Entering this season, few projected much from the rebuilding, new-look Seattle Seahawks after a turbulent offseason.
With former stars such as Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Michael Bennett no longer part of the team, many prognosticators predicted Seattle would only win four or five games with an untested, inexperienced roster. As Sherman pointed out, the organization had “lost its way” after missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.
But following a thrilling 38-31 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, coach Pete Carroll’s squad defied all outside expectations and found its roots in the process, clinching a playoff berth that seemed improbable only a few short months ago.
“There weren’t very many people that thought we would ever have a chance to be in this position, but the guys in this room did.” Carroll said. “Led by the leaders, Bobby [Wagner] and Russell [Wilson] and Doug [Baldwin] and Frank [Clark], all those guys. They just would not think anything but that we were going to do something special with this team this year. I know it looked bleak at times and all that, it started terribly. But, this is a real statement about leadership.”
When the Seahawks opened the season with back-to-back losses in Denver and Chicago, it seemed unlikely they’d be playing meaningful games into December and January. Sherman’s comments seemed to have some teeth as the team struggled out of the gate.
But as they’ve done most of the season, the Seahawks didn’t stray from who they are, effectively deploying an old-school offensive approach while gashing the Chiefs for 210 yards on the ground. Leading the charge, running back Chris Carson bulldozed his way to his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the year, and scored on two physical touchdown runs.
With the run game clicking most of the night and Seattle’s defense generating two timely fumble recoveries in the first half, Russell Wilson matched Chiefs MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes throw-for-throw throughout the evening, as the quarterback duel lived up to the hype.
By his standards, Mahomes had a fairly quiet night, completing 23 out of 40 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. But he also showcased his elite skill set on multiple occasions to silence the CenturyLink crowd, including throwing a ridiculous 25-yard touchdown across his body to reserve running back Charcandrick West to tie the game at 17 apiece midway through the third quarter.
Wilson refused to be outdone, however.
After a slow start, Seattle’s franchise quarterback heated up after halftime, throwing for 219 yards and two scores during the final two quarters of play. Responding to Mahomes absurd touchdown pass, Wilson marched the Seahawks 75 yards in less than five minutes and punctuated the drive with a 27-yard scoring strike to receiver Doug Baldwin to retake the lead.
Both teams traded three-and-out possessions and the Chiefs drove all the way to the Seahawks four-yard line aiming to knot the game early in the fourth quarter. With their backs against the wall, Seattle’s defense staged a much-needed goal line stand, forcing Kansas City to settle for a chip-shot field goal by Harrison Butker to trim the lead to 24-20.
Wilson opened the ensuing drive with a 25-yard strike to Tyler Lockett, who finished with a 96 yards on four receptions. On the very next play with several Chiefs defenders bearing down on him in the pocket, he pulled off his latest magic trick to escape the grasp of several would-be tacklers and raced 26 yards for another first down.
Capitalizing on a defensive holding call in the end zone against cornerback Tremon Smith, Wilson capped off the drive with a sensational no-look throw to tight end Ed Dickson, giving Seattle their first two-possession lead of the game.
After the Chiefs trimmed the deficit to three points on Mahomes third touchdown pass of the game followed by a two-point conversion, Wilson refused to let his team lose and received plenty of support from his often-overlooked receiving corps.
"We don't care about how many targets we've had throughout the course of the game or what the numbers are, we're savages." Baldwin said. "When it's our time to make plays and when we're given opportunities to make plays, we are going to make them and we have shown that."
With less than five minutes left on the game clock, Seattle opted to stay aggressive, playing to win the game by putting the ball in Wilson’s court. Facing 3rd and 6, he completed a quick pass to David Moore, who used a valiant second effort to fight for the first down and preserve the drive.
Two plays later, Wilson dropped a dime to Lockett, who resembled Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays hauling in the catch over his shoulder along the sideline for a 45-yard pickup. Going for the jugular, Wilson lofted another bomb to Baldwin, who stuck his left hand up and corralled the football with a highlight reel grab at the one-yard line.
“I’ve never seen Doug play better than that. I just thought he was magnificent. Just tough catch after tough catch, then he gets his ankle twisted and comes back and makes the big play after that. Just heroic stuff.”
Carson finished off the drive, and ultimately the game, by barreling through two Kansas City defenders for his second touchdown to help officially punch Seattle’s playoff ticket. The Chiefs would add another field goal before time expired, but it wasn’t enough as the Seahawks sent fans home happy with quite the early Christmas gift.
Proud of his team’s accomplishments when few had faith in the team prior to the season, Carroll feels the Seahawks are just getting warmed up and he’s looking forward to building off this signature win as a dangerous wild card team heading into January.
“We don’t care who we play or where we play, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go play the way we’ve been playing and see if it holds up and count on that it will. For everybody to embrace that, they all know. The locker room knows. They know what we’re going, they know who we are, and they’re ready to go. It’s thrilling.”