O’Neil: Are Seahawks more ready for a playoff run as this low-scoring team?
The way the Seahawks’ offense finished Sunday’s game is a reason for optimism heading into Saturday’s playoff game against the Rams.
The Seahawks turned a 10-point deficit into a 10-point lead over the 49ers in just over 13 minutes, scoring three touchdowns to pull off a 26-23 comeback in a road game against San Francisco that was actually played in Arizona.
The way the Seahawks’ offense finished the regular season is a reason for concern heading into the playoffs because while Seattle won its final four games and six of its last seven, the team’s scoring average has declined with each passing month this season. And in Sunday’s regular-season finale, the Seahawks managed only two field goals in the first three quarters and failed to gain a first down for a stretch of 27 minutes starting in the first quarter and continuing to the third quarter.
“I’m not worried about it,” Coach Pete Carroll said afterward when asked about the offense.
That makes one of us. Then again, Carroll was the one person who professed confidence that Seattle’s defense was going to get it together after a historically porous start to this season so maybe we shouldn’t dismiss his opinion so cavalierly.
Sunday’s game didn’t impact Seattle’s playoff seeding. Victories by the Saints and the Packers locked the Seahawks into the No. 3 seed in the NFC no matter what happened. You can’t say the game was entirely meaningless, either, because had Seattle not found its closing kick against the 49ers, then Seahawks fans would have committed to an entire week of debating what exactly has gone wrong with Russell Wilson.
Instead, Wilson was 8 for 11 passing in the fourth quarter and scrambled for 11 and then for 16 yards during the drive for a go-ahead score, which came on a fourth-down pass Wilson lobbed perfectly for Tyler Lockett, who caught his 12th pass of the game and 100th of the season.
All’s well that end’s well, right? Well, that depends on what happens in the playoffs. Among the teams in this year’s playoffs – all 14 of them – perhaps none have changed so much as these Seattle Seahawks over the course of the 16-game schedule.
For the first nine regular-season games, Seattle was among the league’s most potent scoring attacks with a quarterback who was playing at an MVP level and a defense that was threatening to undermine the whole thing. For the past seven, the defense has been markedly improved while Seattle’s offense has gone back to being the unit we remember from years past. The one that will go dormant for entire quarters at a time before stirring to life when it’s most urgent.
In Seattle’s first four regular-season games, the Seahawks scored a touchdown in 14 of the 16 quarters they played. They didn’t find the end zone until the fourth period on Sunday against San Francisco, but the Seahawks now have a defense that’s capable of keeping them in a game.
Did you think the Seahawks were a more worthy Super Bowl contender back in October when they were 5-0 with a defense that seemed clinically incapable of slamming the door shut on an opponent? Or do you feel better about the fact that this team has stopped giving up so many points and started winning those nip-and-tuck battles?
This probably won’t come as a total shock, but Carroll loves the way his team is playing now.
“I’m thrilled about the fact that we’ve just continued to crescendo,” he said after the game. “We have continued to play solid football and keep the points down. I’m ready to play anybody, doesn’t matter who we play.”
Well, it’s going to be the Rams first up in a game that will be played at Seattle’s Lumen Field at 1:40 p.m. Saturday. The way the Seahawks have finished this season means you shouldn’t expect it to be easy, but Seattle has also showed that it has the endurance to wait out its opponents until the final period.
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