The Seahawks started the day competing for the #2 seed in the NFC, they finished the day clinging on to the #3 seed.
Last weeks loss to Arizona cost Seattle a first round bye and an easier potential route through the playoffs. The best case scenario now is they’ll win at home in the Wildcard before heading to a rested Atlanta.
At times against lowly San Francisco, simply winning next weekend looked like a tall order.
Despite playing a 2-13 opponent with a miserable run defense — the Seahawks again struggled to establish a running game. The defense had a slow start — with two ‘hot knife through butter’ scoring drives bookended by costly 49er fumbles. Special teams had another rough outing with a sixth blocked PAT of the season and a wild snap that led to a safety.
It was hoped this was going to be a comfortable victory, building momentum going into the playoffs.
And just as things started to head that way with a nine-point advantage in the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll pulled several starters and suddenly it was game on again after a quick 49er touchdown.
It felt like a strange decision at the time considering the game was far from won. Being #3 instead of #4 isn’t insignificant. Let’s say the Seahawks do find some form in the post season and win next week before defeating Atlanta. They’re a Dallas loss away from hosting the NFC Championship game.
Carroll could argue that’s not a concern of his — keeping Russell Wilson et al healthy is the priority. It’s a fair point. Yet had the Seahawks lost to the 2-13 Niners, flopped to 9-6-1 and dropped to the #4 seed — the negativity to follow would’ve been significant. The second guessing extreme. The questions asked pointed.
It would’ve led to a week of avoidable drama.
Nevertheless, Trevone Boykin actually did well in relief. So did several others to finish the game off on offense. It’s a good job too — because they were a punt away from quite possibly losing the game.
What about some positives?
The defense — and especially the front seven — eventually did a good job establishing order and creating pressure. Bobby Wagner in particular was spectacular, as was Frank Clark and Michael Bennett. Russell Wilson was efficient and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham had some nice plays.
An ankle injury to Nolan Frese might mean the Seahawks go and find a replacement long snapper. That could provoke a call to the guy who did the job competently with minimal drama for years — Clint Gresham.
For the second week in a row Alex Collins looked like Seattle’s best running back. It’s unclear why it took so long to get him involved in the game.
There’s not much else to say about an instantly forgettable seventh straight win against a former heated rival. We know what the Seahawks are now. They’re a talented roster for sure — with the players capable of launching a run.
Yet the common traits of a Super Bowl Champion are the ability to play well defensively, run the ball and be healthier than some of the other contenders. The Seahawks are capable of great defense but they’re inconsistent. They don’t have a threatening running game. They are missing key players like Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett — and Russell Wilson certainly isn’t 100% either.
The way they’ve started the last three games has to be a concern too. Against a high-octane offense (and that’s what they’ll be facing the rest of the way) there’s a real threat we’ll see a repeat of the Green Bay debacle if they start as poorly as they have against LA, Arizona and San Francisco.
The hope has to be that they can find a spark now that every week is a potential season-ender. This is still the only team to beat New England with Tom Brady at quarterback this season. We’ve seen the heights they’re capable of. Now’s the time to show some metal.
Whatever happens, it feels like we’re edging closer to arguably the most important off-season in Pete Carroll’s tenure — potentially determining how much longer this group can stay near the top.