The Morning After: Seahawks Pound Doubters to Dust, Clinch Playoffs with Win Over Mighty KC
Pete Carroll is unbending in his philosophy. It rankles many, who want to see him follow the trends appearing throughout the league. Part of his approach includes a stay-in-the-moment mentality that treats each game as equally important and discourages reflecting too much on either a win or a loss. I can say with some certainty that this is a game Carroll will reflect on for the rest of his days. The victory clinched a playoff birth for the seventh time in the past nine seasons, and validated Carroll’s approach to coaching along the way.
Many will point to the glory years when the Seahawks had the most talented roster in the NFL and were feared by everyone when remembering Carroll’s tenure in Seattle. His most remarkable seasons may have been his first and this one. He inherited the least-talented roster in the league in 2010, and managed not only coach a division title out of them, but a playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. He did that with guys like Ruvell Martin at wide receiver, and with an offensive coordinator that so clashed with his approach, that he was fired that offseason.
This season is similar, especially with the dearth of talent on defense. Like an animal with a wounded limb, Seattle protected themselves by putting their strength in the running game in front. Game-after-game the Seahawks ran the ball into heavy fronts, and game-after-game they won the most physical of battles on a football field. The clock joined the party, running and running while opponent offenses sat helpless on the sidelines.
Defenses would add more men to the line, and brace themselves for impact, only to find Russell Wilson throwing perfect parabolas to depths beyond contemplation. Receivers and tight ends who nobody knew or respected made catch-after-catch. An offensive line who everybody knew and nobody respected did the impossible by endearing themselves to a scornful fanbase. Chris Carson became the spirit animal of the team, punishing all who would stand in his way.
This is not a great team. They lack requisite game-changing talent, especially on defense. They are limited in the types of offense they can play. What they lack in total talent, they make up for in astounding consistency. Since switching over to a run-centric offense in week three, they have rushed for over 100 yards in all but one game. In fact, they have run for 154 yards or more in all but two of those games.
Their only losses in that stretch have come at the hands of the 12-3 Rams by 2 and 5 points, the 11-4 Chargers by 8 points, and the 4-11 49ers by 3 points in overtime. By the way, the Bears became the first team to beat Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers in December, when they squeaked out a five-point win. Shanahan had been 7-0 before that game.
Sunday night, Carroll out-dueled offensive mastermind Andy Reid and the 11-4 Chiefs. Kansas City entered the game with the likely MVP at quarterback, plenty of toys on offense, and an offensive system that is the envy of many in Seattle’s fanbase. How did Carroll beat him?
The Seahawks ran for over 200 yards, held the ball for over 35 minutes, and leaned on their still-under-appreciated quarterback to strike like a cobra deep down the field. They finished with a season-high in yards (464) and in offensive points scored (38).
Patrick Mahomes was held to under 300 yards passing not because the Seahawks defense was equipped to stop him, but because the NFL does not allow him to throw passes from the sideline.
Truthfully, Mahomes was brilliant. He made throws only he can make, and kept the ball out of harms way. He ran at the right times, and either found open receivers or threw them open with tight window dimes. As good as he was, Wilson was better.
Wilson was astounding. He was lethally efficient early in the game on 3rd down, helping the team convert 7 of 14 overall, and then donned his cape and showed off his super powers with two of best throws you will ever see on the final drive.
His pass to Tyler Lockett along the sideline was heaven sent. An angel could not have delivered a ball more perfectly from the sky than Wilson did on that play. The most ardent Wilson bashers should take a break and celebrate the dude’s gifts.
The throw to Doug Baldwin was also great, but the catch was better. Baldwin getting one hand on the ball and tipping it to himself while diving to the ground with a defender draped all over him was miraculous.
Baldwin finished with a season-high 126 yards receiving, his highest total since 2016. He has had two straight strong games, and could be finding his footing just in time for the postseason where his guile and savagery is most needed.
Lockett is just 101 yards shy of 1,000 yards on the season, and has already set a career high in receptions.
The Seahawks offense ranks 3rd in the NFL over the second half of the 2018 season in point scored, averaging 30.4 points per game. Only the Chiefs (34.2 ppg) and the Rams (30.7 ppg) rank higher.
Carson ran for over 100 yards again and broke the thousand yard mark. It was the first time a Seahawks runner had done that since Marshawn Lynch in 2014. He became just the second Seahawks draft pick to rush for over 1000 yards in his second season. Shaun Alexander was the first. He also ranks second behind only Curt Warner in rushing yards compiled in his first 17 games, while doing so with far fewer carries and a higher average per rush.
The Seahawks need to score just 23 points to become the second-highest scoring offense in franchise history behind the 2005 squad. They would need to score 52 points to set the franchise record.
There is a case to be made this is now one of the best offenses in football. It is different than other offenses, but points are the ultimate arbiter, and this team is scoring them consistently against nearly every team. They will need that confidence when facing some of the better defenses in the playoffs, starting with either the Cowboys or the Bears.
Very few teams have managed to stop the Seahawks ground game. Even the Vikings, who played an excellent defensive game a few weeks back, yielded 214 yards on the ground.
Kansas City put up a decent fight on defense, Seattle was missing multiple starters on the offensive line, and their second running back, and the Seahawks still ran for over 200 yards and scored 38 points.
It was not all offense. The Seahawks defense had some impressive individual performances.
Akeem King was a cult favorite among hardcore Seahawks fans during the preseason, but had been rarely used most of the year. He had been a cornerback, but recently has been playing a fair amount of safety. I would argue he made more plays in this game than Tedric Thompson has made in his entire career.
King blanketed Travis Kelce on several plays, and had what may have been a game-saving tackle on a kickoff return that turned into a Chiefs field goal before they went for an onsides kick. King has earned more playing time. Emphasis on the word earned. People like to say this player or that player just needs more reps to prove himself. King is proving his worth in the limited snaps he is getting. Good players do that.
On first blush, it appeared that Delano Hill also did well in coverage against Kelce. Bradley McDougald battled through injury, as did Jarran Reed. Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers played reasonably well. The secondary and coaching deserves praise for limiting the most explosive passing team in the league to almost no plays over the top.
Tyreek Hill had one big catch, but it was not a game-breaking pass behind the last line of the defense. Containing those big plays and forcing the Chiefs to work their way down the field was one of the biggest pleasant surprises. That, combined with the efficient offense, limited the Chief’s possessions.
Dion Jordan made an appearance with a few impact plays. I am not holding my breath expecting more to come any time soon.
A number of players on offense and defense either were injured or playing through injury in this game. The team has some decisions to make about who they rest in the final game before the playoffs begin.
When the clock finally struck zero, Carroll became the first coach in Seahawks history to guide a team to the playoffs in seven seasons. His teams have missed the playoffs just twice in nine tries. Consider that in the other 34 years of the franchise’s existence, they made just ten playoff appearances.
I was wrong about Carroll when he was hired to be the Seahawks coach. I saw superficial gloss that seemed shallow and weak. I expected weakness. One after another, Seattle opponents have fallen into the same trap this season. Nine of them have fallen. They will not be the last.