CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You don’t go on the road to be an artist. You go on the road to be a mechanic. You face the task and complete the job and don’t care how messy or unsightly it may be.
That’s how the Seahawks are when playing outside Seattle this season. They roll up their sleeves, douse themselves in grease and just freakin’ get it done.
Home might be where the heart is, but the road is where the wins have been. Seven, to be specific — a franchise record.
“To put this season together on the road is something to be proud of. It’s hard to do this,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team beat Carolina, 30-24, Sunday to finish 7-1 on the road while clinching a playoff spot. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but if we get a chance to play again in the postseason, we may have to go on the road, and we’ll have done everything we could to get ready for that.”
This is true. The Seahawks (11-3) spent most of training camp practicing at 10 a.m. to prepare for games away from CenturyLink Field. It’s well documented how well they play in their home stadium, where they are 99-43 since 2002 (second only to the Packers in the NFC), and where Russell Wilson has 48 wins — a home-field record for quarterbacks through their first eight seasons. But until now, they’ve never been able to replicate that success after hopping off a plane.
The 2012 season might be the most glaring example of the home/road disparity, when the Seahawks went 8-0 at CenturyLink and 3-5 away from it. And they were a combined 11-5 on the road in regular-season games in the seasons they went to back-to-back Super Bowls, compared to 14-2 at home.
This year, though, all but one of their business trips have turned into pleasure. They’ve basically been the worst house guests in the league.
“It’s hard to fly 5½ hours and be able to play at 10 o’clock in the morning our time, but I think we do the best that we can every day,” said Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, who finished with eight catches for 120 yards. “Now we just have to be true to ourselves and figure out what it is we’re doing here and be able to carry it with us home.”
As they have throughout the season, the Seahawks created unnecessary drama after a win seemed guaranteed. Leading 30-10 at one point, they allowed two unanswered touchdowns that cut their lead to six points with just over three minutes to play.
It appeared as though Carolina (5-9) might get the ball back when Seattle faced third-and-11 ahead of the two-minute warning, but then Wilson scrambled and hit Lockett for a 14-yard gain.
The Seahawks have chosen a variety of methods to entertain their fans while on the road this season. They blew out the Cardinals, shut down the Eagles, nearly squandered huge leads against the Falcons and Panthers, came back against the Browns, eked out a victory vs. the Steelers and won the wildest game of their season vs. the 49ers.
They’re all chapters in this has-to-be-fiction year, in which Seattle has won 10 of its 11 games by one score. But if the Seahawks do end up capturing the division and getting a first-round bye — which might still require home wins over the Cardinals and 49ers — their on-the-road success will be Exhibit A as to why.
“It’s beautiful,” said Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright when asked about the seven road wins. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done that. Hats off to this team to come on the road and just get wins. That’s really impressive.”
It doesn’t hurt having Wilson, who finished 20 of 26 passing for 286 yards and two touchdowns. And it certainly helps having Chris Carson, who rushed for a career-high 133 yards on 24 carries Sunday.
But whether it’s creating turnovers (Wright had two interceptions while fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner had one), or making spectacular diving catches as Josh Gordon did for a 58-yard gain, the contributions have come from every corner.
Of course, none of this will matter much if the Seahawks don’t follow through in the playoffs. Offensive lineman D.J. Fluker made this clear when asked about setting a franchise record for road wins Sunday.
“I can’t worry about the record,” Fluker said. “That’s great and all, but we want to win the Super Bowl.”