Closing Thoughts: Seahawks on Doorstep to Playoffs After Yet Another Stressful Win
Death, taxes, and the Seahawks winning in December, on prime time television, in an unorthodox fashion.
These are the things fans can always count on.
Once again, the Seahawks stayed true to form in their more-thrilling-than-it-needed-to-be 37-30 win over the Vikings on Monday night. The win has Seattle sitting squarely in first place in the NFC West thanks to their Week 10 win against the 49ers in Santa Clara on November 11. If the playoffs started today (I know, I know, they don’t, just relax) the Seahawks would hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC, earning them a bye week, a home divisional playoff game, and a shorter potential path to their fourth Super Bowl appearance.
For a while, this one looked different, as in "OH MY GOSH THE SEAHAWKS MIGHT ACTUALLY MAKE THIS ONE LOOK EASY" different. But that would be very un-Seahawk-like of them. And so Minnesota mounted a frantic comeback after finding themselves trailing Seattle 34-17 just five seconds into the fourth quarter. All it took was a badly blown coverage by the Seahawks secondary, another lost fumble from rookie receiver DK Metcalf, and a highlight-reel catch by Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to tighten things up at 34-30.
(Cue ominous, suspenseful music while cutting to looks of confusion and despair on the faces of Seahawks fans)
It was enough to make even the most optimistic “12” wonder if the Seahawks bright, action green jerseys were a fashion choice or an unfortunate result of the bad flu bug that tore through much of the squad over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Not to worry, as Seattle's running game and defense stayed true to coach Pete Carroll’s script and put this one to bed, reminding us all in the process that this is just who the Seahawks are - a team that won’t always make it easy on themselves, or their fanbase, but who seem to have a special brew of talent, personality, resilience, and grit that can allow for dreams of playoff victories and a possible trip to Miami in February.
Along the way, there were a number of notable performances, so many that I apologize in advance if I leave out any worthy recipients of a bullet point in my Closing Thoughts for this week:
THE OFFENSIVE LINE CAME TO PLAY
Against one of the biggest, most physical, and simply most talented defensive fronts in the NFL, the Seahawks front had their way. In what was easily their most consistent performance of the season, Seattle’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage from the coin toss to the final whistle. Russell Wilson was only sacked twice, and one of those was on a fluky play in the fourth quarter where left tackle Duane Brown stopped blocking to complain to a referee about his helmet being forced back on his head by Ifeadi Odenigbo. For most of the night, Wilson had a clean pocket.
But this night was about the running game, and time after time running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny had ample push and clear holes to dart through. The Vikings clearly didn’t think the Seahawks could win the battle up front, as they played two-deep with their safeties most of the night, guarding against deep throws and basically daring the 'Hawks to run the rock.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game he was surprised the Seahawks ran the ball so much. He shouldn’t have been.
AND ABOUT THOSE RUNNING BACKS
In what was their best dual effort since Seattle made Penny their first round pick in 2018, he and Carson combined for over 200 yards in total offense. Both players had a rushing touchdown while Penny added a scoring reception as well.
While I’ve been campaigning for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to utilize Carson and Penny together in a two-back set, last night’s snap division was fair consolation. The two backs split plays and carries nearly 50/50, keeping the Vikings guessing all night. For all the criticism of Penny’s draft position and lack of production since then, last night showed off the vision that Carroll and general manager John Schneider must have had when they made Penny the second running back taken last year.
JADEVEON CLOWNEY SHOWS OFF HIS TOUGHNESS
It doesn’t take much of a Twitter search to find Texans fans willing to criticize their former player for being “injury prone” in their eyes. But never mind the fact that Clowney only missed three games the last three years after battling a serious knee ailment his first two seasons in the league. After missing last week’s game in Philadelphia to receive treatment for a sports hernia injury that most assume will require offseason surgery, the defensive end looked like his usual frenetic self last night. While admitting that he won’t really know how well he made it through the game until he sees how he feels today, Clowney was as pumped as anyone after the game and extolling the Seahawks Super Bowl chances. He had the look and sound of a guy intent on answering the bell for the rest of the season, even if it’s at less than 100 percent, despite what Texans fans have been trying to tell us.
ANSAH INJURY WORTH WATCHING
Meanwhile, defensive end Ziggy Ansah didn’t make it out of the game as well as Clowney did. He left in the second half Monday with his right arm appearing to dangle uncomfortably. It was the right shoulder that Ansah had reconstructive surgery on in the offseason, and he had only recently appeared fully recovered while flashing his former Pro Bowl productivity. Carroll said after the game that it was “just a stinger” and that Ansah was feeling better in the locker room. But in his weekly radio show this morning, Carroll went on to say that the shoulder still hasn’t fully healed and that Ansah has had to manage it all year.
Even a part-time Ziggy Ansah, playing at the level we’ve seen the last three weeks, would be a boon to the Seahawks recently-revitalized pass rush. Keep an eye on the injury report as this week progresses.
ON THE DOORSTEP OF THE PLAYOFFS
The NFL released it’s first official playoff scenario report today and confirmed that the Seahawks are as close as you can possibly get to clinching a post-season berth. Just making the playoffs is obviously not the goal for this squad, but it does lend extra meaning to their Sunday Night Football showdown in Los Angeles this week against the Rams, who are themselves battling for their post-season lives.
The way things have been going, odds favor the Seahawks taking care of business and locking up that spot in the tournament.
Even if they make us all crazy in the process.