Will the Seahawks' travel well?
Seattle is confident that its early season road woes are far behind.
That's a nice accomplishment, to be sure. It's also one that won't help them a lick now that the playoffs are here.
Starting with Sunday's game at Washington, the Seahawks begin postseason play knowing they only will go as far as their road success carries them. Unless an unlikely scenario plays out and Seattle, the NFC's No. 5 seed, faces sixth-seeded Minnesota in the NFC Championship game, the Seahawks won't play at CenturyLink Field again until next season.
And while plenty of teams in recent history have had playoff success on the road, including the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, there is reason for Seahawks fans to wonder if their team, no matter how good it has looked of late, can do the same.
This is, after all, a franchise that hasn't won a road playoff game since its first road postseason game, and that was in 1983. To get an idea of how long ago that was, consider that just nine of the 53 players currently on Seattle's roster were alive when that game in Miami was played. Since then, the Seahawks are 0-8 in postseason road contests, the second-longest playoff road losing streak behind Detroit, which has lost nine in a row.
Of course, history doesn't mean much to the current teams involved. Just as the Seahawks players don't care much about what previous Seattle teams did or didn't accomplish, the Redskins don't pay much attention to the fact that Washington hasn't won a home playoff game since 1999.
What is relevant is how the Seahawks have played on the road this season. In that regard, there is a lot more reason for optimism now than there was just more than a month ago.
When the Seahawks went to Chicago to face a team that was 8-3 at the time, Seattle had lost five of its six road games, all in down-to-the-wire fashion. The offense had failed to complete potential winning drives in some games,and the defense had surrendered leads in others. While the Seahawks were far from a road disaster, the all-too-common question that has been asked of so many other Seahawks teams was being asked about this one -- why can't the Seahawks win on the road?
In that Dec. 2 game in Chicago, however, the Seahawks did a lot to put that question to rest. Trailing late in the game, the same offense that had failed to finish off drives in Arizona and St. Louis marched 97 yards in the final minutes for the go-ahead score. After the defense failed to protect that lead, Russell Wilson led the offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime.
"If you look back at the whole, entire season, we lost a lot of close games on the road, and all of those games came down to the last drive," Wilson said. "It wasn't like we got blown out or anything like that. It was just the little thing here and there. ... So to be able to figure out how to fix those things -- when you're playing, when you're watching film, and when you're in the moment -- can you fix those things the next time around? I think that's what we did.
"The biggest game we played on the road was Chicago. Going there in (front of) a hostile crowd and an unbelievable setting, and to go 97 yards and (80) yards, that was huge. To be able to do that in the type of circumstances that we were in was pretty awesome. That really pushed our offense forward."
Even Pete Carroll, who does everything he can to keep any one game from being bigger than another, can admit after the fact that his team needed that result.
"I think it was really, really important for us mentally," Carroll said. "Going to Chicago was a big deal. That was a terrific football team playing for first place at the time with (all) their guys for the most part. That was a big-time win for us. They have all been meaningful for us, but this season and the way it went, we needed a win on the road like that."
That win in Chicago helped spark a 5-0 finish, which included three consecutive blowouts, and another road victory over Buffalo in Toronto. Heading into what they hope is the first of three road playoff games -- again, assuming Minnesota doesn't win two playoff games as well -- the Seahawks are confident that their game now travels well.
"We had trouble on the road early in season, but lately we've been playing great ball, home or away," safety Earl Thomas said. "We're very excited about this championship opportunity. It's a big stage. We're blessed to make the playoffs and we're going to make the most of it."
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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