With 15 days until their next game, the Seahawks will scatter, the bye week giving everyone a few days to return home.
“I’m going to get back in the country, man,’’ said safety Earl Thomas, who plans to head back to his native Orange, Texas. “This is too much city for me right now. Got to get back to my roots and enjoy my family.’’
But the path to what the team hopes is its ultimate destination seems clearer than ever after a feel-good 41-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in front of 68,235 at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle’s 13th win in a row at home set a team record and left the Seahawks with the best record in the NFL at 10-1, 1½ games ahead of the Saints for the best record in the NFC and 3½ games ahead of the suddenly flailing 49ers in the NFC West.
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“I think our expectations have been exceeded, actually,” said receiver Doug Baldwin. “But we’ve got a long ways to go, obviously. We want to get to playing in February (in the Super Bowl).”
That seemed as realistic as ever after the Seahawks dominated in just about every way imaginable on Sunday. To cite only a few highlights:
• Receiver Percy Harvin, making his Seahawks debut, showed what all the fuss has been about with a highlight-reel, one-handed catch to set up one touchdown in the second quarter and a 58-yard kickoff return to set up another. He touched the ball only those two times, but it proved more than enough on this day.
• Russell Wilson, working behind his starting offensive line for only the second full game this season, completed 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards and had a career-high passer rating of 151.4.
• Marshawn Lynch matched his season high with three touchdowns, including one on a somewhat-improvised toss from Wilson.
• The defense held Adrian Peterson to 65 yards on 21 carries while also forcing four turnovers, including Walter Thurmond’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
• The special teams contained Minnesota’s vaunted return game.
Coach Pete Carroll was so excited after the win that he said he’d rather the Seahawks didn’t have a bye right now.
“I don’t think it comes at a great time because we’d like to keep playing, to tell you the truth,” Carroll said.
Seattle seemed ready from the beginning of this one, unlike more sluggish efforts a few weeks ago that resulted in close shaves against the Rams and Buccaneers.
Cliff Avril forced a Christian Ponder fumble on Minnesota’s first possession that led to a field goal, and a Lynch touchdown run put Seattle up 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
After the lone moment of angst — Ponder’s 38-yard touchdown to Jarius Wright early in the second quarter that tied the game at 10 — Harvin made his official hello to Seattle.
On a third-and-10 play, he reeled in a Wilson pass with one hand for a 17-yard gain to put Seattle at the Minnesota 39 with 8:50 left.
“It’s just fun to watch him,” said Thomas. “You can tell why we did all that to get him.”
That led to a Lynch touchdown run that put Seattle ahead for good, 17-10.
After a Minnesota field goal, Harvin made his debut as a kick returner. Carroll had planned to ease Harvin — who hadn’t played since Nov. 4, 2012, when he was with Minnesota and missed the first 10 games this season after having hip surgery Aug. 1 — back into action, and wanted to hold him out of returning kickoffs.
But with regular returner Jermaine Kearse out with a concussion, Harvin got his chance and returned it 58 yards.
“I just wanted to stay calm and just play within the system and let the plays come to me,” Harvin said.
That set up a Wilson-to-Baldwin 19-yard pass that made it 24-13 Seattle at halftime — tying the most points the Seahawks have scored in a half this season.
After a scoreless third quarter, Seattle turned it into a rout with 17 points in a span of 3:02 — all set up, or scored, by interceptions.
That’s when the proverbial dam was destroyed, Thomas said.
“It broke,” he said. “Water, it flooded. I was sad they took me out of the game at the end because you want to be part of that quarter.”
Thomas and the Seahawks, though, know they now have a great chance to be part of something even bigger.
Their next game is Dec. 2 against the New Orleans Saints, one that gives Seattle a chance to take a commanding lead in the race for playoff home-field advantage in the NFC.
And with Harvin finally on the field, the offensive line again intact, and the defense mostly whole, the Seahawks could hardly have hoped to enter the bye week any better.
“We are in a great position right now,” Baldwin said. “We’ve been able to endure the adversity and the obstacles that we had to face earlier in the season with the injuries. Now we’re getting healthy, and it’s going to be a fun ride.”
|Playing the full 30|
|On Sunday, the Seahawks scored with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first half for the fourth time this season. They also scored a touchdown with 1:40 left in the second quarter against Tampa Bay on Nov. 3.|
|Date and opponent||Time||Play|
|Sept. 22 vs. Jacksonville||0:10||11-yard touchdown reception by Sidney Rice|
|Oct. 17 at Arizona||0:05||51-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka|
|Nov. 10 at Atlanta||0:01||6-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate|
|Sunday vs. Minnesota||0:10||19-yard touchdown reception by Doug Baldwin|
|Race for No. 1 in the NFC|
|Seattle heads into the bye week leading the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. With New Orleans beating San Francisco on Sunday, the Seahawks-Saints game at CenturyLink on Dec. 2 looms large in the battle for the No. 1 seed. (Note: The top four seeds go to division winners.)|
|1. Seahawks||10-1||vs. New Orleans, at San Francisco, at N.Y. Giants, vs. Arizona, vs. St. Louis|
|2. New Orleans||8-2||at Atlanta, at Seattle, vs. Carolina, at St. Louis, at Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay|
|3. Detroit||6-4||vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Green Bay, at Philadelphia, vs. Baltimore, vs. N.Y. Giants, at Minnesota|
|4. Philadelphia||6-5||vs. Arizona, vs. Detroit, at Minnesota, vs. Chicago, at Dallas|
|5. Carolina||6-3||vs. New England, at Miami, vs. Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, vs. N.Y. Jets, vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta|
|6. San Francisco||6-4||at Washington, vs. St. Louis, vs. Seattle, at Tampa Bay, vs. Atlanta, at Arizona|
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta