High-scoring Seattle turns focus to San Francisco
RENTON, Wash. (AP) As the Seahawks flew back from Toronto late Sunday night, nearly every person on Seattle's charter was glued to what was happening in New England watching to see if the Seahawks could be playing for the NFC West division lead this weekend.
San Francisco didn't play along, beating the Patriots and keeping a 1 1/2-game lead in the division.
So while the division lead won't be at stake when the 49ers visit, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday his team will have no problem getting focused especially knowing that a victory will put the Seahawks into the postseason for the second time in three years.
The Seahawks (9-5) need one win in their final two games to at least wrap up a wild-card berth.
A win over San Francisco would keep alive Seattle's slim hopes of the division title.
"It's a big division finish for us and we'll see how it goes," Carroll said, noting the Seahawks close at home with NFC West foes San Francisco and St. Louis.
"All we can do is focus on this game right here. We'll have no trouble focusing. They're a great team and coming home and all that it will be exciting to get ready."
The Seahawks are coming off their 50-17 rout of Buffalo on Sunday that followed a 58-0 win over Arizona, making Seattle the first team since 1950 to score 50 or more points in consecutive weeks.
It's a rarified spot in the record books for a franchise that scored at least 50 just twice in their first 36-plus seasons and now have matched that total the past two weeks.
In Carroll's first two seasons, the Seahawks biggest scoring outburst came in the 2010 playoffs when they beat New Orleans 41-36.
"We're surprised at the scores the last couple of weeks, but we're really thrilled about it and we're going to see if we can keep going and keep growing and keep pushing it and see how far we can take it," Carroll said.
While the scores the past two weeks have appeared to be somewhat an anomaly, the Seahawks were trending upward in scoring even before the two blowouts.
Over the past eight weeks, the Seahawks are the second-highest scoring team in the NFL at 33.4 points per game, trailing only New England.
The past two weeks have substantially altered the curve, but even before the blowouts of Arizona and Buffalo, the Seahawks had scored at least 20 points in each game going back to Week 8 against Detroit. That stretch of seven straight games with at least 20 points is the longest since 2007, which is the last time the Seahawks had a 10-win season.
It was back in Week 8 after losing 13-6 in a lackluster offensive effort at San Francisco that Seattle started to tweak its offensive plans and give rookie quarterback Russell Wilson more freedom.
The zone-read was added to the run game, allowing Wilson the ability to keep and use his athleticism or handoff to Marshawn Lynch. That little wrinkle has paid off especially the past three weeks.
Wilson ran for 71 yards in Seattle's overtime win at Chicago three weeks ago then a Seattle team record then rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's win over Buffalo.
At the same time, the holes have become larger for Lynch because the defense must now respect Wilson as a runner. In his past two games, Lynch has just 21 carries, but rushed for 241 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 11.5 yards per carry.
Through the first 11 games, Lynch had 19 runs of 10 or more yards. In the past three games, he has 14. Wilson has vaulted up to third in the league in yards rushing among quarterbacks with a franchise single-season record 402 yards.
"It all fits together. The problems that are presented with the quarterback runs make for some opportunities," Carroll said. "... What's really exciting is what we're doing up front too with the blocking and figuring out the schemes and reading well and taking advantage of the looks."
While the offense is rolling along, there remain some injury concerns defensively. Seattle played Sunday without cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant and Carroll said he's unsure of their status for this week.
Both have hamstring injuries and Thurmond was stepping in to replace suspended starter Brandon Browner.
Sidney Rice played against the Bills, but continues to be slowed by foot and toe injuries that Carroll said could be something he has to deal with the rest of the season. Carroll did get encouraging news that defensive tackle Alan Branch's ankle injury wasn't as severe as first believed. Branch will likely be held out of practice until Friday.