Rookie QB Russell Wilson has Seahawks flying high
As the Seahawks flew back from Toronto late Sunday night, nearly every person on Seattle's charter was glued to what was happening in New England – watching to see if the Seahawks could be playing for the NFC West division lead this weekend.
San Francisco didn't play along, beating the Patriots in an epic showdown to keep a 1½-game lead in the division.
So while the division lead won't be at stake when the 49ers visit on Sunday for yet another prime time showdown, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday his team will have no problem getting focused especially knowing that a victory will put the Seahawks into the postseason for the second time in three years.
The Seahawks (9-5) need one win in their final two games to at least wrap up a wild-card berth.
A win over San Francisco would keep alive Seattle's slim hopes of the division title.
''It's a big division finish for us and we'll see how it goes,'' Carroll said, noting the Seahawks close at home with NFC West foes San Francisco and St. Louis.
''All we can do is focus on this game right here. We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team and coming home and all that it will be exciting to get ready.''
The Seahawks are coming off their 50-17 rout of Buffalo on Sunday that followed a 58-0 win over Arizona, making Seattle the first team NFL since 1950 to score 50 or more points in consecutive weeks.
It's a rarified spot in the record books for a franchise that scored at least 50 just twice in their first 36-plus seasons and now have matched that total the past two weeks.
In Carroll's first two seasons, the Seahawks biggest scoring outburst came in the 2010 playoffs when they beat New Orleans 41-36.
''We're surprised at the scores the last couple of weeks, but we're really thrilled about it and we're going to see if we can keep going and keep growing and keep pushing it and see how far we can take it,'' Carroll said.
While the scores the past two weeks have appeared to be somewhat an anomaly, the Seahawks were trending upward in scoring even before the two blowouts.
Surging Seahawks really putting up the points
Over the past eight weeks, the Seahawks are the second-highest scoring team in the NFL at 33.4 points per game, trailing only New England.
The past two weeks have substantially altered the curve, but even before the blowouts of Arizona and Buffalo, the Seahawks had scored at least 20 points in each game going back to Week 8 against Detroit. That stretch of seven straight games with at least 20 points is the longest since 2007, which is the last time the Seahawks had a 10-win season.
It was back in Week 8 – after losing 13-6 in a lackluster offensive effort at San Francisco – that Seattle started to tweak its offensive plans and give rookie quarterback Russell Wilson more freedom.
The zone-read was added to the run game, allowing Wilson the ability to keep and use his athleticism or handoff to Marshawn Lynch. That little wrinkle has paid off especially the past three weeks.
Wilson ran for 71 yards in Seattle's overtime win at Chicago three weeks ago – then a Seattle team record – then rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's win over Buffalo.
At the same time, the holes have become larger for Lynch because the defense must now respect Wilson as a runner. In his past two games, Lynch has just 21 carries, but he rushed for 241 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 11.5 yards per carry.
Through the first 11 games, Lynch had 19 runs of 10 or more yards. In the past three games, he has 14. Wilson has vaulted up to third in the league in yards rushing among quarterbacks with a franchise single-season record 402 yards.
''It all fits together. The problems that are presented with the quarterback runs make for some opportunities,'' Carroll said. ''... What's really exciting is what we're doing up front too with the blocking and figuring out the schemes and reading well and taking advantage of the looks.''
While the offense is rolling along, there remain some injury concerns defensively. Seattle played Sunday without cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant and Carroll said he's unsure of their status for this week.
Both have hamstring injuries and Thurmond was stepping in to replace suspended starter Brandon Browner.
Sidney Rice played against the Bills, but continues to be slowed by foot and toe injuries that Carroll said could be something he has to deal with the rest of the season. Carroll did get encouraging news that defensive tackle Alan Branch's ankle injury wasn't as severe as first believed. Branch will likely be held out of practice until Friday.
Seattle salivating on success of rookie quarterback
Seahawks tight end Zach Miller breaks into a big chuckle when reminded about how many NFL teams passed up on drafting Wilson.
''Yeah,'' Miller said. ''Good for us.''
Make room, RGIII and Andrew Luck. Wilson, the third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, is making a case to be included in the rookie of the year conversation.
And he's bringing the Seahawks along with them on a remarkable ride as part of a late-season playoff surge in which they've won five of six.
Wilson had a near-perfect first half in which he ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in leading the Seahawks to their latest blowout victory in Buffalo's annual game in Toronto on Sunday.
Wilson’s wild ride helped the Seahawks became the NFL's third team to score 50 points in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, who both did it in 1950. And Seattle's 108 combined points matched the third-best total, which had been set by the New England Patriots only last month.
''I'm blessed to be a Seahawk. This is the team that I wanted to come to,'' said Wilson, the Wisconsin product who had to wait until the 75th pick in the draft to be selected. ''So it's a pretty great situation for me.''
Wilson directed five straight scoring drives in helping the Seahawks build a 31-7 lead. And then the defense took over by forcing three consecutive turnovers to start the second half, including safety Earl Thomas scoring on 57-yard interception return.
It wasn't lost on the struggling Bills that they passed up three chances to draft Wilson in April. Coach Chan Gailey acknowledged he had shown interest in Wilson, but was concerned that, at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, he might be too small to succeed at the NFL level. Turns out that hasn't been a problem.
Wilson's 4-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller was his 21st of the season. That ties Cam Newton (2011) for the second-most by an NFL rookie, and is five behind the record set by Peyton Manning in 1998.
Carroll is so impressed by how quickly Wilson's grasped the offense, that he's giving the quarterback a freer rein.
''I'm just thrilled that he's been able to continue to grow,'' Carroll said. ''For a time, we were just trying to get the offense going and not screw it up and make sure he could keep growing. Well, we're past that now.''