Seahawks 3-game streak is fueling a push to playoff berth
By TIM BOOTH
RENTON, Wash. (AP) After four straight weeks of playing tight, one-score games decided in the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll enjoyed spending a Monday reviewing a rare comfortable victory.
"It was a little different than the games we've been playing in," Carroll said. "It was nice to see us get out ahead and hang onto it and work with the lead and play in that fashion."
Seattle's blowout win over San Francisco on Sunday only strengthened what is becoming another late playoff push by the Seahawks, and after a day in which they got results that helped in trying to get back to the playoffs after missing last season. Seattle is currently in command of one of the wild-card spots in the NFC and its hopes were strengthened by Carolina and Minnesota suffering losses. Seattle holds the tiebreaker over Carolina and can have that in place over Minnesota with a win at home next Monday night against the Vikings.
The only teams Seattle (7-5) could end up in wild-card contention with that it won't face head-to-head are Washington and Philadelphia. But if the Seahawks continue winning, it won't matter. They'll be in the postseason.
"These are must-win games for us. Every week, we approach it like that," Seattle left tackle Duane Brown said after the win. "We approach every week like a playoff game and that's the kind of intensity guys came out with from kickoff on."
Seattle's current roll is reviving memories of 2015, when it was 4-5 after nine games. But this time, success is coming a different way. That season, the Seahawks leaned on the passing arm of quarterback Russell Wilson as he threw for 24 touchdowns and just one interception over the final seven games as Seattle went 6-1 down the stretch and made the postseason. Wilson averaged 272 yards passing and 31 pass attempts per game during that stretch.
So far, it's been balance and efficiency that's defined Seattle's offensive performance during its current three-game win streak, although his overall numbers aren't that dissimilar. Wilson has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions during the stretch, averaging about 250 yards passing. But there's been no fall-off with Seattle's run game of late, meaning Wilson isn't being forced to carry the offense.
In Sunday's 43-16 win over San Francisco, Wilson attempted just six passes in the first half. He threw for touchdowns on three of them. Seattle will take that kind of efficiency - even with reduced numbers - all the time.
"I think that the development of the pass protection has been really obvious and Russ has taken advantage of that," Carroll said, noting Wilson's movement on a 52-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett on Sunday. "That's why he's been able to be more effective getting the second looks and sliding up in the pocket and hitting Tyler on the big play was a perfect example of that. Really good protection, he gets to move to give one more beat to get Tyler a chance to get behind him and deliver the throw. I just think it's connected with what's going on up front, but his overall command of what we're trying to get done communication-wise has really helped the other guys play well."
Seattle did come out of the win over the 49ers with one major injury concern after guard D.J. Fluker suffered a hamstring strain. Carroll said Fluker had a "grade 1" strain and would likely miss a couple of weeks. When Fluker was unable play last month against the Rams, it was Jordan Simmons who stepped in to start.
"He seems to be moving in the right direction to be a really, really viable option for us," Carroll said of Simmons. "He doesn't get that much practice time, so when he does get the practice time like he did in the Rams week, he did a very good job with it. So, we're going to count on him playing and see how that goes."
NOTES: Seattle waived LB Emmanuel Ellerbee on Monday, clearing a roster spot for LB Mychal Kendricks after his suspension was lifted. Kendricks has been practicing with the Seahawks for the past two weeks, but next Monday against Minnesota will be the first time he's eligible to play. He could end up moving into a prominent role with K.J. Wright still out due to knee troubles, although Austin Calitro has played well. Carroll said he believes Kendricks could play a significant amount of snaps, if needed. ... Carroll expects RB Chris Carson (finger), FB Tre Madden (chest) and DT Shamar Stephen (foot) to be able to play next Monday. Carson suffered a dislocated finger in the win over San Francisco, while Madden and Stephen were both inactive.
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Updated December 3, 2018