The homestretch starts on the road. That is not only a description of the Seahawks’ upcoming schedule, but the key to their playoff ambitions. Seattle’s season may not depend entirely on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Miami, but it is precisely the kind of game the Seahawks must win if they’re going to play into the New Year.
“If we’re going to turn our fortunes for the season, we’re going to have to play better on the road,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re still paying for it from the first half of the season.”
Seattle lost four of its five road games in the first two months of the season, committing more than twice as many turnovers on the road and scoring 16 points or fewer in four of those five games.
Now Seattle begins a gauntlet of three road games in 22 days, starting in Miami and continuing to Chicago next week. The Seahawks then host Arizona before going to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 16. It’s a four-week crucible for Seattle, a test that will show whether the early-season road difficulties were the growing pains of a young team or the fatal flaw that undermines this team’s season.
“The key to winning on the road is not thinking that it’s on the road,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I think all that stuff, it’s overrated and underrated at the same time. It’s real simple if you just look at it as just another game, but people give it too much power when they think it’s an away game.”
There are all sorts of theories for why a team might struggle on the road, from the unfamiliarity of playing in a different stadium to the logistics required to deal with crowd noise to the disruptive nature of travel.
But while Seattle’s trip to Miami is Seattle’s longest in terms of mileage, it’s not like the Seahawks are flying coach in the middle seat with a four-hour layover. They arrived on a charter flight at about midnight on Friday, giving the team two nights to acclimate.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is the weather vane for Seattle’s difficulties away from CenturyLink Field. Of his 15 touchdown passes, only four have occurred on the road while all eight of his interceptions have come as a visitor.
There’s more to Seattle’s difficulties than just one player, though. “If you just look at Russell, I think you’re making a mistake there,” Carroll said. “I think this is all of us. We all have to play better, more efficiently on the road. Everybody has got to contribute to it and that goes all the way to defense and special teams.”
The Dolphins will also be starting a rookie quarterback, too: Ryan Tannehill. He was chosen eighth overall, and Wilson is familiar, even friendly, with him. The two trained together in the spring leading up to the draft.
“There’s a huge competitiveness,” Wilson said.
The possibility of a playoff berth only raises the stakes for Seattle.
“We are not far off,” Carroll said.