It wasn’t as good of a day as it could have been for the Seahawks on Sunday despite a 23-6 win over the New York Jets at Lumen Field that was as complete and dominant a performance as Seattle has turned in all season.
That perennial thorn-in-the-side Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers made sure of that, beating Minnesota with surprising ease to become the only team of three who remain alive for the final spot in the NFC playoffs that doesn’t need help getting to the postseason.
And that means that even if the Seahawks beat the Rams next week at Lumen Field (the game date and time had not been announced as of Sunday evening), they need Detroit to go into Lambeau Field and knock off Green Bay to get to the playoffs. — something Detroit has done only three times in 22 games since 2000.
All three teams are 8-8, and technically Seattle is the current No. 7 seed due to the way three-team tiebreakers work. But because Green Bay and Detroit play next week, there won’t be a three-team tie. Seattle wins a tiebreaker at 9-8 with Detroit because of a win over the Lions in October. Seattle loses a tiebreaker at 9-8 with Green Bay since the Packers have a better conference record, with the two teams not having played each other this year.
In part because of what are perceived to be the odds of Green Bay beating Detroit — the Packers were installed as an early 4.5-point favorite Sunday night — Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs were listed by FiveThirtyEight.com at 21% after Sunday, down from 27% entering the day. And that despite Seattle getting one lucky result when Washington lost to Cleveland and was eliminated.
So, that the Seahawks need some help took a little bit of the shine off Sunday’s win.
“I hate it,” said veteran defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson. “I hate it. But again, we’ve just got to control what we control and that’s going out there and beating LA. If we go out there and lose, it’s all for nothing.”
And the Seahawks could at least feel good about having controlled what they could control Sunday in thoroughly dismantling a Jets team that somehow was as much as a 2.5-point favorite.
Rookie Kenneth Walker III took a simple handoff on the first play of the game and turned it into a 60-yard gain that set the tone for a dominant running game that churned out 198 yards — the most allowed by the Jets this year and the third -best total for Seattle.
That run led to a Geno Smith touchdown pass two plays later and the first points Seattle had scored in the first quarter — and the first time it had even held a lead — since Dec. 4 wins against the Rams in Los Angeles.
“That was exactly what we needed, just a spark early on to get us started,” Smith said. “We talked about starting fast, and no one is faster than Ken with the ball in his hands, and so we started fast and got things going early.”
The Seahawks then ended the Jets’ first series with a Quandre Diggs interception — the first time since that same Dec. 4 Rams game that Seattle had forced a turnover, setting a tone for a day when Seattle won the turnover battle 3-0, and the first time all season the Seahawks did not lose at least one turnover.
And after a little bit of leakiness early against the run, the defense settled down and allowed just 27 rushing yards and 4.2 per play — the third-fewest yards (279 total) and second-lowest yards per play allowed all year. And for the first time all year, Seattle did not allow a touchdown.
“We played a complete football game,” Smith said. “We played balanced football, passing, running the ball, playing defense well. Special teams playing well. That’s our formula. That’s what coach (Pete) Carroll talks about, you know, just complete team ball. I think that’s what we got back to today, and we’ve just got to carry that on moving forward.”
The game pretty much felt over after Smith threw his second TD just 45 seconds into the second quarter on a 7-yard pass to Tyler Mabry to make it 17-3.
The Jets, who lost their fifth in a row to be eliminated from the postseason, never got closer than the Seattle 29 the rest of the game, which ended on a sack of quarterback Mike White by Darrell Taylor — one of his 2.5 on the day .
“It was great to get out ahead, play with a lead,” said Carroll. “It was fun to be in that position and the guys held on great.”
Diggs said he made it a point to tell his teammates at halftime that they needed not to let a lead get away, as they did a few times earlier this year, specifically in home losses to Atlanta and the Raiders that loom particularly critical now.
“At halftime, I just wanted guys to keep their feet on their necks,” Diggs said. “‘Don’t give up, don’t let up.’ We’ve had points where we held teams down, and held them down, and held them down, and then we gave up some cheap touchdowns. I didn’t want that to happen today.”
That it didn’t they could feel good about, with the locker room booming with music afterward for the first time at home since beating the Giants on Oct. 30.
They were left to lament the games that got away — they’d lost their last three in a row at home and five of six overall before Sunday — that have left them in the precarious position of needing a Green Bay team that has the best home record in the NFL since 2010, has won four in a row and has Rodgers at QB to lose or tie to get to the postseason.
“Yeah, it’s not what we want,” Smith said. “Earlier in the season or midway through the season, we were right in a position to really control our own destiny, and obviously we hit a rough patch. It’s not what we want, but we’ve still got a shot. So what we can control is winning next week, another tough opponent, but all we can do is control what we can control and look at the situation at hand. Right now we’ve just got one game to see what we can do.”