Moore: Seahawks are no borderline playoff team — they’re Super Bowl contenders
With a 38-31 win over the Chiefs, the Seahawks have gone from being a borderline playoff team to one that could win the Super Bowl. I’m certainly aware that most wild-card teams don’t even make it to the Super Bowl let alone win it. But haven’t we reached a point with this team to think that all things are possible now?
They lost to the Rams by less than a field goal in one game and less than a touchdown in the other, and the Rams are the second-best team in the NFC. They handed the Chiefs their worst loss of the year, and Kansas City is the best team in the AFC.
To get to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks would first have to beat Dallas, and they already proved they can beat the Cowboys, doing it in the third week of the season, 24-13. Then they’d probably have to beat the Saints in New Orleans. Everyone thinks that that won’t happen, but I watched a good part of the Steelers-Saints game Sunday and New Orleans had to rally in the final two minutes to beat Pittsburgh. Even though they’re the top NFC team, it’s not as if they’re that much better than the other playoff teams.
Besides, I’m done doubting the Seahawks in any scenario you can come up with. To keep going with this one, if they beat the Saints, they’d face the Rams or the Bears in the NFC championship game. Again, you know how competitive they’ve been against the Rams already, and Jared Goff has struggled of late against good teams. Plus the Seahawks played against the Rams when they had Cooper Kupp, and the second-year receiver from Yakima is out with an ACL injury.
With the Bears, I’d think Chicago would be favored by a field goal since it’s the higher-seeded team and playing at home, and oddsmakers would note that the Bears beat the Seahawks by a touchdown in their first meeting in the second week of the season. But you know it as well as I do – that was a different Seahawks’ team back them. They still had not committed to being a run-first team. Since Week 3, they’ve been the best rushing team in the league. The Bears would be facing a different animal, a much more ferocious one, and I’d also take my chances with Russell Wilson over Mitch Trubisky.
Then if you took the final step of analyzing the Super Bowl matchup, it would probably be against Kansas City, a team you’ve already defeated, or the Chargers, a team you lost to by eight points but were within a chance to tie if David Moore had been able to hang on to a tipped pass from Wilson on the last play of the game in November.
A matchup with the Patriots would be even better with a chance for redemption from the Super Bowl that Malcolm Butler took away. Guaranteed, they’d hand the ball to Chris Carson from the 1 this time around, and you can bet Marshawn Lynch would be shaking his head while watching on a flat screen in Oakland.
In the bigger picture, I thought the Seahawks would go 8-8 in what was projected to be a rebuilding season with young players taking over prominent roles along with new offensive and defensive coordinators. No matter how good all of these players and coaches were, I figured it would take time to successfully mesh together. If all went well, the Seahawks would be loaded and good to go next year.
But we’ve seen what happened. A running game that we would have been fine with if it had just improved to average has become the NFL’s best. I still can’t get over that, how the Seahawks went from not being able to gain a yard on most occasions to getting yards in bunches now.
And the defense, well, yeah, you can say it’s not elite, but it’s not bad either. You can also say it’s good enough to do some damage in the playoffs. I have no idea how the back end of that secondary held up against Kansas City. The Seahawks played without starting free safety Tedric Thompson, who was Earl Thomas’ backup. That forced them to move Bradley McDougald to free safety with Delano Hill starting at strong safety. McDougald missed practice all week with a knee injury, and Hill has not gotten the best reviews when he’s played this season. But they were both out there holding up well against the best passing attack in the league.
Plus the pass rush, which has been good at times and not-so-much at others this year, turned in a consistently solid performance against the Chiefs. The Seahawks had only one sack but came up with 11 hurries, enough to bother Patrick Mahomes and keep him under 300 passing yards, which is an unusual game for him.
On the other side of the ball we saw how important Doug Baldwin is to the offense. I thought we’d maybe reached a point where the Seahawks would be OK with Tyler Lockett as the No. 1 receiver and David Moore as the No. 2. They were winning without an injured Baldwin and seemingly doing enough on offense without him. I thought they might not think Baldwin was worth $10 million a year in 2019 and move on from him. I was wrong. He outdid himself Sunday night with a spectacular touchdown grab that looked like an average reception compared to the juggling 25-yarder he made late in the game that put the Seahawks in position to close out the Chiefs.
And one more thing: Who can make sense of how the Seahawks rushed for 210 yards Sunday night when they were missing their starting right guard and right tackle and then had to improvise some more when J.R. Sweezy sprained his ankle in the third quarter? I always get cynical when teams just shrug and say “Next Man Up,” but with the Seahawks, it’s true.
They’re now in position to make this season the most improbable in franchise history – if they haven’t done that already.
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