‘Tis the season—for a Seahawks statement.
This is their favorite month. Because it’s been their best one.
"It’s December. It’s time to play," Russell Wilson said. "It’s time to be great."
It’s time to be the NFL’s best December team again.
The Seahawks are preparing for Sunday’s test at AFC South-leading Jacksonville (8-4) knowing they are 18-5 in December since 2012, the year Wilson took over as their rookie starting quarterback. After last weekend’s 24-10 home win over the previously soaring Eagles, Seattle is 20-5 in regular-season games in December and January since 2012. Those are the best finishing records in the league over that span.
They haven’t just internalized one of Carroll’s favorite mantras--"FINISH!"--they count on it. Their belief in how they end seasons has usually propelled them into the playoffs while peaking, not maintaining.
But this isn’t the same Seattle team that plowed into the last five postseasons. These Seahawks are without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril. The injured stars and anchors are out for the season from the defense that is now transitioning.
Yet these Seahawks still have Wilson.
His 20-for-31 passing night with three touchdowns and no interceptions ended Philadelphia’s nine-game winning streak. That night showed the Seahawks’ current streak of championship runs may not be over, after all.
The league on Wednesday named Wilson its NFC offensive player of the week. It’s the seventh such honor of Wilson’s six-year career, tying him with Shaun Alexander for most in Seahawks history.
Wilson keeps making magic despite no consistent production from running backs to support him. He keeps doing it behind an iffy offensive line. Wilson is the reason Seattle is 8-4 and holding the NFC’s fifth of six playoff positions. He is the reason the Seahawks have stayed one game behind the Los Angeles Rams for first place in the NFC West. He has indeed been most valuable, in the truest sense of the word.
Seattle has beaten Los Angeles, and will host the Rams on Dec. 17. That game will likely to decide the division title and the home playoff game it guarantees--if the Seahawks can stay one game behind L.A. through this weekend.
The Jaguars have the league’s No.-1 ranked rushing offense with bullish rookie Leonard Fournette. They have the NFL’s top scoring defense (14.8 points per game), passing defense (167.1) and total defense (282.5).
The Rams will be hosting the ticked-off Eagles (10-2) on Sunday at the same time (1:25 p.m.) the Seahawks are kicking off in Jacksonville.
After the Rams come to Seattle, the Seahawks play at Dallas (6-6) on Christmas Eve (when Cowboys’ leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott will be off his league suspension) then host Arizona (5-7) in the regular-season finale.
Los Angeles finishes at Tennessee (8-4), which beat Seattle in September and shares the AFC South lead, and home against San Francisco (2-10).
"We are OK. We are still growing, though," Carroll said. "I wish it was a done deal and we knew exactly how everything fits together, but we can only go with what we have. But we feel positive about it.
"We are entering the fourth quarter of this season with hopes of really doing some good work."
What Carroll wishes was more of a "done deal" was his running game, to end almost complete reliance on Wilson to produce all the offense.
Mike Davis was a waiver claim from San Francisco this spring. He was a practice squad player for months until a few weeks ago. He’s the lead back now. Davis gained 64 yards on 16 carries against the Eagles in his second start as the new primary runner ahead of Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. Sixty-four yards was extraordinary by the standards set by Seattle running backs this season.
Davis really created just 47 yards on those 16 carries, not even 3 yards per try. Wilson’s magical flip lateral back to him in the open field 6 yards into the QB’s scramble is how Davis got 17 of his yards in the fourth quarter, without being credited officially with a carry.
Wilson remains the team’s leading rusher, by far. He has three of Seattle’s four rushing touchdowns. His 432 yards is more than twice as many as any running back. Lacy has 179 yards in nine games played on a one-year contract guaranteeing him $2,865,000. Fill-in third-down back J.D. McKissic has gained 143 yards in nine games. Mothballed Rawls has 129 yards rushing in nine games, with just 4 yards on one carry in three games since Nov. 9. And Davis has rushed for 82 yards in two games.
Carroll said rookie Chris Carson, the lead back until his severe ankle injury and leg fracture against Indianapolis on Oct. 1, won’t return to practice this week but might in the next couple weeks. The Seahawks hope Carson will come off injured reserve for the last game or two of the regular season or for the playoffs, should Seattle qualify for the sixth consecutive time.
Carson’s return to the lead-rushing job would make Davis angry.
What else is new.
"I’m fueled every week," Davis said. "I was on the practice squad for 10 weeks. I’ve been cut twice. So, there’s always a chip on my shoulder.
"I’m always angry."
That may come in handy this month, the one in which Carroll’s Seahawks have been so dominant.
Up to now, anyway.
"It’s the fourth quarter and we have the opportunity to control everything; that’s all we could hope for," Carroll said.
He meant the division title, not a top-two seed in the NFC the Seahawks had set as a season goal.
"Every game we have is a championship match, and we have to play them all the way out and figure that you have to win every one of them that week you play them," the coach said. "This is a really good test this week (at Jacksonville)."
Carroll called the win over the Eagles "a great test for us at home, just because the level of the play of these guys. They’re a fantastic team.
"And our guys know, they know now that we can deal with whatever is coming down," he said. "We just have to do it one week at a time."