O’Neil: Seahawks need Wilson to break road divisional round drought
The Seahawks have been here before.
Six times in the past 15 years they’ve gone on the road in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, facing a team that was coming off a bye in the playoffs. Six times they’ve lost.
They were barely beaten in Chicago in January 2007, losing in overtime, and they were blown out the next year in Green Bay when they allowed 35 straight points after taking a 14-0 lead 5 minutes into the game. They had their hearts broken in Atlanta in January 2013, losing on a last-second field goal after wiping out a 20-point deficit, and they suffered a bad break in that same city four years later when what could have been a game-changing punt return was nullified by a penalty.
The result has been the same, though. A loss. Seattle has not won a road game in this round of the playoffs since they flew to Miami and beat Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in 1983.
It will take something extraordinary for that to change on Sunday when the Seahawks play at the Packers. Fortunately for Seattle, its quarterback is just that, and it’s going to take one of his better games for the Seahawks to beat the Packers. Something at least as good as last week, and while that doesn’t mean he has to account for more than 95 percent of his team’s total offense like he did against the Eagles, he’s going to need to make up for whatever slack that Seattle’s defense provides in this game.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Seattle will have to rely on its offense – and specifically its quarterback – if it’s going to beat the Packers. Well, that’s the reality because while Green Bay’s offense has been decidedly mediocre this season, ranking 18th in the league in yards gained and 14th in points scored, the Seahawks defense has been a liability. If Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Atlanta’s Matt Schaub each threw for more than 400 yards against Seattle, what might Aaron Rodgers be capable of even if he hasn’t played as well this season as he has for the past decade or so.
The Seahawks will have to be better than they were last week in Philadelphia if they’re going to win in Green Bay. That win over the Eagles was workmanlike. The Seahawks won without forcing a turnover. They won in spite of the fact that Philadelphia was never forced to punt. The Seahawks won because it held the Eagles to a total of six points on the three times Philadelphia got the ball inside Seattle’s 20-yard, and they won because Wilson was nothing short of brilliant on third down, converting five third downs in which Seattle needed 10 yards or more.
Seattle won’t win this game if it can’t force a turnover against the Packers, which is no small feat because Green Bay committed only 13 of them all season. The Seahawks will also need Wilson to be as good as he was last week, which isn’t necessarily fair, but it is reality. Seattle is relying upon Wilson in the same way the Packers used to depend upon Rodgers.
Rodgers was the gold standard for quarterbacks when Wilson entered the league, and even as Wilson racked up victories in both the regular season and playoffs over his first three seasons, it was obvious that he wasn’t asked to carry the same load that Rodgers was in Green Bay. Seattle supported Wilson with a stronger running game, and more importantly, the Seahawks had a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league for four successive seasons.
And now, it’s Rodgers whose passing is supported by a ground game while Wilson is the one who’s had to be extraordinary. He’ll have to be that good again on Sunday if Seattle is going to win on the road in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 35 years.