It could have been said the Seahawks needed a win in the worst way Sunday; they ended up getting one in maybe the weirdest way.
Seattle’s 30-23 win over the 49ers came despite coughing up a season-high three turnovers — the Seahawks had just seven going into the game, fewest in the NFL — and giving up 181 receiving yards to tight end George Kittle.
But win the Seahawks did, snapping a three-game losing streak and getting their first victory since Oct. 31 to improve to 4-8.
Here’s our weekly Four Downs day-after look at some of the key topics from the game with beat writers Adam Jude and Bob Condotta.
1. Russell Wilson had by far his best game since his return from finger surgery. Are you convinced he’s back to his superstar form?
Jude: Yes, Russ is back. After three weeks of erratic throws and timid decision-making, he was crisp and confident Sunday vs. the 49ers (all while playing behind a beat-up offensive line). His passing numbers were solid enough — 30 for 37 for 231 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. And when you consider Gerald Everett basically coughed up two more would-be touchdowns at the goal line, well, that’s a sensational game for Wilson, eight weeks removed from finger surgery. Wilson tried to shrug off the lingering effects of the finger injury over the past few weeks, but it was obviously a significant factor in his inconsistent play.
Condotta: I think we need more than one game to declare him truly “back.” But what’s evident now is that Wilson was still recovering from his finger injury the previous three weeks — something coach Pete Carroll seems to finally be acknowledging publicly. Wilson wanted to play once he felt he was able. And given what he’s done for the franchise, he’d probably earned the right to call his shot on that. But it seems obvious now he wasn’t in his usual midseason form at that point. How Seattle handled Wilson’s return will likely be debated all offseason. But the sigh of relief in his performance Sunday is that Wilson still has it.
2. What are Pete Carroll’s goals going forward for a 4-8 team? “Keep winning,” he said during his Monday coach’s show on 710 ESPN Seattle. “We ain’t dead yet.” Is he right?
Jude: It’s a strange year around the NFL, and no one is quite sure what this first 17-game regular season will have here down the stretch. You could point to at least 10 teams as viable Super Bowl contenders, and the logjam of middle-class teams is as deep as ever. In the NFC, 10 teams are still in the hunt for the final two wild-card spots, and that includes the Seahawks, Bears and Giants, all 4-8. So, yes, Carroll is correct — the Seahawks are still alive. Barely. But they are alive. If they win out and get to 9-8, there’s a good chance they could sneak into the playoffs — and this team has been so wildly unpredictable that you can’t rule out that possibility.
Condotta: The odds are still long — Seattle remains 15th in the 16-team NFC playoff seeding because it is on the bad end of tiebreakers in conference record with the Giants and Bears and has a worse record than everyone else. And Seattle loses head-to-head tiebreakers with three five- or six-win teams — New Orleans, Minnesota and Washington. Change just one of those games to a win and the season would look a lot different right now. Winning next week against Houston is necessary, but because the Texans are an AFC team, it doesn’t do much to help the playoff odds — from just 4% to 5% on its own, via fivethirtyeight.com. As Adam notes, 9-8 is probably necessary to get it done. But if Wilson is truly back, there’s no reason to rule out anything with this team.
3. Adrian Peterson, at 36, made his Seahawks debut four days after signing with the team. What did you make of his day and of the Seahawks’ run game as a whole?
Jude: It was an ugly start for Peterson, who lost 5 yards on his first carry and then fumbled his second carry (teammate Will Dissly recovered). Peterson finished with a team-high 11 carries for 16 yards — so, no, not great. But, again, Seattle’s offensive line is dealing with several injuries, and Peterson is 36 years old. No one should have expected too much. More notable, Rashaad Penny was back from a hamstring injury and finished with a season-high 10 carries (for 35 yards). He looked fresh and spry in the second half. Many Seahawks fans long ago gave up on the former first-round pick, but the Seahawks need Penny now more than ever.
Condotta: Peterson had one great run in the game — the 4-yarder on third-and-3 at the San Francisco 37 in the second quarter when he initially appeared stopped but kept moving the pile that set up his own 1-yard TD a little later (admittedly with a lot of help from his friends). The 49ers led 17-7 at the time, and if Seattle didn’t get a first down there, the game could have gotten away quickly. That play alone made the signing worth it. And whether it was his presence or what, the rest of the running backs also played well. Penny not only had some good runs but a 27-yard gain on a reception, Seattle’s third-longest play of the day. And his best play was picking up a blitz that gave Wilson time to fire a 17-yard completion to Dee Eskridge.
4. There was an NFL Network report over the weekend that Seahawks owner Jody Allen is “not happy” with this season’s downturn. How do you interpret that?
Jude: Allen hasn’t spoken publicly since taking over as the team’s owner, and there are naturally some questions that arise during a losing season about who at the executive level is ultimately in charge of making broad-scope decisions. I think this report — as half-baked as it was from the league’s media arm — was the Seahawks’ attempt to clarify that, yes, Allen is “competitive” and “very involved” with the team’s operations. That ultimately offers very little about what she’s thinking about the current state of affairs and what difficult decisions will have to be made in the offseason. It’s worth noting, too, that Allen has reportedly been involved in the shake-up of the Portland Trail Blazers’ front office.
Condotta: I can’t imagine any owner ever would be happy with a 3-8 record (at the time of the report) for a team that hadn’t lost more than seven games in any season in a decade. So I don’t read much into that other than stating the obvious. The bigger question of whether Allen will want to make changes at the end of this season remains unanswered — and might still be dependent on what happens the rest of the way. Win three, four or even five more and it’ll be easy to accept the idea that it was Wilson’s injury, and not any huge cracks in the armor, to blame. Recall that in 2009, when the Seahawks last made a change, part of the impetus was the way Seattle floundered down the stretch. No doubt things will be evaluated after the season, and it feels like that for once, Allen, or the organization in general, will have to make a strong statement about their vision for the future, whether it’s giving it another go with the status quo or starting over.