Are the Seahawks' best days behind them?

Can the Seahawks compete for the Super Bowl next season? (0:59)

Pete Carroll was adamant after Saturday's loss that the Seahawks still have the pieces in place to make a Super Bowl run next year. But is he right? (0:59)

All the evidence says the Seattle Seahawks have declined over the past two seasons, following back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Their second consecutive divisional-round playoff exit left no doubt. There will be talk over the coming months about what Seattle must do to dominate once again. The overarching question is whether the Seahawks' best days are behind them or whether the past couple seasons represent just a temporary dip.

Small decline equals big difference

The Seahawks posted a 25-7 (.781) regular-season record during their 2013 and 2014 Super Bowl seasons, tied with Denver for best in the NFL. They have slipped to 20-11-1 (.641) over the subsequent two seasons, tied with Arizona for the sixth-best mark. That 4.5-victory difference has been enough to send Seattle onto the road in the playoffs, a pivotal change for a team that is no longer good enough to consistently beat anyone, anywhere.

Seattle's struggling offensive line has been an easy target for criticism in explaining the Seahawks' decline from great to merely very good.

It's plausible to think an improved line could have stabilized Seattle enough to shift 2016 NFC West games against Los Angeles and Arizona into the win column, delivering home-field advantage to the Seahawks in the playoffs. That might have been enough to enable another Super Bowl run, but it would not have fixed the underlying issues.