SEATTLE -- The Seahawks are headed back to the playoffs after clinching a postseason berth with a 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes went toe-to-toe leading their offenses with Wilson and crew making the few extra plays necessary to earn their playoff clinching 38-31 victory. Chris Carson also recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season as the Seahawks notched their third 200-yard rushing performance of the year.
After losing many big-name players off last year's team (Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Sheldon Richardson, Jimmy Graham, etc.), the Seahawks re-tooled roster showed it's plenty capable on its own.
"We’ve got a lot of guys on this team, a lot of young guys, a lot of different faces," defensive end Frank Clark said. This ain’t the L.O.B. This ain’t the Seahawks from 2014, 2013… this ain’t that. We’re a young team with a lot of young players and a core group of guys who are just trying to help those young players grow and mature into some players that will help this team win some games.”
For the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are playoff bound and coming off a victory over one of the top teams in the league in the Chiefs. Seattle can clinch the No. 5 seed with a win over the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday or with a loss by the Minnesota Vikings to the Chicago Bears.
Here are the takeaways from Sunday night's win over Kansas City:
1. Chris Carson eclipses 1,000 yards rushing for season.
There may be no singular aspect of the 2018 Seahawks season more defining than the play of Chris Carson and the Seahawks' rushing attack.
After being an unmitigated disaster on the ground a season ago, the Seahawks vowed to fix their running game this season. Carson's running style combined with an improved offensive line has been as pivotal a story line as any for the Seahawks this year.
"His style and the toughness that he’s brought this team and representing the O-linemen and all the guys that have been a big part of the leadership," head coach Pete Carroll said.
Carson rushed for 116 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns against the Chiefs. Both touchdown runs were bruising efforts where he careened through Chiefs defenders on his way into the end zone.
Carson now has 1,029 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns for the Seahawks this season. He becomes just the sixth different rusher to record a 1,000-yard rushing season in franchise history along with Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters, Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch.
"To get one of our backs - and for it to be Chris Carson, who has worked so hard this offseason and he’s run the ball so hard this year, we celebrate him to the highest level," center Justin Britt said. "
‘Tis the season of giving and happy holidays to Chris Carson.”
2. Russell Wilson made every big play when it counted.
He didn't make every play in Sunday night's game, but when the difference-making plays had to be made in the latter stages of the game Wilson came through again and again.
A 27-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, a 26-yard scramble that set up a touchdown pass to Ed Dickson, a 45-yard rainbow to Tyler Lockett followed by a 29-yard strike to Baldwin down to the 1-yard line. Wilson was superb when it mattered most.
The Chiefs brought significant pressure against Wilson in the closing minutes. They opted for Cover Zero blitzes - straight man-to-man coverage with no safety help - bringing eight guys at Wilson with only seven in to protect. The receivers had to win quickly in their routes and Wilson had to play with great anticipate, touch and accuracy on shot throws downfield. Wilson was brilliant in these situations. Another perfect throw to Baldwin for a potential big gain only fell incomplete due to a great defensive play by Tremon Smith.
Wilson only missed once in these scenarios, barely overthrowing Baldwin on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Even though the Seahawks were trying to run the clock, the defense they were facing called for aggressive plays in the passing game as a response. It's the most likely place for Seattle to have an advantage and Wilson has shown to be an assassin when facing Cover Zero.
"We knew they were going to kind of go all out and bring everybody trying to get the ball back and what not," Britt said. "I think Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) did a real tremendous job calling the big shot plays that he did, catching them off-guard. If they’re loading the box it makes no sense to just run the ball whenever they have three timeouts. So let’s try to score."
Wilson finished the game with 271 yards and three touchdowns with 18 completions on 29 attempts.
"Russ was on fire. We could ride him," Carroll said. "Russell had a fantastic night tonight, the times he took off and ran and created first downs for us. He looked like he was done and gone. He was doing the stuff that I think a lot of people came to watch this game because of Patrick and Russ. They’re magnificent ball players."
3. Offensive line is significantly banged up, and yet the Seahawks still got the job done.
The Seahawks were already thin on the offensive line entering Sunday night's game and were further depleted against the Chiefs.
J.R. Sweezy injured his ankle in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Sweezy will get an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury, though he was optimistic post-game that it wasn't too bad.
Nevertheless, the injury forced D.J. Fluker into the lineup despite a hamstring strain. Fluker was active but likely only set to play in case of emergency. The injury to Sweezy qualified as just such an instance. The Seahawks moved Ethan Pocic - starting in place of Fluker at right guard - to the left side to take over for Sweezy as Fluker returned to his usual spot on the right side.
Additionally, George Fant - filling in at right tackle for an injured Germain Ifedi - injured his ankle on Seattle's first offensive possession of the game. He only missed one snap before returning and he was able to complete the game without further issue.
All eight active linemen played on offense Sunday night as Elijah Nkansah took a snap in place of Fant and Joey Hunt took over the jumbo tight end role vacated by Fant's move to tackle.
"One of the great jobs by the guys to come through and allow us to play," Carroll said. "Pocic had to play right guard and left guard. Fluker coming back out of nowhere to play in this game. We just didn’t know that that could happen. So, it was a huge night."
Despite all of the injuries and shuffling up front, the group still produced. The Seahawks rushed for over 200 yards and allowed only three sacks for Russell Wilson. On Seattle's final scoring drive of the game, the Chiefs came after the Seahawks with heavy blitz pressures that the line picked to allow several key deep throws from Wilson to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett that helped seal the game away.
With the final game of the regular season having meaning only for seeding purposes, the Seahawks will have the flexibility to rest guys that could use the additional week to get healthy for the playoffs.
4. Seahawks pass rush made some noise against the Chiefs.
The Seahawks only managed one sack of Patrick Mahomes on Sunday night. Dion Jordan picked up his first sack of the year late in the first quarter.
However, that doesn't mean Seattle's pass rush wasn't effective.
The Seahawks hit Mahomes 11 times. Frank Clark (three), Jordan (two), Quinton Jefferson (two), Jarran Reed (one), Poona Ford (one) and Delano Hill (one) all got shots in on the Chiefs quarterback. They also regularly forced Mahomes to escape from a collapsing pocket as they did a decent job of trying to keep Mahomes uncomfortable.
The Chiefs still managed the move the football at will, at times, against the Seahawks. They have a very talented offense that can pick up yards in many different ways. But the pass rush was a big reason the Chiefs converted just 5 of 12 third down opportunities and limited the number of successful drives for Kansas City.
5. Patrick Mahomes is a mesmerizing player.
These observations are usually reserved for Seahawks items, but every once in a while a performance by an opposing player is worthy of note.
Mahomes' showing against the Seahawks is just such an occasion.
A surefire MVP candidate, Mahomes defied logic at times with his abilities on the field. A side-arm 25-yard touchdown pass to Charcandrick West and multiple throws on the run with pinpoint accuracy were plays you just don't regularly see players able to make. Even an incomplete pass - a fourth quarter throw to Kelvin Benjamin - was jaw-dropping. Mahomes unleashed a missile as he jumped over the out of bounds line for a completed pass to Benjamin between Seattle defenders. Benjamin was out of bounds along the back line and therefore it was incomplete, but just the throw itself and the ability for Mahomes to make it were incredible.
He wasn't perfect either. Mahomes missed on a walk-in touchdown chance to tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter when Seattle appeared to bust a coverage. The whole complexion of the game may have been altered if Mahomes makes that throw to tie the game at 7-7 instead of settling for an eventual field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Nevertheless, Mahomes is oozing with talent and ability. The Chiefs have done a masterful job of catering to his strengths and the Chiefs have been the most consistently explosive offense in the league this season having never scored fewer than 26 points in a game all season. He finished Sunday night's game going 23 of 40 for 273 yards and three touchdowns.
To borrow a quote from Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green about rookie Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic in regards to Mahomes: "He's going to be a problem. He's already a problem."
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a touchdown on a one yard rush against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)