Needing to score and strangle the clock to secure a win, the Seahawks marched 75 yards on eight plays. Doug Baldwin hauled in a one-handed catch at the 1-yard line and running back Chris Carson barreled into the end zone to clinch the win and a wild card berth.
As nearly 70,000 fans filed out of CenturyLink Field and into the night, a four-word announcement appeared on the stadium’s massive video board in bold shades of blue and green.
We clinched! Playoff bound
Improbably, the Seahawks clinched a wild-card berth Sunday with a 38-31 victory over the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs. They gained a season-high 464 yards and recovered a pair of fumbles along the way. After it was over, “Frosty The Snowman” blared over the loudspeakers.
The Seahawks celebrated Christmas Eve a day early.
And that might not have happened if not for a late, frenzied, emphatic fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Leading 31-28 with 4:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks took over at the 25-yard line, needing to score or strangle the clock to keep quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Co. off the field.
What followed was a highlight-heavy, season-extending, eight-play, 75-yard touchdown march.
The fans could be forgiven for showing even the tiniest shred of doubt.
As for Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Doug Baldwin and this swaggering Seahawks offense?
“When you know, you know. We knew we were going to get it and drive it down and score,” said third-year right tackle George Fant, who started in place of the injured Germain Ifedi on Sunday. “It was just a matter of how we were going to do it. It played out for us the right way.”
So here’s how it played out. On third-and-six from the 29-yard line, Wilson hit wide receiver David Moore along the sideline, and Moore muscled his way for 7 yards and an undeniably important first down.
Wilson later escaped the pocket and found speedy wide receiver Tyler Lockett for a leaping 45-yard gain. Two plays later, Wilson turned to his left and fired toward the end zone. A hobbled Baldwin looked over his shoulder, tipped the ball into the air with his right hand, secured it with the same hand and tumbled to the turf at the 1-yard line.
He caught seven passes on Sunday, but this one mattered most.
“When (Baldwin) goes out there and plays, you understand how dangerous he is as a receiver,” said Lockett, who contributed four catches for 99 yards. “You have to pay attention to him when he’s out there on the field. You’ve got to put one or two guys on him. Every time he’s out there and the ball’s in the air, we know he’s going to go up and make that play.
“We always talk about, ‘We want to be the ones to make those plays.’ Any time they called on us — whether it was David Moore, whether it was Doug Baldwin — we always came down with the ball.”
They came down with the ball, and Carson cleaned up the scraps. On the next play, Carson — who finished with 27 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns — barreled into the end zone for the emphatic win-securing score with 2:29 left.
Cue the “We clinched!” proclamations, the “Frosty The Snowman” renditions, the bumping locker-room celebrations.
Wilson, Lockett, Baldwin and Moore all made miraculous plays on the Seahawks’ memorable touchdown march.
But how about Carson? The fearlessly physical second-year running back also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark Sunday, currently sitting on 1,029 rushing yards with one regular-season game remaining.
“Chris Carson is the best that there is in this league,” said Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown. “To go over 100 yards, to go over 1,000 yards in a season, it’s amazing. It’s amazing.”
When it comes to “amazing,” Carson had some company. Wilson finished with 271 passing yards and three touchdowns, to go along with 57 rushing yards. Baldwin added seven catches for 126 yards and a 27-yard score. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett each added touchdown grabs.
When the Seahawks needed to score, they scored. Each time they needed a play, they made one.
“We have all the faith in the world,” said Brown. “The optimism starts with the coaching staff and it goes to Russ. Russ is the most optimistic person that I’ve met in my life.
“With the message he gives us every drive of having the faith to finish things out, we had no doubt in our minds (on the final drive).”
With the playoffs looming for the first time since 2016, they also have no doubt in their minds going forward.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Brown said. “With the resiliency we have, the talent we have, the leadership we have, the fight we have as a group, we feel like the sky’s the limit for us. We’re right where we want to be.”