BY Art Thiel 07:43PM 12/20/2020

Thiel: Seahawks’ ugly win tops Rams’ bad loss

From a trot to a taut game, Seahawks prevail with the September trick of late defensive heroics, then watch as Rams spit up. There arose such a clatter in the NFC West . . .

CB D.J. Reed knocked away three passes Sunday. / Reggie Hildred via Seahawks.com

Some young fans growing up in the Seattle-area market probably take the achievement of the NFL playoffs as a birthright. Jamal Adams, a 24-year-old kid, is not among them.

“Hell, yeah!” he shouted from the Zoom podium. It was plain to see it was his first time on the NFL zipline thrill ride.

“Man, where I come from, man . . . come on, man. I’m excited, man.”

We hear you, man. Three seasons with the New York Jets. Man, this is Seattle stuff is different.

Although it almost wasn’t.

Blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead is something the woebegone Jets might do. But in  the Pete Carroll tenure in Seattle, it would have been a football sin nearly unimaginable.

The Seahawks gave up touchdown drives of 96 and 64 yards, and were 49 yards and 14 plays into what could have been the decisive score, from a 5-7 Washington Football Team  missing its starting quarterback and running back.

Yet somehow, the Seahawks replayed their September script of final-play defensive desperation into a 20-15 win (box) to clinch their eighth playoff berth in the past nine seasons.

Carroll called it “sweet.” Most witnesses saw little but sweat.

Whatever your choice of perspective, both were preferable to the the position held by fans of the Los Angeles Rams. A couple of hours after the Seahawks’ triumph at FedEx Field, Adams’ former team pulled off the upset of the season.

The previously winless Jets astonished the Rams in LA, 23-20 — the same Jets that lost 40-3 to the Seahawks a week earlier, and now have lost their pole position in the race to draft Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.

Ahead of the much-anticipated NFC West showdown with the 9-5 Rams Sunday at the Loo, 10-4 Seattle finds itself in first place, needing only a win Sunday to clinch the division title. The Seahawks at the moment are the NFC’s No. 3 seed.

Green Bay, which won Saturday over Carolina, is 11-3 and needs to win only one of its two remaining games to clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed, and with it the only bye in this year’s NFC playoffs. But being division champs would mean for Seattle opening the playoffs at home, rather than the dubious reward of making the wild-card trek back to D.C. to again play Washington, still the leader of the NFC East at 6-8.

Despite missing starting QB Alex Smith, Washington rallied from being routed to nearly being victorious. The players saw little from the Seahawks Sunday that generated much fear for a potential rematch.

After RB Carlos Hyde, on the Seahawks’ first possession of the second half, scored on a 50-yard run for a 20-3 lead, the Seahawks had three three-and-out possessions, one drive for six plays, a fifth ended by an interception, and the final-seconds kneel-down. Wilson finished with a season low of 121 passing yards and a QB rating of 73.2. The Seahawks’ 302 yards of offense was also a season low.

On defense, the Seahawks turned the previously ineffective second-year backup QB Dwayne Haskins into a poor man’s Patrick Mahomes. He led WFT to 225 yards of offense in the second half and a first down at the Seattle 23-yard line with 1:18 left. Had Washington not failed an earlier two-point conversion attempt, they could have been in position for a field goal that, if made, could have forced overtime.

But after expelling not a single hot breath on Haskins for nearly the entire game, the defense had three of its four sacks in WFT’s final eight plays, plus a last-play, fourth-down incompletion after a deep backward chase of Haskins.

Amid the celebratory glow, CB D.J. Reed, who had a splendid game (six tackles, three passes defensed, an interception), starting opposite CB Shaquill Griffin, offered some worthy sobriety.

“We’ve got to get off the field on third down,” he said. “There’s no way to sugar-coat that.”

Washington converted 10 of 17 third downs, including a third-and-11. Haskins found all kinds of room under Seattle’s squishy-soft zone, completing 38 of 55 passes for 295 yards, including 13 to TE Logan Thomas for 101 yards. That’s part of the price to be paid for allowing a strong safety, Adams, to have a big role in rushing the passer.

On the other hand, it’s worthy to acknowledge the offensive deed of the day — despite the ferocity of Washington’s defensive line, Wilson went sackless, with only three QB hits. He also outsmarted his tormentors with 52 rushing yards in six carries. It happened behind LG Jordan Simmons and RT Cedric Ogbuehi, backup linemen filling in for injured starters.

The trend of defenses denying Wilson’s trademark explosive plays — his longest completion was 15 yards —  doesn’t seem to be an affront to his ego, even if Carroll referred to his play Sunday as a “Bart Starr kind of game.” (Look it up, kids.)

“It’s not about me, it’s about us,” Wilson said. “We can always do some great things. Whether it’s a quick doing, deep doing, a mid-range. All the things that we’re able to do, it makes it really difficult for defenses. I don’t think it’s a new thing that I can throw deep.”

However the schemes manifested, they worked just enough. Particularly in light of the Rams’ debacle in LA, there is little possibility Carroll will let shortcomings take away from the significance of Seattle’s feat, no matter how ungainly and harrowing.

“It’s a really big deal,” he said of his ninth postseason in 11 years in Seattle. “Ten wins is a marker too. I made a comment in the locker room that the young guys that have never been in it, they can’t appreciate it like the guys who have been around the league who come play with us and try to be part of something that is different than what they’ve been having.

“I’m really happy about being able to share with them. It’s a good day.”

Adams, in his fourth year, is chief among them.

“I’m not used to this — I know you guys are,” he said to reporters. “Seattle, you know, always goes to the playoffs. I’m used to sending my cars home by this time. I’m already packing up, learning where’s the vacation, when am I seeing family?”

He’s also getting used to another Seattle football tradition — the Seahawks don’t have to look good to be good, man.

TE Jacob Hollister’s 10-yard touchdown reception put the Seahawks up 13-0 late in the first half. / Reggie Hildred, via Seahawks.com

 


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YourThoughts

  • Kevin Lynch

    Well…they did what they had to do and the Hawks offense is in good position and relatively healthy to do what they need to do against the Rams. It’s hard to grade the defense in this game. The Washington Football QB made so many bad reads and poor passes in the first three quarters that it staggers the imagination. By the fourth quarter Seattle was in ‘don’t blow it’ position and that is hard to create take-a-ways from. Have blitzes ready for Goff. If the Rams win it they will take the division, but, on the other hand, without 50,000 screaming fans, how valuable IS the division title? The bye looks like Packer green.

    • Ed Walsh

      Agree. Weather at Lambeau more impact. But you can’t discount improving Seahawks health, defense, and existing Hawks running and passing. We’ll likely beat Rodgers $ Company, it’s young Mr. Mahomes the problem if ‘Hawks go that far. And The Hawks can do that—again.

    • Florence Deck

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      • DB

        This is a comments section, not an advertising forum. Please go away.

    • art thiel

      Haskins had TD drives of 96 and 64 yards, and the final one was going well. So I didn’t see many bad reads.

      The division title guarantees a home game, which means no travel, which is something, especially in crappy winter weather.

  • Ed Walsh

    As usual, Art, your write got the wrinkles of the game. (While hedging the future Hawks play against optimal reality}.

    Meanwhile, those of us less currently less negative will just continue on through the playoffs. Until Lambeau Field launch to the Tampa decision Seahawks-Mahomes.

    • Husky73

      Say what?

    • Bruce McDermott

      This was really fun to read.

    • Alan Harrison

      So… you went back and edited this comment?

  • Husky73

    The Loo…I love it.

  • Alan Harrison

    A week at the Loo (*hears echoes of the 2,000 Year Old Man saying, “Don’t strain on the potty.”*) would be great. The Rams loss, although weird as hell, doesn’t really mean all that much (okay, it means a clinch with a win instead of an almost-clinch with a win). What do you hear about the bubble playoff idea that was floated (*pun intended*) a few weeks ago? With the virus hitting record highs, I would have thought that would come back into play.

    • art thiel

      NFL said last week that there will be no additional restrictions — no bubble. The previous tightening apparently cut the infection rate.

  • jafabian

    Meanwhile Andy Dalton and the Cowboys formally eliminated the Niners from the playoffs. 😎

    • art thiel

      I feel bad for those guys and the stunning number of injuries. It’s more fun when the Niners are good.

      • jafabian

        When Dalton leads his team to a win over you, you have problems.

  • ll9956

    Excellent piece, Art. What started out to be a comfortable game for Hawks fans ended up being a gut-wrencher. OY!!!!

    In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter I thought sure the Hawks were going to lose. It was a sickening feeling. Then the defense stiffened just when they absolutely had to. And another “whew” was in the books. You couldn’t possibly be more right about not looking good to be good.

    In my mind the offensive gem of the day was Russell’s laser to Hollister for a TD. It was a thing of beauty to watch.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. I hope to ask Hollister, if available, if that was the hardest ball he’s ever caught.

  • Coop

    Oh no. Do our Pro teams play at a Loo and a Krak House?
    Come on, man!

    • art thiel

      Are you Lumen PR?

    • Bobbie Robinson

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  • Will Ganschow

    It is true isn’t it that quite a bit of Carrol’s success is his ability to do the unexpected?When others fold he runs something counter to convention and then jumps up and down with a big smile on his face, running around like a ten year old kid who just got a new red bike for Christmas. Merry Christmas Seahawk Consortium.

    • Husky73

      December is Pete’s best month.

    • art thiel

      Carroll has a tidy history of the unconventional, but the standard run of play leans toward conservative. I do like it, however, when a 69-year-old guy says he occasionally “goes hormonal.”

  • 1coolguy

    Thank you for this honest column Art – A win is a win, but once again we see the Hawks barely beating a team after doing nothing offensively, save for one run, the entire second half. At the same time, they elevated two players to near HOF status: Haskins outplayed RW, while Logan Thomas’ line read like Kelce’s: 13 receptions, 101 yards.
    Thomas’ line made the Hawks receivers look like pikers, as he was constantly open, again exposing a Hawks secondary more aptly called “Swiss Cheese”, making the LOB a long lost memory.
    I guess after this and other games, the Hawks appear to be a middle-of-the-pack team that does make the playoffs but will be fortunate to have a first round win.

    • Husky73

      If it’s at Green Bay, I think you are right.

      • art thiel

        If GB gets the bye, the Seahawks wouldn’t go there unless they were in the NFC title game.

    • art thiel

      Haskins had two picks and a poor first half, so I don’t think he outplayed Wilson, but the Seahawks defense had no answer for Haskins’ quicker passes. With the return of Penny and Josh Gordon, I see the increased firepower worthy of a win Sunday and in the first round of the playoffs.

  • DB

    That’s 2 games Carlos Dunlap has closed out this season. The guy is just unstoppable when he decides to turn the lights out.

    • art thiel

      He bull-rushed the RT and sacked the QB in a single stride. Not sure I’ve seen that.

  • Stephen Pitell

    It is my understanding that we will be the #1 seed if both GB and N.O. loses another game and we win out.

    • art thiel

      GB needs to win only one of its final two clinch No. 1.

      • Chris Alexander

        NOT true. Green Bay only needs to win 1 of their final 2 if that 1 win is against the Bears. But if they LOSE to the Bears then a win against the Colts, by itself, won’t give them the #1 seed.

        Per FiveThirtyEight, the NFC is down to 4 teams with a chance at being the #1 seed and the Packers are the heavy favorite. The current odds are Packers (79%), Saints (15%), Seahawks (4%), and Rams (1%).

        Ignoring for the moment the fact that Green Bay will be the last of the four teams to play this week, them beating the Titans only increases their odds to 88%. Getting to 100% would require some “help”.

        Specifically, Green Bay would need BOTH the Saints (on Friday) and the Seahawks (on Sunday afternoon) to LOSE or TIE in order to clinch the #1 seed this weekend. Barring that, the race for the #1 seed will continue into Week 17 regardless of what the Packers do in the Sunday night game.

        • Chris Alexander

          And to spin this in more Seattle-centric terms:

          For the Seahawks to get the #1 seed, they need to win-out and have the Packers lose to Chicago and have the Saints lose against either the Vikings or the Panthers.

          Right now, Seattle is tied with the Saints record-wise and a game behind Green Bay but both have 1 less conference loss.

          Green Bay has a non-conference game this weekend so it won’t change things from a Seattle-perspective no matter how that game turns out. The same was true when the Saints fell to the Chiefs on Sunday – there was no real effect on Seattle from a seeding-perspective.

          But if Green Bay falls to Chicago and New Orleans loses to either Minnesota or Carolina then Seattle could sneak in the back door and take the #1 seed. How?

          Common games, baby!

          If each of the 3 teams has 3 conference losses then the next tiebreaker is win percentage in common games.

          Common opponents between the 3 teams are Atlanta, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

          If Seattle wins out, they’re 5-0 against those 4 teams. Atlanta recently fell to the Eagles and the Packers lost their second matchup with the Vikings.

          If either the Packers or the Saints lose a 3rd conference game (and Seattle wins out) then Seattle is the higher seed. If both the Packers and Saints lose a 3rd conference game (and Seattle wins out) then Seattle is the #1 seed.

          Granted, this is not the most likely outcome . . . but there IS a chance.

          _______________

          Note: New Orleans losing to the Vikings this weekend would be a HUGE help heading into Week 17 as it would eliminate them from the #1 discussion altogether.

          • art thiel

            Well, Chris, I’m glad you had the day off to grind on playoff probabilities. Thanks for sharing. I am, however, exhausted after your description of getting the Seattle camel through the eye of one-seed needle.