroll has made clear they want Clark back coming off a career-high 14 sacks, which could mean using the franchise tag for the first time since 2010.
While they are both under contract through the 2019 season, the contract situations with Wagner and Wilson will be two of the more interesting stories of the offseason for Seattle. Both said Sunday they would like to have contract certainty with the Seahawks beyond 2019, but both indicated they would be willing to play out the 2019 season without a new deal if necessary.
"I know essentially after (the 2019) season I can be a free agent," Wilson said. "I don't think that way. I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle. It's a special place for me. I also understand it's a business world and everything else."