Every Monday, the Seattle Seahawks players and coaches gather around the video machines and frankly and honestly dissect the previous day’s football game.
They call it Tell the Truth Monday.
It’s their weekly reality check, an accountability session where every mistake is examined and every flaw is analyzed as if it were a dangerous virus.
But this week, the truth came early. The truth came from Kansas City, as harsh as a Canadian cold front, as real as the final score.
This 42-24 Sunday punch from the Chiefs was the unvarnished truth. The Hawks didn’t need to wait for Monday’s replay reckoning to understand just how bad this game was. They got a 60-minute dose of the truth from Kansas City.
“When you go out and you don’t play your best football, you’re going to get beat bad,” slot receiver Brandon Stokley said. “That’s what it really boils down to. That’s life in the NFL.”
Real playoff teams, legitimate we-can-make-some-noise-in-January playoff teams, win these games. They recover from their mistakes. They shake off their turnovers.
At home, in late November, playoff teams find ways to win. They hang around until the fourth quarter, winning time, when the crowd gets loud, and they ride that emotional wave to an improbable win.
But early in the fourth quarter of this game, after two consecutive Matt Hasselbeck turnovers, quiet Qwest Field emptied faster than a cupcake tray at an overeaters convention.
The home-field edge evaporated.
The Seahawks are flirts. A team that is toying with its fans’ emotions.
At this point in the season, as they come to the top of the stretch, the Seahawks aren’t playing like a legitimate playoff team and the home crowd understands that.
The Hawks are good enough to win the West, but they can’t beat any other NFC playoff team, even with a home game in January.
“We need consistency,” running back Justin Forsett said. “In November and December we have to have that consistency and we haven’t had it.”
This loss didn’t kill the Seahawks’ playoff chances. Playing in the forgiving NFC West, no loss — even one as bad as this — feels fatal. At 5-6 they are tied with St. Louis for the division lead.
But at this time of the year, the Seahawks have to win these games if they want to be taken seriously.
“You’ve got to come out and play your best every week, and when you don’t do that you look foolish,” Stokley said. “This is the time of the season when you want to be playing your best football. But we didn’t do that today.”
“We didn’t play anywhere near like we had planned,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the Seahawks’ AFC cousins. The past two years, the Chiefs have picked just ahead of the Hawks in the first round of the April draft. These two teams have been right next to each other for the past two miserable seasons.
But after this Tell the Truth Sunday, it is obvious the Chiefs are growing up faster than the Seahawks. At 7-4 they lead the AFC West.
Now, as they gather for Tell the Truth Monday, the Hawks know that the problems that have plagued them the past two seasons still exist.
Their pass rush has been muted. Their running game no longer exists. Their pass protection is breaking down, because their oft-injured offensive line has had nine different starting lineups.
And without wide receiver Mike Williams, who missed this game with a foot injury, their passing game shouldn’t scare anybody.
The Hawks were outgained 503-288 by the Chiefs. That’s truth by the numbers.
“We don’t ever want to come into this stadium and perform like that and let people knock us around like that,” Carroll said.
But they did. Again.
In their past two homes games (New York Giants and Kansas City) the Hawks have been outscored 83-31.
When the Hawks play with such little focus, when they fall behind early and make mistakes late, Qwest Field is just another football stadium, no more intimidating than Safeco Field in September.
“We need to win at home,” Hasselbeck said. “There’s just no excuse. That’s something we always do. We’ve always taken pride in that. And we’re losing hold of that. We need to get that back.”
The truth was on the scoreboard.
For the Seahawks, Tell the Truth Monday came a day early this week.
This late in the season, the truth hurts.