It's incredible how much one play shaped the destiny of two franchises. For the Patriots, Malcolm Butler's goal-line interception of Russell Wilson's pass in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIV propelled the Patriots to their second dynasty, as they went on to appear in three of the next four Super Bowls and win two of them. For the Seahawks, that play was disastrous, ending their hopes of a second consecutive Super Bowl title and terminating their own dynasty in the making.
The Seahawks still haven't recovered.
Following their embarrassing 30-20 loss to the Rams at home in the Wild Card round yesterday, the Seahawks are now 3-5 in the playoffs since Butler's interception. They haven't advanced to the NFC Championship since then, and despite five playoff appearances in the years since their Super Bowl loss, haven't been competitive against the best teams in the conference in the playoffs.
Not only were they blown out by the Panthers in the divisional round the year after their Super Bowl loss, but they've been thoroughly manhandled in all but one of their playoff losses since, falling behind the Falcons (19-10), the Cowboys (10-6), the Packers (21-3) and now the Rams (20-10) by wide margins at halftime.
That's not an aberration. That's a trend.
Whether you want to point the finger at the coaches, general manager or the players, the fact is a team once believed to be the next NFL empire has failed to live up to that expectation. They've only won the NFC West twice in the last six years and have been one-and-done in the playoffs twice during that same time period.
Outside of quarterback Russell Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner and coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have basically rebuilt their entire team and identity since that Super Bowl loss. The Legion of Boom disbanded because of injuries and contract disagreements and Beast Mode bolted for Oakland at his first opportunity. The Seahawks' smash-mouth offensive identity has been replaced by an air-out, "Let Russ Cook" attack that has worked in the regular season but hasn't translated to wins against better defenses in the playoffs. Their defense, likewise, hasn't been dominant since Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett took their talents elsewhere.
The Patriots finally came back down to earth this year, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 following Tom Brady's departure. But while the Seahawks have likewise had a strong streak of playoff appearances over the last nine seasons, they haven't come close to competing at the same level as the Patriots since their fateful Super Bowl showdown. While both teams are now in a place where they'll need to rebuild their winning strategy for the 2021 season, the paths they've taken have been vastly different. Amazing how much everything changed in that one play and how the Seahawks have never been the same.