Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is sacked by Arizona Cardinals’ Rodney Gunter in the first half Sunday, Dec. 30, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is sacked by Arizona Cardinals’ Rodney Gunter in the first half Sunday, Dec. 30, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Patterson: Seahawks’ win doesn’t inspire postseason confidence

Playoff-bound Seattle played to the level of its lowly competition in a 27-24 victory over Arizona.

SEATTLE — If Sunday’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals was a playground basketball game, then the Seahawks would have been the guy with a wide-open layup who stumbles on his approach and plants his face into the pole holding the basket up, only for the ball to glance off the top of the backboard and rattle through the hoop.

Sure, the end result was the desired one, but all it really does is elicit is a few snickers from the other players.

Seattle completed the regular season with a win as it defeated Arizona 27-24 Sunday at CenturyLink Field, but the nature of the opponent and the manner of the victory made it anything but a convincing way to enter the postseason.

Seattle finished the season with 10 wins and is back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, despite the dismantling of the defense that had been the team’s identity. It’s an outcome few predicted before the season began, and a trip to Dallas next Saturday for a wild-card game is a fitting reward for the coaches and players who Fosbury Flopped themselves far above the bar of expectation.

But Sunday’s performance, which required a 33-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal as time expired to overcome the team that will have the first-overall pick in April’s NFL draft, bore little resemblance to a team ready to do damage in the postseason. The Seahawks, particularly on offense and special teams, looked closer in level to the down-and-out Cardinals than the teams they’ll face in the playoffs.

“Not good,” was left tackle Duane Brown’s assessment of Seattle’s game. “I mean, we never take 10 wins for granted, you never take winning in this league for granted. Arizona always plays us tough. Offensively, on the line, this was a poor performance. I’m not very happy about it at all. We had a lot of breakdowns in protection. We didn’t run the ball consistently — we broke a big one that got our total up, but consistently we weren’t as good as we have been in the past. We got (quarterback Russell Wilson) hit way too many times. That’s not the kind of product we want to put on the field.”

Seattle had little to play for Sunday. The Seahawks had already clinched a playoff berth and had no chance of catching the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC West title, so the only thing at stake was seeding. With the Minnesota Vikings losing 24-10 to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, even that ended up being moot as Seattle would have wound up the No. 5 seed regardless of the outcome against Arizona.

Yet Seattle coach Pete Carroll said throughout the week the Seahawks weren’t going to rest any starters and were playing to win. That was confirmed when Seattle dressed all their healthy players and played their starters from kickoff to walkoff.

But one would think peak playoff performance at home should be enough to dispatch a 3-13 team with little difficulty.

“There wasn’t any letdown,” Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark insisted. “There can’t be a letdown when you’ve clinched the playoffs and you’ve won. A win’s a win at the end of the day, I don’t care what happened, how many stats a team got, a win’s a win, and we got the win.”

One does have to take Seattle’s goofy history against the Cardinals into account. In similar circumstances last year — Seattle still having a shot at a playoff berth with a final-day victory over Arizona at home, the Cardinals with nothing to play for — the Seahawks tripped and fell in a 26-24 loss. Indeed, had Arizona pulled it out Sunday, the Cardinals would have become the first visiting team ever to win four straight games at CenturyLink since the stadium opened in 2002.

“It’s always tough against Arizona, they always play great against us,” Wilson said. “We always battle against them, too. It always comes down to the wire, we had a feeling that was going to be the case. That’s the way of the world, it seems like. The great thing is that we were able to win, that’s all that matters.”

And it could have been worse. The New Orleans Saints, the top seed in the NFC, rested several starters, including quarterback Drew Brees, and were blown out at home by the Cam Newton-less Carolina Panthers. The Saints have a first-round bye, meaning they have two weeks to stew in those juices. Carroll and company have to be commended for keeping their foot on the gas even when they didn’t have to.

“Whenever we continue to play good defense and we run the ball really well, we’ve got a chance to be in every game,” Carroll said, “and with all of the other garbage that happened in this game that would offset field position, we were able to maintain the game.”

Sure. Against the Cardinals. But beginning right now the Seahawks are in the playoffs, staring at having to win three straight road games against quality opposition to reach the Super Bowl. They’ll have to be a lot smoother in their approach to the basket than they were Sunday if they want to progress.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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