By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — If the Seattle Seahawks can close out the regular season with a win against St. Louis, then Sunday’s loss will be rendered irrelevant when it comes to the standings.
Yet even if Seattle’s 17-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals doesn’t cost the Seahawks an NFC West title and the top seed in the NFC, one significant revelation did come out of this game regardless of how playoff seeding shakes out.
The Seahawks are not invincible at home.
CenturyLink Field is still as good of a home-field advantage as there is in the NFL. And should the Seahawks take care of business against the Rams next Sunday and secure home-field advantage, they’ll be in great shape to make a Super Bowl run. But watching Seattle’s 14-game home winning streak come to an end, it was clear that the Seahawks will need to do more than just show up to win at home in the postseason.
The Seahawks lost Sunday largely because their offense was uncharacteristically sloppy against a tough defense, and they lost to a hungry team with everything to play for. In other words, they lost to exactly the type of team that could be coming here for a playoff game. Teams like Carolina and San Francisco, which like the Cardinals, feature nasty front-sevens capable of making even the NFL’s best quarterbacks look bad.
“Everybody knows that if we handle our business, we’ll have home field throughout the playoffs, but that’s not going to stop people from coming in and trying to get a win,” said defensive end Red Bryant. “Today we got an example, if we’re fortunate enough to get home field, of the type of effort other teams are going to give. They played great. Today it’s about them. They did what they had to do in terms of getting a victory. I give them a lot of credit.”
Had the Seahawks been even mediocre on offense and taken advantage of the defense’s four interceptions, or had the defense not shot itself in the foot repeatedly with penalties, Seattle would likely have spent Sunday evening celebrating an NFC West title. It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks playing any worse than this at home, but then again, you’d have never been able to predict this type of game at home heading into the weekend. So if anyone needed a reminder that the postseason, even going through Seattle, isn’t just a coronation, this loss provided it.
“It’s obviously frustrating to lose any game, but we’ll pull a positive out of this and realize that we’re not invincible at home, and we need to get back to that attention to detail on certain things,” said receiver Doug Baldwin. “We’ll get better for it.”
And even if this game is an eye-opener for the Seahawks in good way, as Baldwin suggests, it could also serve as an eye-opener for whatever teams end up coming here for the playoffs. Again, assuming the Seahawks even get those games at home, which is no longer a given. Let’s say Carolina or San Francisco or even Arizona, which still has work to do to make the playoffs, ends up coming to Seattle next month with their season on the line. You’d have to think they would do so just a little more confident — or a lot more in the case of the Cardinals — knowing that the unbeatable-at-home Seahawks aren’t so unbeatable at home after all.
No team was ever going to come to Seattle thinking it didn’t have a chance, but teams did come to CenturyLink Field feeling like they were fighting an uphill battle.
“It’s tough to get any win anywhere in this league, but especially up here,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know what their record is. … That just goes to show you how tough it is to play up here.”
Who knows, now a playoff team just might come to town a tiny bit more confident after watching the Cardinals do something no NFL team has done since the end of the 2011 season.
“We knew what we were getting ourselves into,” said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. “We were going on the road against a team that hasn’t lost at home in two years. We looked at the Saints game and how they dominated the Saints, we saw how they beat San Fran.”
The Cardinals saw those results, they remembered the 58-0 beat-down they received in the same building a year ago, and yet they found a way to prevail in exactly the ugly, low-scoring game that other playoff teams might look to replicate here.
“It was a slugfest today,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said, “and they won out.”
And look, if the Seahawks can clinch home-field with a win next week, they’ll still be the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC, and with good reason. They’re the deepest, most balanced team in the conference, and they’d need only two wins at home after a bye to book their ticket to New Jersey.
It’s a good bet that the Seahawks will win next week, then take care of business in the playoffs. Sunday’s loss, however, reminded us that it’s no sure thing.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.