SEATTLE — The technical question at stake Sunday evening at CenturyLink Field was whether the Seattle Seahawks were a playoff team.
The Seahawks answered that one in the positive.
But the real question at hand was whether the Seahawks looked like a playoff team. Not only did Seattle look the part, the Seahawks had all the appearance of a team no one wants to face come postseason time.
Seattle booked its place in the postseason with a 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, but the impressive manner of the win was a bigger deal than the clinching itself.
Seattle came into the game knowing it was in with a win — results from earlier in the weekend assured that. The Seahawks also knew this game wasn’t crucial to Seattle’s playoff hopes, as a victory next Sunday at home against a down-and-out Arizona team would have had the same effect.
But Kansas City is the type of team Seattle is going to have to beat in the playoffs. The Chiefs are arguably the best team in the NFL — they would have clinched the top seed in the AFC with a victory — so this was a worthy opponent the Seahawks needed to prove themselves against.
This was particularly the case following last week’s surprising loss at San Francisco. Prior to that the Seahawks were the hot team in the NFC. But the loss to the struggling 49ers brought the questions about Seattle back to the surface. Especially considering the luster of some of the Seahawks’ November victories has worn off with the sudden demises of teams such as Carolina and Green Bay.
But Sunday night Seattle let the New Orleanses, Los Angeleses and Chicagos of the world know they better not take the Seahawks for granted.
In beating the Chiefs the Seahawks showed a lot of the characteristics of championship contenders:
Swagger? How about receiver Doug Baldwin making a series of ridiculous acrobatic catches, then glaring at the sideline after every single one.
Willpower? Just look at tight end Ed Dickson, on third-and-15, catching a short pass on the scramble drill, making two defenders miss, then bulling his way through a third for a first down, extending a drive that ended in a touchdown.
Opportunism? The Seahawks forced a fumble midway through the second quarter to set Seattle up a short field, and the offense converted with a touchdown as the Seahawks took a 14-10 lead. Seattle never trailed again in the game.
Finish? The Seahawks had the ball and a 31-28 lead with 4 minutes, 36 seconds remaining, but instead of trying to run the clock out they went for the throat, and long completions to Baldwin and Tyler Lockett set up the winning TD.
And this wasn’t against a Kansas City team just going through the motions as the Chiefs had plenty to play for. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed why he’s an MVP candidate, making several impossible throws become possible. Yet the Seahawks still prevailed and walked themselves straight into the postseason after a one-year absence.
“I don’t know that we played any more complete than we did, in a game where we needed it against such a good team,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
“It’s a fantastic night for us, we’re going to the playoffs, and I’m really proud that this team has done that,” Carroll added. “There weren’t very many people who thought we’d have a chance to be in this position. But the guys in that room did, led by the leaders Bobby (Wagner) and Russell (Wilson) and Doug, all those guys. They just would not think anything but we were going to do something special with this team this year. I know it looked bleak at times, but this is a real statement about leadership.”
Seattle may be in the postseason, but it still doesn’t know its playoff fate. The Seahawks could finish as either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed, depending on how Seattle and Minnesota fare next week — the Seahawks can clinch the No. 5 seed with a win, while a loss and a Vikings victory versus Chicago drops Seattle to No. 6. The Seahawks also could end up traveling to face any of Chicago, Dallas or the Los Angeles Rams.
But Sunday’s performance renders the possible opponent irrelevant. Seattle’s victory over Kansas City tells the rest of the NFC it better look out. The Seahawks are coming to the playoffs, and they’re coming for you.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.