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Seahawks have playoff destiny in their control after 2nd straight dramatic victory

Seattle just needs to win last two games to make playoffs

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: December 26, 2023, 5:04pm

RENTON — With two weeks left in the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks are in control of their postseason fate.

In some ways, that seems unthinkable. Seattle was in a tailspin just a month ago, losing four straight games for the first time under Pete Carroll. It’s been a circuitous route getting to this point.

But it’s simple for Seattle thanks to two straight 20-17 wins, the second one coming on Sunday at Tennessee. If the Seahawks (8-7) win their final two games, beginning this Sunday at home against Pittsburgh, they will make the playoffs for the 11th time in Carroll’s tenure.

A postseason berth would be an accomplishment. But at this point, is just getting into the playoffs satisfying enough, especially for a team that has only rarely looked like it’s good enough to possibly win a game or two in the postseason?

“We’ll find out what happens if we’re fortunate enough to make to the playoffs how we play against whomever we play and we’ll see what the heck happens,” Carroll said during his radio show on Tuesday.

If there is reason to believe Seattle could make playoff noise, it’s what the team has shown in the fourth quarter the past two weeks. Led by different quarterbacks — Drew Lock vs. Philadelphia and Geno Smith at Tennessee — the Seahawks put together game-winning drives in the final minutes.

Smith was exceptional in the fourth quarter against the Titans, going 10 of 13 for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.

“I love being around these guys. I feel like I never want this stuff to end,” Smith said. “I know that we understand what’s at stake, but we also know that we have to go and handle our business.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Carroll praised the work of Seattle’s offensive line in the closing minutes to keep Smith clean and allow him to lead the Seahawks down the field. Smith dropped back 15 times in the fourth quarter and only once was there a breakdown that led to a sack. It was far from a perfect performance by the line, but the second half was a strong statement as the Seahawks scored on all three drives.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Seattle started the season with a focus on being better defensively at stopping the run. And for the first five games, the Seahawks were on track to achieve that goal.

But the rush defense has regressed over the last 10 games. Tennessee rushed for 162 yards on Sunday, the eighth team in that span to top 125 yards rushing against Seattle. Teams are averaging 153.0 yards per game and 5 yards per attempt in those 10 games.

To their credit, the Seahawks have allowed only one team to throw for 300 yards during that stretch.

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STOCK UP

It’s been a difficult second year for cornerback Riq Woolen, who starred as a rookie. Woolen’s season hit a low point in Week 15 against Philadelphia when he was benched and played just 19 defensive snaps. But Woolen was back on the field for every play against the Titans and had a solid performance, including the tackle on the final play of the game.

STOCK DOWN

Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron again had a game plan that was confusing at times. He still appears to lack commitment to the run: Seattle had just eight rushing plays in the first half and 20 for the game. There were also issues with certain position groups in key moments and a series of questionable play calls early in the second half inside the Tennessee 10 when Seattle had to settle for a field goal.

INJURIES

Seattle’s biggest concern is linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who re-injured his ankle. Brooks was initially hurt in Week 14 against San Francisco and aggravated the injury against the Titans. On his radio show, Carroll sounded pessimistic about Brooks’ availability against the Steelers. Carroll sounded more optimistic about the prospect of CB Devon Witherspoon (hip) returning this week.

KEY NUMBER

45 — The Seahawks had six sacks against the Titans, giving them 45 for the season. That’s the most in the NFC and tied for sixth-most in the league.

NEXT STEPS

For the second straight year, the Seahawks home finale will have massive playoff implications. Last season, the Seahawks beat the Rams in overtime in Week 18 at home and then got help from Detroit to get into the postseason. It’s highly unlikely Seattle can clinch a playoff spot beating Pittsburgh, but a win would be a massive step toward another postseason berth.

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