They were once 2-4 and in disarray. Their offense couldn’t keep Russell Wilson from getting sacked. Their defense couldn’t keep leads in the fourth quarter.
Now, five consecutive wins and seven victories out of eight games later, Wilson’s on one of the most prolific stretches of passing the league has ever seen. And the Seattle Seahawks (9-5) are back on their customary late-season roll that’s propelled them into the last two Super Bowls.
How proud is Wilson of this turnaround season in particular?
“We haven’t done anything yet, in all honesty,” the quarterback said Monday.
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That was a day after he became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least three touchdowns with no interceptions in five consecutive games. Wilson threw for three more scores in the 30-13 victory against Cleveland. He has 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions during Seattle’s five-game winning streak.
“I think ultimately the biggest goal you want to have in going to any sports season, playing baseball, basketball, football, you want to be playing your best ball late,” Wilson said.
He’s 15-2 in his career in December. Yeah, that’s best-ball stuff.
The Seahawks have clinched their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, their fifth in six years.
They can’t win the NFC West; Arizona has clinched the division title, ending their two-year reign.
They are very close to securing the fifth seed in the NFC’s playoffs, the first wild card. That would lock them into a first-round game at the NFC East division winner on Jan. 9 or 10.
So what is there left to play for in these final two games of the regular season, Sunday at home against St. Louis (6-8) and Jan. 3 against the presumably resting Cardinals (12-2)?
“We try to get the best position we can in the playoffs, whatever it is,” Carroll said. “Winning games will help us get that. We’re going to try to win games.”
So no, even if the Seahawks secure that fifth seed Sunday with a win over the Rams plus a loss by Minnesota (9-5) at home to the New York Giants (6-8), Carroll will not rest starters unless injuries dictate in the regular-season finale against the Cardinals.
“I really don’t believe that you should ask players to take a break. I think they’ve got to go,” Carroll said. “If we decide not to play guys for a different reason, that could happen.
“That’s not going to be because we’re going to take a step off of the gas pedal right now.”
That pedal is to the floor. The Seahawks are averaging 445 yards of offense and 34.5 points while allowing an average of just 65 yards rushing the last five games. The defense has given up only 8.7 points the last three weeks.
“We want to keep driving it and try to play the best we can this week and have a successful week. We’ll see what that leaves us next week,” Carroll said. “There will be no reason not to go for it again.
“It’s like letting someone not try their hardest. I don’t find any place for that in our game.”
Now if they could only find a time for Marshawn Lynch’s return.
Carroll said his lead running back, who’s been out since abdominal surgery Nov. 25, isn’t coming back this week. Maybe not next week, either.
Carroll said Lynch is working out with “his people” down in his native Bay Area and it “sounds like he’s making good progress” since abdominal surgery in Philadelphia on Nov. 25. But the coach said he and the Seahawks still don’t know when he might play again.
“I don’t think we’re able to predict that yet,” Carroll said. “I know each day is a challenge for him. He’s working hard and all that. We keep seeing how he can come back. He’ll get back here when he can.”
Carroll said the reports he’s been getting from the Bay Area have been “just that the work is hard, it’s challenging and all that. He’s working hard at getting better.”
Wilson aptly summed up the Seahawks’ situation with Lynch when he said: “You hope you can get Marshawn back, potentially. Who knows?”
So it will be a combination of Christine Michael and Bryce Brown again as the Seahawks’ co-lead running backs Sunday against St. Louis. Those two plus usual fullback Derrick Coleman, who started but got only five carries for 10 yards, rushed for 182 yards against Cleveland.
Seattle continues to lead the NFL in rushing offense — despite the first surgery of the 29-year-old Lynch’s career and remarkable rookie Thomas Rawls having his season end Dec. 13 with a broken ankle and torn ligaments.
Michael gained a career-high 84 yards on 16 determined carries Sunday against the Browns. Seattle’s second-round draft choice in 2013 re-signed with the Seahawks on Wednesday. He ran harder and with more purpose than he ever did for two, frustrating seasons and this past summer’s preseason, before the Seahawks gave up on him and traded him to Dallas.
Michael said following Sunday’s win he realizes the opportunity he now has with Lynch out indefinitely. And it may be his last one in the NFL.
Carroll said he could see that in Michael’s running against Cleveland.
“He cherishes this opportunity more than he ever has,” Carroll said.
But the coach didn’t commit to Michael as the new lead back. He mentioned the complementary styles the quick-footed Michael has with Brown, more of a “downhill” runner, to use Carroll’s description.
Brown said he was nervous and anxious before Sunday’s game, his first in a real game in a year. He finished with 43 yards on nine carries.
“Christine hit the line of scrimmage really quick and showed that he was really explosive, as we knew, we remember,” Carroll said. “It was good to see Bryce. Bryce was good. It was a long time getting back to preseason, so he was getting going. He had a couple good runs, had some good looks.
“Derrick kind of showed us what we thought he would, real consistent and solid. If we need him, we can go there. …
“We’ll see, I think a good combination of Bryce and Christine in there is what we’ll feature during this week in practice.”
Carroll said strong safety Kam Chancellor’s bruised tailbone felt much better Monday. The coach won’t know until late this week whether Chancellor or Kelcie McCray, who tackled well while starting for the first time in his career against the Browns, will play Sunday against St. Louis. … Carroll said LT Russell Okung has a very sore calf but tests revealed no major structural damage. It’s too early to know if he or Alvin Bailey will start against the Rams. … Houston signed WR/QB B.J. Daniels off Seattle’s practice squad, ending months of Daniels being waived off the active roster, clearing waivers then signing with the Seahawks’ practice squad to give Seattle roster flexibility. Carroll said his understanding is the Texans, in dire need of quarterbacks with their top two injured, signed Daniels to be a QB. “It’s disappointing,” Carroll said, “but I’m happy for him.”