To make postseason, Seahawks must become road warriors

Coming back from their bye week, the Seattle Seahawks aren’t just looking for a victory in Miami, they’re looking for a solution.

The Seahawks have big goals this season, and at 6-4 good things are still possible — but only if they figure out how to start winning games away from the comforts of home.

The Seahawks are a perfect 5-0 at CenturyLink Field this season, but have just one road victory. With three of their final six games not just away from home, but a long ways away, the Seahawks need to figure out how to win a game or two in hostile environs and different time zones if they want to be a playoff team.

Even if the Seahawks can close out the season unbeaten in Seattle, which is far from a lock with all three NFC West teams coming to town, that likely won’t be enough to carry the Seahawks into the postseason. Pete Carroll knows this, and his players do as well. That’s why, coming off of their bye, the Seahawks know they need to get a road victory this weekend.

“If we’re going to turn our fortunes for the season, we’re going to have to play better on the road,” Carroll said. “We’re still paying for it from the first half of the season. I’m hoping that the focus that we can bring to this game and the week to follow really will be different and we’ll be more effective and find our way to win. I led with that message to the team.”

Finding the answer to Seattle’s road woes isn’t easy — if it was, the Seahawks would have done something about it by now — but Carroll and his players agree that they aren’t far off. It’s easy to look at quarterback Russell Wilson’s numbers and say that is the difference — he has 11 touchdowns and no interceptions at home, and four TDs and eight interceptions on the road. The road struggles, however, go deeper than that. The offense as a whole has not been a crisp on the road, and defense and special teams, while solid, have not come up with as many big plays away from home.

“If you just look at Russell, I think you’re making a mistake there,” Carroll said. “This is all of us. We all have to play better, more efficiently on the road. Everybody’s got to contribute to it, and that goes all the way to defense and special teams. … It’s not just been one spot; it’s been across the board that we haven’t been as effective.”

Carroll can’t look beyond this game, and neither can his players. But you know who can? The rest of us. So let’s consider, for a moment, what the Seahawks need to do with six games remaining to get themselves back to the postseason for the second time in three years under Carroll.

As we’ve seen over the past two seasons, the NFC West is no longer a joke of a division, so the Seahawks can’t stumble down the stretch and still make the playoffs like they did in 2010. No, this time around, the 6-4 Seahawks need to finish strong, and in all likelihood given the number of teams battling for a Wild Card berth, it will take at least 10 wins to get to the postseason.

The Seahawks’ next two games are both of the dreaded 10 a.m. Pacific Time kickoff variety, but the Dolphins, who have lost three straight, seem very beatable, and as good as Chicago has looked for most of the season, the Bears suddenly look shaky of late. Seattle’s other road game is in Toronto against Buffalo, and considering the 4-6 Bills give up a true home field advantage for their annual game in Canada, that appears winnable as well for the Seahawks.

Now will Seattle win all three of those road games? Almost certainly not. Nor can we assume they’ll win out at home, especially since they host the 49ers next month.

So what do the Seahawks need to do to make the playoffs? Well if they want to win the division, the Seahawks almost will certainly have to win the head-to-head showdown with San Francisco on Dec. 23 and can probably afford only more loss.

When it comes to a Wild Card berth, however, the Seahawks have at least a bit more margin for error. Seattle is currently in position to earn the final playoff spot, but only based on tiebreakers over fellow 6-4 teams Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The 5-5 New Orleans Saints are on fire of late, and whoever doesn’t win the NFC North between Green Bay and Chicago also will be in the Wild Card mix.

So, the Seahawks don’t need to win out for a Wild Card spot, and they can probably even afford two losses, but 9-7 probably isn’t going to cut it. That means the Seahawks need at least one road win — possibly two if they were to lose a game at home — down the stretch, which is no easy task for a team that currently sits at 1-4 on the road.

And even though today’s game isn’t a must-win, per se, a victory in Miami would make the road to the postseason much easier for the Seahawks.

“It makes a big difference if we can get off to a good start here,” Carroll said. “… We have put a lot of emphasis on this game and we want to make sure we play like we’re capable and play with a lot of energy and see if we can get this thing going in the right direction.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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