When this timely, startling demolition of their division’s champions was complete, Pete Carroll punctuated his raised voice over his roaring Seahawks players. His message resounded beyond the visiting locker room.
Directly into the imminent postseason.
The Seahawks coached thanked his guys for bulling through all of this season’s tumult – the 2-4 and 4-5 starts, the baffling loss last week at home to sub-.500 St. Louis just went they were rolling – to become the first team since the 1953-57 Cleveland Browns to lead the league in fewest points allowed in four consecutive seasons.
Oh, yes, the Seahawks regained their mojo, momentum and mauling way of winning on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. They put a 36-6 demolition on the Arizona Cardinals in a stunning regular-season finale.
“When we hit on all cylinders,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said, “ain’t nobody in the world can mess with us.”
Seattle absolutely restored all it had lost the previous week. And then some.
The Seahawks (10-6) won for the sixth time in seven games overall and fifth consecutive time on the road. That’s timely: Seattle opens the playoffs next Sunday at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time at NFC North-champion Minnesota (11-5).
“It’s fun,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We just come into another team’s house and make them be quiet.”
Seattle, the NFC’s sixth seed, beat the third-seeded Vikings 38-7 on Dec. 6 while limiting NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson to 18 yards rushing and not allowing a defensive touchdown.
It was a performance as dominant as the Seahawks’ one Sunday against the Cardinals. So, yes, Seattle is feeling pretty good about the playoffs – even though it can’t possibly have a home game in them.
“We are in a very good spot right now,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “This lets us know we are on the right track.”
Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes Sunday. Tyler Lockett set a franchise record for the most punt-return yards in a game. And the Seahawks led 30-6.
All that was by halftime. And it came with Seattle missing 40 percent of its offensive line to injuries.
Not only did Wilson break Matt Hasselbeck’s single-season record for passing yards from 2007 in the first half. He became the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards passing, at least 30 touchdowns throws and 500 yards rushing.
Seattle’s defense restored itself, in particular, days after linebacker K.J. Wright noted how communication and assignment errors disappear in road games. The Seahawks allowed the NFL’s No. 1 offense in yards and points just 232 yards and a single touchdown.
They finished the year allowing 277 points, a league-best 17.3 per game.
Did this team really lose 23-17 at home the previous week to the Rams? Really?
“Last week, that wasn’t us,” Wright confirmed.
He reiterated how key clearer communication on the road has been, away from ear-splitting CenturyLink Field.
“Coming off last week we wanted to get right,” Carroll said.
“It solidifies the finish that we wanted to create. We had a lot of problems at the beginning of the year and we made it through all of that. We gained our stride. … And then last week was a mess.
“So to finish (like this) demonstrates to all of us that we are on our game and we are ready to go when playoff time comes … we are going to be excited to take on the challenge.”
Here’s something to chew on over a possible playoffs rematch against the No. 2-seed Cardinals (13-3): The Seahawks have outscored Arizona 71-12 in the teams’ last two games in this stadium.
That was the message Carroll wanted to reinforce by keeping Wilson in this runaway until Tarvaris Jackson finally entered with 14:13 to go. The Cardinals hadn’t trailed by more than 10 points since the day after Halloween, until Seattle showed up as a touchdown underdog Sunday.
Asked about the sudden concern in Arizona the Cardinals may have to face Seattle again in playoffs, Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said: “They should be concerned.”
And, bonus: Carroll said he is “very optimistic” the team will get back from injuries starters Kam Chancellor, Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy and Luke Willson for the playoff opener. Plus, the coach reiterated running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to rejoin the team Monday; he hasn’t played or been around for more than one day since before abdominal surgery Nov. 25.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians pulled starting quarterback Carson Palmer at halftime of this rout. Palmer completed just 12 of 25 passes for 129 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“We’re not in any way panicking or freaking out,” Palmer said of getting boat-raced by a team they could see again in a couple weeks here in the playoffs.
“They came in and just outplayed us. Point blank. … There’s no sugar-coating it.”
Palmer got anything but sugar from Sherman following one play in the third quarter. Sherman yapped at the quarterback – who was on the Cardinals’ bench – and about Arizona receiver John Brown saying in August on Phoenix radio he didn’t think Sherman could cover him one on one. Brown had four catches on 11 targets, for 14, inconsequential yards Sunday. Sherman leaped and knocked away Palmer’s deep, third-down pass to Brown in the first quarter, the only time this game was in doubt.
In the third quarter, Sherman yelled across the line at the Cardinals -- then squatted in a demonstration that looked a lot like Baldwin’s toilet-squat celebration in the end zone a few yards behind Arizona’s huddle in this stadium during February’s Super Bowl.
Sherman said, no, his act was to demonstrate Palmer was sitting on the bench, like Brown a non-factor. Officials didn’t appreciate the nuance and flagged Sherman for an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“That Brown kid said I couldn’t guard him 1 on 1. Laughable,” Sherman said.
Yes, Seattle’s swagger is intact for the postseason.
Wilson completed 19 of 28 passes for 197 yards. The last of his three touchdown passes was the best, to Jermaine Kearse. Wilson exquisitely placed the ball on the covered wide receiver’s hands in stride at the side boundary of the end zone late in the second quarter. That made it 30-6.
Wilson also threw for TDs in the flat to Chase Coffman, who’d been signed then cut earlier this season and was playing in his first Seahawks game, and to fullback Will Tukuafu. It was each receiver’s second career touchdowns.
The 7-yard catch and rumbling run across the goal line that made it 17-6 midway through the second quarter was Tukuafu’s second career catch in his 52nd career regular-season and postseason game. He said he’s saving the ball for his son; his young daughter has the one from his first touchdown.
Lockett captured the Seattle record for most all-purpose yards for a rookie (1,915) – also by halftime.
“He should be rookie of the year,” Wilson said. “Anytime he has the ball in his hands he can score. That’s exciting.”
So, for the Seahawks, is what this weekend in the desert did to restore their playoff readiness.
“We’re finding our rhythm,” Sherman said. “We’re playing exactly the way we want to.”