By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — You saw them with your own eyes.
Looking back on Wild Card Weekend, it would be hard for anyone to downplay what the Seattle Seahawks are now capable of heading forward. They answered a lot of questions and pretty much defended their well-deserved reputation as the team that nobody wants to face.
Initially, the naysayers attempted to shoot holes in the Seahawks’ facade by claiming they weren’t a very good road team. They did, after all, go 3-5 away from CenturyLink Field during the regular season, and because they failed to pass San Francisco in the NFC West it was largely believed asking them to win three games to get to the Super Bowl, though possible and with past league precedent, was probably too much to ask for.
Do you still think so?
For the record, the Seahawks have now won their last three road games, the most impressive and satisfying being Sunday’s first-round playoff win in Washington. While it appeared this team was all hype early, the Seahawks showed why games are 60 minutes long, as they rebounded from an absolutely brutal first quarter to dominate the Redskins in a 24-14 victory that, let’s be honest, could have been a lot more one-sided had Seattle not gone an uncharacteristic 1-for-6 in the red zone.
And while I understand that Robert Griffin III was playing on one leg, he doesn’t play defense. The Seahawks came into the game with the NFL’s 4th-rated defense, and they eventually showed why, allowing just 74 yards total over the final three quarters, but they ultimately moved on to next weekend’s divisional-round matchup in Atlanta because of a highly efficient offense that put the boots to the Redskins with a balanced display of smash-mouth running and short-range passing.
Washington simply didn’t have an answer for anything Seattle did, and it’s a credit to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and line coach Tom Cable. They made the necessary adjustments following a shaky start that saw the Seahawks fall behind 14-0, their largest deficit of the season. The Redskins got into the playoffs the week before by blitzing the heck out of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, and early on Sunday they executed the same approach against rookie Russell Wilson, but as the game went on Seattle did a better job of picking up the blitz and the offensive line got serious about opening holes for running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch, who ran for nearly 1,600 yards during the regular season, eventually finished with 132 and overcame what could have been a disastrous fumble at the Redskins’ 2 on the opening drive of the third quarter, a play that seemed to take away all the momentum the Seahawks had put together in cutting their deficit to just 1 point heading into the half.
Lynch eventually made up for his fumble with a 27-yard scoring run midway through the fourth, a scamper aided by a nice block from Wilson leading the train down the right sideline. Wilson then hit Zach Miller on the 2-point conversion and the Seahawks’ 21-14 lead felt a lot bigger because RGIII was hurting and would ultimately leave the game on the next series after his damaged knee buckled on a bad shotgun snap and Seattle recovered inside the Washington 10.
A lot of people will spend the early part of this week eviscerating Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan for keeping an obviously one-legged Griffin in the game, but that should not take away from what the Seahawks accomplished Sunday. In a lot of ways they mirror the 2011 champion Giants. The Seahawks run the football with reckless abandon, have a defense that will smack you upside the head and they get incredibly smart play from their quarterback, which is stunning considering just how old and small Wilson is.
And speaking of Wilson, is there still any doubt he’s every bit as good as Griffin and Indianapolis wunderkind Andrew Luck? While it’s true Wilson didn’t exactly light the Washington secondary up on Sunday — he was 15-of-26 for 187 yards and a TD — he did demolish the Redskins with his feet, running for 67 yards on eight carries, and, as is his custom, did not turn the ball over.
The Seattle running game finished with 224 yards on 37 carries, on a basically spray-painted and crumbling grass field in a raucous city that had not seen playoff football at home since 1999.
Some will argue the Seahawks were simply the better team coming in, and they’d be right, but you still have to win on the road in the playoffs, something easier said than done. Seattle was the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend. The Colts were America’s new darlings, but they couldn’t get it done in Baltimore earlier in the day. The Vikings featured 2,000-yard back Adrian Peterson and had just beaten the Packers the week before, but they looked inept with backup QB Joe Webb calling the shots in Green Bay on Saturday night. Many believed the Bengals were playing better than the Texans heading into their game to kick off the postseason, but Cincinnati never really threatened in Houston.
Only the Seahawks rose above the adversity.
And now they are headed to Atlanta to face the top-seeded Falcons.
While I’m not going to predict a Seahawks victory, mostly because Seattle did lose its top pass rusher, Chris Clemons, to a knee injury Sunday and you just never know how Atlanta will respond in front of 90,000 screaming maniacs, I will say this: This matchup may mark one of those rare occasions when the week off may not benefit the higher seed. Seattle is more battle tested, having fought tooth and nail down the stretch in the NFC West, while Atlanta had pretty much known for weeks it would be getting a bye. In addition, the Seahawks play more than half their games on a fast track, which is what the Georgia Dome offers.
As for matchups, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers combined probably don’t equal Alfred Morris, and after the first quarter on Sunday, Morris was pretty much shut down. The Seahawks’ secondary is not going to be intimidated by Roddy White, Julio Jones and future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, along with Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor, are downright nasty physically. If the Seahawks can put pressure on Matt Ryan, that is in the absence of Clemons, and slow the Falcons’ average at best running game, they should be able to limit what Atlanta does, at least enough for the dynamic Wilson, bruising Lynch and the unheralded corps of Seattle receivers to put up enough points to win.
Lastly, the Seahawks believe they are invincible. They don’t worry about where they play or who their opponent is. They just go out and execute. They are scary in this regard. They make adjustments on both sides of the ball. They are balanced offensively. They are fast and extremely violent defensively.
They just may be on a mission.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet.
Which teams are your picks to get to the Super Bowl? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …