The start the week with a look back at the last game, specifically looking back to the preview of Sunday’s playoff game at Washington. Hard to tell which is more instructive, who held the advantage in the areas that were considered crucial heading into the game or those areas that turned out to be much ado over nothing.
Keys to a Seahawks victory
1. Stop Washington’s ground game.
Scouting report: Washington ranked first in the league in rushing yards during the regular season, a potential problem given Seattle’s defensive performance over the final two-thirds of the season. Seattle went from allowing 70 rushing yards per game over the first six games of the season to 122.9 over the last 10.
Result: Seahawks’ played a game that was the exact opposite of their season-long trend, struggling to stop Washington at any point in the beginning and then stonewalling them at the end. Washington rushed for 61 yards in the first quarter and 43 yards over the final three periods combined.
2. Apply some pass pressure, stat!
Scouting report: Seattle totaled eight sacks over its final six games of the regular season, a dip from the first 10 games of the season when the Seahawks averaged 2.8 sacks per game.
Result: Not only did the Seahawks finish with just two sacks, but Chris Clemons — the team’s top pass rusher – suffered what is a potentially serious knee injury in the second half of Sunday’s game. The Seahawks have a total of three sacks in the last 12 quarters they’ve played, a very troubling trend for the team going forward.
3. Don’t be afraid to let it fly.
Scouting report: Washington allowed 31 touchdown passes during the regular season, tied for second most in the league. That pass defense did get better over the course of the season, though, as the team went from allowing 314.3 yards through the air in the first eight games to 249.6 over the final eight.
Result: The Seahawks didn’t really test Washington downfield at all. Tight end Zach Miller led Seattle with four catches – matching his second-most in any game as a Seahawk – and the Seahawks’ longest pass of the day was a 33-yard completion to Doug Baldwin, who gained most of those yards after the catch. The Seahawks’ 156 yards passing was the fewest for any playoff team that won this weekend.
Keys to Washington victory
1. Force a turnover or three.
Scouting report: Seattle was stingy over the second half of the season, committing just five turnovers over the final eight games of the season. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are 17-4 when they force more turnovers than they commit in all games including the playoffs and 3-14 when they have a negative turnover differential.
Result: Marshawn Lynch’s fumble near the goal line was Seattle’s only turnover in the game, Seattle improving to 18-4 under Carroll in games where they force more turnovers than they commit.
2. Be conscious of Russell Wilson’s wheels.
Scouting report: It’s no secret that Seattle’s rookie quarterback has become a bigger part of the Seahawks’ rushing offense, but that hasn’t made opponents any more capable of stopping him. Wilson averaged 45.1 yards rushing over the final eight games of the season.
Result: Wilson gained 67 yards on eight carries, but that total is a little deceiving. The majority of those yards came on a 38-yard scramble off what was a pass play. Wilson still ran effectively, and had several important first downs, but Washington did get some hits on him, too.
3. Don’t fall behind early.
Scouting report: Seattle scored first in 13 of its 16 regular-season games, and if the Seahawks get out to a lead, it’s only going to accentuate the pressure on Robert Griffin III, who’s unlikely to be at 100 percent.
Result: Jumping out to an early lead wasn’t enough to help Washington, either. After Griffin reaggravated the injury to his right knee at the end of the first quarter, Washington’s offense was dead in the water as Seattle ate up Washington’s 14-point cushion a bite at a time.