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Seahawks Takeaways: The unsung hero of defense’s newfound dominance

Carlos Dunlap has made sacks on crucial final series in two Seahawks this season. (Getty)

The Seahawks secured a playoff spot and jumped back into first place in the NFC West after their 20-15 win Sunday over the Washington Football Team.

Pete Carroll: Seahawks’ offense executed ‘an awesome way to win’

The good news is that Seattle’s defense held an opponent to fewer than 17 points for the fourth consecutive week. The bad news is that for the fourth time in six weeks, a Seahawks offense that was once the highest-scoring unit in the league put up fewer than 23 points.

So, how do fans make sense of the mixed results from Sunday’s win? Here are four takeaways:

D.J. Reed is making his case for a starting job

The Seahawks will have plenty of roster moves to make with cornerbacks Tre Flowers and Quinton Dunbar both getting healthier, but D.J. Reed’s performance in relief of those two is making this a tough decision for Seattle.

Reed didn’t just have his best game this Sunday against Washington, making one interception and three passes defended, but he also one of the best games from a Seattle cornerback this year – and that’s according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Related: Carroll says D.J. Reed’s edge reminds him of Doug Baldwin

Carroll pointed to Reed’s play during his interception of a pass from Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Reed was covering receiver Terry McLaurin but handed him off to Quandre Diggs after spotting Chris Sims crossing underneath. Haskins told reporters postgame he thought Reed would stay with McLaurin, which would have left Sims with plenty of open field.

“We have not done that well, consistently, over the years,” Carroll told Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant during Monday morning’s Pete Carroll Show on 710 ESPN Seattle. “It depends on the awareness of the guys. Can they see it coming? He showed that weeks ago when he first got out there that he understands what’s happening in that zone principle. And so when they gave him a shot at it, he stole it.”

Reed is a smaller defensive back at 5 foot 9, and when he was claimed off waivers from the 49ers the belief was that he would compete at the nickel spot with Ugo Amadi. However, he’s held up well at the outside corner spot.

Carlos Dunlap is one of John Schneider’s best trades

Some of general manager John Schneider’s best acquisitions for the Seahawks have been in-season trades. There was an October 2010 trade for running back Marshawn Lynch, a 2017 trade for left tackle Duane Brown, a 2019 trade for safety Quandre Diggs, and this year’s trade for pass rusher Carlos Dunlap in which Seattle sent Cincinnati a backup center and a 2021 seventh-round pick. Sweetening the pot was Dunlap’s willingness to restructure his deal with Seattle to get the trade done.

Dunlap is quickly becoming one of the best additions under Schneider. The veteran pass rusher has five sacks in six games, with two of those coming during an opponent’s final drive. The first of those was a sack of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray on fourth down to ice a victory in November, and the second came on a third-down attempt in Sunday’s win.

Seattle’s defensive turnaround has been stunning. There was a time this defense was giving up over 470 yards per game. But they’ve seen drastic improvement since the arrival of Dunlap and the return of a healthy Jamal Adams, making 31 sacks in their last eight games.

The Seahawks’ offense needs to right the ship

The Seahawks clinched a playoff spot and leapt back into first place in the NFC West with their win. That’s something to be proud of. But the second-half stalling on offense left plenty of fans scratching their heads.

Third down remains an issue. Seattle converted just once in five attempts. Wilson had just 50 passing yards after halftime and the offense didn’t find the end zone again following Carlos Hyde’s 50-yard scoring run early in the third quarter. It didn’t matter in the end – Seattle’s defense held Washington at bay and the Seahawks secured the 20-15 win. But they’ll need to be more explosive than that and find the end zone more often if they want to stay above the rest of the playoff pool.

Jamal Adams has perspective on Seahawks’ playoff berth

It’s fair for Seahawks fans – or any sports fans — to critique patterns and flaws from the game or to feel frustrated with a talented team that hasn’t made the most of that talent. After all, when you trade two first-rounders and boast one of the league’s top passers, the expectation is to return to the NFC Championship and advance to a Super Bowl.

But Jamal Adams’ postgame comments add some perspective.

“That’s a helluva feeling man,” an ecstatic Adams told a reporter when the former New York Jet was asked about his first ever trip to the postseason. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to this, guys. Forgive me. I know you guys are used to Seattle, always go to the playoffs. I’m not used to this.”

I’m not telling anyone how to feel about their team, but if you were to take a moment to enjoy the feeling of Seattle clinching a playoff berth for the eighth time in the nine years that Russell Wilson has been with this team, no one would blame you.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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