The Seahawks earned themselves some breathing room with a much-needed win over the Packers. And they did it by locking down on that fourth quarter finish, and riding their run game to victory.
In the midst of a season of thwarted miracles, of failed comebacks, of end-of-game agony, the Seahawks finally remastered the fourth quarter on Thursday night.
And saved their season in the process.
On a night when a loss would have been terminal to Seattle’s playoff hopes — or at least dealt it a near-death blow — the Seahawks got their mojo back in a 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field.
The final eight minutes were an homage to the days when the Seahawks were better closers than Edwin Diaz. That hadn’t been the case so far this year, having lost five games by a total of 25 points, each week raising hopes that they could muster a rally, only to see it unravel in various cruel ways.
With that backdrop, with a third straight agonizing defeat staring them in the face when the Packers extended their lead to 24-20 with 8:23 to play, they went old-school, and executed.
They scored when they had to score, and stopped Green Bay when they had to stop them. And when the Seahawks got the ball back with just over four minutes to play, with the world knowing they were going to run the ball — which offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer long ago had said is the ultimate test — they ran the clock out with two rushing first downs to preserve the win.
“We were very confident in what we were going to do and how we were going to do it,’’ Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I told the guys, ‘If we get a couple of first downs, the game is over.’ ’’
“Our identity and what we’ve become is a great running team, so when we get the ball with four minutes left, we feel like we’re going to finish it out,’’ added offensive lineman Duane Brown. “We definitely don’t want to give Aaron Rodgers the ball back.”
Oh, yeah — Aaron Rodgers. After giving a quarterback clinic for much of the game, with two completions on balls with 50-plus yards of air time, with his astonishing ability to elude the rush and find the open receiver, at one point with an inhuman 54-yard touchdown pass across his body while on the run to Robert Tonyan, Rodgers was outplayed in the fourth quarter by Wilson.
It was Wilson, oddly out of sorts in the first half, who led what turned out to be the winning drive after getting the ball with 8:23 to play — seven plays and 75 yards — to give the Seahawks the lead to stay.
And it was Rodgers who was kept out of the end zone in the second half, and whose worst pass of the game came on third-and-two in the fourth quarter after the Packers had fallen behind. Stymied at their own 33, with 4:11 to play and just one timeout left, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy elected to punt the ball. Seattle coach Pete Carroll admitted that decision did not displease him, with the confidence he has gained in their running game.
“We knew we had a chance to kill the clock,’’ he said.
Which is exactly what they did, with Wilson running for one first down, and Mike Davis getting the critical one that allowed Seattle to go into victory formation
“That was an exciting one, huh?’’ Wilson said. “One of the things we talked about this week was, we have to believe big. We’ve been through the fire this year, some amazing games. We’re a young team, but we have great faith in what we’re doing. We’re completely together on what we’re doing. We stayed the course, and we were able to be clutch at the end of the game.”
The Seahawks were ultra-clutch on their decisive scoring drive. The touchdown came when Wilson picked up the Packers’ blitz and found tight end Ed Dickson — who is developing a knack for making the maximum noise out of his infrequent receptions — for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
“You look at the Chargers game, we got to the one-yard line there. We were right there,’’ center Justin Britt said. “You look at the Rams game, we had the ball, we had the opportunity, (but) we just couldn’t close it out. You look at the Rams game at home.
“We just kind of had to get over that hump and strain harder, finish more and do it right. Good things come to those who grind and do things longer — whatever the saying is. I botched that bad. But, no, it feels great to be on the other side.”
The game couldn’t have gotten off to a more inauspicious start for the Seahawks — a fumble by Chris Carson on their first play, and a Packers touchdown 74 seconds into the contest.
They were down 14-3 after the first quarter, but it eventually settled into the kind of game that the Seahawks seem almost predestined to play: Tight, taut and down to the wire.
The sort of game, in other words, in which success has too often eluded them. This time, that was not an option, not if they wanted a realistic shot at the playoffs.
The road ahead is still difficult, with a road game against Carolina and a home contest against Minnesota left in a five-game gauntlet. Powerhouse Kansas City also looms, interspersed with far more winnable games against San Francisco (twice) and Arizona.
At least now the Seahawks have a fighting chance. Had they lost, they would have dropped to 4-6, the precise record that the Packers had two years ago when Rodgers vowed to “run the table” — which is precisely what they did (and might have to do again) en route to the NFC title game.
But that’s a dubious blueprint to replicate. The Seahawks, while still in a precarious situation, now have slightly more breathing room.
“I think looking at the last couple of weeks, we were right there and ready to win, but we found ways to lose,’’ Brown said. “It was good to find a way to win this one. It was a must-win game for them as well; we knew that going in. We knew we were going to get their best shot. They’re a very talented team, a well-coached team, and we found a way to win.
“It was a must-win game for us, for sure. We try to win every week, but no week was it more important than this one.”
In other words, exactly the right time for the Seahawks to get their fourth-quarter groove back.