Perhaps Pete Carroll and the rest of the Seattle Seahawks were correct when they said their loss in Week 16 was a one-time aberration on their way to the playoffs.
The Seahawks’ resounding 36-6 rout of Arizona to close out the regular season on Sunday backed what Carroll and his team had been saying all week in the lead-up to the finale: that they could recapture what had led them from a 4-5 mark to a fourth straight postseason berth.
And as they get ready to face Minnesota in the NFC wild-card game on Sunday, the Seahawks are also getting a familiar face back for the first time in nearly two months: Marshawn Lynch.
“This was about momentum,” Carroll said. “You guys ask about it. Do you need it? You want it if you can get it. We feel good about where we’re going. It was just fun to finish football playing like that.”
Seattle closed the season with six wins in seven games, and the blowout of the Cardinals answered all the questions that were raised when the Seahawks stumbled in a home loss against St. Louis a week prior.
Making Seattle’s performance even more impressive was the number of key contributors that were spectators. Starting offensive linemen Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy, starting tight end Luke Willson and standout strong safety Kam Chancellor all missed the game with injuries.
And yet, the Seahawks built a 30-6 halftime lead and were able to pull most of their starters for the fourth quarter.
“We’re pleased we were able to do that again, knowing what was coming up and we’d have to do this in the playoffs,” Carroll said.
Just in time for the postseason, the Seahawks will add Lynch back to an offense that averaged 32 points and 413 total yards per game over the final seven weeks of the regular season, including a 38-7 blowout at Minnesota in early December. Normally adding Lynch to the offense would be an instant boost but Seattle is still unsure exactly what it will be able to get from the bruising back.
Lynch has not played since Week 9 against Arizona because of an abdominal injury that required surgery on Nov. 25. He was rehabbing with his personal trainer in the Bay Area before rejoining the Seahawks on Monday. Lynch has played in just seven games this season and his 3.8 yards per carry is the second-lowest average of his career.
But that was before Seattle’s offense took off, ignited by the passing of Russell Wilson that complemented the running of Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael and Bryce Brown, all of whom have taken turns filling in with Lynch sidelined.
Seattle has an idea of what it’s getting with Lynch healthy and back in the lineup. Carroll on Monday equated Lynch returning at this point to the start of the regular season after Lynch has gotten very little playing time in the preseason. But they won’t know for sure until Lynch is out on the field practicing on Wednesday for the first time since early November.
Carroll believed the signs would be obvious in that first practice whether Lynch is back to his standard.
“We’ve been around him for such a long time we’re going to be able to recognize his movement. That’s all we want to see — him getting in and out of breaks. Things he always can do and that he can withstand the workload and all of that,” Carroll said. “It isn’t a rigorous time of practice schedule and we do build up throughout the week. The running backs do run at full speed. We’ll get to see him move and if we need to do anything extra we will.”
Lynch has carried the ball just 111 times this season and more than 21 times in a game only once. Carroll didn’t believe there would be an endurance issue if Lynch carried 20 or more times in the playoffs, but also said he’s been impressed with what Michael has done of late. Michael rushed for a career-high 102 yards against Arizona.
“We’re in good shape in that position now if (Lynch) is able to make it through the week,” Carroll said.
NOTES: Carroll didn’t have an update on CB Jeremy Lane, who left Sunday’s game with an oblique injury. “There’s a chance he’ll be OK,” he said. … Carroll said Sweezy, Willson, Okung and Chancellor all have a chance to make it back to play Minnesota. … Carroll on Seattle having a 10 a.m. Pacific time kickoff for potentially the first two weeks of the playoffs, “This is not a big deal for us. You do have to get waked up. That does have to happen. … I do realize I said waked up.”