RENTON, Wash. – In his new role as one of the city’s most famous Seahawks fans and commentator on SportsRadio 950 KJR, Mike Holmgren hears the angst as Seattle prepares for one of the biggest games in franchise history.
“Some of the games they’ve played lately, people have been going, ‘What’s going on with the offense?’” Holmgren said Monday morning during a session with local reporters.
“Well, you go into the game (as a coach) saying, ‘The team we’re playing won’t be able to score more than 14 points against me. All I’ve got to get is 15 points or whatever you say.’ And it’s true for the most part. They win most of those games.”
A few hours later, current coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson echoed Holmgren’s thoughts as they met the media in advance of Sunday’s NFC championship game against the 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s not about the stats and all that,” Carroll said. “That has nothing to do with what’s important as far as the game is concerned.”
Good thing, because recent statistical trends for Seattle’s offense have not been pretty.
The Seahawks beat New Orleans in a divisional playoff game Saturday, 23-15, gaining 297 yards. That was the fewest of any of the four winning teams last weekend. They passed for only 103 yards, fewest of any of the eight teams that played.
The numbers mirrored how Seattle played over the last month of the season. The Seahawks are averaging 265.8 yards overall in their past five games, and 144.2 passing.
Asked Monday about Wilson’s play, Carroll said “we could always do better” but noted, “I think he is doing great, doing what we need to do to win games.”
And with a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in the regular season, what Carroll values most offensively is limiting turnovers. One of his keys is “it’s all about the ball.”
“He’s done a great job of that,” Carroll said of Wilson, who threw just nine interceptions this season, three the past seven games. Against New Orleans, Seattle didn’t have a turnover.
That focus helped lead to what might have been the most frustrating aspect of Saturday’s game to fans – Seattle’s conservative offense throughout most of the second half, especially in the third quarter.
With Seattle holding a 16-0 lead, going into the wind and starting its first two possessions at its own 20 and own 6, the Seahawks were careful. Wilson threw just three passes, all incomplete, as Seattle punted on all three third-quarter possessions.
Seattle, though, still led 16-0 at the end of the quarter, also avoiding any major errors.
“We had the lead,” Wilson said. “We wanted to make sure that we got to the fourth quarter without taking any huge risks.”
After New Orleans cut the lead to 16-8, Seattle responded with its one major drive of the second half, keyed by a 24-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin on third-and-3, a play that came when the Saints brought a blitz.
“The ultimate goal is for us to win football games and to be explosive and to make the clutch play when we need to make the clutch play,” Wilson said.
Seattle did that against the Saints as Marshawn Lynch followed the Baldwin reception with a 31-yard touchdown run that all but sealed the win.
Lynch gained 140 yards, a Seattle playoff record, part of a 174-yard rushing day for the Seahawks that was their best since running for 211 against Arizona on Nov. 10.
Carroll later said the fact that Seattle won with defense, running and not turning the ball over is “exactly the way we would like to draw them up.”
Also a factor in the second-half lull Saturday was the absence of receiver Percy Harvin, who was on the field for 19 snaps in the first half, making three catches for 21 yards and also running once for 9 yards before leaving with a concussion.
Harvin’s status for this week is uncertain, but Wilson said his impact in the first half was unmistakable. Wilson was 7 of 9 in the first half for 68 yards and 2 of 9 in the second half for 35 yards.
“They were trying to find ways to stop him,” Wilson said. “They were struggling with that.”
If Harvin can’t play, it could put more of an onus on Lynch and the running game against a San Francisco defense ranked fourth in the NFL against the run at 95.9 yards per game.