Hawks pass big test and can win West this week

The Seahawks passed the Washington test – and surprisingly passed the Rams in the NFC West in the process.

The 20-15 win over Washington was one of the Seahawks’ best wins of the season – right up there with the win over Arizona. With the Rams stunningly becoming the Jets’ first victim of the season, it put the Hawks on top in the NFC West. A win at home vs. L.A. this week would clinch the division for the Hawks.

“Next week will be another championship game for us,’’ Pete Carroll said. “Just what we’ve been preparing for.’’

The No. 1 seed – and only bye — is still within reach, though the Hawks need Green Bay and New Orleans each to lose an NFC game (the Packers play Tennessee and Chicago; the Saints face Minnesota and Carolina). If the Pack and Saints stay in early time slots in Week 17, the Hawks will know whether their 1:25 p.m. game against the 49ers means anything. If the No. 1 seed is out of reach, Carroll could comfortably rest many of his veteran starters in that finale.

Here are some thoughts on the win over Washington and more:

Great offensive plan

Brian Schottenheimer had one of his best game plans of the season. As we said before the game, he needed to help out Russell Wilson and the line against Washington’s stellar defensive front. And he did, calling a lot of quick passes and mixing the run well.

The line, helped by Schotty’s plan, played very well. It created some nice running lanes, especially the one that Carlos Hyde took 50 yards for a touchdown.

The Hawks ran for 181 yards, their second-most of the season (they had 200 in the overtime loss to Arizona in Week 7). In the past two games, they have run for 355 yards. And Rashaad Penny is back, giving them a healthy three-back rotation as they get ready for their playoff run.

“This was the game we wanted to play,” Carroll said. “It’s almost the score we thought it might be, that it was going to be really tight and be a championship matchup. And that’s what it felt like.’’

Wilson’s sneaky good game

Wilson played one of his best games of the season, even if the stats do not reflect it.

He was hit just three times and not sacked for the second straight week – the first time that has happened in his career.

His 4.6 yards per attempt was his lowest total since he averaged a dismal 3.6 in a 21-7 win over Minnesota two years ago. Until this game, he was 2-5 in games when he was under 5.0 – largely because most of those other games the short passes were a reaction, not a proactive attack like against Washington.

Wilson seems to have shaken off the midseason funk he was in. He was decisive and quick-thinking against one of the league’s top defenses. He scrambled several times, including a 38-yard gain during a 97-yard touchdown drive.

Because of the low YPA and a batted ball that ended up picked off, Wilson’s QB rating (73.2) was the second-lowest of the season. But the fact is he played a solid game (even though the offense flatlined in the second half and needed a bailout by the defense).

Carroll called it a “Bart Starr type of game.”

Some props for Schneider

We’ve been critical of John Schneider for his failings, but we also have given him credit for good moves. And he deserves some more credit after three of his top four veteran acquisitions showed up big time in Washington.

D.J. Reed, a waiver pickup from the 49ers, had a great pick and knocked away three other passes in what Carroll called “as good a game as a corner has played in a while for us. … He has tremendous instincts … I’m really fired up about him.”

The big trade guys also continued to ball out. Jamal Adams came up with another sack, giving him 9.5 this season, and Carlos “The Closer” Dunlap came up with a sack on the penultimate play to help seal it for the Hawks — like he did in the win over Arizona in Week 11. Dunlap, playing on a bad foot, took advantage of injured right tackle Morgan Moses, bowling him over to get to Dwayne Haskins.

As the Hawks clinched a playoff spot for the ninth time since Carroll arrived in 2010, Adams and Dunlap both were ecstatic after coming from New York and Cincinnati.

“This is what you dream of,” said Adams, who never won more than seven games in his three seasons with the Jets. “It’s pretty cool to clinch it. But we’ve got a big game coming up next week and, I’ll tell you what, I’m looking forward to that.”   

The 2021 secondary

Carroll plans to keep Reed in the lineup, as he should. We talked a little about the 2021 secondary makeup last week, mentioning Reed as an option at safety or corner. But it looks like corner is the spot for him.

Schneider could consider trading Quandre Diggs, with Marquise Blair and Ryan Neal both available to play opposite Adams.

We still think Shaquill Griffin is not likely to return, which means Tre Flowers is the other incumbent corner until the Hawks find someone else. Quinton Dunbar will have to have knee surgery, but it is possible he comes back on a cheap deal in 2021.

Injury report

DeeJay Dallas left with an air cast on his ankle but apparently suffered only a sprain. He reportedly will miss a few weeks, which could mean IR for him since Penny is back.

Adams apparently has been playing with two broken fingers for the past couple of weeks. Add those to his groin and shoulder injuries earlier. He clearly is a tough guy, but you have to wonder how he will hold up long term when he tosses his 214 pounds around like he’s a linebacker.

Mike Iupati, 33, left after suffering another stinger – the same kind of injury that cost him the playoff games last season.

Brandon Shell (ankle) sat this one out, and Carroll said they hope he will be back this week. But Cedric Ogbuehi, buoyed by Schotty’s good game plan, played pretty well, so the Hawks might be OK if Shell sits out the game against the Rams.

DK Metcalf dodged what looked to potentially be a hyperextended knee in the first half.

Franchise history

Wilson’s Hawks are in the playoffs for the eighth time in his nine NFL years. “It’s a blessing,” he said. “I don’t know what happened the year we didn’t go.” What happened: The Legion of Boom blew up and Wilson had a terrible December that culminated in the firing of Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable.

After just five 10-win seasons in the first four decades (well, the 1970s were half a decade), the Hawks have recorded eight 10-win seasons in the past nine years (all leading to playoff berths).

Jason Myers hit both field goal attempts, extending his streak to a franchise-record 31 makes. Meanwhile, Michael Dickson continued his stellar season, dropping all four punts inside the 20 and averaging 50.8 yards. He leads the NFL with 27 punts inside the 20 and is second with a 49.4 average. The Seahawks have the fourth-ranked special teams, per Football Outsiders.

The Seahawks improved to 11-1 in 10 a.m. games the past three seasons. Carroll clearly has found the formula — practice earlier, travel earlier — to counter that competitive disadvantage for West Coast teams.

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