After years and years of struggling away from home, this Seattle Seahawks team was eager to prove it could win on the road. With a 23-0 destruction of the New York Giants in MetLife Stadium Sunday, they might not have to until the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks improved to a franchise record 6-2 on the road, including 4-1 in 10:00 a.m. games with the shutout victory. All Seattle needs to do now is win one of its remaining two home games to ensure the road to the Super Bowl runs through CenturyLink Field. At this point, it looks like that would mean either the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints would be making another visit to Seattle in the playoffs, and both of those teams were blown out at CenturyLink earlier this season.
It was a dominant victory in all three phases of game for the Seahawks. As much as Pete Carroll and company won’t admit it, the 49ers punched the Seahawks in the mouth the week before. But Seattle responded to the loss in tremendous fashion.
Most impressive was the performance of the Seahawks defense. The Giants had 54 yards at halftime and 181 for the entire game. Seattle simply physically dominated the New York offense at nearly every position on the field.
That manhandling started up front in the trenches. The Seahawks got good push against a Giants’ offensive line that has been ineffective and thinned out by injury, sacking Eli Manning four times. One and a half of those came from Bobby Wagner, who has played well all year but gotten even better over the past month. Things weren’t any better for the Giants on the ground, as Andre Brown had absolutely nowhere to run all day long, finishing with 1.4 yards per carry.
The Seahawks secondary was also a physical presence. On the first of Manning’s five interceptions, Byron Maxwell just outfought Victor Cruz for the ball. Maxwell, a backup who is starting due to an injury to Brandon Browner and a suspension to Walter Thurmond, may be even better than who he replaced, with three interceptions in the past two games. Richard Sherman had another two interceptions and shut down Hakeem Nicks, who had just one catch and four targets.
Seattle’s offense didn’t put up flashy numbers by any means, but did more than enough to win. The Seahawks controlled the game with a big lead by running the ball 34 times to 29 passes. Apart from a very bad interception near the end of the third quarter, this game highlighted the things that make Russell Wilson so good. He was accurate, elusive and displayed great vision down the field. One highlight reel play came when Wilson stiff-armed Justin Tuck before a big gain on and a scramble, and another when he evaded multiple defenders to somehow find Marshawn Lynch wide open in the flat on the other side of the field.
Not enough credit has been given to the Seahawks’ special teams, which Football Outsiders had rated fifth as of Week 14. Steven Hauschka has been great all year, and the Seahawks have only allowed 19 punt return yards all year, which could break an NFL record that was set all the way back in 1967. It seems like a small thing, but could make a difference in a close playoff game.
This wasn’t necessarily an unexpected result, but it shows that the Seahawks are still playing good football right now despite the loss last week. Around the middle of the season, Seattle struggled against teams with worse records like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. This game against the Giants was never in question.
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun / Associated Press
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