Russell Wilson, Seahawks Clinch 2020 NFL Playoff Berth with Win vs. WFT

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2020

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, congratulates quarterback Russell Wilson after a score during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

While the NFC West remains up in the air, the Seattle Seahawks are at least now assured of their third straight trip to the NFL playoffs.

Seattle clinched a postseason berth—its eighth in nine years—thanks to a 20-15 victory over Washington on Sunday.

Through the first five weeks of the season, the Seahawks were 5-0, and Russell Wilson looked like the runaway favorite for MVP.

Then Seattle dropped three of its next four following a Week 6 bye. However, just as quickly as the team's season appeared to be headed off the rails, it reeled off three wins over four weeks to once again look like a genuine title contender.

The Seahawks' hopes of returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2014 will hinge largely on the performance of the defense.

At one point this year, Seattle was on pace to allow the most yards in a single NFL season. The team has since climbed to 27th in total defense (390.3 yards per game), a number that belies how much the unit has improved in recent weeks.

Since surrendering 519 yards in an overtime defeat to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 25, opposing teams entered Week 15 averaging 314.1 yards of offense against the Seahawks. The number is still 335.7 when taking out a Week 14 victory over the winless New York Jets.

Bucky Brooks @BuckyBrooks

Yes. The @Seahawks prioritized the player over the picks. Jamal Adams has energized their defense and given them something that they desperately needed: an A+ pass rusher. Kudos to Pete Carroll and Co. for thinking outside of the box to upgrade the roster. #Seahawks https://t.co/ucAJvNtBFZ

The News Tribune's Gregg Bell reported the turnaround stemmed in part from a meeting in which defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. "had each player detail for the entire room his job on each of the defense's base formations and plays."

K.J. Wright explained how the tactic has created an increased level of accountability:

"These last few weeks have been excellent. We've just played a really good, team ball. The communication is on point. The limiting of explosive plays also has on point. We just really plan together.

"I just love the way that we have our Saturday-night meetings where we are all just talking about: what's our assignment? What's expected of you when the play is called?

"It's really, really good. We've just got to continue. It going to be important down this last stretch into the playoffs that we can just keep this chemistry going."

We know how good the Seahawks are on offense. Wilson is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, and now he has a dynamic downfield target in DK Metcalf to complement the steady Tyler Lockett.

But the team will likely go as far as the defense can take it. The Green Bay Packers went for 344 yards against Seattle in last season's divisional round, and the Dallas Cowboys put up 380 yards in the Wild Card Round of the 2018 playoffs.

The Packers will likely be considered the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV. Based on how they're playing right now, the Seahawks could be a serious threat to Aaron Rodgers' hopes of collecting a second Super Bowl ring.