RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks are on a roll, currently holding the best record in the NFC. They’re about to get an injection of talent when players like Percy Harvin and Russell Okung return from injuries, and starting with Sunday’s game against Minnesota, Seattle has four of its final six at home.
In other words, home field advantage in the playoffs is well within reach for the Seahawks. The thing is, they’re playing like they really don’t need it.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Seahawks would absolutely love it if the road to the Super Bowl goes through CenturyLink Field, a place where they’ve won 12 straight games, and for that matter a building in which Russell Wilson has never lost, preseason games included (and a crazy aside, Wilson’s Wisconsin Badgers went unbeaten at home in 2011, meaning his last home loss, at any level, came on Oct, 2, 2010 when N.C. State lost to Virginia Tech).
But perhaps the most impressive trait in a season full of them for the Seahawks has been their ability to look more or less like the same team home or away. Or in the case of their last two games, play significantly better on the road than at home. A week after they had to come back from a 21-0 deficit against the then-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks flew across the country for a 10 a.m. PT game, previously known as the bane of their existence, and played what Pete Carroll called “our most complete game of the year.”
Inevitably you’re still going to hear somebody, perhaps an uninformed member of the national media, regurgitate the old storyline that the Seahawks are great at home but struggle on the road, but going back to last season, they’ve shown over and over again that that is simply no longer the case.
Are the Seahawks usually better at home than on the road? Well, yeah, but what NFL team isn’t? Even when the Seahawks do struggle a bit away from home, the difference is that this year, Indianapolis game not withstanding, they’re finding ways to win. Can’t run the ball against a stout Panthers defense? No problem, Russell Wilson will pass for a season-high 320 yards while the defense will hold Carolina to a single touchdown. Can’t do, well, anything against a Texans defense that was making a mockery of Seattle’s offensive line? Time for Wilson to play Houdini just enough to A. survive, and B. lead the Seahawks back from an early deficit, and the defense will come up with game-changing plays like Richard Sherman’s interception return. And when the short-handed offense was again ineffective, to put it kindly, in St. Louis, Golden Tate came up with a couple of massive plays, while the defense found a way to hang on and make a game-clinching stop at the goal line.
“The key for us this year is that we’ve learned as a football team, as players, how to bring that energy early and often,” Wilson told reporters after the game in Atlanta. “And that’s what we have to do no matter if the crowd’s there or not there.”
Of course the biggest reason Seattle is a good road team this year – their five road wins has matched a franchise high – is that they’re just a very good team, period. As Carroll noted last month, the Seahawks struggled on the road in his first two seasons in part because, “We weren’t playing very well, and when you don’t play very well you get your butt kicked.”