NFL Wire News

Seahawks control own playoff destiny

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RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks could hardly have asked for things to break better than they did Sunday.

Not only did the Seahawks rally to beat the San Francisco 49ers 17-7 to improve to 10-4, but they also saw the Buffalo Bills upset Green Bay, dropping the Packers to 10-4 and assuring Seattle of the edge in any tiebreakers.

In fact, most scenarios now favor the Seahawks to get home field throughout the playoffs as long as they win their final two games.

That won’t be easy, though, as the first of that twosome comes Sunday at Arizona against a Cardinals team that despite a bevy of injuries and underwhelming offensive statistics is tied for the best record in the NFL at 11-3.

Seattle beat Arizona 19-3 last month at home, which started a four-game winning streak and keyed a stretch that has seen the Seahawks get right back into the Super Bowl hunt by winning seven of their past eight.

Thanks to the earlier win over the Cardinals, the Seahawks can take any tiebreakers with Arizona by completing a series sweep Sunday.

The Las Vegas oddsmakers are expecting that to happen, installing the Seahawks as a touchdown favorite, due in part to the fact that Arizona must go with third-team quarterback Ryan Lindley. Starter Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton are both injured.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday the stakes of the game are obvious.

“That’s not the stuff to talk about,” he said. “We’ve been preparing for championship games all season long and playing like they are. The more we do that, the more comfortable I hope we’ll feel with the big setting this one brings, all the hype that people are going to put on it.

“We’re not going to play any different. We’re going to try to play the same kind of football that we’ve been playing, and that means we’re going to give everything we’ve got. Try to go all out to get a win and take it to the next week.”

Carroll said it was hard to know how Lindley’s presence would impact the game.

“We have to figure that out,” he said. “It’s too early to assess that really for us. We know of him; we studied him hard when he was coming out, watched him in college and all of that, and Logan (Thomas, the fourth-stringer), as well so we have background on those guys. Not a lot of film on them, but we’ll figure that out as we go. Bruce (Arians, Arizona’s head coach) is a terrific quarterback coach, and he knows what he’s doing. He’ll get the most out of these guys. Sounds like they want to play both of them, so that will be interesting to see how they want to do that.

“There’s not much real change though; they have a very clear commitment to the running game and how they want to do. … We’ll try and load up for that and get ready to adjust most likely. We’ll have to figure out how to adjust to what they’re doing.”

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C — It figured to be a struggle for the Seahawks to pass the ball against the 49ers, and it was. QB Russell Wilson finished just 12-for-24 for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His interception came on one of his worst throws of the season when he airmailed WR Doug Baldwin near the goal line on the final play of the first half. He also was sacked five times, three during a first half in which he was often under duress. The Seahawks were able to get the running game going in the second half and threw just six passes after halftime. One went for a touchdown, a 10-yarder to rookie WR Paul Richardson, who had one of his best days with three receptions for 30 yards. Only four players caught passes as the Seahawks vastly streamlined the offense in the second half due to the blocking issues and wanting to get the running game going. For the second straight week, though, the Seahawks tried a few more vertical routes and were able to connect on one, a 47-yarder to WR Jermaine Kearse. It was another game that will make some wonder if the Seahawks have the passing game they need to win a shootout, should a shootout occur in the playoffs.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — It was a tale of two halves with the running game. The Seahawks had just 47 yards on 11 carries at halftime, when they were down 7-3. It all changed in the second half, as Seattle ran on 21 of 27 plays, gaining 105 yards. RB Marshawn Lynch, who shows no signs of slowing down despite dealing with a sore back, finished with 91 yards on 21 carries. Wilson once again didn’t run much against the 49ers: 27 yards on five carries. However, a 19-yarder came at a key time late in the third quarter to help set up Seattle’s final touchdown.

–PASS DEFENSE: A-minus — For once, no interceptions against San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. But other than a couple of plays on which Kaepernick scrambled and found open receivers, the Seattle pass defense was largely impenetrable. Kaepernick completed 11 of 19 passes for just 141 yards and only had 52 yards on six completions in the second half. Seattle is largely using just five defensive backs right now, but there is little reason to change with everyone playing well and staying healthy.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — The 49ers were determined to get the running game going in this game after appearing to abandon it early in the loss on Thanksgiving night. Early on, it paid off, as the 49ers had 104 rushing yards in the first half, including a 10-yard touchdown run by RB Frank Gore on a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter. Seattle largely blamed missed assignments and tackles for some of the issues in the first half, as well as having to adjust to the sight of Kaepernick being more aggressive running; he had nine attempts for 46 yards after rushing only three times in the first game. Seattle made the adjustments in the second half and held the 49ers to just 36 yards on 13 carries in the second half. MLB Bobby Wagner had another standout game with 10 tackles, nine solo, two for a loss.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — This was a huge improvement after the struggles at Philadelphia the previous week, when special teams failings contributed to all 14 of the Eagles’ points. P Jon Ryan, who dropped snaps each of the previous two weeks, bounced back with a 48-yard average on four attempts. Two were downed inside the 20. The coverage teams were solid led, by SS Jeron Johnson. Bryan Walters was back as the punt returner after being inactive, and he had a 19-yard return that helped set up Seattle’s second touchdown.

–COACHING: B-minus — Pete Carroll and company deserve loads of credit for keeping the Seahawks on point during the week and able to make the adjustments at halftime to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 17-7 win. Still, one really questionable decision brings down the grade. Facing a third-and-10 at the 49ers 29 with eight seconds to go in the first half and no timeouts, Carroll decided to take one more shot at a touchdown. It turned into disaster when Wilson’s pass was picked off and almost returned for a touchdown (LT Russell Okung was injured on the play and could be out for a few weeks). Carroll said Monday he didn’t second-guess the decision, but he said Wilson threw an ill-advised pass since it was not into the end zone and even if caught would not have resulted in points and would have ended the half. In a game that looked like a defensive struggle, giving up sure points was a little hard to fathom.


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