With a 36-6 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, Seattle didn’t just prove it could be problematic for its first-round foe — it proved it could be a wrecking ball against anyone it faces, columnist Matt Calkins writes.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pick a phase. Any phase.
The Seahawks dominated all of them.
Run game, pass game, return game, defense — Seattle looked about as flawless as a cover girl’s face.
In the final week of the regular season — on the road against a 13-win team — the Seahawks played their finest football of the season. And if you don’t think they’re capable of winning four more games, you’ve either lost your vision or you’ve lost your mind.
With a 36-6 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday, Seattle didn’t just prove it could be problematic for its first-round foe — it proved it could be a wrecking ball against anyone it faces. The Seahawks took the Vegas favorites to win the Super Bowl and reduced them to mere sparring partners.
After the game, Richard Sherman was asked about Cardinals fans who were concerned they might have to play Seattle in the playoffs.
“They should be concerned.”
Obviously, the result of one game doesn’t always foreshadow the result of the next. If it did, the Seahawks (10-6) would have lost by about 50 points Sunday.
Seven days earlier, they were outmuscled and outhustled by a 6-8 Rams team with nothing to play for but pride. Was it possible Seattle’s five-game winning streak entering that matchup was fool’s gold?
Well, based on what took place Sunday in University of Phoenix Stadium, the defeat against St. Louis appears to be the true aberration. Other than Steven Hauschka missing a field-goal and extra-point attempt, there hardly was a fault to be found in Arizona.
Russell Wilson? He was 19 for 28 passing for 197 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The running game? The Seahawks tallied 145 yards, including 102 from Christine Michael on 17 carries.
The special teams? Tyler Lockett set a Seahawks record by gaining 139 punt-return yards — smashing the previous mark of 106.
Oh, and there was the defense, too.
There is little debate as to whether the Seahawks are among the NFL’s most talented on that particular side of the ball. In fact, given how they won the scoring-defense title for the fourth consecutive season, you might say they’re the flat-out best.
But before Sunday, whether it was Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or Arizona’s Carson Palmer, every top-tier quarterback had torched the Seattle secondary.
Not this time.
Palmer completed just 12 of his 25 attempts for 129 yards. The league’s No. 1 offense was rendered borderline impotent.
And though the stat sheet suggested it was one of the Seahawks’ most exemplary defensive efforts, the players viewed it as something else: ordinary.
“We can take really good players and really good teams and make them look average,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “As long as we do what we do.”
If that sounds like the kind of Seahawks swag the country has grown accustomed to, it’s because there’s a lot of that going around right now. Sherman, who has been rather subdued in the smack-talking department this season, appears to be stepping back into form.
Before the season, Cardinals receiver John Brown said Sherman couldn’t guard him one on one, but Brown provided little impact Sunday. So after the game, Sherman brought up Brown’s quote and called it “laughable.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll downplayed the notion that the Hawks made a “statement” Sunday. He gave little credence to the idea of “momentum,” either.
But for a team that’s been tinkering all year long to look its best in Game No. 16? That’s as promising for the Seahawks as it is ominous for everyone else.
Remember that Marshawn Lynch, Russell Okung, Kam Chancellor, Luke Willson and J.R. Sweezy were out Sunday. Remember that all five could be back for the first round.
Yes, a team that began the season 2-4 looks primed to make the kind of playoff run most expected before the season began.
“We’ve enjoyed the journey, and the journey’s not over yet,” Wilson said. “We want to be able to tell our story, and hopefully we’ll be able to tell it in the right way.”
No matter how the story ends, it has been a gripping one all season. From holdouts, to blown leads, to winning streaks to broken records, the Seahawks’ season has been a 17-week page turner.
But in proper literary form, the buildup to the final chapter has been the most compelling. And given the way the team is playing, the ending could be quite satisfying.