By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
RENTON — Fifteen games later, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is wondering how he arrived at this point in the season so fast.
“Hard to imagine that we find ourselves in the last week of the regular season,” Carroll said.
It is, and a modicum of pressure has joined the Seahawks in Week 17.
The Seahawks have lost two of their last three games, losing a small but late lead in each game.
Today, Seattle closes its regular season against a St. Louis Rams defense that restricted the Seahawks to seven first downs in a narrow Week 8 Seattle win in St. Louis.
Handling the Rams — notably their defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long — is part of the equation today. Another issue is what happens around the league.
Depending on the outcome of Seattle’s game and the result of others around the league, the Seahawks could have a bye next week or be on a flight to Chicago, Dallas or Green Bay.
A Seahawks win today would clinch the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
A loss or tie in Arizona by the San Francisco 49ers would also make the Seahawks the division winners and top seed, even if Seattle loses to the Rams.
If the Seahawks end up tied with the Carolina Panthers at 12-4, Seattle would still be the No. 1 seed because of its opening week 12-7 win over the Panthers.
If Seattle loses and the 49ers win, the Seahawks drop to the No. 5 seed, making them a wild-card team that would have to travel to play a division winner.
Because of how the NFL playoff system is set up, it’s likely two NFC teams with at least 11 wins will have to open on the road during wild card weekend.
“You don’t worry about the crazy circumstances; you just go out there and play,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Seattle struggled during its first game against the Rams.
The Seahawks had one rushing first down. Marshawn Lynch carried a season-low eight times for a season-low 23 yards.
Quinn and Long combined for six sacks. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked seven times. St. Louis rookie running back Zac Stacy ran for a career-high 134 yards, despite an injured ankle.
The Rams had moved from their own 3-yard line with 5:42 to play in the game to the Seahawks’ 6-yard line for first-and-goal with 1:08 remaining.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas stopped backup running back Daryl Richardson on he 2-yard line. Quarterback Kellen Clemens threw an incomplete pass, but Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons was offsides on the play.
Linebacker Heath Farwell stuffed Richardson to bring up fourth down.
With four seconds remaining, the Rams snapped the ball. After Clemens threw another incomplete pass, the Seahawks ran onto the field to celebrate.
“I liked (defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn’s confidence in calling the call he made during that situation,” Sherman said. “An all-out blitz, zero coverage. It takes some kahunas to make a call like that.”
Coverage calls are less of a concern of late. More at issue is the Seattle offense. Wilson had his poorest outing of the season last week in a loss to the Cardinals.
The Seahawks have also struggled on third down, going 5-for-26 the past two weeks.
“I’ll take the blame for it and I’m excited about that,” Wilson said.
Seattle clinched a playoff spot weeks ago and the Seahawks need a win today to achieve their preseason goals — to win the division and claim home-field advantage.
No matter how fast the last week seems to have arrived, time’s up. Today decides what is next.