BY Art Thiel 06:16PM 12/15/2019

Thiel: Wilson’s ‘spin’ puts Seahawks No. 1 in NFC

After hanging on to beat Carolina 30-24, Seahawks learned 49ers lost. Seattle (11-3) clinched a playoff berth and grabbed the NFC West lead. Wilson’s bounce-back was large.

The Seahawks, after an apparent touchdown, reversed upon review, nevertheless had plenty to celebrate with Sunday’s win and other game outcomes. / Daniel Mogg, West2East

During practice last week, Russell Wilson offered up a point of emphasis to coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

“I told the coaches, the ball spins good for me in North Carolina,” he said, referring not only to his three starring years at North Carolina State, but to the Seahawks’ run of four wins in five games in Charlotte against the Panthers.

Now that the streak is five of six after a 30-24 win Sunday (box), it appears the coaches are not entirely dim. They took Wilson’s hint and helped turn it into a franchise-record seventh road triumph that clinched a playoff berth at 11-3, and sent them momentarily to the No. 1 spot in the NFC playoff standings.

After the Seahawks won, the Atlanta Falcons (5-9) stunned the homestanding San Francisco 49ers (11-3) 29-22 — all three Niners losses have come on the final scrimmage play — to give Seattle the lead in the NFC West, which also saw the Rams, who throttled Seattle a week ago, blasted by 44-21 by the Dallas Cowboys.

Another potential 11-3 team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints, hosts the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) Monday night. If the Saints win, they would hold the top seed based on their September triumph over the Seahawks. The top two positions qualify for a first-round bye, a most valuable asset in the NFL playoffs. (Current playoff seedings and scenarios here).

As the scores rolled in, the party on the Seahawks’ five-hour flight home from Charlotte would have been the airborne holiday event of the season.

As to the Seahawks’ contribution to the Sunday of tumult, the primary takeaway was not how their messiness concluded. The key was how the Seahawks started: Touchdowns on the first three possessions in a pass-first plan that exploited Wilson’s comfort with Carolina’s apparently rare air.

The Seahawks had not done as much as back-to-back scores to open any game this season; Sunday they went 75, 80 and 75 yards for the three TDs.

After falling down 14-3 against the Rams in Los Angeles in a 28-12 defeat the previous Sunday, rendering impossible a comeback against what that day was a premier defense, the Seahawks put a priority on stomping early and firmly on the collective throat of the disheveled Panthers (5-9).

They did not have the services of QB Cam Newton, TE Greg Olsen or coach Ron Rivera, the latter fired two weeks earlier. Best to exploit early the lame and the halt.

In the first half, Wilson was 11 of 14 for 192 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, which included touchdown passes of 19 yards each to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Wilson finished with a rating of 137.3, the first time in five weeks he topped 100.

A significant party to that success was Lockett, who had eight catches and 120 yards, demonstrating he was finally free of the effects of a leg injured against the 49ers, and a bad case of the flu.

“He and Tyler together are phenomenal,” Carroll said. “It’s been awhile. Tyler’s been working his way back; you could see it today. It’s great to have him back.

‘Russell loves being here. He has played really well here and we’ve won a lot of games here, fortunately. He played terrific today.”

Abetting the tandem was RB Chris Carson, who had a career-best 133 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. The second one came with 7:18 left in the game on a fourth-and-inches play at the Carolina six-yard line. Behind RT Germain Ifedi and TE George Fant, Carson powered through the first wave of tacklers, then dragged LB Shaq Thompson into the end zone.

“There wasn’t a sweeter play,” said Carroll.

The score put the Seahawks up 30-10, which should have all but adjourned the proceedings. But no. Injuries left the Seattle defense in such shambles that it let the Panthers, behind second-year QB backup Kyle Allen, ramble 75 and 84 yards for 14 unanswered points.

The latter TD came with 3:18 left. With key first down plays from Carson and Lockett, they ran out the clock to save the defense from further embarrassment.

Seattle’s defense began the day missing four starters due to injuries/illness: DEs Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, LB Mychal Kendricks and CB Shaquill Griffin. During the game, FS Quandre Diggs and LB Bobby Wagner went out with ankle injuries.

Post-game, Carroll and Wagner sounded positive about the chances Wagner might play Sunday in the home game against Arizona, but Carroll was more skeptical about Diggs.

“He looks a little more serious,” Carroll That would be a big loss if he can’t get back. He’s been playing great football.”

Carroll believed that Clowney (illness) and Ansah (neck) had good chances to return, as did Kendricks (hamstring); Griffin less so.

But for the moment, the Seahawks sounded robust.

“To be 7-1 on the road is a huge thing,” Wilson said. “Now, we  get back home for two tough division games. Exciting times. All the things we want to do are right in front of us. We can control our own destiny.”

Wilson was particularly pleased about producing double-digit wins in two playoff seasons after many had written off the Seahawks’ post-Legion of Boom future.

It’s been an awesome joy ride, really the past two years of what we have been able to re-establish,” he said. “We had so many great players, and a lot of people thought we were going to be down and out.

“Bobby and I really talked about that wasn’t going to happen.”

Carroll said he thought there were six defensive players on the field in the fourth quarter who were not regular starters. Those appear to have been FS Lano Hill, LBs Cody Barton (10 tackles in his second career start) and Ben Burr-Kirven, DEs Rasheem Green and Quinton Jefferson and CB Akeem King. FS Marquise Blair and CB Ugo Amadi also had cameos.

But before the injuries, Wagner had his first interception of the season and LB K.J. Wright had two, so the defense was not without reward.

“That was dope,” said Wagner, beaming. “Big day for linebackers. First time we’ve had picks (in the same game). ”

Regarding all the subs, Carroll, as always, found a positive.

“It’s a statement for us down the stretch,” he said. “We need everybody to play. It makes us stronger.

“I’m really proud of getting to 11 wins, with a chance to get more. This team deserves to be sitting where they’re sitting.”

Or flying. With or without a plane.

 


YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    Pete Carroll just keeps reinventing the Seahawks.

    • art thiel

      Making the playoffs in 18-19 when other NFC contenders are cratering is an under-appreciated feat.

  • Warchild_70

    I guess it’s the “go for the jugular” kind of fan I tend to be. Why oh why do the defense take a nap when in the final minutes they seems to take their foot off the gas pedal? Oh well a win is a win even though there wasn’t any body’s left on the grass!

    • art thiel

      Seahawks began the season with NFL’s fourth youngest roster. That’s what happens when you pay top dollar for Wilson/Wagner. To get here with so many kids is amazing. But no, it’s not the jugular. Shame on them.

      • Warchild_70

        I’ll wait for the next season after the SB.

    • Chris Alexander

      To be fair, they were without 6 of their defensive starters by that point, including Bobby Wagner who is the captain on that side of the ball.

      • MJG

        True. And without him setting up the defense, they struggled a bit.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Still just a 26 point separation between points scored and points allowed. The Minnesota win was the win of the season so far. The Niners walked away from a tie. That’s on the coach, not the players. And the Hawks beat the Steelers (without Rothlisburger) who are at 8-6, and the Rams, who are also 8-6, they beat by a point, with the help of officials and a missed kick. Two grotesque officials calls figured in the game today. Yet the Niners lost today. Topsy-turvy. It could possibly come down to QB play the last game of the year. In which case…

    • Husky73

      The win road games, and they win close games.

    • art thiel

      No doubt the Seahawks are a profound anomaly, I added a tweet from Elias that Seahawks are one of two teams in NFL history to win 10 in games decided by 8 points or less.

      Lucky? Sure. If you were around in the Behring years, you would know the other side.

  • jafabian

    Myers misses another PAT. I don’t believe the team will draft a kicker but they might bring competition to training camp next year. For a former Pro Bowler signed to a four year $15 million dollar contract he’s been fairly pedestrian this season. On the other hand Wilson had a solid game to stay in the MVP race though Lamar Jackson threw for 5 TDs. Russ needs to have a comparable performance in his remaining games to have a shot at the award IMO.

    There’s a chance the Niners and Saints split their remaining games. If the Hawks win both of theirs that would give them the best record in the NFC. That would be an amazing accomplishment for the team. Pete Carroll won’t win Coach Of The Year but will probably garner a few votes.

    • art thiel

      I think Schneider might deserve an exec award given how he has built a good team around Wilson’s salary, and added Clowney and Diggs in-season.

  • Chris Alexander

    Small correction ….

    The Saints will remain the #3 seed – at least for now – regardless of the result on Monday night. While it’s true that they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle, Green Bay’s matching 11-3 record eliminates it. I don’t recall if it’s conference record or record against common opponents (or both), but a 3-way tie atop the conference standings somehow works in Seattle’s favor (or San Francisco’s if they win the NFC West instead of Seattle).

  • Effzee

    With all of those injuries, they still found a way to win a 10am PST road game against a middling team who is playing out the string with an interim coach and a future journeyman at QB. With the Hawks’ home/road record over the past couple of years, I think the first round bye is definitely more important than home field advantage.