The Seattle Seahawks had enough reason to quit on the rest of the 2021 season.
Instead, the 3-8 squad circled its wagons on Saturday evening and opened the floor for discussion, beginning with receiver Tyler Lockett. What followed was a conversation that energized the Seahawks and helped produce a desperately needed win over a division rival.
"Last night, Tyler did a really nice job in the meeting with us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday, via the Tacoma News Tribune. "He had a chance to bring up something that he wanted to talk about. We gave him the opportunity. He did a great job with our guys, about hanging together, and about why we are connected, and why we are what we are."
Carroll's Seahawks went on to fight a four-quarter war with the 49ers, overcoming a deficit that was as large as nine points and hanging on through a scoreless final period to defeat San Francisco in a stunning, 30-23 upset. After wading through the abyss of irrelevant, uninspired football for the last month, Seattle looked like a completely different team (at least in terms of effort), one that harkened back to the earlier years of the Carroll era.
Carroll said he felt as if Saturday night's discussion, which began with Lockett, "had something to do with" the win. A punt fake that produced a 73-yard Travis Homer touchdown to open the game certainly didn't hurt, either.
Russell Wilson completed 30 of 37 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and Lockett scored Seattle's go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. For the first time since Wilson's return from finger surgery, the Seahawks had an offense that was threatening for four quarters, and finally seemed to be on the same page.
"It was really touching," Wilson said of the discussion sparked by Lockett. "Really special just to hear from guys about why they play the game, where does it come from, what's the depths of it all and some really amazing stuff."
The Seahawks defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions of passes thrown by Jimmy Garoppolo. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap's sack of Garoppolo resulted in a safety, which tied the game at 23-23 and set the stage for Seattle to complete its comeback.
"(Carroll) just basically made it an open floor for everybody to communicate their why," Dunlap explained, "and why we sacrifice what we do for this game, why we continue to work and fight for this game when the season is going the way it is. Why we are here. How did we get here? Where we came from. Who are we doing it for?"
At 3-8, the Seahawks had plenty of reasons to give it their all -- including their job security. They brought the energy early, got a boost from the Homer punt fake TD and rode the wave through what felt like a classic knock-down, drag-out battle between San Francisco and Seattle, one no one could see coming from a Seahawks team that hasn't put up much of a fight in any of its last three contests and seemed destined for a dark winter. Loyal Seattle fans might say Sunday was just like any other Seahawks game -- meaning a chaotic, unusual affair.
Both can be true -- for example, CBS play-by-play broadcaster Kevin Harlan audibly asked "what in the world is going on" in what he later referred to as a "hootenanny" -- but this time around, the madness produced a win. At 4-8, the Seahawks are out of range for the NFC West title, but the conference's wild-card situation doesn't mean they're finished just yet.
Sunday might have been an anomaly, one last beautiful example of what once was and can no longer be. Or it could be the beginning of a shift in effort and performance that staves off the changing of the guard in Seattle for at least one offseason.