When Seattle released Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril, traded Michael Bennett, saw Kam Chancellor retire, and refused to extend the contract of Earl Thomas, many assumed the Seahawks were entering a rebuilding phase. It turns out they were just retooling.
Seattle defeated Kansas City 38-31 on Sunday night in its best all-around win of the season, which clinched a playoff spot. With an offense that is finally finding its groove and a (significantly less famous but still) tough defense, Seattle is hitting its stride at the perfect time.
Like all Seahawks games, the win was made possible by Russell Wilson, who was the best quarterback on the field. Wilson finished with 18 completions on 29 attempts for 271 yards, three touchdowns, and added 57 rushing yards on the ground. He picked apart Kansas City’s defense in the second half and exposed Chiefs rookie defensive back Charvarius Ward, who was playing in place of injured cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ron Parker. Wilson reminded everyone that Patrick Mahomes II is not the only quarterback selected in the MLB draft who can make off-balance throws from his non-throwing side: This 2-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson midway through the fourth quarter gave Seattle a 31-20 lead:
Russell Wilson to Patrick Mahomes—“Hold my beer.” pic.twitter.com/eSuCOUaGAa— Carter Donnick (@CDonScouting) December 24, 2018
And this dagger throw to Doug Baldwin on second-and-19 put Seattle at the goal line up 31-28 with less than three minutes to play:
Baldwin hasn’t been healthy for most of the season, but he’s finally regained his form in the last two weeks; he had 77 yards and two touchdowns last week against San Francisco and followed it up with seven catches (tied for a season high) on 12 targets (season high) for 126 yards (season high) and a touchdown on Sunday night. While Baldwin had his best game of the season, Wilson had his best throw of the year on this beautiful arcing pass that fell into receiver Tyler Lockett’s breadbasket.
RUSSELL WILSON WHAT IS THIS pic.twitter.com/bdsvCcEfwH— Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin) December 24, 2018
Running back Chris Carson looked excellent with 116 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, giving the Seahawks the rushing toughness they lacked last season when Wilson was the team’s leading rusher. Seattle’s defense forced two crucial fumbles, one of which led to a Seahawks touchdown and the other killed a potential Kansas City field goal opportunity before halftime. Seattle is also prepared for doomsday: Punter Michael Dickson nearly attempted a drop-kick field goal when kicker Sebastian Janikowski appeared to suffer an injury in the second half. (He didn’t kick the field goal, but he did end up doing kickoff duties. That’s called being prepared in all three phases of the game.)
It was the third week in a row Kansas City looked vulnerable; the Chiefs nearly lost to Baltimore in Week 14 and had a Thursday night loss to the Chargers last week. Kansas City had eight penalties for 76 yards, lost two fumbles that cost the team 10 points, and were scorched on defense in the second half. Kansas City will still win the division and earn the no. 1 seed in the AFC as long as they beat the doormat Raiders in Week 17, but this year’s Chiefs look especially ready for a classic Andy Reid playoff collapse in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks will lock up the fifth seed in the NFC if they beat Arizona next week. They’ll then likely head to Dallas to play the Cowboys in the wild-card round of the playoffs, whom they beat back in Week 3 for their first win of the season. Why rebuild when you can get a rematch?