For a half Sunday night, it looked like the Seahawks’ 11-win season might really be a mirage (as some had argued) and they might just be the lucky version of the 2017 Seahawks — you know, the team that crumbled in December amid defensive injuries and poor offensive play and failed to make the playoffs.
But — in their stymied comeback against the 49ers — erstwhile MVP candidate Russell Wilson, rookie Travis Homer and returning legend Marshawn Lynch gave us renewed hope that Seattle can indeed compete with the NFC’s best as these playoffs get under way.
The offense, which was the strength of this team for the first three months, stumbled down the stretch as the Hawks lost three of the final four games (just like those 2017 Seahawks). Even with the emotional lift of Lynch, Wilson & Co. staggered against the 49ers for a half, too. But Wilson (does he remind you of Sleepy Sam Perkins sometimes?) woke up in the second half and played with the kind of urgency we saw from him back in 2012-14, when big games were on the line.
Now he needs to do it the rest of the way. “Stay woke,” as the grammatically goofy social activists say.
This team will need some stellar offensive play — from Wilson, the line, the backs and the receivers — to get through the postseason gantlet that starts in Philly and likely goes to San Francisco and New Orleans (if the Hawks keep winning).
The Seahawks are not great on the road in the playoffs — just 2-5 under Pete Carroll. But they are 2-1 in wild-card road games and should have beaten Dallas last year as well (poor offensive scheming cost them that game). They also are 7-1 on the road this season, including a 17-9 win in Philly in Week 12.
As banged up as Seattle is, Philly is worse — as they were when the Hawks beat them a few weeks ago. But they finished the season with four straight wins and have averaged 28.4 points in five games since they lost to Seattle.
Granted, Miami, New York and Washington all rank in the bottom quarter of the league in defense DVOA — and Seattle’s defense led the way in the first meeting as Wilson & Co. struggled.
Assuming they get past the Eagles and the Saints beat the Vikings this weekend, the Hawks are going to face the 49ers in San Francisco in the divisional round. The Niners figure to get back a couple of key defenders (Dee Ford and Jaquiski Tartt), but Seattle could offset that by getting Duane Brown back.
Jadeveon Clowney promised a third meeting, telling reporters after the loss to the 49ers: “We’ll see this team again. In two weeks, right? We’ll see them again. It won’t end like that next time.”
OTHER NOTES & OBSERVATIONS
Quandre Diggs’ return this week would be a big boon. Lano Hill has been terrible in relief, looking very slow and missing angles and tackles, but Carroll has refused to play the more talented Marquise Blair because he lacks experience (Blair played just five snaps against the 49ers but saved a TD with a forced fumble). The Hawks could really use Diggs if his high ankle sprain will allow it.
The Hawks lost Mychal Kendricks to an ACL injury — so we have seen him for probably the last time in Seattle. Even if he gets a light sentence or just probation for insider trading, he probably won’t be ready for the start of next season. Cody Barton has struggled as a rookie but will start in the playoffs — and likely beyond.
Other rookies who should loom large in the playoffs are Travis Homer and John Ursua. Homer had a big game against the 49ers, tallying 92 scrimmage yards and doing all he could to help his team win. Ursua, playing in place of injured Jaron Brown (out with a sprained knee), made a huge fourth-down catch to set up what should have been the winning touchdown (ruined by a delay penalty).
Lynch’s return went as well as anyone could have expected, except for that final delay botch — which was a result of Lynch being new to the offense and not being ready for the substitution. But that is totally on the coaches. Lynch carried 12 times for 34 yards and a touchdown and, per Carroll, came out of the game healthy and ready to roll again this week.
Meanwhile, the Running Back Reunion Tryout Tour continued as Seattle had Alex Collins in for a look Monday. They will need a running back next year, because Chris Carson (cracked hip in Week 16) and Rashaad Penny (ACL in Week 14) are both questionable for the start of 2020. Collins, Seattle’s fifth-round pick in 2016, seems a more feasible option than Lynch or Robert Turbin, both over 30. Collins played well for Baltimore in 2017 and 2018 (1,384 rushing yards in 22 starts) before a car accident involving pot ended his time there last season; he was suspended three games for that incident this November. He also recently recovered from a broken leg suffered in the summer. Don’t be surprised if he is a quick street signing after the season.