Lots of questions remain for the Seahawks for the final two games of the regular season, including whether Seattle can get its running game going.
Now that the NFC West has been won, the biggest question remaining for the Seahawks is whether they can keep the No. 2 seed.
With games against the Cardinals and 49ers all that’s left, Seattle will be heavily favored to win out and keep the second spot in the NFC playoffs (in fact, the Seahawks can clinch the No. 2 seed if they win this weekend while Atlanta and Detroit lost).
But within that larger question are a few smaller ones that in their own way are no less intriguing or important as the Seahawks finish out the regular season.
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Q: Can Seattle finish with the fewest points allowed in the NFL for a fifth straight year?
A: The odds are a lot better after this weekend, when Seattle gave up just three points to the Rams while the team that had been leading the NFL in fewest points allowed — Minnesota — gave up 34 to the Colts.
When the dust on the weekend settled, Seattle had moved from fourth in points allowed at 17.8 (and a total of 232) to second at 16.8 (235 points). The only team ahead of Seattle is New England, which has allowed 233 points, 16.6 per game.
The schedules for each are somewhat of a wash — the Seahawks finish with games against the Cardinals (who average 24.3 points per game) and the 49ers (18.9) while the Pats play the Jets (17.3) and Dolphins (22.5).
No other team is within 15 points of the Seahawks and Patriots (the Giants are third at 250 points allowed).
The Seahawks last year became the first team in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in fewest points allowed for four straight seasons. They are attempting to tie the 1953-57 Browns as the only team in NFL history to allow the fewest points for five straight seasons.
Q: Who will emerge at right tackle?
A: The one significant current personnel quandary is at right tackle, where Garry Gilliam replaced Bradley Sowell for the fourth quarter on Thursday. Gilliam was the starter the first 11 games there this season before being benched. Sowell started the last three. Now, the position appears to again be wide open.
It was tempting to wonder if Gilliam would ever play again after he was inactive for the first two games of his benching.
But Carroll on Friday said Gilliam is “competing and really charged to battle his way back. We’ll see what happens next week. It was good that he got in. It was planned to have him available and see if the opportunity showed up. We threw him in there and it was good to get him some play time.”
Now to see who gets the rest of it going forward.
Q: Can the Seahawks get the running game heated up heading into the playoffs?
A: Seattle’s running game had taken some significant steps forward in the four games prior to the win over the Rams, averaging 163.75 yards per game and 6.75 yards per attempt.
But it came to a crashing halt against the Rams with just 72 yards on 30 carries — one of which was a 26-yard run by Jon Ryan on a fake punt — a 2.4 yards per carry average that was a season-low.
Thomas Rawls, after appearing to find his stride the previous two weeks, was held to 34 yards on 21 carries, often having almost nowhere to run as the Seattle offensive line struggled to create consistent running lanes.
For the season, Seattle is averaging 101.9 yards per game, 18th in the NFL, and is likely to have the lowest rushing totals since at least the 2011 season (109.8 per game). Seattle has ranked in the top four in rushing each of the last four seasons, averaging at least 136.8 each year.
Saturday’s game against Arizona will provide an interesting test of where the rushing game is as the Cardinals rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 3.7.
The good news is the Seahawks have a chance to take a feel-good rushing performance into the post-season as Seattle’s final opponent — the 49ers on Jan. 1 — rank last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 5.0 per carry and 176.3 per game, already setting a dubious franchise record for rushing yards allowed in a season.
Saturday, though, looms as the final realistic gauge of the running game — and offense overall — heading into the playoffs.
Q: Can Bobby Wagner hang on to the NFL lead in tackles?
A: Wagner continues to lead the NFL in tackles, currently standing at 145, five more than Sean Lee of Dallas.
No Seahawk has ever led the NFL in tackles in a season.
Wagner is also just nine away from breaking Seattle’s single-season tackles record of 153 set by Terry Beeson in 1978.
Wagner’s 145 are already the most since Anthony Simmons had 147 in 2000.
Q: How will Steven Terrell continue to adapt to filling in for Earl Thomas?
A: One thing that’s easy to overlook is that Terrell is in some ways essentially a rookie – he had played just 39 snaps combined in 2014 and 2015 before suddenly being asked to take over for maybe the best free safety in the NFL.
So a bit of a learning curve is to be expected.
That was evident early in Thursday’s game when the Rams had receivers twice break wide open for possible touchdowns. A play where Mike Thomas broke open deep only to drop an underthrown pass was a specific responsibility of Terrell’s, Carroll said later.
“We got fooled,’’ Carroll said. “Stevie got fooled on the deep one. He just got hung up and the guy went right though him and he just missed it. There’s a couple reasons why but he just missed an opportunity. You see it every now and then it happens and when you coach the DB’s you have to subscribe to the long foul ball theory. It went out of the park but it’s foul it doesn’t mean nothing. He’s got to learn from it.’’
The hope will be that Terrell — who will be making his fourth career start against Arizona Saturday – can get as much learning as needed out of the way before the post-season.