Pete Carroll warned you last week. Yes, the game against Arizona was the 16th of the regular season, but the Seahawks were going to approach it as if it were a playoff game.
It ended up looking a lot like a certain Super Bowl.
More than any game since, the Seahawks that dumped the Cardinals, 36-6, on Sunday convincingly resembled the 2013 group that blitzed the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48.
That’s the last time they seemed this dominant against a true high-quality team.
The timing and the magnitude of the destruction of the NFC West Division titlists makes an obvious statement: by playing at the level they had in the two preceding Super Bowl seasons, it seems unwise to bet against them making it to a third straight.
Yeah, that’s down the road, but I think this win was every bit that significant.
And that makes it ominous for any team the Seahawks will face along the way — especially Minnesota, Seattle’s wild-card-round opponent on Saturday or Sunday.
All-Pro Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, after the win over Arizona, said that “people sometimes forget who we are.”
Hey, in early parts of the season the Seahawks seemed to have forgotten who they were, too. They were disjointed at times, and inconsistent. Even as recently as last week, they brought questions upon themselves, losing 23-17 to St. Louis.
But Sunday’s game reminded everyone who they are. The quality of the opponent amplified the statement.
The Arizona team they spanked had been on a nine-game winning streak, had the No. 2 offense and No. 5 defense in the NFL and, at least in the first half, the Cardinals were motivated by the possibility of earning the NFC’s top seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
But they ended up being outplayed by the Seahawks in all phases — rushing for a mere 27 yards, with quarterback Carson Palmer completing just 12 passes.
On offense, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw three more touchdowns to up his total to a franchise-record 34 for the season. And with two of the five starting offensive linemen out with injury, tailback Christine Michael still managed to rush for 102 yards on 17 carries.
“To do this against this kind of offense is real big time,” linebacker K.J. Wright said of the defensive dominance. “It shows you we can take really good teams and make them average, and we can take really good players and make them average, too. When we just do our thing, no one can stop us.”
The Cardinals certainly couldn’t.
Against a defense that has punished him in the past, Wilson continued his streak of super-human efficiency. With three more touchdowns against the Cardinals, he pushed his total in the second half of the season to 25 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Extrapolate that over the course of an entire season, and it would be a ridiculous 50-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
With Wilson playing at that level, and the defense again limiting opponents to the fewest points in the league (for the fourth consecutive season), the Seahawks are worthy successors to the team’s two most recent predecessors.
The Seahawks who enter this postseason have an edge on the last two clubs, having the experience gained in the previous playoffs. They know what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and have learned how to lose one, too.
“We know we’ve still got a lot of football to play,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “This gives us momentum, but sometimes that’s overrated.”
The upset loss to the Rams last week, in its own way, was important, too, Baldwin said.
“It wasn’t all bad, in the grand scheme of things,” Baldwin said. “We’re on the path we’re supposed to be on, and that’s what you want to see heading into the playoffs.”
Sherman was asked about the slow start to the seasons, the external doubts, the injuries to key players like Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham.
“That’s the heart of a champion; you have the peaks and valleys in a season, and a champion overcomes those valleys,” he said. “Guys just continued to stay the course, guys just keep fighting, keep pushing.”
Sherman was told that a sentiment among Cardinals fans is concern over the possibility that the Seahawks will eventually end up back in Arizona meeting the Cardinals again in the NFC title game.
“They should be concerned,” Sherman said.
After Sunday’s game, so should everybody else in the conference.