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Clayton: Turnaround from 0-2 start complete for playoffs-bound Seahawks

The Seahawks' Frank Clark and Jarran Reed didn't make life easy for Patrick Mahomes. (AP)

The Seahawks took care of business by beating the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night and clinching a spot as a wild-card playoff team.

Moore:Hawks no borderline playoff team – they’re Super Bowl contenders

As it stands, the Seahawks should be able to be the No. 5 seed in the NFC, setting up a trip to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the first round. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Seahawks went on a 9-4 run in which they pounded the ball on the ground to become the league’s best running team.

Considering how bad they were for two years with the running game, that’s an amazing accomplishment. To a certain degree, they have re-established their home-field advantage. The Seahawks have a 5-2 record at CenturyLink Field with one game remaining against Arizona.

With the victory and the clinching of the playoff spot, Seahawks players and coaches can totally enjoy the Christmas holiday. Getting into the playoffs was their best Christmas gift.

Let’s review what happened Sunday night.

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks ‘right where we want to be’

• Doug Baldwin’s value as a No. 1 receiver continues to grow. Russell Wilson targeted him 12 times, connecting on seven completions for 126 yards and one touchdown. For the season, Baldwin has 48 receptions for 591 yards and five touchdowns.

Baldwin offers so much. He plays through injuries. His route-running is exceptional. He always finds way to separate from corners and give Wilson the right look so he can throw into a tight window and make completions.

The example he sets has helped the development of Tyler Lockett, too. Lockett had four catches for 99 yards on Sunday, and suddenly the Baldwin-Lockett duo is becoming one of the better receiving combos in the league. Lockett leads the team with 55 catches for 899 yards and nine touchdowns.

• Chris Carson rushed for 116 yards and crossed the 1,000-yard mark, sitting at 1,029 yards for the season. He’s also scored eight touchdowns. More than anything, his style of physically breaking tackles and crashing into defenders has been established.

The numbers for the running game for the Seahawks are incredible. They have 500 carries and 2,378 yards. Rashaad Penny missed his second consecutive game because of a knee injury, but the Seahawks continued to roll on the ground. They made 43 attempts for 210 yards against a Chiefs defense that struggles to stop the run.

• The play of Wilson continued to be a great topic of discussion after the game and on Monday. Pete Carroll and many felt Wilson was slighted by not being voted to the Pro Bowl or being included in the MVP conversation.

Wilson is doing his best to do more with less. Because he has the power running attack, Wilson isn’t asked to throw 30 passes a game. He’s averaging 29 attempts for the season, but it’s what he’s doing with those attempts that is so impressive. He has 34 touchdown passes. Against a struggling Chiefs secondary, he completed 18 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He is throwing one of the prettiest deep passes in the league.

Wilson is a Pro Bowl alternate, but it is not known whether he’s a No. 1 or No. 2. He lost out on the Pro Bowl to Drew Brees, Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers.

• On defense, the returns of Bradley McDougald and K.J. Wright was huge. McDougald’s return was vital because the Seahawks were facing one of the best tight ends in the game, Travis Kelce. Delano Hill did a good job covering him, as Kelcie had 54 yards on five catches.

McDougald, who was questionable with a knee injury, played all 61 snaps on defense. And though he played free safety with Tedric Thompson out, McDougald was very aggressive making plays against both the pass and the run.

Wright was on the field for 43 plays and he showed why he is so valuable at linebacker. He’s good in coverage and is smart enough to be in position to stop the run and the pass.

• Even though the Chiefs had 419 yards of total offense, Pete Carroll was happy with several numbers. He was happy with the two forced fumbles. That took Seattle’s turnover differential this season to plus-13, best in the league. Carroll believes winning the turnover battle is one the best ways to win games.

Carroll was also pleased with the aggressiveness and hustle on defense. Even though the Seahawks had only one sack, they had 11 pressures on quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Dion Jordan had one of his better games and Frank Clark continues to play like a Pro Bowler.

O’Neil: How Seahawks transformed without tanking is remarkable

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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