That was the prevailing feeling inside the Seahawks’ locker room Sunday here in Baltimore. Finally, after 0-2, 2-4 and 4-5 starts to the season, the two-time defending NFC champions are playing like it.
They are acting, thinking and playing consistently for the first time since January.
“Yes, we are. It’s been coming for some time now. We’ve been feeling it for over a month now,” Carroll said after Seattle (8-5) won for the fourth consecutive time, 35-6 over the ransacked Ravens (4-9). “You can see it and feel it and whoever steps up and is called up to play is doing it. The execution doesn’t fall off both sides of the football, special teams; the whole group is doing well.
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“We have to get cranked up and do it all over again next week at home (versus 3-10 Cleveland), or it means nothing.
“It does feel right. We know what this feeling is like and we are going to try to get a little better this week.”
What feeling “right” means for the Seahawks’ playoff prospects is a likely trip back to the Eastern seaboard for a first-round game Jan. 9 or 10.
Seattle now holds the fifth seed in the six-team conference postseason field. No. 5, the first wild card, plays at No. 4, the division winner with the worst record. That is going to be the NFC East. Washington (6-7) leads Philadelphia (6-7) by a tiebreaker there. The New York Giants (5-7) play Miami tonight. Even Dallas (4-9) could still win that division.
Should the Seahawks lose to either the Browns (3-10), St. Louis (5-8) at home Dec. 27 or at Arizona (11-2) Jan. 3, they could slip behind Minnesota (8-5) to the sixth seed. That means a first-round game vs. No. 3, which would likely be at Green Bay (9-4). Seattle lost at Lambeau Field in Week 2.
Forget the NFC West title. The Seahawks essentially lost their two-year reign of the division when they lost Nov. 15 to the Cardinals, their last defeat. The Cardinals would have to lose at the Eagles Sunday and to the Packers at home the following week for that regular-season finale against Seattle to be for the division title.
Carroll has been saying “it feels right” for the Seahawks the last two weeks, starting with the 38-7 stomping of the then-NFC North-leading Vikings Dec. 6 at Minnesota. “Right” means a defense that completely dominates a rushing offense, rendering opponents totally reliant on having to pass. That’s when the Seahawks’ pass rush and secondary have been at their best the last three seasons, when Seattle has led the NFL in points and yards allowed.
Seattle allowed Baltimore just 28 yards on 14 carries Sunday. It’s now 59 yards rushing allowed in 30 carries over the last two games.
“We came into a place that was home to one of the best defenses in the NFL,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said, thinking of the Super Bowl-champion Ravens of 2000. “I grew up watching Ray Lewis, (Terrell) Suggs ... even though they disbanded. When you come here, you want to play great defense.”
“Right” for the Seahawks in recent seasons also means the offense sustaining drives. The Seahawks have scored 141 points during their four-game winning streak because they have been 32 for 52 (62 percent) converting third downs against San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Baltimore. That number was 37 percent for the season, in the bottom third of the league, last month.
What’s different is how they are sustaining those drives. For the first time since Russell Wilson became their quarterback as a rookie in 2012, they are doing it primarily with the pass. Wilson was 6 for 8 passing on third down on Sunday. He completed six in a row, for five first downs, after a first-half dropped pass on third down by running back Fred Jackson -- who, by the way, looks every one of his 34 years.
Now that remarkable rookie running back Thomas Rawls is out for the season after he broke his ankle and tore ligaments in the first quarter Sunday, Wilson’s exquisite, record-setting passing may need to continue. The Seahawks don’t as of Monday morning know how much longer Marshawn Lynch will need to rehabilitate from abdominal surgery Nov. 25. And DuJuan Harris’ hesitancy and fumbling running for Rawls on Sunday showed he isn’t the answer to sustaining Carroll’s usual run game.
Tacoma’s Rob Rang reported Monday morning the Seahawks are re-signing recently released Bryce Brown for depth at running back.
That’s a further indicator Lynch won’t be ready this week or maybe not next.
This week the focus around team headquarters in Renton will be on how soon Lynch can get back – and how long Wilson can continue this extraordinary passing behind the offensive line Carroll talked Sunday about after the win at Baltimore:
Head Coach Pete Carroll
(opening statement) “I really liked that we came out this weekend and followed up and kind of picked up where we left off last week. We played really good ball on both sides of the football. With back-to-back trips could be a challenge but our guys didn’t waiver at all on that. We saw it across the board and I’m really fired up that we handled that. Being on the road, it’s going to be real important obviously and we want to make sure that we give ourselves every chance to be at our best and I thought we did that today. That’s a really good football team that we played against in our estimation. As we watched them they’re tough, they’re physical and they never let up. And our guys took it to heart and really put together a great plan and executed well today. For the defense to not give up a touchdown two weeks back-to-back, that’s really special stuff. Just a really good job and that’s what we set out to do and we got it done. On the other side of the ball, I can’t start it without talking about the offensive line. These guys protected all day long. Russell [Wilson] had a great opportunity to sit back there and do his stuff and he took full advantage of it again and had another big game throwing the football. Getting it done with Jermaine [Kearse, who] had a bunch of catches and Tyler [Lockett had] a couple touchdowns and Doug [Baldwin] continues to rip. It’s really exciting to see those guys playing so smooth and so well together. So I’m really fired up for all those guys. We come back home and it’s good to do that from two long weeks. But really proud of what happened these last two weeks.”
(on having all of the receivers as help for Russell Wilson) “That’s what we know. We know working with those guys, and I go back to pass protection, [it] gave him a chance to hit all those guys, and they got open today, did a beautiful job. We made a big deal about Doug [Baldwin]’s three touchdowns a couple weeks ago, and he comes back and almost had three last week, too. We’re really excited about those guys being able to hook up and play at such a high level.”
(on RB Thomas Rawls injury) “He did break his ankle. I think the torn ligaments are really the problem. I don’t think he’s going to have to have an operation from what I understand. Thomas has had a fantastic rookie season. Just exemplifies what we’re all about, toughness, and hard-nosed and committed and grit and all that stuff. We love the guy and we’re really going to miss him. He was a great asset to us this year, and we love the way he’s played.”
(on if they used last year’s Super Bowl loss as a reminder or motivation) “It took us some time to make sure to leave that behind. We don’t need that to be motivated. We need to get rid of it just like when you win, you have all of the follow through that comes up, all the hoopla and when you lose it has an impact as well. It doesn’t really matter which end it is, it’s still a factor. So we had to work our way through it and it took us a while and that’s the farthest thing from our minds right now. It has nothing to do with nothing. We’re just getting ready each week and moving forward.”
(on improved pass protection) “I think there are a number of elements. One, just growing together, and keeping that group together is a big factor. And we knew they would get better somewhere along the line. We were hoping it would happen sooner. The adjustments we made after the bye really helped us. The coaches did a fine job of zeroing in on some stuff that would help us. Russell [Wilson] has taken to that and getting the football out of his hands so quick and with much more precision then we had earlier. All fits together real well. The receivers coming through, so it was a lot of things. Tom Cable [assistant head coach/offensive line] has done a fantastic job with these guys. It was tough early, and we’ve gotten better the last six or seven weeks.”
(on status of SS Kam Chancellor) “Bruised tailbone. He was really uncomfortable today, and we think he has a chance to get back this week.”
(on RB DuJuan Harris’ performance) “I thought he ran hard. It was unfortunate he got the ball knocked away from him once and we tried to stay with him knowing that we are going to need him, so we put him right back in. And he did a fine job of taking care of the football. We really had good spacing early. Thomas [Rawls] hit everything. Every run he had, he had spacing, and then it didn’t seem like it was there. I’ll have to look at the film, but he ran hard and played tough.”
(on second week of turning a late half turnover into a touchdown) “I love that. We got the ball away from them, and we answered. We’ve been doing a really nice job in answering the turnovers and making things happen. That’s such a great opportunity in the game to capture the momentum of the turnover. The turnover is great, but if you do something with it, then you just compound the issue for the other side.”
(on if it’s surprising to him to see Russell Wilson doing this consistently) “Well he looks like he doesn’t practice. We’re practicing him like this, and it’s coming through, and we’re all together. I think ‘Bev’ [offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell] is doing a marvelous job of calling it and working it out to make sure that the plan fits to where we are having success and continue to find those ways and installation of the gameplan. And that one-two punch of him and Tom [Cable], they’re just getting it done for the players, and the players are coming through magnificently.”
(on how tough it is for RB Thomas Rawls) “I just talked to him for a second. He’s such a stud kid that he’s trying to fire me up. It’s going to be tough, but he’s had a great season and great contribution to this football team. We look forward to getting him back. This is the type of thing, he’ll be OK. It’s just going to take some time. But I’m sure it’s tearing him up inside because he would love to continue with his teammates.
(on injury update) “Both [Marcus] Burley and [DeShawn] Shead turned their ankles a little bit. Mike [Bennett] jammed his toe one time. It’s something that’s been with him for some time and he went back in the game. Shead got back in the game as well so those are both good signs, and we’ll see what happens.”
(on how SS Kelcie McCray held up playing) “He fit in fine for us. That was really the first chance he had to get tested. For the most part he looked like he was on his stuff. He had a couple good tackles”
(on connection between QB Russell Wilson and WR Doug Baldwin) “It’s the best that we’ve seen for both guys. They seem to be in sync in a really great way. The opportunities are there, and they’re taking advantage of stuff and making the most of it. It’s exciting to see and really fun to see these guys.”
(on Russell Wilson adjusting to all the player injuries) “I think it’s really part of Russell’s make-up. He’s going to the next issue. We all believe in that and we try to practice that. He’s really good at that. He’s not going to dwell on what happened. He’s going to get to the very next thing he’s faced with, and he stayed right on course. He’s had impeccable weeks of preparation for five or six weeks. And he gets better in practice every day. He just carries it into the game. There is no reason for us to focus on the guys we lost. We understand, and we love those guys, but that’s not where the focus goes. It goes to the next thing that’s in hand, and Russell has been a really good example of that.”
(on if there are conversations between him, Russell Wilson and OC Darrell Bevell during the week for game day) “Not anything that’s unusual. We have a really good conversation that goes on throughout the week and we’re really on the same page. And I think our ability to communicate on a high level is seen and we can adapt and make adjustments as we’re going. Darrell and [quarterbacks coach] Carl Smith’s relationship with Russell is great, and they all believe in one another and trust one another, so everything really works at a high level. That’s what you’re seeing.”
(on the team’s third-down conversions today) “It’s huge. I think we were 8-for-12, or something like that. We had to give one up on the last play. The guys were all fighting because we are so tuned in to executing. I thought third down was a great play for us today. Taking advantage and having the appropriate stuff called to fit the situation was really well done, and ‘Bev’ [Darrell Bevell] and Russell [Wilson] executed the plan really well.”