Pete Carroll nailed it while assessing how these inconsistent, sometimes imploding Seahawks have become NFC West champions.
“It has been strange,” Seattle’s 65-year-old coach said.
And he said that before this odd week had even started.
▪ Cornerback Richard Sherman berates the head coach and offensive coordinator for calling a pass play from the 1-yard line. Even though a pass play is what eventually scores the touchdown that put away the Los Angeles Rams last week and won the division.
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▪ In the fallout of those awful antics, the All-Pro cornerback warns a Seattle radio host to stop questioning his authority to call offensive plays. Sherman then threatens to yank the guy’s media credential.
▪ A day later, Russell Wilson strays from his usual script. He actually begins his weekly press conference with a joke.
“Don’t make me take y’all’s credentials, now,” the quarterback said with a grin.
▪ That same day, Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett wears his “Black Santa” Christmas sweater depicting his comical, hip-thrust sack dance to a press conference. He then proclaims: “Two pumps gets you a baby. Three pumps gets you a fine.”
The Seahawks (9-4-1) will actually play football again, this time on Saturday at CenturyLink Field against the playoff-eliminated Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1). It is Seattle’s push on Christmas Eve to secure the No. 2 seed in the conference playoffs, and a chance to finish unbeaten at home over an entire regular season for just the fourth time in the franchise’s 41 years.
Wilson says his team has waded through it all to remain united for the postseason.
He won’t say if Sherman went too far in screaming at Carroll and offensive play caller Darrell Bevell.
“Who knows about if it could go too far? We’re not worried about that. We’re moving on,” Wilson said. “Everyone is focused and committed to winning and committed to one another. We’re all competitive. We all want to be great. We all want to win.
“We’ve all had a lot of great wins. We’ve had some tough losses. But at the end of the day it’s about choosing to be committed to one another. That’s what we are. We have all the love in the world for one another. And that’s really our only focus. I think that’s where our focus is right now.”
Sherman’s explanation for his latest sideline outburst this season was that we’ve all seen how throwing from the 1-yard line works for Seattle — or did you forget Super Bowl 49 against New England two years ago?
It’s still on Sherman’s mind. Carroll said it still drifts in and out of his.
Does Wilson still think about his most famous interception in Super Bowl history?
“I hope we get to the 1-yard line again. And I’d throw it again, too — if it was the right call, right timing,” he said. “I have all the confidence in the world in that. I have all the confidence in the world in the players that we have.
“We have all the confidence in the world in our defense, all the confidence in the world in special teams and our field goal kicker and what he can do. There’s no reservations in my mind. No hesitation, at all. And we’re committed to doing whatever it takes to win and finding ways.”
The Seahawks of today are about gaining momentum and, more important, consistency on offense in the final two regular-season games.
The defense can win in the playoffs as-is; it is two points behind New England from leading the league in fewest points allowed for the unheard-of fifth consecutive season. Bennett is back from arthroscopic knee surgery that cost him five games. If defensive coordinator Kris Richard gets back to blitzing middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to add to the pass rush of Bennett with fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril, the issue that allowed Aaron Rodgers to shred Seattle in Green Bay’s 38-10 win a couple weeks ago could take care of itself.
Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions that day.
His season has gone from injured and endangered to talk of being an MVP candidate to regression. He’s thrown the most interceptions of his career (11) this season. He has 16 touchdown passes. His season passer rating of 90.0 is a career low.
“It hasn’t gone as good as I wanted to,” Wilson said, “but ultimately it’s about winning for me. It’s been a little tough because of the battling with injuries and stuff. I haven’t been able to bring the extra juju, I say, as much as I’ve wanted to for seven or eight games, maybe more.”
But now Wilson is healthy. Saturday will be his first game in nine days, though he is probably still going to wearing the smaller, titanium brace over his left knee as a safeguard.
“I practice without it,” he said. “I think at this point I’d rather be smart, because like I was saying, the goal is to win. The goal is to win it all and I think just being smart.
“I feel great now. I’m getting way better. I’m feeling really back to normal.”
That could mean weapons for the Seahawks’ postseason the offense hasn’t had all season: running away from pressure for unscripted rushing yards, and called runs such as the quarterback read option that had been a Seattle staple for four seasons before Wilson’s injuries began in September.
Those called runs may not happen Saturday against Arizona’s fourth-ranked defense that has pounded Wilson something fierce in recent years. It may not happen in what could become a meaningless regular-season finale at terrible San Francisco (1-13) on New Year’s Day, either. But Wilson running by design — plus the return of a healthy Tyler Lockett after being out two-plus months with a sprained knee — are assets the Seahawks will have for the playoffs that they haven’t had for almost all of this uneven, strange season.
“It’s kind of been a whirlwind,” Wilson said. “To be able to go to the playoffs again — for me, I’ve been blessed obviously to go five years in a row — it’s a blessing. It’s not easy to do.
“That’s really our focus. It’s all about winning.”
The yelling at coaches, the ugly Christmas sweaters and two-pump, three-pump dissertations — those are just this team’s usual sideshows now.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-8-1) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-4-1)
Saturday 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Even at 17 wins each with one tie. The tie was in the last meeting, Oct. 23 in the desert. The Seahawks’ defense played 95 snaps over five full quarters, including the full overtime period, and allowed just two field goals in the 6-6 draw. It’s the most snaps by a defense in a game in NFL history without allowing a touchdown. The Cardinals have gone 2-5 since then, allowing 30, 30, 38, 26 and 48 points in those losses. Arizona won the last meeting in Seattle, Nov. 15, 2015, 39-32, when Carson Palmer lit up Seattle with 363 yards and three touchdowns passing.
Line: Seahawks by 8 1/2.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Roll on Rawls: Has Thomas Rawls returned yet? The broken ankle last December, then cracked fibula this September, set Rawls back into late November. Since what seemed a breakout game on Dec. 4 — 106 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina — Rawls has had 67 yards on 12 carries at Green Bay and just 34 yards on 21 runs last week against Los Angeles. Seattle didn’t have Rawls in October when its offense went splat in the 6-6 tie at Arizona. He had just two carries in his only career game against the Cardinals, in November 2015. Marshawn Lynch, back from injury that night, played 48 snaps to Rawls’ nine last season when Arizona won at CenturyLink Field 39-32. Now, the lead job is all Rawls’. It’s time for him to balance this uneven offense for the playoffs.
Settle on a line — finally: The 15th game is no time for a division champion, which is trying to become the conference’s No. 2 seed, to still be finding a starting right tackle. Garry Gilliam gets his job back after starting the first 11 games there — then exiting after three snaps at Tampa Bay to watch Bradley Sowell start the next three games. Line coach Tom Cable wants to see Gilliam attacking defensive linemen with more physicality, instead of reacting to them and relying on his ample athleticism. If Gilliam is driving forward beyond the line of scrimmage, especially on run plays, Cable is getting what he wants and Seattle’s offensive line may start to settle again. If not? Then the Seahawks and their 20th-ranked rushing offense have an issue entering the playoffs.
Blitz Wagner. Often: After letting Aaron Rodgers have more time to throw than any two-time league MVP will ever get two weeks ago in Green Bay, the Seahawks blitzed Rams rookie Jared Goff more last week — most noticeably and effectively with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner swarming over the center. That’s what Wagner was doing so disruptively earlier this season, including the tie at Arizona on Oct. 23. Wagner had one of the 10 hits Seattle got on a relatively stationary Cardinals quarterback in Carson Palmer, and the Seahawks sacked him four times while playing the most snaps ever in an NFL game (95) without allowing a touchdown. Expect a return to the blitz-Wagner formula. Not just to disrupt Palmer’s quick-passing game to Larry Fitzgerald, the league’s receptions leader with 98. Wagner needs to slam into Arizona’s do-it-all running back David Johnson, who has over 1,100 yards with 13 TDs rushing and has 73 catches, too. Seahawks LB K.J. Wright thinks Johnson is the NFL’s offensive MVP.
The pick: Forget Richard Sherman’s outbursts. The real issues Seattle must fix in these final two games before the playoffs are the running game, the running game and the running game. The Seahawks and Rawls should go directly at an Arizona defense that allowed the Saints to ring up 48 points last week — and has allowed at least 30 points in four of the seven games since these teams met in Week 7. Seahawks 20, Cardinals 14.
25 — Richard Sherman, CB (6-3, 195, sixth season): Watching to see if he blows up on sidelines for 3rd time this year. Beware when SEA’s at the 1.
16 — Tyler Lockett, WR/KR (5-10, 182, second season): If he’s as back as last wk’s 7 catches, 130 yds, 57-yd TD suggest, offense has a new weapon.
79 — Garry Gilliam, RT (6-5, 315, third season): From starter for 11 games to inactive for 2 to starter again. Task: Be more physical on runs.
31 — David Johnson, RB (6-1, 224, second season): Does it all: 1,138 yards, 13 TDs rushing. 73 catches, 800 yards, 4 TDs receiving.
11 — Larry Fitzgerald, WR (6-3, 218, 13th season): About 71 years old yet rolling. Future in question, so Palmer will target early, often to prove point.
36— D.J. Swearinger, FS (5-10, 208 4th season): Next man up after Tyrann Mathieu went on IR Fri. SEA’s Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett likely to test
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org