The Seahawks just absolutely restored all they had lost the previous week.
And then some.
Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes. Tyler Lockett set a franchise record for the most punt-return yards in a game. And the Seahawks led, 30-6.
All by halftime.
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Not only did Wilson break Matt Hasselbeck’s 2007 single-season record for passing yards before halftime. He became the first Seahawks quarterback with a 4,000-yard passing season — and the first player in NFL history with 4,000 yards passing, at least 30 touchdown throws and 500 yards rushing.
Oh, yes, Seattle regained its mojo, momentum and mauling way of winning. It put a 36-6 demolition on the NFC West-champion Arizona Cardinals in a stunning regular-season finale at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
“When we hit on all cylinders,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said, “ain’t nobody in the world can mess with us.”
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 held the NFL’s No. 1 offense in yards and points to only 232 yards and a single touchdown.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll ended his postgame message in the locker room to his roaring players by congratulating the defensive ones for leading the NFL in scoring defense for the fourth consecutive regular season. It is the first time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that any team has done that.
The Seahawks (10-6) won for the sixth time in seven games overall and fifth consecutive time on the road.
It’s timely given that Seattle will open the playoffs this coming Sunday at 10:05 a.m. Pacific time at NFC North-champion Minnesota (11-5). The Vikings won their division title by beating Green Bay on Sunday night.
Seattle, the NFC’s sixth seed, defeated the third-seeded Vikings, 38-7, on Dec. 6, a game in which the Seahawks defense did not allow a touchdown.
It was a performance about as dominant as Seattle’s one on Sunday against the Cardinals (13-3). So, yes, the Seahawks are feeling pretty good about the playoffs beginning.
“We are in a very good spot right now,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “This lets us know we are on the right track.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians pulled starting quarterback Carson Palmer at halftime of this rout. Palmer completed only 12 of 25 passes for 129 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
He also got an earful from Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman following one play in the third quarter. Sherman yapped at the quarterback about Cardinals receiver John Brown saying in August on Phoenix radio that he didn’t think Sherman could cover him one on one.
Brown had four catches on 11 targets, for 14 inconsequential yards Sunday.
When he saw Brown on the sidelines in the third quarter, Sherman yelled at Palmer — then squatted in a demonstration that looked a lot like Baldwin’s toilet-squat celebration in the end zone during February’s Super Bowl.
Sherman said, no, his act was to demonstrate to Palmer that Brown was sitting on the bench as a nonfactor. Officials didn’t appreciate the gesture and flagged Sherman for an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“That Brown kid said I couldn’t guard him one on one. Laughable,” Sherman said.
Yes, Seattle’s swagger is intact for the postseason.
Food for thought for a possible playoff rematch against the No. 2-seed Cardinals, who hadn’t trailed by more than 10 points since the day after Halloween until Seattle showed up as a touchdown underdog Sunday. The Seahawks have outscored Arizona, 71-12, in the teams’ last two games in University of Phoenix Stadium.
That was the message Carroll wanted to reinforce by keeping Wilson in this runaway until backup Tarvaris Jackson entered with 14:13 to go.
“It’s fun,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We just come into another team’s house and make them be quiet.”
Wilson completed 19 of 28 passes for 197 yards. The last of his three touchdown passes, to Jermaine Kearse, was the best. 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 to make it 30-6.
Wilson also threw for TDs in the flat to Chase Coffman — who’d been signed, cut and re-signed this season, and was playing in his first Seahawks game — and to fullback Will Tukuafu. The scoring passes led to each receiver’s second career touchdown.
Coffman’s score came one play after Lockett continued to show why Seattle traded up 27 picks to get to the top of the third round of May’s draft to get him. The rookie from Kansas State took a punt at the Seahawks 18, made one move left to juke a ruined Cardinal, then zapped the rest of Arizona’s punt team on a 66-yard sprint to the 8-yard line.
Sherman thought he’d been called for a block-in-the-back foul when he saw a penalty flag at the start of the return, and he was hopping mad at the official who threw it. But the flag was on Arizona’s Brittan Golden for grabbing Sherman’s face mask. Sherman walked off the field almost sheepishly, as if he’d gotten away with something.
Lockett had a 31-yard punt return later in the half. His 139 yards on punt returns was 33 yards more than Charlie Rogers had on Sept. 26, 1999, at Pittsburgh, when Rogers set Seattle’s previous record.
And Lockett should have had 22 more yards. He had a return negated by a penalty on Sherman.
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.
Lockett also captured the Seattle record for most all-purpose yards for a rookie (1,913) — 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, this weekend in the desert restored their playoff readiness.
“We’re finding our rhythm,” Sherman said. “We’re playing exactly the way we want to.”