Seahawks take six-game road winning streak into divisional-round game vs. Carolina

Jan 16, 2016, 10:31 PM | Updated: 10:40 pm
Bruce Irvin said communicating on the field is easier for the Seahawks’ defense in road games...
Bruce Irvin said communicating on the field is easier for the Seahawks' defense in road games. (AP)
(AP)

CHARLOTTTE, N.C. – Conventional wisdom would suggest that a significant advantage the Panthers will have over Seattle in Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game is that it will be held in Carolina’s home stadium as opposed to CenturyLink Field.

Then again, Seattle’s season hasn’t exactly followed conventional wisdom in that regard.

“To be honest with you, I think we’re a better road team than we are a home team this year,” Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin said last week, before Seattle beat the Vikings in Minneapolis to set up a date with the top-seeded Panthers in Charlotte.

The Seahawks finished the regular season with identical 5-3 home and road records, losing their first three away from CenturyLink Field then finishing with five straight victories before their win over Minnesota in the wild-card round. Seattle has gotten into its groove on the road, something coach Pete Carroll hoped would happen once it appeared that the Seahawks wouldn’t be at home for the playoffs this year.

“We have embraced playing on the road,” Carroll said. “We realized a couple months ago that the schedule might wind up and the records might wind up where if we were going to do something in the postseason we’re going to have to do it on the road. We really turned our focus to getting our format right, and seeing if we could max out all of the travel time and the prep time and all the things that go along with getting on the road so that we would be best prepared for this.”

Four of Seattle’s six consecutive road victories came by 17 points or more. And while it might be tempting to point to some weak competition as a factor in that success, consider that three of those six wins came against two of top-seeded teams in the NFC playoffs. Seattle hammered Minnesota and Arizona by 31 and 30 points then hung on to beat the Vikings again in a nailbiter.

“It’s most challenging,” Carroll said of playing on the road. “This is going to be a great stadium. They couldn’t be more pumped up and all of that. But one thing that does happen is when you travel together, you stay together. You stay connected, and our guys have done a really good job of buying in and making the most of the travel and the trip.”

Free safety Earl Thomas shared a similar thought when asked last week about Seattle’s success away from home.

“I think when we’re on the road, it’s just us,” he said. “There’s no distractions. Wives, the baby, they’re at home. It’s just us. We like it that way.”

Seattle’s defense has allowed all of one touchdown during the team’s six-game road winning streak, that coming in the blowout win over Arizona in the regular-season finale.

To a man, Seattle’s defensive players say that it’s much easier to communicate on the road. As difficult as it is for opposing offenses to operate in the din of CenturyLink Field, that deafening noise makes it just as hard to relay calls on the other side of the ball. Recall that it was a communication breakdown that doomed the Seahawks on Carolina’s game-winning touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen back in Week 6.

On the road?

“It’s way better. Way better,” Irvin said last week. “(Against Arizona) we was calling plays out before they happened, just seeing everything, communicating. I’m in my stance I can hear K.J. (Wright) telling me something. At home, you can’t do that.”

How difficult is it at home?

“I couldn’t even hear you,” Irvin told one of several reporters who was huddled around his locker. “If we was in the C-Link, we couldn’t hear each other standing this close to each other, so it is a big advantage for us to hear each other and talk and be able to communicate and be on the same page.”

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