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John Blanchette: Seahawks show knack for making plays when it counts

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 2, 2019

Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, right, reacts with cornerback Akeem King after the Minnesota Vikings failed to convert on a fourth-down play during the second half on Monday night in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, right, reacts with cornerback Akeem King after the Minnesota Vikings failed to convert on a fourth-down play during the second half on Monday night in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

SEATTLE – So how does first place look on the Seattle Seahawks?

Sharp. Smart. Sophisticated.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” was tackle Duane Brown’s fashion review.

But it’s also as if every seam is ready to come unstitched at once, leaving them at the 50-yard line in nothing but their skivvies with a pile of fabric around their ankles.

This is the puzzlement of the Seahawks, one of just five 10-2 teams in the National Football League after their 37-30 victory Monday night over Minnesota at CenturyLink Field.

But for 13 weeks now, the NFL has been waiting for the Seahawks to regress to the mean and maybe it’s time to consider that their resistance is simply not going to waver.

OK, it wavers. But no surrender.

This has been the case in nearly every Seattle victory – all but one of the 10 single-score hand-wringers – and no less so Monday night.

First the Seahawks played footwipe on their first defensive series, allowing the Vikings to go 83 yards in all of six plays. Then the home team managed to turn a 17-point lead into a slim four in the space of about six minutes in the fourth quarter – only to summon some of the old Legion of Boom spirit and send 69,080 happily out into the SoDo night.

Can this formula really hold up?

“We haven’t really done anything yet,” insisted coach Pete Carroll, “but the finish is there for us. With four games left, we have to make some noise and see if we can finish this thing off right.”

In pulling even with San Francisco for first place in the NFC West – and with the Niners and New Orleans with the best records in the conference – the Seahawks have given themselves some playoff wiggle room. There are also some caveats that come along with the won-lost record.

Of the five 10-2 teams in the NFL, Seattle’s point differential – 36 – is easily the worst. Only the Saints are also under the plus-100 mark.

And there’s also this notion that the Seahawks have been, well, lucky. In their five-game winning streak alone, they’ve managed to avoid seeing opposing headliners like Matt Ryan, George Kittle, Adam Theilen and – for the bulk of the second half Monday night – Dalvin Cook, though the Vikings’ running back was not overwhelming in the nine carries he got before leaving with a shoulder injury.

Somehow, you’d just expect a team with burgeoning Super Bowl aspirations to be more … substantial.

But then you see Rasheem Green pop the ball from Cook’s grasp one play after Seattle ties the game, or Tre Flowers outmuscle Stefon Diggs on an interception, or Russell Wilson instantly pick up on David Moore streaking toward the end zone with no safety back. And it suggests the Seahawks can make just as many plays as they need to kick-start the imagination.

“We have that clutch gene,” insisted Wilson. “We have been clutch all year. When the game’s on the line with, up by seven, down by four, whatever it may be, we find a way to win them.”

If it isn’t in the Seahawks’ DNA, it’s at least drilled into them.

“One of our says is you can’t win it in the first, second or third quarters but you can win it in the fourth,” said safety Bradley McDougald, who covered that game-turning fumble. “It doesn’t matter what you do until the fourth quarter. Keep the game close and win it in the fourth. We’re kind of making a living out of it.”

And if the opponent isn’t close, Seattle helps it back.

“Yeah, this one didn’t have to be,” McDougald acknowledged. “But it’s never over, and that’s a good thing to remember.”

The Monday night game allowed the Seahawks to take a rooting interest in front of their big screens Sunday when the Niners lost narrowly to Baltimore, making room in the NFC West front seat for the Seahawks. Brown confessed to pulling for the Ravens.

“I was,” he said. “Great game, great teams. We have a really good division and conference with a lot of good teams. Every game is like a championship game for us, so that’s how we’re approaching that.”

That’s a lot of tension to manage for another month, but the Seahawks seem to have the poise to handle it. After Wilson threw the season’s most cockamamie interception – batted first by a defensive lineman, then by Wilson himself directly into the hands of Anthony Harris, who ran it in – he steered the offense to scores on Seattle’s next five possessions.

And still there was doubt down to the last few ticks.

“I think our fan base can understand now,” Brown said. “We’ve been in a lot of tight ballgames where we find a way to win. We don’t get rattled.

“It’s the NFL. Everyone makes plays. We just make a few more.”

It’s a good look.

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