What it means: The Seahawks maxed out against New Orleans in the wild-card round. They played down to outside expectations against Chicago and failed to capitalize on opportunities, including when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw passes right to them. Another missed opportunity -- a chance to play the NFC Championship Game at home -- stands out in the bigger picture. This performance makes it easier for the Seahawks to honestly assess their shortcomings during the offseason. Advancing to the NFC title game would have invited analysis through rose-colored lenses.
What I liked: Seattle did not panic after falling behind early. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck did not start forcing passes the way he had after falling behind in some regular-season games. Coach Pete Carroll, admittedly too aggressive at times in his game management, played the field-position game effectively early instead of going for it on fourth-and-1. The decision to kick a field goal after following behind 28-0 also made sense to me. Seattle wasn't threatening the end zone. Might as well avoid the shutout. Aaron Curry's fourth-quarter interception off a Matt Forte trick pass provided a rare highlight.
What I didn't like: Lots of little things, and a few big ones. Seattle conceded the conventional ground game from the beginning, opting instead for gimmicky plays to the perimeter. Revisiting "Beast Mode" with Marshawn Lynch wasn't part of the plan, and it became impractical once an injury sidelined tight end John Carlson and Seattle fell behind. The Seahawks appeared unsure of themselves, particularly early. Hasselbeck went to the sideline as though his headset was not working. The defense was late getting Raheem Brock off the field, and then linebacker Lofa Tatupu had to scramble just to make sure the front aligned properly. Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy, beaten for a 58-yard touchdown on the Bears' first pass play, scrambled to get free safety Earl Thomas in position later. Mike Williams and Cameron Morrah dropped passes. Defenders appeared to have trouble with their footing as they tried to rush the passer. Thomas gave up a touchdown trying to make a spectacular interception. Overall, the Seahawks were too sloppy, making it tough for them to challenge a superior team.
Injurie(s) of note: Carlson and cornerback Marcus Trufant left the field immobilized and on motorized carts. Carlson landed face first following a 14-yard reception. Trufant absorbed a hit to his head while going low to tackle tight end Kellen Davis. Both players suffered head injuries, the Seahawks said. Neither returned. Trufant suffered a concussion in Week 11 while tackling another player low. Fullback Michael Robinson was able to walk off the field after lowering his head and taking a hard hit in the third quarter. He returned.
Trending: The Seahawks finished the season with an 8-10 record. Each of their previous nine defeats had been by at least 15 points. This one was closer after Seattle rallied with two late scoring passes. Hasselbeck finished the game with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He had seven touchdowns and one interception in two playoff games.
What's next: The Seahawks head into the offseason with a long list of potential free agents and the 25th overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft.