December 29, 2013 in Sports

Seahawks hold fate in hands

Win over Rams would lock up No. 1 seed
Bob Condotta Seattle Times staff reporter
 
Associated Press photo

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman predicts the team will right itself for the regular-season finale.
(Full-size photo)

Today’s game

Rams at Seahawks

Kickoff: 1:25 p.m. (Fox 28/94.5-FM)

Records:

St. Louis (7-8, 2-5 away), Seattle (12-3, 6-1 home)

Line: SEA by 11 O/U: 43

Outlook: SEA’s 14-game home win streak was broken last week by ARIZ, but look for a focused perform- ance from the Seahawks as they gain the top seed for the NFC playoffs if they beat a foe that is out of playoff contention.

Pick: SEA 27-13

RENTON – There are no cracks in the foundation, the Seahawks insisted all week.

No shaking of the confidence.

Sure, they have lost two of their past three games, each of which would have clinched the NFC West and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But they still have a 12-3 record that is tied for the best in NFL, and with all of their goals still in reach.

“Yeah, there are never any worries,’’ cornerback Richard Sherman said this week. “We have a great ballclub, we have a great team and we expect each other to play better than we did on Sunday (a 17-10 loss to Arizona). And we will.”

For the first time, though, when the Seahawks host St. Louis at 1:25 p.m. at CenturyLink Field, they have something to lose if they don’t.

If Seattle wins, then as Sherman says, the Seahawks have no worries. A victory will clinch the NFC West, a first-round bye and assurance of playing any games before the Super Bowl at CenturyLink, where Seattle is 14-1 the past two seasons.

But a loss, coupled with a win by the 49ers at Arizona, and Seattle would be relegated to the No. 5 seed, forced to go on the road for the wild-card round.

Seattle players said the stakes of the game are so obvious that no one even really needed to state them this week.

“We understand how big it is to play at home and we definitely want to treat the 12th Man and ourselves to home-field advantage through the playoffs,’’ said receiver Golden Tate.

Perpetually positive Seahawks coach Pete Carroll even tried to put a happy spin on Seattle’s sudden win-or-else fate, saying it might turn out better to have had every regular-season game count for something rather than coast into the playoffs.

“The fact that there’s something at stake, legitimately, is good for us and we’ll try to make the most of it,’’ Carroll said. “Everybody would’ve liked to have gotten there earlier, but I don’t know if that would’ve been what’s best for us.’’

What the Seahawks unquestionably need is to fix of few of the ills that have led to losses the past three weeks against the 49ers and Cardinals.

Specifically:

• Seattle has averaged just 103.8 rushing yards the past five games, compared to a season average of 138.5 that ranks third in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch, who had 10 100-yard rushing games last season, has just three this year, and none in the past five games.

• The running-game issues have contributed to going just 5 of 26 on third downs the past two weeks, tying the worst two-game stretch of the season.

• The Seahawks are also looking to perk up their passing game after getting a net of just 89 yards against the Cardinals, also a season low. Carroll said the main issue was that the Cardinals “covered up’’ the Seattle receivers throughout the game.

• Seattle also continues to lead the NFL in penalties, with 121, seven more than any other team and a whopping 35 more than its opponents.

• And the defense has allowed late drives for winning scores two of the past three weeks.

“That’s something that you certainly don’t forget about,’’ said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Tate, though, said the last thing the Seahawks need to do now is overreact to a couple losses.

“We are not changing who we are,’’ he said. “We have made it to this point doing what we do. We are very confident in what we do weekly, and we don’t need to do anything special. We just need to eliminate penalties and turnovers. If we can do that, I think this could be a big game to get us back on track.’’

If not, they could be hitting the road.

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