As the Seahawks return Saturday to the NFL playoffs from the same position as a year ago — No. 1 NFC seed, first-round bye, potentially two playoff games at home — it is reasonable to consider that they may be better than the team that won the Super Bowl, despite a 12-4 record that is one game in arrears.
A number a statistical measures point to incremental upticks — more yards gained, fewer yards given up, etc. — but one stands out that borders on the astonishing.
In the fourth quarter of the final six games of the regular season, Seahawks opponents have scored zero points. If fourth quarters were beaches, the Seahawks would have made a lie out of an ancient axiom, because they proved you can sweep out the tide.
By way of comparison, in the final period of the last six games of 2013, they allowed 27 points — still good, particularly when the offense scored 41. But this year, it’s 48-0.
That is a door slam felt two states away, and also unprecedented. The Seahawks are the only team in the era of the 16-game schedule (since 1978) to allow zero points in the fourth quarters of the final six games of a regular season. The stingiest fourth-quarter teams:
|2014||Seahawks||Pete Carroll||6||6-0||0||Saturday vs. Carolina|
|1986||Bengals||Sam Wyche||6||4-2||3||Went 10-6, no playoffs|
|1990||Steelers||Chuck Noll||6||4-2||6||Finished 9-7, no playoffs|
|1998||Falcons||Dan Reeves||6||6-0||6||Lost Super Bowl to Denver|
|2001||49ers||Steve Mariucci||6||4-2||6||Lost Wild Card to Packers|
|2006||Saints||Sean Payton||6||4-2||6||Lost NFC Champ to Bears|
Coach Pete Carroll preaches relentlessly about finishing, meaning never let up. Apparently, his choir has heard, responding with a 200-decibel amen.
DT Michael Bennett made an intriguing point the other day. Totally unprovable, as most of Bennett’s allegorical spasms are, but I see where he’s going.
“Ninety percent of the NFL is scared to tackle,” he said. “A lot of our guys are in that 10 percent that want to tackle.”
Bennett has apparently discovered a layer of wussification just below the surface that is deeper and wider than any NFL geologist believed was possible. Or he was just wanting to piss off his contemporaries around the league. I vote for the latter.
Regardless of the motive, the fourth quarter shutouts attest to the fact that over the course of the game, the defense figures out and wears out opposing offenses.
The fact that three members of the defense — Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner — were voted to the Associated Press All-Pro team testifies to the talent. But to manage through injuries, the Super Bowl hangover, some ego conflicts and supposedly the toughest schedule in the league, and still pitch a six-game shutout in fourth quarters brings home the notion that these are some ornery, 60-minute dudes.
SS Kam Chancellor, a second-team All-Pro choice, buttressed Bennett’s point when he was asked Thursday whether some players shy away from tackling Panthers quarterback Cam Newton who, at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, is a mobile obelisk.
“No,” said Chancellor. “I don’t see that from anybody on our team. We embrace the contact. We want the contact.”
No one in his presence offered rebuttal. When he says such things, there is a gravitas that makes the listener begin sliding one foot away the speaker, preparing for a pivot.
Having said all that, the Panthers, despite the 8-8-1 record as champions of the NFL’s Candy Striper Division, have demonstrated considerable moxie this season. It’s true they have lost all three of the home games they played against the Seahawks in the past three years. But the total margin of defeat was 13 points.
And this season they have endured some bizarre distractions, including a two-vehicle crash in December that could have maimed Newton but cracked only a couple of vertebrae, and a fire Monday at the home of head coach Ron Rivera that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage, although no one was hurt. So the Panthers are unlikely to be bothered much by 68,000 people saying bad things about them.
They have no fear of the Seahawks. And they have already won a playoff game, beating at home a disheveled Arizona Cardinals team. So the notion of a walkover that some fans imagine does not seem to have a basis in fact. Additionally, the Seahawks a year ago in the divisional playoff game gave up 409 yards to the New Orleans Saints and were up only 16-8 in the fourth quarter before prevailing 23-15.
But the requirement Saturday is a win, not a doctoral dissertation on triumphalism. The defense is playing at a level better than a a year ago and ranks with the best in the history of the NFL.
So the forecast is Seahawks 19, Panthers 13, leaving a Sunday free to chortle at the Dallas Cowboys playing in Green Bay, where the kickoff temperature for the other NFC divisional game will be around 10 degrees, with tropical zephyrs off Lake Michigan taking the wind-chill down to aught or so.
As in, Seahawks opponents in the fourth quarter.
All things being equal, the Seahawks should win this. In fact, if they get rolling in front of the home crowd, they could turn this into a lopsided affair.
But stuff happens. Weird plays on special teams. An uncharacteristically bad day for Wilson or Lynch. An injury to a key player, or a poorly timed turnover. A lights-out performance by someone on the visiting team.
I hope this isn’t close, because the tension is always maddening. But if the game follows the Seahawks’ usual pattern, it will be close until late, at which point hopefully Seattle pulls away.
there’s never been a playoff game Wilson has not performed. I don’t expect that to start happening now. These are the moments he lives for. But on the rare chance he does have an off day, like the games this year against the Giants and Raiders, well that’s why the offense is built around the run. It’s Marshawn and Wilson out of the read option to the rescue.
In no way do I expect a blowout. I will be happy as hell if it happens, but right now I see no reason why this will not be another street-brawl type game. I’m guessing 6-3 or 10-7 Panthers at halftime, and then we slowly pound them into submission to the tune of like 20-17 or 16-13.
Lots of young players on the Panthers rosters will be first-timers to the Clink. It will be a shock.
The Panthers play once a year in the Superdome. It isn’t like they are not exposed to extremely noisy environments. The CLink might be a notch noisier, but we aren’t talking leaps and bounds. It still affects their play because they lose that half count of advantage on offense, but it is something they have faced. If the Panthers score 10 points, I’ll be amazed.
I would hope Wilson would be able to put up at least one touchdown if not more by halftime on the duo of rookie cornerbacks starting for the Panthers. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t.
I think you’re right about this. That’s a pretty good defense the Panthers are bringing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 13-6 or a similar low-scoring result. I don’t think the ‘hawks cover the 11-point spread, and if I were a degenerate gambler, I’d be tempted to take the under at 39.5.
If the superiority of the Seahawks were stated in geographic terms, you would not see the Panthers owing to the curvature of the earth.
Do the famed Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders travel with the Team for play~offs?That’s quite cold for the female residents of Texas and their”work Gear”wouldn’t you say? Tates team could have sent them off to Vacation but instead working conditions are now 10 in Green Bay. Perhaps better weather awaits them in Seattle should their team get a W.
Meanwhile those Panthers are enjoying fairly high temps for a winter day here out in the PNW….that is all they will enjoy.
Art pointed out that It’s true they have lost all three of the home games they played
against the Seahawks in the past three years. But the total margin of
defeat was 13 points.
Great for the past …but Saturday it’s Unlucky 13 for the ‘Cats” Crowd.
I think the halftime score will be 13~13 as both teams come out of the locker room.Sensing Blood Pete’s squad bolt out onto the field ready to take control and flatten something.
Having previously won the pregame coin toss Seattle gets the ball first to open 2nd half. A beautiful return on special teams brings them into field goal range before the drive even starts but they want more~ they methodically score 7 and the Panthers implode like the old Kingdome as Seattle scores 13 total in the 3rd QTR before a jovial and giddy gathering of 12s.The Panthers deflate as we see a large helping of sweat and blood defense thrown at them from the Hawks.The Visitors unravel to a folded tent in the 4th QTR and surrender to a 29~13 final score. Pete gushes about shutting out the boys from Carolina in the 2nd half and assures us the focus was(then) only on Newton and company but now its to win this next game to punch their ticket for Phoenix as all eyes are now on the game in Green Bay.My guys are focused he says.
Enjoy Folks. Go Hawks!
After replaying the last Carolina game, I can’t imagine the Seahawks not winning this game. The Seahawks had awful execution at Charlotte, played possibly their worse game I’ve seen this year. Down 9 to 6 at the two minute warning in the fourth quarter, it took a gem of a drive to win the game. But the other 57+ minutes had very few good plays on both sides of the ball. If the Seahawks play just a typical game, this is going to be an ugly result against an aching Panthers team. 23-6, and I’m being generous to the Panthers for getting six points.
With Helfet and Kearse back and the improving Richardson and Norwood (not to mention Lockette…..throw it to Lockette!) we may see a big passing game today, rain or no rain.
“Allegorical spasms,” indeed. Bennett only plays around in your shadow, Art. Great stuff!
“Wussification:” The antithesis of “Badassery?’