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Middle fingers and bad breaks: A look at the Seahawks’ misfortune in Arizona

RENTON, Wash. — Leave it to Pete Carroll to crack a joke and look on the bright side.

The Seattle Seahawks coach did both when asked about all the misfortune his team has experienced at State Farm Stadium, where they’ll play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

“Honestly, it doesn’t feel any different,” Carroll said. “I mean, we’ve been there a lot and it seems like we’ve won there some. So it’s just another place to go.”

They’ve actually won a lot on the Cardinals’ home field. That fact is part of their complicated history there.

While the Seahawks haven’t dropped a regular-season game in Arizona since 2012, it’s where they lost Legion of Boom members Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor to injury in 2017 and then Earl Thomas the next year, leading to his infamous middle-finger salute.

There was another bird flipped by Marshawn Lynch in Darrell Bevell’s direction in 2013 and a 6-6 tie in 2016.

Oh, yeah, it’s the same place where they lost Super Bowl XLIX after the 2014 season in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable.

Weird stuff seems to happen whenever the Seahawks play at what was formerly known as University of Phoenix Stadium.

‘You don’t really want to relive negative things’

What does Carroll make of all the weirdness?

“I don’t know,” he said. “Weird stuff can happen here, too. Sometimes you can get hit right in the nose.”

He was referring to his mishap on Sunday at CenturyLink Field when he unknowingly ran into the path of a football that had been thrown from a few feet away at the end of pregame warm-ups. Blood was still visible under the bandages on the bridge of Carroll’s nose after the game.

The literal and figurative bad breaks have been much worse for the Seahawks in Arizona. They’ve been franchise-altering moments of misfortune.

You know by now what happened at the end of Super Bowl XLIX against New England and all the fallout that followed Malcolm Butler‘s goal-line interception of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Sherman’s career in Seattle might not have ended with his 2018 release had he not ruptured his Achilles in Arizona in 2017. The Seahawks might not have missed the playoffs that season had they not lost Sherman and Chancellor, whose career ended when he hurt his neck on an innocuous-looking hit later in that Thursday night injury-fest.

Offensive tackle Duane Brown and defensive tackle Jarran Reed also had their nights ended early. The injuries had already piled up to a ridiculous level by the time defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Frank Clark collided in the fourth quarter, sending both to the sideline.

The bad luck in Arizona continued the next year, when Thomas broke his leg and aimed one of the most famous middle fingers in recent NFL history toward Carroll. The Seahawks also lost rookie tight end Will Dissly to a torn patellar tendon in that game.

Linebacker Bobby Wagner has seen it all at State Farm Stadium, having entered the NFL with Wilson in 2012. But he wasn’t interested in taking a trip down bad-memory lane.

“The past is the past, man,” he said. “You’ve [got] to be where your feet at. Gotta be present. Gotta be in the moment. A lot of those things you’re talking about are negative things and you don’t really want to relive negative things. You learn from them, you move on, try to learn something positive from it, and I feel like people need to be more present. That’s the problem. We’re always living in the past. So the unfortunate past happened. We experienced it in the past. We learned from it and we moved on.

“This is 2019. This is our first time going to Arizona, so that’s how I treat it.”

‘What the hell is that?’

Wilson, Wagner, linebacker K.J. Wright and center Justin Britt are the only four players who have remained on the roster since 2014 Seahawks team that lost Super Bowl XLIX. Tight end Luke Willson, who returned Wednesday after a year away, was on that team as well.

Wright says he hasn’t thought about everything that’s gone down at State Farm.

“The only thing that really sticks out about that was that tie that we had,” he said.

That was in 2016, when the Seahawks and Cardinals treated a Sunday Night Football audience to a grand total of 12 points on four field goals over 75 minutes.

It was the only regular-season game the Seahawks haven’t won in Arizona since they lost the 2012 season opener, which was Wilson’s NFL debut. The 2016 game improbably ended in a tie when Stephen Hauschka pulled a 27-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left in overtime — one possession after Chandler Catanzaro doinked a 24-yarder off the upright. It was the NFL’s first tie with no touchdowns since 1972.

Sherman was so physically spent from playing all 95 defensive snaps and four more on special teams that he needed two bags of IVs. He was shivering and losing focus in the locker room after the game, requiring medical attention.

“I remember guys cramping up because we had like 90-plus plays,” Wright said. “A lot of guys cramping up. A lot of guys confused, like, ‘A tie? What the hell is that? You’re not supposed to tie.’ … It was just frustrating because it was low scoring and just battling, missed field goals. It was just one of those weird games where both teams weren’t at their best.”

‘A lot of stuff usually goes on’

Safety Bradley McDougald didn’t sign with the Seahawks until 2017, three years after the Super Bowl loss and one year after the tie. But he knows enough about their history at State Farm Stadium.

His second start with Seattle was the Arizona game in 2017, when Sherman and Chancellor went down.

“That stadium is a little different, man,” he said. “A lot of stuff usually goes on. A lot of people got hurt there. But I just think it’s ironic. It’s not something I think of or something I go into the game worrying about. I just think it’s ironic.”

But it’s not necessarily all bad. A year after flipping off Bevell for calling a third-and-goal pass, Lynch pulled off a sequel to his Beastquake run in Arizona when he rumbled 79 yards to the end zone. The Seahawks racked up 596 yards of offense in that game to set a franchise record that still stands.

The Seahawks’ 5-1-1 record in Arizona since 2012 is better than they’ve fared on the road against the 49ers (4-3) and Rams (2-5) in that period. It’s way better than they’ve fared against the Cardinals at home (3-4).

So maybe McDougald’s take might be the best way to describe how the Seahawks have suffered so many big losses in a place where they’ve won a lot of games.

via ESPN

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