With rout of San Francisco, everything ‘coming together’ for Seahawks
What will Seattle’s Sunday night win over San Francisco mean in the long run this season? Barring a shocking Cardinals upset of the 49ers next week, which would give the Seahawks a shot at the NFC West title, maybe not much. No more, at least, than San Francisco’s win in New England last week or the Patriots’ 28-point rout of Houston six days before that or the Texans’ 43-13 romp of Baltimore in October or … well, you get the idea.
Predicting January’s playoff outcomes based on the results of games from September through December has proven, time and time again, to be a futile endeavor.
Here is what we can say, though, in light of Seattle’s 42-13 smackdown of the 49ers: No team will be excited to see the Seahawks come playoff time.
“It’s been coming together, and you can just see it and feel it,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team clinched a playoff berth with this win. “We are thrilled about being in the playoffs, it’s really exciting that that’s happening.”
The Seahawks likely will begin their postseason quest away from home against the NFC East winner. A month ago, when Miami handed Seattle its third straight road loss and fifth of the season, that looked like a much bigger problem.
But since pulling off a 23-17 overtime win at Chicago in Week 13, the Seahawks have found another gear. Counting Sunday’s game, they now have rolled their last three opponents by a combined 150-30. And, prior to a David Akers field goal in the second quarter, Seattle was on an eye-popping 100-0 run at home.
That’s 21 straight against the Jets in Week 10, 58 in a row vs. Arizona in Week 14 and the first 21 points Sunday night.
The first two visitors there are bottom-feeders this season, but that’s a remarkable run — one that emphasizes what a ridiculous home-field advantage the Seahawks enjoy.
San Francisco struggled with the CenturyLink Field madness from the very outset. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick nearly yelled himself hoarse trying to get play calls out, yet still had to burn a pair of timeouts in the first quarter.
Kaepernick never really settled in on this night. After Marshawn Lynch opened the scoring 1:18 in, the Seahawks never slowed down.
Lynch scored again on Seattle’s second drive, coming wide open to haul in a Russell Wilson pass from the 9-yard line. His teammate, Red Bryant, then swatted a 21-yard David Akers field goal and Richard Sherman took the loose ball to the house for a touchdown and 21-0 lead.
Doug Baldwin later caught a pair of touchdown passes and Anthony McCoy hauled in a TD toss from Wilson too, as a game that was billed as a potential knock-’em-down affair devolved into a massive blowout.
“It’s really (us) coming together,” the electrifying Wilson told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya. “We’ve applied experience and are just learning. The offensive line is doing a tremendous job, the receivers are making plays, running backs, tight ends … and the coaching staff’s doing a great job calling plays when we need ‘em.”
Even if they clinch the NFC West in Week 17, Sunday’s loss could prove extremely costly for the 49ers from a physical standpoint. They entered it already playing without Justin Smith, then lost Vernon Davis to a concussion and Mario Manningham to a potentially serious knee injury.
That’s a pair of important offensive players and what may be San Francisco’s key defensive star — since Smith injured his elbow with his team ahead 31-3 last week, the 49ers have allowed 70 points.
Making matters worse, San Francisco slipped behind Green Bay in the NFC standings, meaning that the 49ers are facing the prospect of missing out on a first-round bye.
“We’ll wake up tomorrow, we’ll have a half-game lead on the division,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, “and we’ll come back to take care of business next week. …
“It’s all how we handle it, how we respond.”
Of course, all of that — seeding, home-field advantage, etc. — has been proven mostly moot. The sixth-seeded Packers won it all in 2010, then the 9-7 Giants pulled the trick last season.
What matters come the postseason, maybe more than anything else, is which teams are hot and which teams are not. Right now, no one in the NFC (at least offensively) is scorching quite like the Seahawks are.
As Seattle’s fortunes have trended upward, so too have Russell Wilson’s Rookie of the Year hopes. While Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have hogged most of the headlines, Wilson — like the under-the-radar team that drafted him No. 75 overall in a stroke of brilliance last April — has quietly gotten the job done.
He threw for 171 yards, four touchdowns and an interception Sunday night, and has 16 TD passes to two interceptions in front of the home fans this season. The Seahawks are 7-0 in those games, with wins over Dallas, New England, Minnesota, Green Bay (legit or not) and, now, San Francisco.
How could any NFC coach want to draw Seattle early? The Seahawks have a dual-threat quarterback playing at an extremely high level, a bruising running back, big-play threats at wide receiver and a punishing, aggressive defense.
Wilson’s lack of playoff experience and Sherman’s pending suspension could catch up with Seattle. So, too, could needing to win three playoff games away from the raucous 12th man.
With one week left in the regular season, however, the Seahawks — as much as they can before the postseason begins — pass the eye test as a potentially dangerous playoff team.