"Nitty-gritty" escapes for Seahawks
Five games and two teams stand between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West standings. The more precise measurement of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Five games and two teams stand between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West standings.
That says as much about the importance of field-goal kicking as it does about the precariousness of Seattle's success. The Seahawks can clinch their third consecutive division title this weekend if they beat the Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers lose to Green Bay.
The short-term scenario is easier to define than the long-term trajectory. Are the Seahawks a team beginning to gather momentum or one on the brink of a backward slide?
There's room to argue either case. Seattle is just beginning to recover from the injuries that hobbled the offense, but it is also the only winning team in the league that has allowed more points than it has scored.
Cutting it close
The Seahawks are unbeaten in games decided by three or fewer points. Comparing teams with most wins and losses in such games:
Winners, three or more wins
St. Louis 3-2
Losers, three or more losses
Kansas City 2-3
"I trust and hope that our best offensive football is ahead of us," coach Mike Holmgren said. "If you get hot now going down the stretch then that's a good thing."
The more precise measurement of the difference between first and worst is two feet.
Seattle's Josh Brown has four winning field goals for the Seahawks while Arizona is 0-3 in games decided by three points or fewer. Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers missed a field-goal attempt in the final minute of two of those losses.
That's the half-full perspective, a coach believing his hand-constructed offense is capable of gathering itself for a closing kick.
A more pessimistic appraisal would point out Seattle has gritted out several victories with more than a little good fortune. The Seahawks received the benefit of five Denver Broncos turnovers Sunday, and their only first-half touchdown in the past three games was scored by the defense.
"This is a work in progress," Holmgren said. "It's been a season like that."
Seattle has survived an avalanche of injuries that would have buried most teams. Seven of the Seahawks' 11 starters on offense missed at least one game because of injury this season, and Seattle's scoring average has declined more than six points from last season.
But Seattle is undefeated in the five games in which both quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander have played.
There are as many winning teams in the NFC as there are games left on the schedule, four of each. Only two earn a bye in the first round of the NFC playoffs:
Remaining schedule: The Bears won't play a team with a winning record in the final four games. Their last four opponents have a combined record of 14-34 (.292).
Tiebreaker breakdown: The Bears are 8-0 in conference games, and the defense is so good and the schedule so easy that Rex Grossman could finish this month with a single-digit quarterback rating and Chicago would still have a first-round bye.
New Orleans (8-4)
Remaining schedule: Saints play at Cowboys on Sunday in pivotal game for playoff positioning, but only one of the Saints' final four opponents currently has a losing record: Washington.
Tiebreaker breakdown: New Orleans is 7-1 in conference games, giving the Saints an edge over Seattle and Dallas in an important tiebreaker category.
Remaining schedule: The Seahawks' only remaining game against an opponent with a winning record is Dec. 24 against San Diego at Qwest Field.
Tiebreaker breakdown: The Seahawks are 6-3 in conference games, and Seattle's remaining three NFC opponents have a combined record of 11-25 (.305).
Remaining schedule: Dallas plays three of its final four games at home and those final four opponents have a combined record of 22-26 (.458).
Tiebreaker breakdown: Cowboys host Saints on Sunday, but Dallas currently has a worse conference record than both Saints and Seahawks.
"It's no accident that we've won when they're playing," Holmgren said.
But it's not a sure thing, either. Seattle's offense has been a few carats short of sparkling even with both Hasselbeck and Alexander in the lineup. The Seahawks offense didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of Sunday night's victory, and it never reached the end zone in the season-opening victory in Detroit.
The Seahawks showed more than just offensive futility in those games, though. There was a resolve that emerged in their final possession of each game.
Seattle moved 56 yards for the winning field goal in Detroit, their longest drive of that game. The Seahawks drove 59 yards to set up the winning field goal in Denver, and of their 12 first downs, seven came in the fourth quarter.
"When it came right down to the nitty-gritty and we had to have some plays and had to have a couple drives, then the team was very good," Holmgren said of Sunday's game.
The Seahawks are now reaching that point in their season with four regular-season games to play and postseason positioning on the line. The Seahawks' record is two games worse than it was one year ago and expectations are a whole lot higher.
"We have to do better and be more consistent," Holmgren said. "And if we can ever get there, then we'll have something big going.
"But I have hope. I'm more encouraged then discouraged."
• QB Gibran Hamdan was released Tuesday, and RB Josh Scobey was moved to injured reserve. Scobey, a special-teams captain, broke a bone in his upper arm Sunday in Denver. Hamdan never appeared in a game.
Seattle Times reporter José Miguel Romero contributed to this report.
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