The Seahawks' retooled defensive secondary held its own against the Chiefs' high-scoring offense, and Russell Wilson and his receivers turned in a gem of a performance as Seattle punched its ticket to the playoffs.
Before we get to the individual grades, it’s worth noting that what happened Sunday – a 38-31 win over a Kansas City team regarded as a Super Bowl favorite and featuring one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history, and a win that got Seattle back to the playoffs — makes this a passing-grade of a season no matter what happens the rest of the way.
Now to see what does happen the rest of the way.
We can forgot all those pesky playoff scenarios, secure in the knowledge the Seahawks will be there as either the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC.
Simply put, Seattle will be the No. 5 seed and play at Dallas in the opening round if it beats a 3-12 Arizona team at home next Sunday. If Seattle loses, then it could fall to the six seed and have to play at Chicago (this is fixed from earlier. Seattle cannot play the Rams in the Wild Card round, only the Bears or Cowboys. Seattle falls to the six if it loses and the Vikings beat the Bears in Minneapolis).
But Seattle is in the tournament for the seventh time in nine years, and six of seven since Russell Wilson became the QB in 2012, reason enough to sing along to Celebration Sunday night.
A victory such as this was a fitting way for Wilson to tie Dave Krieg for the team record for career touchdown passes — each has 195.
Wilson took a few hard shots and missed maybe one or two passes along the way. But man, was he money when he had to be, such as on the late throws to Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin. And he didn’t have a turnover, with Seattle’s plus-two turnover margin as big of a season as any for the win.
Wilson also ran with as much determination as he has all season.
He picked up 19 yards on a third-and-13 to spark Seattle’s first touchdown drive. He then broke out of traffic to pick up 26 yards to the Kansas City 19 midway through the fourth quarter to set up his TD pass to Ed Dickson that not only put the game away, but also tied Krieg’s record.
Just a gutty effort by Chris Carson, who had 116 yards on 27 carries, in the process becoming the first Seahawk to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season since Marshawn Lynch did it in 2014.
Carson several times appeared to stagger getting up, but each time he returned to give the Chiefs more. Mike Davis chipped in with 31 well-timed yards.
Wonder how much Seattle has missed a healthy Doug Baldwin at times this season? You got your answer Sunday night.
The veteran has been back with a vengeance the last two weeks. He turned in what Pete Carroll said might have been the best game of his career Sunday, with 126 yards that included a twisting-and-turning 27-yard TD that put Seattle ahead in the third quarter, and then the amazing one-handed grab in the fourth that basically clinched the game.
He also drew two pass interference penalties in the end zone — each on a third down — to set up Seattle touchdowns.
Tyler Lockett, meanwhile, also drew two more pass interference penalties and had his own highlight-reel grab a play before Baldwin’s. David Moore had only one catch but it was a huge one, a seven-yarder to convert a third-and-6 on Seattle’s final scoring drive.
The tight ends had been sort of quiet in recent weeks, but they came up with two big plays on this night. First, Nick Vannett teamed with Russell Wilson for a 1-yard TD in the second quarter.
Then Ed Dickson — who had just five catches in the last four games — broke tackles and rumbled forward, gaining 18 yards to convert a third-and-15 and set up Seattle’s go-ahead touchdown. Carroll called that later “one of the moments in the game that (it’s like) ‘Okay, we’ve got a shot to win this game.’ ” And then he caught the 2-yarder from Wilson that helped Seattle seal it in the fourth.
Due to injuries, the Seahawks had to go with a new right side of the line, with Ethan Pocic at right guard and George Fant at right tackle. Each had a penalty early — Pocic a false start and Fant a hold (which was declined).
Then Seattle had to improvise more when J.R. Sweezy got hurt, putting in D.J. Fluker for an injured Sweezy. That shifted Pocic to the left side so Fluker could stay on his familiar right.
There were a few more penalties along the way, but 38 points and a season-high 464 yards — 210 on the ground — said all you needed to know about how it worked out.
This was the best game of the season for Dion Jordan, who has been beset by injuries throughout. Jordan had his first sack of the season in the first quarter and then forced a fumble by Damien Williams in the second quarter that Jarran Reed recovered at the 21. Reed had another big game with three tackles and pressure throughout.
Frank Clark turned in a big play in the second quarter when he broke through to stop Damien Williams for no gain on a third-and-1 at the Chiefs’ 34 and led the Seahawks with three quarterback hits (Seattle had just the one sack, but as you saw, Patrick Mahomes isn’t real easy to bring down).
Poona Ford also continued his strong play — on a second-down play late in the third quarter, simply pushing guard Jeff Allen back into Mahomes to forced a hurried incompletion.
K.J. Wright returned to start just his fourth game this season at weakside linebacker. He played the first two series, but Shaquem Griffin then came in for the third series with the Seahawks wanting to limit Wright’s snaps some. But after the Chiefs drove for a TD, Wright returned and gutted it out the rest of the way. He had a pass defense on the first series that helped the Seahawks force a three-and-out and allowed Seattle to grab a lead on a night when that was much-needed.
And Bobby Wagner had another sterling night with a team-high 12 tackles.
Bradley McDougald turned in a gutty effort to start and play the entire game after not having practiced all week. McDougald was out of town all week having a blood-spinning treatment on his knee, but against the Chiefs, he replaced the injured Tedric Thompson at free safety and had seven tackles. Most importantly, Carroll said the Seahawks put a limit on KC’s big plays — there were some but they were at least limited.
Delano Hill got the first start of his career at strong safety and had a fumble recovery and a quarterback hit in playing his best game of the season.
Shaquill Griffin batted down an early third-down pass, and then turned in another nice play to prevent a possible TD in the fourth quarter on a pass to Travis Benjamin in the end zone. Kansas City had to settle for a field goal on a drive in which it had a first down at the 4, allowing Seattle to keep a 24-20 lead — the Seahawks led the rest of the way.
Justin Coleman forced a fumble and Akeem King played in Seattle’s dime package and was often matched up on tight end Travis Kelce, helping hold him to 54 yards.
And the tackling generally seemed good enough.
Sebastian Janikowski increasingly looks like a player destined to be here just one year. He clanged a 36-yard field goal off the upright in the first quarter to keep Seattle’s lead at 7-3.
Janikowsi was later injured in the third quarter when he was roughed up on a field goal attempt, and while he came back to handle placements, punter Michael Dickson came on to drop-kick a kickoff to the 3 that pinned the Chiefs at the 17 due to a nice tackle by J.D. McKissic.
The second drop kick didn’t go so well, sailing out of bounds and giving the Chiefs the ball at their own 40.
Seattle then went back to Janikowski, and the result was a long return that made things unnecessarily tense at the end.
Dickson didn’t have a lot of booming punts, but that might have been partly because the Seahawks did not want to kick it to Kansas City returner Hill.
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