Greetings from a sunny, but chilly CenturyLink Field, site of the Seahawks’ regular-season finale today, and what probably will be their final home game of a very-successful third season under coach Pete Carroll. The Seahawks don’t need to beat the Rams today to advance to the postseason, as was the case in the 2010 regular-season finale here between these NFC West rivals.
The Seahawks clinched the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs with last week’s impressive victory over the NFC West-leading 49ers. To win the division title, they must beat the Rams today, and also have the Cardinals beat the 49ers in San Francisco. To get a playoff game at CenturyLink Field, following a first-round bye, the Seahawks also need a Packers’ loss to the Vikings added to that what-if scenario.
But that’s putting things that are out the Seahawks’ control before the one thing they do control: Their performance against a 7-7-1 Rams team that is looking to go unbeaten in the division and post its first winning record since 2003.
The Seahawks’ four-game winning streak that has lifted them a 10-5 record has been built on taking each game not only one at a time, but treating each like a championship game. As Carroll said repeatedly during the week, if the Seahawks don’t take care of their business today nothing else that might happen will matter.
A matter of utmost importance today will involve how rookie QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ vastly improved offense will handle everything that the Rams’ blitz-crazy defense will throw at them.
And what’s that like? Here’s how Pro Bowl center Max Unger explained it Friday after practice: “It’s like a combination of the frequency that Arizona blitzes and it’s a lot of line movement, kind of like Chicago – those two defenses put into one. Big, exotic blitzes coming from everywhere, bringing every guy, making you throw hot every play.”
And speaking of hot, that’s what Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense have been in beating the Cardinals 58-0, the Bills 50-17 and the 49ers 42-13. Wilson passed for four touchdowns last week, and needs one more TD pass to tie Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 from 1998. He ran for three scores the week before.
The Seahawks also have averaged 243.3 rushing yards the past three games, and Marshawn Lynch needs only 10 to reach 1,500 for the season. The line had two players voted starters for the NFC in the Pro Bowl – Unger and left tackle Russell Okung.
On defense, the big news this week was cornerback Richard Sherman winning his appeal of a league-imposed, four-game suspension, which means he’ll play today – and that when cornerback Brandon Browner returns on Monday from his four-game suspension the defense will be at full strength for any and all postseason games the Seahawks will play.
As for the Seahawks’ No. 3-ranked special teams, they’ve scored two touchdowns in the past three games.
It will take another of these all-three-phases efforts today to ensure beating the Rams, which would allow the Seahawks to go 8-0 at home for only the third time in franchise history; give them more than 10 victories for the first time since going 13-3 in 2005, and only the third time in club history; and set them up to benefit from anything that might happen in other games.
While you’re waiting for the 1:25 p.m. kickoff, here’s a closer look at the five Seahawks who were voted to the NFC Pro Bowl squad through stories that we’ve written about each this season:
Unger, an Island boy who was too big to play Pee-Wee football;
Okung, the Seahawks’ Man of the Year who also has allowed only one sack all season;
Lynch, the Skittles-munching, Beast-Mode running back who can join Shaun Alexander (2004, 2005) and Chris Warren (1994) as the players in franchise history to run for more than 1,500 yards in a season;
Free safety Earl Thomas, who was voted to the Pro Bowl last season, as well, and this year also became a father.
Kick returner Leon Washington, who is second in the NFL in kickoff return average and this season scored on his eighth return to tie the NFL career record.
Enjoy the game, with coverage on FOX (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and also 710 AM ESPN Seattle and KIRO Radio 97.3.