Seahawks primed for a playoff run

Seahawks will need to close out more than the Steelers down the stretch to make the post season

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

The Seattle Seahawks are buying time when it is of the essence in the NFL, although it isn’t coming cheap.

Sitting at 4-5 after another painstakingly tough loss against the Arizona Cardinals in front of a national audience on Nov. 15, the Seahawks looked unfamiliar, a term tossed around by fans, pundits and even running back Marshawn Lynch. The defense blew their seventh fourth-quarter lead in their last 11 games – dating back to the 2015 playoffs – and the offense had failed once again to answer the bell when needed.

Simply put, it wasn’t Seahawks football like it had been the past three seasons under head coach Pete Carroll. The “bend but don’t break” defense had been shattered, and the offense that always produced in timely moments had clocked out when work was still left to be done.

The national media wondered if Carroll’s college-style approach in the locker room had reached a boiling point and whether Russell Wilson’s personal life had become a distraction to both himself and the team.

That’s what happens when a team with a 36-12 combined record over the past three seasons – and a 6-2 record in the playoffs – starts the 2015 season 4-5, with nearly its entire core of key players still intact and healthy. The media and the fans will look everywhere for answers.

And when Wilson – who received a four-year, $87.6 million extension in the offseason – goes 14-32 passing for 240 yards with a mind-boggling interception and a measly passer rating of just 67.2 in a close loss at home, attacking what he does off the field seems justifiable for some.

But it wouldn’t be Seahawks football if it was easy. In the NFC Wildcard Playoffs in 2013, the Seahawks trailed the Washington Redskins, 14-0, after the first quarter before shutting Robert Griffin III and the Redskins out in the final three quarters, winning, 24-14.

The Seahawks’ season ultimately ended in heartbreaking fashion against the Atlanta Falcons the next week, but the bar had been set for a Seahawks team that surprised everyone. They were led by a defense that punished the opposing team every play and a composed, quiet quarterback who did exactly what was asked of him, and sometimes more.

The following season was the one Seahawks fans had waited 37 years for, winning the coveted Super Bowl for the first time in team history. But it didn’t come without its challenges, with the Seahawks trailing the San Francisco 49ers, 10-3, at halftime of the 2014 NFC Championship Game.

But they persevered, as Richard Sherman sealed the most memorable game in franchise history with a tipped pass in the end zone, falling harmlessly into the hands of Malcolm Smith and preserving a 23-17 victory. The rest was history, the kind that parents can’t wait to tell their kids when they hold a football for the very first time.

There’s no need to bring up Super Bowl XLIX, but the Seahawks wouldn’t have even been in a position to win their second consecutive championship if it wasn’t for a miraculous 12-point comeback in the final three minutes of the 2015 NFC Championship game to stun Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

It was a game that brought an emotionally-spent Wilson to tears, and defined Seahawks football under Carroll. You cannot win a game in the first, second, or third quarters. Games are won in the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks are trying to buy time while they regain the form that has made them so dominant.

A convincing 29-13 win over the flailing 49ers in week 11, followed up by a thrilling 39-30 win over the 6-4 Pittsburgh Steelers in week 12 moved the Seahawks to 6-5 on the season and into a playoff spot if the season ended today.

Russell Wilson had his best game as a Seahawk against the Steelers, going 21-30 passing for 345 yards, five touchdown passes, no turnovers and a near-perfect passer rating of 147.9. The defense forced four turnovers against an offense led by future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, coming up big in the fourth quarter when they needed to. It was, by most measures, Seahawks football.

Although it’s a small sample in a long season, fans have put off digging a shallow grave for a wounded bird that can still soar when it wants to. Sometimes it just needs a little nudge.