BY Art Thiel 08:39PM 01/03/2016

Thiel: Seahawks make history, aim for more

In beating the Cardinals 36-6, the Seahawks set up themselves for the playoffs, all on the road, with a third consecutive big road win — with the best defense for the fourth year in a row.

A 290-pound fullback / defensive tackle, Will Tukuafu hauls in a seven-yard pass for a touchdown, a career first, against Arizona Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The best teams and best athletes have an acute ability to make disappointments both temporary as well as inspirational. No greater evidence for that was Sunday in Glendale, AZ., where the Seahawks played perhaps their best game against a good opponent since the Super Bowl in New York — a week after a bad game that cost them key starters lost to injury.

Absent from the offense were RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Jimmy Graham, RB Thomas Rawls, LT Russell Okung, RG J.R. Sweezy and TE Luke Willson — half a starting, and starring, lineup. Yet the remainders embarrassed what some considered the best team in the NFC by a 36-6 count that did not do justice to the breadth and depth of the beat-down.

After a season of drama that drifted from 0-2 to 2-4 to 4-5, the Seahawks finished the regular season 10-6 and move on to the playoffs at 10 a.m. Sunday at Minnesota, taking comfort in the fact that they have won their past three road games by at least 29 points each. The last team with such a streak was the 1984 49ers.

In the biggest outcome Sunday, they won with star turns from guys named Christine Michael, Alvin Bailey, Chase Coffman, Will Tukuafu, Kelcie McCray and Mark Glowinski.

Huh?

“What a cool job these guys did, playing without all those front-line guys, against a team that is really good,” said coach Pete Carroll, who probably pulled off his best single-game management job since the Super Bowl win — maybe better, since that team was relatively healthy and mostly drama-free.

To top off the afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium, site 11 months ago of the Play That Can Never Be Unseen, the Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to lead the NFL in scoring defense four consecutive seasons.

In a word, Carroll, a defense first-second-and-third coach, was ecstatic.

“I don’t know if there’s a record I could be prouder of than to see our guys go four straight years leading the league in scoring defense,” he said. “That’s a remarkable accomplishment by a bunch of guys dedicated to the program.

“It’s hard to do things over a long period of time that well.”

In post-1994 era of liberalized free agency, the feat is astounding. It was important enough Sunday that everyone on the sidelines knew of the opportunity for the mark. They had to hold hold the NFC’s top-rated offense under eight points, the same offense that put up a six-year-high against Seattle of 39 in Seattle on Nov. 15.

“We knew what was going on,” Carroll said. “Guys were having a ball trying to get it done. “It’s a really cool accomplishment.

“They had a blast because they have so much respect for the team we played.”

It helped that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians pulled at halftime his star quarterback, Carson Palmer, partly to save his 36-year-old body from the ravages of a defense that didn’t have to worry about the run (27 rushing yards). And partly because he was beyond pissed at his team.

“This was a valuable lesson today because you could see it coming all week,” Arians said. “Coaches, players, all of them, fell into that reading-the-press-clippings thing and anointed Super Bowl champs. This was a nice wake-up call.”

Perhaps smugness was what happened to the Seahawks the previous week. Following a five-game winning streak that guaranteed Seattle a spot in the playoffs, they played poorly everywhere in a 23-17 home loss to the Rams and backup QB Case Keenum.

If that was the Seahawks’ wake-up call, the rest of the league must be on high alert.  The two-time-defending NFC champions are back. Carroll wasn’t bashful in saying so.

“I really liked the way we played” in the season’s second half, he said. “Last week was a mess. But the surge we were on, the way we improved — you saw it today on our third-down conversions (8 for 15 for the game). That shift at mid-season has been awesome.”

DE Michael Bennett, who came back strong after an injection in his ailing big toe, sees a similar position, knowing that the 10-6 Seahawks must win three playoff road games in a row, the burden of the lowest-seeded wild-card entrants, in order to return to the Super Bowl.

We’re poised for this situation,” he said. “We got young guys in great situations. We’re primed for this.”

Carroll is a believer in momentum only if he has it — “If you have it, I’d talk that way; if you don’t, I  don’t talk that way,” he said — but with three large road wins and seven of eight overall, the swing in Seattle’s favor is undeniable right now.

“We had a lot of problems at the beginning,” he said. “We made it through all that. We’ve regained our stride.

“(Sunday) demonstrates we’re on our game. Here we come.”

Carroll said he expected Willson, Okung, Chancellor and Sweezy to return to the lineup for the Vikings.

Here they come.

 


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    First, mea culpa for ever doubting the Hawks would win this game. No one could see this blow-out, but very few, including me, thought we would win.
    Interestingly KJ told the after game reporter that playing on the road is actually easier than at home, at least for him, as the crowd @ the Clink is so loud they can’t hear the signals, so the communication on the road is better.
    Arians was pissed at half when he spoke to the sideline reporter and said the team came out flat, so every starter other than Palmer would start the second half. Possibly the psychological part of the game is where Pete has it over some other coaches.

    • art thiel

      Hey, doubt was justified given the situation and circumstance. Credit to the coaching staff for adjustments to the setbacks in the Rams game.

  • ll9956

    Three days ago I commented, “I believe that in order for the Hawks’ to have any chance for victory over AZ, the O-line must play vastly better than last week, the D-backs
    must not allow more than one or two long completions and the front seven
    must put a lot of pressure on the QB, whether it’s Palmer or someone
    else. That’s a tall order.”

    The Hawks delivered on all counts. And they only had six penalties for 43 yards. I read about 100 predictions by various “experts” and at least 90% of them had AZ winning. It’s so sweet that they were so wrong! Now the hard part comes, playing all their playoff games, hopefully three, on the road, although that didn’t seem to matter today.

    I think PC deserves a lot of credit for reviving his team from a frightfully bad performance last week to a truly superb performance today.

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    • 1coolguy

      Interestingly, KJ said after the game that for him it’s actually easier on the road, as since there’s no crowd noise like at home, they can hear their signals and the communication is therefore better.
      Minnesota didn’t score from scrimmage a few weeks ago, so I don’t see this next go-round to be very close.

      • art thiel

        Good point from KJ. So much success or failure of a play is dictated in the final 2-3 seconds before the snap when formations and personnel groups are clearer.

      • Pixdawg13

        Vikings will be a lot better on D–three of their best missed the earlier game, but are all now back. That said, your point about their offense vs our defense is to the point.

    • art thiel

      Keep in mind that this game got away early from Cards, as the game did for Seahawks in Seattle. Good teams playing well from the start of a game is a hard circumstance to overcome.

  • jafabian

    Basically a bye week for the former champs. Bridgewater is untested in the playoffs and this will be the first time the Viking will play outdoors in the postseason. Not so worried about the running game anymore. Christine Michael was a beast in this game. At one point he had the look of Mike Singletary in his eyes. Wilson is also using all of his receivers better than before. Right now the hot teams going into the postseason are the Hawks, Steelers and Broncos.

    • art thiel

      Lynch is working out today in Seattle. A two-headed Beast?

      • dingle

        I can’t imagine that Lynch will be any stronger than maybe 75%? 80%? Combined with Michael, that’s more like a beast with two tails: still interesting, but not as frightening.

  • litespeed74

    Big beat down by the Hawks but the Cards are too good of a team to go away easy this post season. I hope we meet again for the NFC championship. GOHAWKS

    • art thiel

      Cards are a good team. But the Seahawks found correctable errors from the first meeting and applied them throughout. Smart group.

  • John M

    I was as surprised as anyone. I’m still not sure it was possible. Just when you think the season is all but over 53 guys step into a phone booth and, well, you know . . .

    • art thiel

      It’s been a Carroll trademark in his tenure here. He and his staff are great problem-solvers.

  • Kevin Lynch

    They look great. They’ll probably kill Minnesota with a young QB. But then it’s two elite QB’s on the road in back to back games. Not only are the Hawks 2-9 in road playoff games all-time but they have never beaten an elite QB on the road in the playoffs. They beat Peyton on a neutral field that was primarily pro-Hawk and they beat Marino in his rookie year. But this will be different. They might do it. We’ll see.

    • art thiel

      A difficult path, obviously, but look at what they’ve done this year on the road. History prior to this team right now is mostly irrelevant.

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

    The most fun aspect of the game in Glendale was the fact that everybody who has “picking football games” in his job description picked Arizona to win. That only slightly trumps the fact that so many starters were out of the game. The way the team played all phases of the game made the first half a pure joy to behold. After the halftime surrender, it was a bit of a snoozer, though.

    • art thiel

      That’s why sports is so much better than scripted TV,

  • notaboomer

    rick rizzs called it.

  • Sonics79

    Did anyone notice the Seahawks’ first play from scrimmage was the infamous Play That Can Never Be Unseen?
    This time to Kearse, and to the left, not at the goal line, for about 12 yards. But still a pretty cool play call back in the place where it happened, just to get rid of the ju-ju.

    • art thiel

      I dd notice. Forgot to ask today. Will try to remember Wednesday,

  • Ron

    Congratulations on your prediction that you published on Sepember 12.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • ClashCityRocker

    In case you missed it back in September, Art forecasted a 10-6 regular season finish for the Hawks. In the same piece he also predicted a return to the Big Dance. Click here to view Art’s crystal ball…http://sportspressnw.com/2208525/2015/thiel-seahawks-forecast-10-6-then-comes-fun. Well done, Art, and let’s hope you are right about three road wins in quest of that lost yard!

    • art thiel

      Hey, Clash, thanks for the recall. I was thinking of mentioning it but I’m a bashful sort.

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  • Warchild_70

    I first want to apologize for my rather cruel analogy in reference to the prediction of coming out the recipient of a wholesale butt whippin’ by the Cardinals. That said I blame it on good meds being taken for a broken front tooth! I did not watch the game due to said meds however when I awoke my dearly beloved said 36 to 6 and me thinking that what I thought it would turn out. But then she said Seahawks win!! Quickly I fell to my knees and beg forgiveness for my lack of faith. It’s even written somewhere in the scriptures, Oh me of little faith. Well after review how in the universe does a 290 lb (FB?) get open to actually catch a football AND touchdown?? Next thing I’ll see is Tuba as fullback and Will as tailback in the red zone! Get those long-johns on and balaclavas we’re heading north to the land of 1,000 lakes, GO HAWKS!!

    • art thiel

      You were not alone in your astonshment,

    • eYeDEF

      You thought the Seahawks would get creamed by 30 points? Yes I would agree with you about how little faith ye have. Never in the Russell Wilson era has this team lost by more than 10 points, that 10 point loss coming this year against Green Bay. This team always keeps it close, even when they lose.

  • Paul Harmening

    Another opening game defensive kick-off return for a touchdown first sentence by NW’s sports premier wordsmith.

    As a fictional writer who loves sports, I’m always checking out what Thiel might be flinging to the wall and copying it for future reference in my writings whenever his throws stick to the wall.

    Of course, I’m also looking at the follow up. This time, Thiel, you came through again as you do every so often. Beginning to end, just like the beat down da Hawks did on the painted red headed jaybirds.

    What’s to say about this game? Hey, da Hawks made it easy. Brought out the best in all of us fans, pundits, talk jocks and bar flies.

    There’s an oldy but goody late 50′s chart topping song called “Hot Rod Lincoln” with a phrase saying ‘shoot the juice to me Bruce’ (gasoline) that comes to mind. Uhh huh! They doen it to us again baby! Throwing a lighted match on that juice and making it whoooomp! Like the Beast Mode sez, “it’s all bout that action boss.”

    And guess who’s back? Dey’s all coming back! Beast Mode and all the front line wounded vets, plus a few more subs who can toe the line.

    Back to the Super Bowl, and this time, guess what? Beast Mode gets the ball and goes into the sunset chewing his “whatcha doen big daddy” spittles and his Super Bowl MVP trophy. Gotta get one of his charity jeeps. Wow! They’s hot! You-all need to check them out.

    So enough of all this hand wringing, sad song singing, my baby done left me nonsense Jumping Jack on and off again Flashes.

    Cam and Carson? Ya all done good. One of you getten that MVP trophy and all. Thank you. Just made RW spit-fire focused on getting the better trophy again just because he loves the 12, not to mention a little bit of payback on being slighted ever so lightly one more time. Huh- huh. That’s like spelled
    L O M B A R D I E.

    See ya at the parade.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Paul, for the compliment of stealing whatever sticks to the wall, I think.

      And thanks for endorsing the need for copy editors, who are greatly missed. (As with Tyler Lockett, no “E”).