The Seahawks started the season 2-4 and just couldn’t finish games. They gave up 4th quarter leads in awful losses against St Louis, Green Bay, Carolina and Cincinnati. Critics starting saying that QB Russell Wilson was an overrated game manager, that the famed Legion of Boom secondary was falling apart, that they were suffering some sort of Super Bowl “hangover”.
Sunday’s performance against a stout Vikings defense squashed those notions. Seattle came out firing on all cylinders and didn’t stop until the final whistle. Their defense was impressive all game long, holding Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to 18 yards on 8 carries, the third lowest of his legendary career. Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater never looked comfortable, as he was swarmed by defensive lineman Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh, who sacked him 4 times. The Legion of Boom looked like the Legion of Boom that kept offensive coordinators and quarterbacks up all night trying to gameplan around them. Earl Thomas III had an acrobatic interception that set up a touchdown drive, Kam Chancellor delivered the big hits and Richard Sherman, Deshawn Shead and Jeremy Lane shut down deep threat Mike Wallace and rookie sensation Stefon Diggs.
Then, there was the offense. Widely criticized for controversial calls and inconsistent play, they have showed up for the second half of the season. This offensive surge starts has to start with QB Russell Wilson. Wilson received a huge contract extension in the offseason and hadn’t been living up to it going into the week 10 matchup with the 49ers. Since then, he has exploded for 879 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while completing almost 80 percent of his passes. He looks comfortable in the pocket, locks in on his targets and is delivering clean balls into the waiting arms of wide receivers Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse, who are all playing at a high level as well. Baldwin in particular is playing better than any receiver in the NFL right now. Lots of people don’t appreciate how good he is. If Baldwin played on a high octane passing offense, he would consistently be a top 15 receiver.
In addition, Seattle’s once-suspect offensive line is finally starting to click due to the addition of center Patrick Lewis into the starting lineup providing Wilson with adequate pass protection for the first time this season. But this is not all that makes Seattle’s offense click. For years, Seattle’s philosophy was to wear you down by pounding the ball down your throat with elite RB Marshawn Lynch, otherwise known as “Beast Mode”. When Beast Mode went down for the season with a sports hernia, everyone wondered how Seattle would replace Lynch’s production. Enter Thomas Rawls. Rawls, an undrafted rookie from Central Michigan, has taken the starting job and ran with it. This year the rookie has rushed for 685 yards and 4 touchdowns. Rawls also leads the NFL in yards per carry and is making a fantastic case for Rookie of the Year. In fact, no team in the NFL has a trio of rookies producing as much as Rawls, Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett, who are all Rookie of the Year candidates.
If the season ended right now, the top seeds would be the 12-0 Carolina Panthers and 10-2 Arizona, two fantastic teams, but still teams that Seattle has dominated in recent years. The Seahawks remaining schedule is a complete cakewalk, with their upcoming opponents being Baltimore, Cleveland, St Louis and Arizona. Arizona plays four teams (Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota and Philadelphia) that are currently in the thick of the playoff hunt, complicating things a bit. Arizona has the potential to lose 2-3 of those games, potentially opening up the west for Seattle. Carolina has a slightly easier schedule, but it is still not the cakewalk that Seattle has. Lest we not forget, Seattle is now 13-2 in December when Russell Wilson is the starting quarterback. They have been here before. They know how to win late in the season, while other teams may not have the experience, or the momentum.
The Seattle Seahawks has regained their swagger, passion and intensity, and they are now the front runner to advance to their third consecutive Super Bowl.