Unlike you, Michael Bennett is not worried about the Seahawks’ inconsistencies entering the playoffs.
He’s not concerned the offense has struggled most of the season to run the ball, to sustain drives, to just plain score — yet outscored Tom Brady and New England in beating the Patriots, 31-24, in Massachusetts in November.
The Pro Bowl defensive end is not concerned his defense looks dominant at times: allowing 10 points to playoff-bound Miami, becoming the first team to intercept Brady, then allowing 2-14 San Francisco to steamroll to touchdown drives of 75 and 79 yards Sunday.
To Bennett, it’s simply about who is lining up to block him for the Detroit Lions (9-7) when they come to CenturyLink Field on Saturday to play the NFC West-champion Seahawks (10-5-1) in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
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“I feel great. I always feel great,” Bennett said of Seattle’s prospects entering their fifth consecutive postseason.
“The fans and the media are more worried about who has home-field advantage, who has this, who has that. At the end of the day, it’s just about lining up and beating the guy who is in front of you.”
Then, Bennett added: “We’ve got a bigger picture.”
Bennett personifies the prevailing attitude of Seahawks veterans. They have advanced to two of the last three Super Bowls. They believe, inconsistencies of the regular season aside, they have the ability to flip their playoff-performance switch to “on,” beginning Saturday. Seattle has won six times in eight postseason games January 2013.
But these Seahawks are different than last season’s squad that lost in the divisional round, and especially the 2013 and ’14 teams that played in the Super Bowl and won it three seasons ago. These Seahawks are not as deep as those teams along the offensive and defensive lines. Three first-year starting offensive linemen — including undrafted rookie George Fant at left tackle — have yet to consistently pass or run block.
All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas is reduced to posting his reactions from afar on Twitter during and after games because of a broken shin. Sunday during the fourth quarter, with reserves playing at San Francisco, Thomas posted: “So this game has turned into a preseason game.”
That was after coach Pete Carroll attempted to preserve his starters for the playoffs by doing something in the regular-season finale he almost never does. He pulled starters instead of going for the win.
After saying last week he wouldn’t pay attention to Atlanta’s game with New Orleans while the Seahawks were playing the 49ers on Sunday, Carroll listened to voices of reason along his sideline during the game. They told him the Falcons had a huge second-half lead, and the Seahawks’ last chance to steal the NFC’s second seed was gone.
Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham all exited the game. With 9 1/2 minutes left, Seattle leading San Francisco 25-16 and in the middle of a drive, Carroll sent backup quarterback Trevone Boykin into the huddle.
Russell Wilson was so surprised he joked he thought Boykin was entering at wide receiver. It was the first time in Wilson’s five seasons as the Seahawks’ QB that Carroll has pulled him in the middle of a drive.
Pulling the starters underlined how Carroll knows his Seahawks aren’t as deep in years past. He knew Seattle couldn’t afford losing any more stars to injury. In addition to Thomas, Pro Bowl kick returner and wide receiver Tyler Lockett (broken leg) is out for the season.
After Sunday’s game, the coach said he was “in outer space” by making the moves and preserving starters.
“It’s just do everything we could possibly do to win the game. I never am in that frame of mind, and I’ll always challenge that thought,” he said. “I hate backing off at any time. Ever. I can’t remember doing it very many times, ever. I just thought it was, we needed to do something to do what we could to protect ourselves for next week.”
Carroll said he didn’t consider before the game taking out Wilson and his fellow starters.
“I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about it and did not have a plan for it,” he said. “I did not want to be planning for that. And, it just kind of happened that it seemed like we need to do something to help and it worked out fine.”
On Monday, a Seahawks day off from practice, Seattle’s KING-5 television Twitter feed asked if Seattle’s final four regular-season games would have been different had Thomas been playing.
“Of course it would be different...” Thomas tweeted, “we would have a first round bye I guarantee you that.”
But the Seahawks got the best scenario they could have hoped for.
The Lions are the conference’s second wild card. They have lost three consecutive games, including 31-24 at home to Green Bay on Sunday night for the NFC West title. The Lions are the fifth team to go 0-5 against playoff teams and still reach the postseason since the league went to its current, 12-team playoff format in 1990.
Detroit is a pass-first team. Often, it is a pass-only team. Quarterback Matthew Stafford throws it all over the yard despite dislocating the tip of the middle finger on his passing hand last month. Stafford completed 26 of 41 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns Sunday night in the loss to the Packers.
“Their quarterback has been phenomenal,” Carroll said on Seattle’s 710-AM radio on Monday.
“He can throw for 400 on any day.”
Then Carroll said something that applied to the Seahawks in all phases of their game right now: “We’ve got to get our act together and get going.”
Stafford was sixth in the league in the regular season with 4,327 yards passing, with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s turned the ball over six times in Detroit’s last 15 quarters, including an interception Sunday night at Green Bay.
The Lions ranked 30th in the league in rushing offense, averaging 81.9 yards per game. Zach Zenner, an undrafted 2015 free agent out of South Dakota State, led Detroit with 69 yards against Green Bay.
So neither the Seahawks nor Lions are running it that well right now. That difference is, Seattle wants to.
Detroit was eyeing the No. 2 seed in the NFC when it was 9-4 last month. Since then, the Lions have lost to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers — all playoff teams.
“They’ve had an unusual season,” Carroll told 710 AM Monday.
Defensively, Detroit attacks and gets after quarterbacks. That’s always a concern for the Seahawks, with their iffy offensive line. It allowed Arizona to sack Russell Wilson six times and hit him 14 other times in Seattle’s home loss two weeks ago.
That defeat is why the Seahawks are playing this weekend instead of receiving a first-round bye.
“They are very well-equipped,” Carroll said on 710-AM about the Lions. “Very aggressive defense.”
Detroit has one playoff victory since 1957. The Seahawks have not lost a home playoff game since 2004.
“So, here we go,” Carroll said. “It’s time. And these guys are really pumped. They know it’s finally time to get ready for playoffs.
“We don’t care (who we are playing). We’re just going to get a little trip, get home and a little happy new year, and away we go next week.
“… We’re looking forward to getting this thing started.”
The final regular-season standings determined the Seahawks’ opponents for next season.
Seattle will host Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Seahawks will play at Dallas, the New York Giants, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle