BY Art Thiel 11:14PM 12/23/2012

Thiel: Here’s the deal: Seahawks best in NFC

Dope-slapping the rival 49ers 42-13 Sunday night, the Seahawks clinched a playoff berth by outscoring their most recent three opponents by a combined 150-30.

Richard Sherman was on his way to a touchdown after teammate Red Bryant blocked a field goal in the Seahawks’ 42-13 triumph Sunday night at the Clink over the San Francisco 49ers. / Rod Mar, Seattle Seahawks

The words unspoken in Seattle for seven years since the infamy in Detroit, now may be used with reckless abandon.

Super Bowl.

Not saying the Seahawks will make it. It’s just that there does not appear to be a better team in the NFC. Besides, it’s Christmas when dreams are the theme, and Seattle’s sugar plum fairies just danced on the heads of the San Francisco 49ers. 

After a 42-13 teardown of the nemesis Niners, the No. 1 team in the NFL in scoring defense, that was as ruthless as it was efficient, the far horizon is more than visible. It’s tangible. The Seahawks clinched a berth in the playoffs by outscoring their past three opponents 150-30, numbers common to the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals, not the NFL.

Coach Pete Carroll made no attempt to moderate his exuberance over the magnitude of the accomplishment, particularly because it was over his hometown team run by the guy, Jim Harbaugh, who once embarrassed him in a previous job by running up the score. And Carroll did it on Harbaugh’s 49th birthday, no less. To spoil his birthday, Christmas and at least a little bit of his season, well, Carroll was drinking glee by the barrel.

“I take a lot of pride in the fact that we played like that against this team and those coaches,” he said. “The thing has been happening. It’s been coming together. We’re getting better, and you can just feel it and see. It’s coming to life for us.”

If it were possible to dismiss the 58-0 win over Arizona and the 50-17 win over Buffalo as aberrations due largely to opponent incompetence, it was not possible apply the same skepticism Sunday night. The entire football nation, via NBC, saw a good 10-4-1 outfit, fresh off a splendid win in New England against the Patriots, torn apart by the whirlwind of rookie Russell Wilson and a team drafting closely behind him.

Of course, the Seahawks had 68,161 pals in the CenturyLink mix, all of whom seemed to have spent the day improving their impersonation of a Boeing jet engine. But the game could have been played in a hyperbaric chamber and the Seahawks would have won.

In a night as heavy with superlatives as raindrops, there was one figure that leaped out — the Seahawks converted 11 of 13 third downs against one of the game’s most ferocious defenses.

“That’s tough to do in the National Football League, and we did it tonight,” said the mega-precocious Wilson.  “Our timing was perfect. The line did a tremendous job. (Receivers) are running the right routes at the right time. I’m just getting so much more comfortable back there.”

“Back there” several times meant outrageous scrambles that had him 15 to 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, only to swivel, duck and sprint away from the 49ers in homage to the best Roadrunner cartoons.

During one swerve-and-curve that included three reversals of field, he turned disaster into a six-yard gain — ironically, a yard short of a third-down conversion, the only one the Seahawks missed other than a deliberate kneel-down.

“With about five minutes left, Sidney Rice told me, ‘When we get the ball back, let’s just put you in there and let you scramble for five minutes,’” Wilson said. “I started laughing. The line was doing a great job giving me enough time to try to get a positive play out of it, and not make a bad decision.”

Wilson rarely makes a bad decision anymore. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards, and his only interception came off a tipped pass that hit running back Robert Turbin in the hands.

Regarding Wilson’s confounding elusiveness, fullback Michael Robinson explained that Wilson’s quickness and awareness add elements that are hard to defend, a virtue about which his teammates were given an early heads-up by Carroll.

“He’s a scrambler more than a runner like Michael Vick or Cam Newton,” he said. “Russell scrambles to get the ball downfield and his head is always up. Early in the season, Pete came to (receivers) and said, ‘The kid will get away. Get open.’ We started working on our scramble rules.”

It should be mentioned that the 49ers were missing to injury perhaps their best defender, lineman Justin Smith. But hey, the Seahawks were down to a fourth string at one cornerback spot. Them’s the breaks.

At the other Seattle  cornerback spot was Richard Sherman, who may be ready to overtake retired all-pro Deion Sanders in his ability to make headlines as well as plays. Sherman scooped by a field goal blocked by Red Bryant and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, then ended another 49ers drive with an interception in the end zone.

But he will find out in the next 48 to 72 hours, when the NFL decides on his appeal of a positive test for a banned stimulant, whether he gets to stay with the team for the final game against St. Louis Sunday as well as the playoffs.

That appeared to be of no concern to Sherman Sunday night after the evisceration of the Niners.

“If you would’ve told me this would be the outcome, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said.  “I would say you’re making this up. You’re talking about the Chicago Bears back in the day or something crazy like that. We beat some pretty good teams, but there is no way we were going to beat this team like this. We expect a different score if we see them again.”

That could happen in the playoffs, depending on how the final Sunday of the regular season plays out. What is known at the moment is that the Seahawks are in the playoffs, certified as the team least wanted to play by the other 11 entrants.

At least that’s the deal, as Carroll and his team see it.


YourThoughts

  • Jason Long

    Too early to put the champagne on ice, but start shopping for the bubbly.

    • art thiel

      Missing out on the first-round bye makes the road much harder than 2006. Hardly impossible. NYG always win on the playoff road.

  • nick

    That place was electric. Great game. Great article, Art.

    • art thiel

      Thanks Nick. Really was a tremendous night at the yard.

  • jafabian

    The Hawks right now are reminding me of the 1986 team that had everything fall into place the last five games of the season. Unfortunately that team was in too deep of a hole to qualify for the playoffs, falling short by one game. This one has clinched a spot already, hoping they can make some noise once they get there.

    Glad to see Coach Carroll get the win against Jim Harbaugh. Would have been interesting to see if he’d go for it on 4th down or do a fake punt if the opportunity presented itself.

    • art thiel

      Several of us in the press box wanted Pete to go for 2 after the last TD. But he wisely chose not to poke the wounded bear. Might see them again in a couple of weeks

  • Ray Stahl

    I said before the game the QB who played best would win and Wilson was best last night. Right now, the Hawks are on a roll, good time of year for it and looks good for playoffs.
    Ray

    • art thiel

      Timing couldn’t be better, but GB, Wa and Vikings are on similar hot runs.

  • ruba61

    So what team wants to play Seattle first??? HMMMM???

    • art thiel

      Agreed. But no one wants to play the Packers in GB in January either. Although speaking from experience, atmosphere there can’t be beat.

  • Tim

    This team has no fear. I expect us to humiliate the 49ers again in a couple of weeks, and then ultimately beat the Pack in Green Bay with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Since I’m dreaming, how about Golden Tate catching a legit game winner as time expires! This feels special. Really special.

    • art thiel

      It’s Christmas, pal. Dream away. This kind of anticipation is what makes sports different and more exhilarating than all of our other diversions.

  • notaboomer

    oh noes. 1 man killed, another wounded in bar shooting in Bellevue . . . Witnesses tell KING 5 News that there were several Seahawks players in the bar at the time of the shooting.

    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2012/12/1-killed-1-wounded-in-bar-shooting-in-bellevue/

  • PokeyPuffy

    Art, agree the NFC and SUPERBOWL is wide open, much like last year when the Giants ran the table. Not to jinx our Hawks, but its true there is just not that many teams that can compete at this level. Just thinking of the matchups is entertaining! On the road in DC or Dallas, then Atlanta, then either GB or 49ers (would yield an amazing conference championship). After that playing the Texans, Broncos or Patriots in the SB and on neutral turf would be cake.

    BTW i actually enjoyed the coverage NBC had for our game last night. Did anyone catch the nice bit of visual comparison between Fran Tarkenton and Wilson’s scrambling style? It was well done, and not often that you see that level of sports intelligence on a major network..

    I thinka big piece of last night’s success was the emasculation of the 49ers. A big part of their success is getting hustle plays like loose balls, takeaways etc. Now they themselves have been taken down several notches i.e. the bully got bullied!

    And for anyone who might have thought the 49ers had nothing at stake, they likely lost their first round BYE last night, on their coaches bday. They will now have the pleasure chasing down Adrian Petterson and the Vikings (also hot!) instead of resting up their banged up players..

    • art thiel

      Still a hard road, but the Seahawks have the confidence they didn’t have the first eight weeks. As far as the 49ers, their injuries plus the come-down after the NE win were factors. But not 29 pts worth. They are on a fade.

    • whoKarez

      if you rewatch the last several seahawk games, you’ll notice that the seahawks seem to have an extra bounce to their step. Just about all of them. their first two steps seem to accelerate faster than their opponents. either the entire team is on adderall or the opponents are on downers, lol. just kidding.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Based on the last few weeks, I predict Seattle will play in the Superbowl. The only thing that can stop them is a rash of injuries. Go back as far as you want in the records, and I’ll bet the rest of this sandwich you can’t find a 150-30 three-game stretch – EVER. If you’re playing in the NFL, you’re already an elite athlete. There are no bad players in the league. Seattle has been playing a game that looks a lot like the Landry/Staubach Cowboys or the 49ers under Bill Walsh – methodical and precise. Obviously they need to think one game at a time, starting with the Rams, but I’ll be quite surprised if they don’t go to the NFC Championship game.

  • Soggyblogger

    “Dope slapping…” come on. Just say it. B*tch slapping. Not your greatest article, Art, but isn’t it fun? This team is fun to watch and fun to root for, and we have every reason to believe this is just the beginning. Watching steam coming out of Haraugh’s ears, and his eyes bugging out like they were on springs made this game worth the painful wait we had to endure since our last game. Win or lose vs. St. Louis, this team is a team to recon with in the playoffs.

    I hope we get the RG3 machine and then Atlanta. Then bring on the winner of the GB and SF showdown. I’d just as soon have a chance to destroy GB by multiple touchdowns so there is no doubt this time. Whiny little girly players. Still crying like little babies. I hope we get the chance. First, let’s beat St.Louis. The Rams. I still can’t get used to the St. Louis Rams. The SL Cardinals and the LA Rams. How could LA give them up? All owners suck except for Paul Allen. Though I could be wrong.

    • whoKarez

      the rams were in cleveland before moving to LA

  • Pixeldawg13

    Can we all use our Boxing Day wish and hope for the trifecta?

    Seahawks beat Rams
    Cardinals beat 49′ers
    Vikings beat Packers

    Result if that happens?

    Seahawks = 2nd seed in NFC