Offense leading the way for Seattle's playoff berth
RENTON, Wash. (AP) When they were sitting at 2-4 and later 4-5, the Seattle Seahawks never wavered from the belief they would eventually end up where everyone expected them to.
Playing in the postseason yet again.
And they were right. But the way by which Seattle got to the playoffs for a fourth straight season took a different path.
Instead of being carried by its defense that's still one of the top units in the NFL, the Seahawks are in the postseason again largely because of an offense that's been tough to slow down for the past five weeks.
''I think you have to stay with what you know and stay the course and make it work out for you,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''That doesn't mean you don't adapt. You're always adjusting and adapting. But the main themes that you live by, you need to stay true to it.''
Seattle won its fifth straight by beating Cleveland 30-13 on Sunday, with another record-setting day from quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin as the Seahawks scored 28 or more points for the sixth straight game.
In this case, the records set or matched by Wilson and Baldwin are noteworthy because of the names they joined or bypassed in the process. Wilson became the first QB with at least three TD passes and zero interceptions in each of five consecutive games, and his 19 TD passes without an interception are the most in any five-game span in league history.
Baldwin, who had two TD catches against the Browns, joined Jerry Rice as the only wide receivers in NFL history with 10 TDs over a four-game span in a single season.
''It's really been great to watch and everybody has enjoyed the heck out of it, and everybody's play has been elevated by it. It takes everybody to do things like that,'' Carroll said. ''It isn't a one-guy record. This is a record that comes from guys doing a great job up front and catching the football and the calls coming in and all of that. Russell would be the first to tell you that. It's a combination of things that have to come together to have those kinds of numbers.''
While Baldwin and Wilson continued to set records, the more important offensive revelation for Seattle was the ability to continue having a serviceable run game. They have done so even with Marshawn Lynch still recovering from abdominal surgery and Thomas Rawls done for the year due to a broken ankle.
Christine Michael, once cast aside by Seattle, rushed for 84 yards on 16 carries and was the most productive of the three options Seattle used Sunday. The Seahawks had 100 or more yards rushing as a team for the 25th straight game and finished with 182, the third most of any game this season.
At one time, Michael was expected to be the heir to Lynch before he was beaten out by Rawls and traded to Dallas at the end of training camp. Carroll said when the team decided to re-sign Michael last week he could tell there was an understanding this could be his final shot.
''He cherishes this opportunity more than he ever has. This is the most important opportunity he's ever been faced with and he appreciates that because of what he's been through,'' Carroll said.
One of the biggest issues Seattle had offensively earlier in the season was converting third downs and then scoring touchdowns in the red zone. But both of those factors have become strengths in the past month. Seattle is converting 64 percent of third-down opportunities and scored touchdowns on 15 of 20 red-zone possessions during the five-game win streak.
''It's phenomenal that we're continuously being able to be efficient in that area,'' Baldwin said.
NOTES: Lynch is continuing to recover and rehabbing with his personal trainers in the San Francisco area, but there remains no set timeline on when he may be ready to rejoin practice. ... LT Russell Okung suffered a calf strain in Sunday's win and Carroll said the initial reports were it does not appear to be serious. ... Carroll is unsure if SS Kam Chancellor (tailbone) will be able to play against St. Louis. Carroll said Chancellor has improved after being hurt early in the victory over Baltimore on Dec. 13.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL