BY Art Thiel 08:47PM 12/28/2014

Thiel: Seahawks ‘frickin’ awesome,’ says Carroll

Three big defensive plays completed the return from the precipice of a Super Bowl hangover to the same postseason spot from which they nailed the Super Bowl a year ago.

LB Bobby Wagner punches out the ball from Rams TE Lance Kendricks while Bruce Irvin prepares to take it 49 yards for a touchdown Sunday at the Clink. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Three signs that the Seahawks, one of the NFL’s youngest teams, are maturing into an Alien-style, pitiless machine:

At the accomplishment of the only seasonal goal set by coach Pete Carroll,  Seahawks players Sunday afternoon were as nonchalant as a barber-shop chat about the weather;

New guys like WR Paul Richardson and DT Jordan Hill are nearly the equals of their predecessors in terms of dedication to relentlessness.

The capacity for reinvention. After his airborne recovery of a fumbled reception turned into a 49-yard touchdown run, LB Bruce Irvin was asked if he had a name for his running style. He offered up his giant smile and said: “Bruce Mode!”

After a painstaking 20-6 beatdown of the ever-ornery St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks again are division champs with the coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs at 12-4, after a 13-3 mark a year earlier.

After a bye, they will play at home one among the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions — all of whom play in the wild card round next weekend — at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10 (FOX).

Coach Pete Carroll was not as casual as his players. He was so loud and proud he broke out a fresh 24-pack of exclamation points.

“All you (media) guys kept talking about how (the Seahawks) can’t do this, (we) can’t get to this point again, and (we) can’t come back!” he said. “That’s what made me more excited about this year than any year I can remember, because . . . what if we could pull this thing together and do something like this?

“We’ll show that we can. There’s a way to do it.”

The point of Carroll’s pride bears elaboration.

From their triumphal Super Bowl team, the Seahawks lost 13 starters and reserves in free agency. Another half-dozen starters and reserves were lost to season-ending injuries; others missed long stretches. Carroll and the bosses threw away their most explosive, expensive offensive player, WR Percy Harvin, for almost nothing in return. The franchise was the midseason subject of national media scrutiny after a 3-3 start that even produced a story suggesting QB Russell Wilson wasn’t black enough. (No explanation whether he needed more hip or more hop.)

The NFL booked Seattle a slate of games that qualified at the beginning of the season as the league’s most difficult schedule, particularly the final seven that appeared to include gravel sandwiches at every stop.

The Seahawks responded to the tumult by going 9-1 over the final 10 games. That included a game last week in Arizona that produced a franchise-record 596 yards of total offense, and Sunday a defense that again denied an opponent touchdown. Over the final six games, the Seahawks permitted three TDs, a feat that approaches the frontier of team sports achievement.

For the past three seasons now, the Seahawks have led the NFL in fewest points allowed, a feat last accomplished by the 1969-71 Minnesota Vikings of Purple People Eaters fame, and done only one other time in NFL history, by the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s.

“I think that’s frickin’ awesome,” Carroll said. “A big-time accomplishment . . . there’s a bunch of knuckleheads in that group and they’ve figured out a way to play together in a really historic fashion.”

Then there’s this, from LB Bobby Wagner:

“We still think we have stuff to fix, which is scary.”

Scarier still is that NFC opponents will have to come to Seattle, known to be an unpleasant environment if the wardrobe includes the wrong colors.

“To win the division today and be NFC West champs is a really big deal, because we get to play here in the playoffs . . . to bring it home to the 12s,” said Carroll, fizzing like a shaken soda. “They were just magnificent . . . the whole place was crazy.”

Through the first half, however, they were mostly knotted up. The Seahawks trailed 6-0, their first shutout at the half since 2011. Then the Rams, who beat the Seahawks 28-26 at St. Louis in October, began spitting up.

The Seahawks, who had an interception of Wilson and a fumble lost by Marshawn Lynch in the first half, popped on the board with a field goal. It was set up by a remarkable reception from Richardson, the rookie wideout with much potential who had been mostly quiet. He won a jump ball on the sideline for a 32-yard gain, one of a team-high five receptions in the absence of injured WR Jermaine Kearse.

Another field goal came from the next possession, but it was still 6-6 entering the fourth quarter. On the final period’s first play, the 300-pound Hill reached down to his shoetops for an interception of a pass that Rams QB  Shaun Hill deliberately tried to throw away to prevent a sack.

“I had to get it in the vicinity of a running back,” said Hill. “Their guy made a crazy play.”

Six plays later, Lynch went in untouched for a touchdown from nine yards for a 13-6 lead. Came then another stunner, this one from Wagner, who stripped a reception from TE Lance Kendricks that squirted to Irvin, who went “Bruce Mode” for the 49-yard score.

Then was the exclamation point, typically from the defense. The Rams put together their best drive of the game, 11 plays and 70 yards. On third-and-goal from the Seattle 5-yard line, RB Benny Cunningham took a swing pass and seem destined for the end zone and a large shift in momentum.

But on the half-yard line, he collided with FS Earl Thomas, who stripped free the ball. Because it bounded out of the end zone, the play by rule was a touchback, ending the drive and giving the ball to the Seahawks.

NFC West, won.

“I don’t know if there’s a more fitting play for a guy,” Carroll said, still fizzing. “What a great play for Earl . . . a sliver of an inch from the end zone. It’s a great way to make the statement of how hard he plays the game. An unbelievable play.”

A fitting description too, for the Seahawks’ final 10 games. They returned from the precipice of the fabled Super Bowl hangover to exactly the postseason place they owned a year earlier.

Football fans know there hasn’t been a repeat champion in the NFL in 10 years. They also know the Seahawks are unlike anything the NFL has seen in 10 years. And opponents know that, in this space, no one can hear you scream.


  • Diamond Mask

    Just finished watching Bengals & Steelers and was entirely unimpressed with either of them. I see Patriots rolling through the AFC. A worthy opponent. Go Hawks!

    p.s. loved the no one can hear you scream!!!

    • art thiel

      Good. I’m sure there will be some who will miss the greatest subtitle in movie history.

      • dinglenuts

        Philistines, all of them.

        I was concerned about this game. I didn’t watch it (was subject to the Harbaugh Farewell Party instead), but was glad to hear the outcome.

        • art thiel

          Quinn is being sought by 49ers to interview for their vacancy.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            Just read in a NYJ Blog that Dan Quinn will be interviews by Jets here Saturday….was interested to see what Harvins totals ended up being for NY….and the chances of their retaining Harvin even though they have swept out the coaching staff.

  • Raymond Meyers

    Splendid. Thank you for your perspective, Art. It was a thoroughly enjoyable match. The Beast Mode was somewhat subdued, but the Legion of Boom was quite effective. With two weeks to rest up, and the home field, they should crush the next couple of opponents handily. It’s worth noting that our WR rookies contributed nicely to the effort.

    In this space, you can’t even hear yourself scream. I know. I’ve tried.

    • art thiel

      Dallas is looking stout. Rematch will bring the thunder.

      • Pixdawg13

        True–but for them to get here, they very likely will have to win at Lambeau. In January. 8-0 on the road doesn’t say much about playing on the “frozen tundra” (is there such a thing as thawed tundra?)

  • 1coolguy

    Well done!
    My one comment is the strip by Thomas was one if the finest football plays I have ever seen. One to simply commit to get there then think to strip the ball instead of pushing Cunningham out of bounds, which wouldn’t have worked but what almost all would have tried. Remarkable.

    • Captain Mann

      The 12′s are saving their best for the playoffs.

    • art thiel

      The press box shook. That means loud. The Rams come here every year, and to Fisher’s credit, are not intimidated. But overall, I think the crowd’s audio intensity was down from the past season.

  • 1coolguy
  • ll9956

    Unlike some others, I can’t say I enjoyed this game–until the fourth quarter. I agree with Chris Francis of KIRO who called it an ugly win. The two picks by the D were somewhat fluky (is that a word?). And the ruling on the stripped ball that rolled out of the end zone is something I never heard of. I guess one learns something every day. Truly a remarkable play by Thomas.

    But I’ll take it and the W.

    Go Hawks!

    • Raymond Meyers

      “Ugly win” is an oxymoron of the highest caliber.

      • art thiel

        Many fans want everything tidy. But it’s mishap that makes football so compelling.

    • art thiel

      The end zone touchback was designed to deter offenses from advancing a fumble forward into the end zone and attempting to fall on it. The risk of the ball going OB for a turnover is high.

      You’re supposed to enjoy the tension, y’know? That’s why you admire good books and movies.

  • jafabian

    Definitely an ugly win, but this game showed that when the offense stalls, the defense will get them back on the field ASAP for another try. That’s two games in a row they’ve denied their opponent entry into the end zone and in their last six said opponent hasn’t scored more than 14. No other team in the league can come close to such defensive efficiency. That strip that Earl did to save a TD was outstanding. Very Easley-esque!

    • art thiel

      Good call on Easley. The best until Thomas.

      • AlaskaMikeG

        One of the great defensive plays in Seahawks history!

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        So you feel Earl is better than Easley? We that have been fortunate enough to watch both?What defense they have bestowed on our Seahawks.Extraordinary competitors …so glad both donned the Hawk uniform.Hopefully Earl retires a Seahawk.

  • Jamo57

    The Seahawks have overcome the “Super Bowl Hangover”, the so-called “Seahawks Rule” or “point of emphasis” about defensive holding, and the scheduling gauntlet they were given by the League.

    So what will the NFL weigh them down with next year? Will the referees have yellow and red cards and the Hawks will have to play with ten men, and then nine?

    Will all road games be scheduled in London?

    Stay tuned….

    • Captain Mann

      And what if that happens? Seahawks will find a way for a three-peat. Go Hawks!

      • art thiel

        Make sense. By then, Wilson will be a $20M QB, so I’m sure he’ll play like one.

        • eYeDEF

          And where are the cost savings from the roster supposed to come from with that 20 mil less in cap space? That’s what I’m worried about.

    • art thiel

      They will be allowed to use their indoor voices only, even outside.

  • Schaefdawg

    So now two weeks to heal up the O-line and get ready for sudden death football! Is it just me, or does anyone else think the coaching staff has something more for the playoffs, especially for the offense? More roll outs, screens, junk? I know this is against the “just play our game” mantra, but man, the offense was not all it needed to be. There is progress especially WR Richardson, but overall, that offense alone would not have won the game. That said, the defense was outstanding again. Still, I’m hoping,betting the coaching wunderkinds will again find something new to shake things up.

    With the amount of change in personnel this team has gone through since last year, it really is a testament to both the players and the coaching staff to find a way to get back on track and win. This D is record setting, but the fun is all the amazing individual highlights that demonstrate how great these guys are.

    • art thiel

      The obligation is winning, not perfection. Remember the O put up 596 yards a week earlier.

      • Schaefdawg

        Yup, you gotta play with what you have, and its worked pretty well so far, but the same is true of the other guys so all I’m saying is I wish for a little more consistency as things get tougher.

  • Gerald Turner

    Very glad to be a Seahawk fan at this time. But would not trade any season from the last thirty years, to be a fan of one team for life is to be there for every game. OK, OK so I skipped the last five games of the Jimmy, just crickets Mora era, sue me.

    • art thiel

      Your perseverance is noble, and rewarded.

  • Captain Mann

    I’m hoping it’s a rematch with the Packers for the NFC championship. That way, the Hawks end the season the way they started: playing the Packers at the Clink. And maybe, just maybe, a rematch with the Broncos in February. How fitting.

    • art thiel

      Packers would be fun. As would Dallas. If they prevail, I’d like to see Brady/Belichick. So would Pete.

      • Pixdawg13

        And so would Sherman. “U mad again, bro?”

    • jafabian

      I do see the Packers and Seahawks meeting again but I believe it’ll be the Steelers they’ll see in the Super Bowl. Don’t see the Patriots getting past them. They rely too much on the pass and their defense can’t counter the offensive efficiency of the Steelers. Pittsburgh will learn something about payback when they play the Hawks.

      • Captain Mann

        Oh yeah, payback’s a biatch.

      • eYeDEF

        The Steelers defense is too horrible to make it to the super bowl.

        • jafabian

          No one beyond the Bills and maybe the Chiefs in the AFC plays a defense that impresses me. But in the playoffs it’s about match ups. I think the Steelers can get there but they won’t win it.

          • eYeDEF

            Okay but there is still a mountain of difference between, say Denver’s defense which finished 4th in defensive DVOA or Baltimore which finished 8th, or Pats at 11th and Pittsburgh’s at 30th. A team with a 30th ranked defense DVOA has never made it to the super bowl, with of course dvoa only tracking back to 1989.

            Plus, Rothlisberger outside of his two historic games has been pretty mediocre. He’ll have to be having one those historic moments against Manning and Brady to have any chance of winning a shootout. Because of he plays like he did in the other 14 games this season it’s not going to be enough.

  • Captain Mann

    There is a way to beat any team on any given Sunday, but with the Hawks, the only way to beat them is to be better than they are. Not gonna happen for the rest of the season.

    • art thiel

      I think they’ll reach the SB. Don’t see them losing at home.

  • steve51

    Great defense and great win, but Wilson’s performance left a lot to be desired – two fumbles and an interception! And at least a couple of sacks for losses were the result of him holding on to the ball too long. At times he’s great and at others he’s not. The defense won this game, as they have most of the this year. Here’s hoping the good to great Wilson shows up thru the playoffs.