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Clayton’s Observations: Defense, run game help Seahawks keep playoff hopes alive

Chris Carson led the Seahawks' ground game with 83 yards on 17 carries. (AP)

Things couldn’t have gone any worse for the Seattle Seahawks at the start of Thursday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

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Chris Carson fumbled on the first snap, losing the ball to Green Bay. Three plays later, Packers running back Aaron Jones broke an 8-yard run for a touchdown. Then later in the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers hit fourth-string tight end Robert Tonyan with a 54-yard touchdown.

Down 14-3, the Seahawks’ season was on the brink of ending.

A loss would have all but ended the Seahawks chances of making the playoffs. They would have been 4-6, and with three tough games down the stretch Seattle would have faced the possibility of not only missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year but perhaps ending up with a losing season.

Now, the Seahawks are 5-5 and head east to Carolina next Sunday for an another important game against the Panthers.

Plenty of things came together Thursday night. Let’s break them down.

• As expected, the increased playing time in the backfield for first-round choice Rashaad Penny came at the expense of Mike Davis, but Penny is earning his carries. He broke a 30-yard run in the first quarter, running right, then doubling back to his left. Penny said he was told to be a play-maker by his coaches, and he certainly was on that play.

The Seahawks’ backfield is a three-headed monster now. Carson had 29 plays, rushing for 83 yards on 17 carries. Davis had 22 plays but only four carries for 26 yards. Penny had 17 plays and finished with eight carries for 46 yards.

Overall the Seahawks had 35 carries for 173 yards and a touchdown.

• Defensive end Jacob Martin said the linemen had to spend extra meeting time studying some complex pass-rush plays for the Packers game. That’s amazing when you think that it was a short week turning around from last Sunday’s loss to the Rams to Thursday’s matchup against the Packers.

The extra work paid off. Overall, the Seahawks sacked Rodgers five times and had seven more hits on him. It was encouraging seeing rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin each get sacks and quarterback pressure. Frank Clark continued to make his run to a possible trip to the Pro Bowl with a two-sack night, giving him 10 on the season, third-most in the NFL.

Don’t forget about the pass coverage in the secondary, either, which helped cause some sacks as well.

• After getting carved up for 214 yards passing by Rodgers in the first half, the Seahawks’ defense made big stops and limited him to nine completions and 118 yards in the second half.

At halftime, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they needed to run the ball more in the second half. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the Seahawks), McCarthy didn’t follow through with that plan. He called only five runs for 13 yards. Overall, the Packers had 48 rushing yards on 13 carries.

• Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ offensive line hopes to stop a developing problem. The Seahawks’ offensive linemen accused the Packers’ defensive linemen of trying to yell words and signals to force false starts. That is an illegal tactic. The Seahawks had some of that at the end of the Nov. 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, too.

Carroll tried to tell officials about the issue, as did center Justin Britt. After a warning from the officials, the Packers stopped – and the false starts stopped, too.

• Anybody doubting Russell Wilson’s ability to make fourth-quarter comebacks were educated Thursday. His 75-yard, seven-play drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson was huge. For the game, Wilson was 21 for 31 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. It was classic Wilson in the fourth quarter.

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