SEATTLE - The Seahawks are playoff bound once again, having punched their ticket to the postseason with a 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs that was every bit as exciting as that score line might suggest.
At 9-6, the Seahawks will be one of the NFC's two Wild Card teams, and are heading back to the playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
Here are five rapid reactions to the playoff-clinching victory:
1. All things considered, the defense played a heck of a game.
Holding an opponent to 31 points and 419 yards might not sound all that impressive, but considering the competition, and the fact that the Seahawks were without starting free safety Tedric Thompson, and started Bradley McDougald after he didn't practice all week, there was a lot to like about the way the defense played against the league's No. 1 offense.
While the Seahawks did give up some big plays and 31 points, they also made a bunch of big plays, none bigger than Dion Jordan's forced fumble, which was recovered by Jarran Reed to give the offense a short field it would turn into a touchdown. Late in the first half, Justin Coleman forced another fumble, which Delano Hill recovered, preventing a potential field goal attempt by the Chiefs.
The Seahawks also held up well in the red zone twice in the second half to limit the Chiefs to field goals.
2. Chris Carson and the Seahawks running game just keep piling up numbers.
The Seahawks started the game without right tackle Germain Ifedi, and with right guard D.J. Fluker on the bench, active but still not 100 percent due to a hamstring injury. Then in the second quarter, J.R. Sweezy went out with what Carroll later called a sprained ankle, meaning Fluker, who hadn't practiced all week, had to come in to play right guard, with Ethan Pocic moving to left guard.
Yet despite all those injuries and changes to the line, the Seahawks were again able to run the ball very well, piling up 210 yards, their third game over 200 rushing yards this season, and they finished with a season-high 464 yards of total offense. Chris Carson led the way once again, rushing for 116 yards and two touchdown on 27 carries. Carson's fifth 100-yard game of the season also put him over 1,000 yards for the year, making him the Seahawks' first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
"It speaks volumes to who we are as a group," center Justin Britt said. "To be able to plug in whoever it is, whether it was Jordan Simmons or Ethan Pocic or George Fant, or Joey Hunt when his time came. It just speaks volumes to who we are that it doesn't matter who's out there, we just have the same mindset as a group."
3. Wilson to Baldwin is a special connection… And so is Wilson to Lockett.
After catching four passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns last week, Doug Baldwin said that he was starting to feel like himself in what has been a tough season for the veteran receiver thanks to a number of injuries. And against the Chiefs, Baldwin looked very much like the player who has in an eight year career established himself as one of the best receivers in franchise history. Baldwin caught seven passes for a season-high 126 yards, including a spectacular 27-yard touchdown catch.
"I've never seen Doug play better than that," Carroll said. "I just thought he was magnificent. Just tough catch after tough catch, then he gets his ankle twisted and he comes back and makes the big play after that. Just heroic stuff."
Tyler Lockett, who finished with 99 yards on four catches, also had a huge impact on the game. Lockett, who also drew a pair of pass interference calls, beat man coverage and hauled in a 45-yard grab late in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks' took to the air despite having a late lead, a successful response to the Chiefs selling out to stop the run. Later in that same drive, Wilson hit Baldwin for a 29-yard gain to the 1-yard line, setting up a 1-yard Chris Carson touchdown run that put the game out of reach.
Wilson, meanwhile, had another great game in what might be the best season of his career, completing 18 of 29 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 127.2 passer rating. Sunday's game marked the fifth time this season Wilson has thrown three or more touchdown passes without an interception.
"Russ had an enormous night tonight," Carroll said. "... He has been phenomenal all year long."
4. Ed Dickson came up with a couple of huge plays.
An injury to Germain Ifedi meant George Fant started at right tackle instead of playing his usual jumbo tight end role, which in turn meant a bigger role as a blocker for tight ends like Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett. But while those two had to put in work blocking, they also made a couple of huge plays in the passing game—each had a touchdown catch—with Dickson coming up particularly big.
With the score tied in the third quarter, the Seahawks faced third-and-15, and with pressure on him, all Russell Wilson was able to do was dump off a short pass to Dickson. Dickson was able to fight through two would-be tacklers for an 18-yard gain, keeping the drive alive. Two plays later, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin for a 27-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 24-17 lead.
In the fourth quarter with the Seahawks trying to add to a 4-point lead, Wilson looked to Dickson in the end zone, and he made a spectacular diving catch on a ball thrown a bit behind him, giving him a 2-yard touchdown.
"It was a great catch for the touchdown, but his run after the catch, it was one of the moments in the game where you know, 'OK, we have a shot to win this freaking game,'" Carroll said. "You can tell because the plays are being made and the guys are coming through. That was one of the real special ones."
5. A few Seahawks reached significant milestones.
By rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, Chris Carson not only had his fifth 100-yard game of the season and second in as many weeks, he also upped his 2018 total to 1,029, which makes him Seattle's first 1,000-yard rusher since Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,306 in 2014.
And Carson wasn't the only Seahawks player to hit a milestone in Sunday's game. By catching seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, Baldwin upped his career total to 6,536 receiving yards, moving him past Darrell Jackson and into third place on the franchise's all-time list. Only Steve Largent and Brian Blades have more receiving yards in a Seahawks uniform that Baldwin.
Tyler Lockett also had four catches for 99 yards, giving him 55 catches this season, a new career high. Locket already had established new career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns this season.
Russell Wilson's three touchdown passes gave him 34 this season, matching his career-high, and with 195 in his career, he tied Dave Krieg atop the all-time franchise list.
Seahawks Legend Cliff Avril raises the 12 Flag prior to the Seattle Seahawks' Week 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs at CenturyLink Field.