Thomas Rawls sure picked a decent time to rejoin the Seahawks season. With it on the line.
Set back by three injuries in 12-plus months, including a broken ankle that cost him last postseason, Rawls romped for a season-high and Seahawks’ playoff-record 161 yards. That’s more than even the great Marshawn Lynch ever did in all his wondrous, postseason romps.
"I want a championship. I’ve been waiting my whole life," Rawls said. "I wasn’t here last year. I was on the couch."
The Seahawks are one step closer to one. That’s thanks to Rawls, Seattle’s in-their-face defense and multiple dropped passes and personal fouls by the Lions in the Seahawks’ 26-6 victory Saturday night in the NFC wild-card playoffs at roaring CenturyLink Field.
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"This felt like old times," Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman said of success in the postseason, after a scuffling, inconsistent regular season had much of the Pacific Northwest freaking out.
"This felt great. It felt right. It felt correct."
For Rawls, it felt validating.
"It was more gratifying," he said. "The time is now. We in the playoffs."
The NFC West champions still haven’t lost a home playoff game since 2004.
Now they head to Atlanta for a divisional-round game next Saturday at the Falcons, the champions of the NFC South.
"It’s one game. Anybody can do it for one game,” rookie right guard Germain Ifedi said, sounding beyond his years.
“We want to carry it over."
Rawls smiled and his voice turned incredulous talking about breaking his mentor’s postseason rushing record.
"Marshawn? Marshawn Lynch? Looked up to him. Still do," Rawls said, adding he last talked to the Seahawks legend a couple weeks ago.
"I remember when I was younger watching him thinking, ‘I hope one day that I can be like him.’
"That day is now."
Rawls’ straight-ahead, 4-yard touchdown run and a mind-boggling catch by Paul Richardson with one hand from behind an interfering defender’s back on fourth down in the first half were all the Seahawks (11-5-1) really needed Saturday.
But the performance of the offensive line – with what Ifedi said was more straight-at-them blocking this week – while paving the path to 177 yards rushing is what Seattle needs to make a deep run this postseason.
"Not as much mirroring them," Ifedi said. "Just coming off the ball. Go forward. Not as much side to side."
Quarterback Russell Wilson approved. He was 23 for 30 for 224 yards passing, with two touchdowns, a 119.3 passer rating and three sacks. He and coach Pete Carroll blamed those on the QB for holding onto the ball too long.
"We’ve had a couple times when we struggled. Tonight, our offensive line (was) very good against a very good defensive front," said Wilson, who is now 8-3 in the postseason in his five NFL years. "They really stepped up to the challenge.
"We’ve been saying to ourselves, we’ve been saying there is nothing that we can’t do."
Like crazy catches.
They seemingly were all ridiculous for the Seahawks Saturday night. Richardson made three, including a second grab with just his left arm beyond his one for his score. Doug Baldwin even made a catch with his rear end – a butt catch -- in the fourth quarter.
"Doesn’t matter," Baldwin said with a grin when asked where exactly he caught that butt ball. "I caught it."
It set up his touchdown grab on which he reached out and stole Wilson’s 13-yard pass from Jermaine Kearse, who was running behind him in the back of the end zone.
That made it 26-6 with just under 4 minutes to go. And another Seattle postseason party was on.
Baldwin also had a 42-yard catch set up Rawls’ 4-yard touchdown that made it 19-6 midway through the fourth quarter. He galloped more than he ran behind a plowing block by Ifedi.
Baldwin had 11 catches on 12 targets for 104 yards and the touchdown. He set the Seahawks’ record with 50 career postseason receptions. He had a catch in his 11th straight playoff game, another Seattle record.
Rawls’ breakout night was almost about half his total yards rushing after a half his regular-season yardage in which he gained of 349 yards -- total -- in nine games. He didn’t make his usual, sharp cuts as much as he just went straight at the Lions, behind all that straight-ahead blocking.
His reemergence after a broken ankle and then cracked fibula into late November is the key to the offense getting balanced, and thus consistent for the tougher playoff games ahead.
"When they run the ball the way they can run it, it’s intimidating," All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "When Rawls lowers his shoulder, it sets the tone for the entire game."
Seattle was in the top four in the NFL in rushing for years — then slumped to 25th this season with Lynch retired and Rawls hurt, then in neutral.
The Seahawks rushed 38 times for 177 yards on Saturday.
"If we can do that it makes it really, really tough to play us, because we can do so many different things," Wilson said.
Rawls, a native of Flint, Michigan playing against his home-state team, had 107 yards before halftime just 28 minutes into the game. That already was his most since Nov. 22, 2015, when he romped for 209 yards against San Francisco as an undrafted rookie.
Richardson made wowing catches in the first half. The first came after the Seahawks had run on 11 of their first 13 plays of a drive in the second quarter, plowing their way to the Detroit 2.
On fourth and goal, Wilson dropped deep, looked left, then threw back right to Richardson, whose first two Seahawks seasons ended with a torn knee ligament and a shredded hamstring. Richardson zoomed across the middle of the end zone from left to right. Lions safety Tavon Wilson knew he was beaten and buried his shoulder into Richardson’s chest in an attempt to prevent the touchdown. That failed.
Richardson reached behind Wilson with his left arm while pulling down the Lion’s helmet with his right. He grabbed the ball in his only free, left arm. The most stunning play of Richardson’s three-year NFL career, one of the best catches of Seattle’s season, put the Seahawks ahead 7-0.
"I just couldn’t believe it," Baldwin said of Richardson’s gem.
One could almost feel the entire franchise and stadium exhale that maybe the offense had found its lost running game and, thus, its offense.
And afterward, the Seahawks’ postseason chances felt revived.
"Now, we have a chance to put our formula together the way we want to," Carroll said.
"That’s the Thomas Rawls we love."
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle