While the Seahawks' defense played yet another inspired and dominant game Sunday, leading the way for the Hawks to finally clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs, the offense did just enough but still left people wondering whether it has enough to win the Super Bowl.
History says they have a 66.7 percent chance. You might think it's better than that.
Since 1990, when the league went to the current playoff format, seven teams have led the league in both total and scoring defense -- as the Hawks did this year. Three of those were No. 1 seeds -- as the Hawks are. Two of them won the Super Bowl: the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 1996 Green Bay Packers.
The third No. 1 defense/seed was the 2004 Steelers, who lost the AFC title game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
These Hawks are most like those two Steelers teams, which also possessed middling offenses (Mike Holmgren's Packers had the No. 1 scoring offense in 1996). The 2004 Steelers were 11th in scoring and 16th in yards, the 2008 Steelers 20th and 22nd. The Hawks finished the season eighth in scoring and 17th in yards.
Seattle also has been compared to the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That team pulled off the No.1 defense exacta, too, and -- with a much worse offense (18th/24th) -- blew out Oakland and its No. 1 offense 48-21 in the Super Bowl.
The 2000 Ravens were similarly weighted toward defense (first in scoring, second in yards), with an average offense, and destroyed the Giants 34-7 in the Super Bowl.
So, the Hawks are in good company -- even if five of the last six No. 1 seeds in the NFC failed to reach the Super Bowl.
If the offense can find just a little a groove, Seattle should be able to win the Super Bowl -- as most have expected them to do since they lost in Atlanta nearly a year ago.
They might have taken a step toward finding a new stride Sunday.
After a spectacular three-game stretch in which the Hawks scored 108 points (two of the touchdowns were scored by the defense), the offense had a rough finish. It scored just seven touchdowns in the last four games, going 4 for 12 in the red zone and averaging 263 yards per game.
Of course, the Hawks also were going against some of the league's best defenses, which is why coach Pete Carroll is not that concerned.
"Remember who we played against at the end," he said, referring to the 49ers' fifth-ranked defense, the Cardinals' sixth-ranked squad, the Giants' eighth-ranked unit and the Rams' hard-hitting bunch that had sacked Russell Wilson 13 times in the two previous meetings.
"We have played against some really good defenses here down the stretch," Carroll said, "and I think that affected us somewhat. But I think that we have an offense that we can count on. … They do a fantastic job taking care of the football and they’re tough and we run the ball. That’s what we need at this time."
The Hawks started the Rams game as if it were the fifth quarter of the Monday night game in St. Louis in which Seattle gained a season-low 135 yards -- or a continuation of the Arizona game in Week 16.
Even when they put together a couple of drives in the second quarter, the Seahawks settled for field goals. But they finally put together two touchdown drives in the second half and the running game, which has struggled mightily for a month, got it going a little.
Marshawn Lynch, who always gives uncommon effort, had his best numbers in six weeks: 97 yards and a TD on 23 carries. Over the previous five games, he had run for 289 yards on 87 attempts (3.3 average).
“I thought we ran the ball really well against a really stout group," Carroll said, "and that means the offensive guys were really moving in all of the zone stuff and they did a really good job of getting going.
"We could be better," he added, "but it was consistent and we were targeting really well. We didn’t miss a lot of blocks, we didn’t get fooled by any schemes and stuff like that. The stunts we handled well, and it took all of that just to get what we got done because they’re good."
In addition to Lynch's best game in six weeks, the Hawks got a great performance from Golden Tate, who had been quiet for most of the past six weeks himself.
Despite getting pummeled almost every time he touched the ball, Tate had the best game of his career: eight catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. And he scored with class this time -- no taunting as he did on his 80-yard score in St. Louis. Too bad he can't play the Rams every week (although his body might not survive). The Hawks will need more of him in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson rebounded from his worst NFL game with another typically sound performance: 15 of 23 for 172 yards and a TD (102.1 rating). He broke his own team record for season passer rating, finishing at 101.2 after an even 100 as a rookie.
Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes for the second straight year. If a TD pass to Tate had not been called back due to holding in the first half, Wilson would have tied Dave Krieg (1985) for third-most TD passes in a Seattle season. Instead, he tied himself for fourth. His two-season total falls short of Krieg's 59 TDs over the 1984-85 seasons, but Wilson tied Peyton Manning for second behind Dan Marino (68) in TD passes in the first two seasons.
"We had a bad week last week, but other than that I feel we played great football (this season)," Wilson said. "We’ve played some very tough teams. We play tough teams week in and week out. We’ve overcome a lot of big games. Nothing’s too big for us. We’ve played in some huge games so far. We’re excited about what we can do."
A lot of people got a little more excited with news that Percy Harvin will begin practicing again with the aim of playing in the postseason.
The Hawks might be able to use him, considering they could end up facing the Saints' fourth-ranked defense or the 49ers again on Jan. 11, and Carolina's No. 2 unit looms as a possibility in the NFC title game.
With or without Harvin, though, Carroll thinks the Hawks will be ready.
"This last month has really been a great challenge for us," Carroll said, "and it should position us to be well prepared for whatever is coming from many of the defenses we’ll face.”