The Seahawks’ NFC West championship does not come with a disclaimer.
When the banner joins those from 2004-07 in the rafters at Qwest Field, it will not contain an asterisk. When the poster commemorating this title is added to those in the hallway at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the Seahawks’ record will not be included.
The Seahawks are not only a division champion for the sixth time in the past 12 seasons, they will host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field in a 1:30 p.m. wild-card playoff game Saturday.
A PLAYOFF BAKER’S HALF DOZEN
The Seahawks have advanced to the postseason for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons. How that accomplishment stacks up with the NFL’s other perennial playoff teams:
“Getting into the playoffs, that’s all you want – to have a shot,” linebacker Will Herring said after helping ice the division-clinching 16-6 win over the St. Louis Rams with a fourth-quarter interception at Qwest Field on Sunday night.
“We got a game next week; we got a game at home. We’re going to have our fans behind us, and there’s no better place to play in the country. To have the 12th Man behind us, you can’t even put into words how much they help us and the advantage we get to have with that noise factor they bring every week.”
The 12th Man will get another chance to bring it this week, because the Seahawks found a way to bring it on Sunday night.
Apologize for their 7-9 record, making them the first team in NFL history to win its division with a losing record? Hardly.
“I hear that this has never happened before,” coach Pete Carroll said when asked the inevitable question in his post-game news conference. “I think that’s kind of cool.”
So is the fact that the Seahawks have advanced to the postseason for the seventh time in the past 12 seasons. The only team in the NFC that has been more often in that span is the Philadelphia Eagles (eight). The only teams in the AFC that have been more often are the Indianapolis Colts (11) and New England Patriots (eight).
Not bad company that the Seahawks find themselves in, especially after all the trials and tribulations during Carroll’s first season as coach.
“I reminded the guys who’ve been here for a few years now that we’ve captured this moment before – this is nothing new to us,” said defensive back Jordan Babineaux, one of only 10 players still on the 53-man roster from the Seahawks’ last playoff appearance in 2007.
“For the younger guys, I just had to reiterate the fact that these are rare moments, so you have to grab these and hold on to them because we’ve seen guys play great careers but never have an opportunity to get in the tournament. And now it doesn’t matter – records mean nothing. It’s the best team that day.”
With that said, here’s a look at three things the Seahawks can build on heading into their wild-card game against the Saints, as well as three things that need work from their Week loss in New Orleans:
Three steps forward
One. Capturing and fueling the energy. This whole Qwest Field thing works best when the Seahawks feed off the excitement generated by the crowd and in turn fuel the crowd with their on-field efforts. That definitely was the case Sunday night, when they scored a touchdown on their first possession – for only the fourth time this season – and then forced three-and-outs on four of the Rams’ six first-half possessions.
“It’s a huge advantage for us to play at home,” said Leon Washington, who had 115 yards rushing, receiving and returning against the Rams. “You felt the whole energy out there, the 12th Man rolling. We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, get right back to work tomorrow and then keep it rolling, keep it rolling.”
Two. “Beast Mode” right. Of Marshawn Lynch’s 75 rushing yards, 74 came while running to the right side of the line behind guard Mike Gibson, tackle Sean Locklear and tight end Chris Baker.
“We were getting that edge sealed,” said Lynch, who describes his physical running style as “Beast Mode.”
“You know, Sean and Mike did a good job of getting that corner sealed and we really took advantage of it.”
Lynch’s effort allowed him to hold off fellow back, and best friend, Justin Forsett to lead the team in rushing – 573 yards vs. 523 yards.
Three. Playing aggressively. It started with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates dialing up a deep pass on the second play of the game – which went for 61 yards from Charlie Whitehurst to Ruvell Martin. It continued with Whitehurst, making his second NFL start, operating extensively from the shotgun formation and putting the ball up 36 times. It continued on defense, as coordinator Gus Bradley’s crew tipped or deflected seven of Sam Bradford’s passes and sacked the rookie QB three times.
The Seahawks played as if they had nothing to lose, when they did.
“It was a complete win for us,” Carroll said. “And I’m really fired up about that because it’s been a long time coming.”
Three areas from the first game against the Saints that need improvement
One. Red-zone offense. Each team scored five times during the Saints’ 34-19 win at the Superdome in November. The Saints got five touchdowns. The Seahawks settled for one TD and four field goals – two after they had reached the Saints’ 2-yard line.
Two. Third-down defense. The Rams were 2 of 14 on Sunday night, or 14 percent. The Seahawks also have had games this season where they limited the opposition to zero percent (Bears, 0 for 12), seven percent (49ers, 1 for 15), 17 percent (Cardinals, 2 for 12) and 18 percent (Cardinals, 2 for 11). Not surprisingly, they won all five of those games.
The Saints, however, were 11 of 15, for 73 percent – the highest against the Seahawks this season.
Three. Don’t underestimate Chris Ivory. With Reggie Bush sidelined, the free-agent rookie from Tiffin ran for 99 yards against the Seahawks in Week 11. Carroll later admitted, “There’s no question he surprised us a little bit. We didn’t realize the strength that he had. He busted through some tackles that normally we had made and really controlled situations.”