December 22, 2014

RENTON, Wash. (AP) When Marshawn Lynch got to his feet following the longest touchdown run of his career, there was still one more defender to shrug off.

Safety Earl Thomas went racing off the sideline to leap on Lynch and add to the Seattle Seahawks' end-zone celebration.

The Seahawks are the hottest team in the NFL with a five-game win streak and the chance at a second straight NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And Seattle (11-4) has rediscovered having fun while re-establishing itself as the favorite in the NFC.

It was never more evident than Sunday night's 35-6 rout of Arizona. No moment was more telling than Lynch's 79-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

''I had as much fun last night as I've had coaching. ... All of the stuff that was happening was just a blast,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said on his weekly radio show Monday morning.

Five weeks ago, Seattle even making the postseason was in question, perhaps on the cusp of being the latest Super Bowl winner to watch the playoffs the following season at home. Now all Seattle needs is a win at home against St. Louis - and Detroit and Green Bay to avoid playing a tie - and the Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed.

Last season, the Seahawks played at MetLife Stadium and shut out the New York Giants 23-0 in Week 15, then returned a month-and-a-half later to stymie Denver in the Super Bowl. Could a repeat be on the horizon with this year's Super Bowl played on the Cardinals' home field?

''I don't think that far,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''I think we have a lot of challenges up before we think that far ahead, but I like our chances.''

The result Sunday night wasn't unexpected. For all Arizona has overcome this season with injuries and absences, the Cardinals were still starting a third-string quarterback against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

The surprise was the eruption of Seattle's offense, setting a single-game franchise record for total yards with 596. It was the second-most yards by any team this season, trailing only the 639 posted by Pittsburgh in its win over Indianapolis.

It came against an Arizona defense that had given Seattle fits in the past two matchups. The Seahawks had only 192 yards in their 17-10 loss to the Cardinals in Week 16 last season, and managed just 293 yards - while quarterback Russell Wilson was getting sacked seven times - in their 19-3 win a month ago.

Wilson threw for 339 yards Sunday, a career high in the regular season. The Seahawks had six pass plays of 20 or more yards - including Luke Willson's 80-yard touchdown - to go along with Wilson's 55-yard run and Lynch's spectacular touchdown.

''It's the combination of all of this that has happened with Marshawn and Russell, the guys up front,'' Carroll said. ''This attitude that we're playing with, it gives us a chance to really have high hopes going into the last game.''

The Seahawks rushed for 267 yards against the Cardinals and are averaging 175.3 per game. It's the second-highest per game average in the NFL in the past 30 seasons: Atlanta averaged 183.7 yards rushing in 2006.

Wilson likely won't reach 1,000 yards rushing, needing 158 in the finale against the Rams. But he could become just the fourth quarterback to reach 900 yards rushing in a season.

''We're so lucky that he's playing for us,'' Carroll said.

NOTES: Carroll sounded pessimistic about WR Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) being ready for Sunday's regular-season finale. Kearse didn't feel his hamstring pop, Carroll said, but getting healthy in a week seemed unlikely. ... LT Russell Okung (bruised lung) is expected to practice later this week. Carroll was unsure if C Max Unger (ankle) would practice.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed to this report.

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