Seahawks soar in late-season road games

Eric Goska
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‘Tis the season when folks brace themselves for three or more months of cold, ice and snow.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll celebrates a touchdown during the second half an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Dec. 13, 2015 in Baltimore.

It’s also that time of year when NFL teams playing the Seattle Seahawks steel themselves for three or more hours of blood, sweat and tears.

The Packers welcome the Seahawks to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon. For Green Bay, this easily could be its greatest test of 2016.

Seattle is a tough assignment regardless of the calendar. Since 2012, it has won more regular-season games (54) than all but Denver (58) and New England (58).

Quarterback Russell Wilson joined the Seahawks in 2012. His arrival coincided with the team winning 10 or more games in four straight seasons.

The Seahawks have not missed the playoffs with Wilson at the helm. The team has won two NFC West titles and an NFL championship.

Seattle (8-3-1) has mastered the art of peaking at the right time. Its record in regular-season games in December or January since 2012 is an NFL-best 17-3.

More impressive: The Seahawks are 8-1 on the road in those late-season games. No one – not Denver (8-2), Pittsburgh (6-2), New England (7-3) or Cincinnati (7-3) – can match that success.

The Seahawks, quite simply, pack extra punch when traveling this late in the year. They can dominate regardless of destination.

That ability to pour it on is huge. Playoffs spots are being filled at this time and seedings are shaping up.

“It’s December football, so everything goes up a notch,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said before Green Bay hosted Houston. “Everyone talks about playoff football when everything goes to a different level. Well, it goes to a different level in December.”

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Since 2012, Seattle’s average point differential for the 56 games it played from September through November was 5.7. It defeated nine teams by 20 or more points.

For December-January regular-season games, that differential is a whopping 19.5. In half of those games (10 of 20) the Seahawks prevailed by at least 20 points.

The differential climbs to 21.0 when only the nine road outings in that span are considered. Nestled among those is a 19-17 loss to the 49ers on Dec. 8, 2013.

Since dropping that game, Seattle has won its last six December-January regular-season road games, and it has done so decisively.

Let’s refer to those games as the Sublime Six. In order, coach Pete Carroll's team beat the Giants (23-0), Eagles (24-14), Cardinals (35-6), Vikings (38-7) Ravens (35-6) and Cardinals (36-6) by a combined score of 191-39.

McCarthy often stresses the need to run the football at this time of year. The strategy makes sense: control the clock while setting up the pass.

Seattle isn’t likely to cooperate. This is one team that has grown accustomed to getting its way.

Consider the Sublime Six. In those games, the Seahawks out-rushed their opponents, 1,030 yards to 197.

That is not a misprint. Seattle gained 134, 188, 267, 173, 123 and 145 yards rushing. Its opponents scratched out 25, 57, 29, 31, 28 and 27.

These weren’t the Cleveland Browns the Seahawks were facing. Four of the six teams – the Eagles (10-6) and Cardinals (11-5) in 2014 and the Vikings (11-5) and Cardinals (13-3) in 2015 – finished with winning records.

The Seahawks averaged 4.9 yards a carry and scored eight rushing touchdowns. Their opponents averaged 2.0 yards per carry and had no rushing touchdowns.

Perhaps turning to the air might be the answer. The Packers do have Aaron Rodgers and some decent receivers.

The Sublime Six again provide an indication as to how difficult this might be. In those games, Seattle’s average passer rating (120.0) was more than 70 points better than that of the competition (48.5).

Again, that is not a typo. The Seahawks compiled ratings of 88.6, 99.3, 121.7, 141.1, 140.3 and 119.9. Their opponents earned marks of 37.0, 76.3, 46.2, 55.4, 68.1, and 40.2.

Seattle fired 16 touchdown passes and was intercepted once. The six home teams, playing in front of their fans, combined for three TD passes and 12 picks.

Wilson, who threw the vast majority of those passes for the Seahawks, hasn’t been intercepted in a December-January regular-season road game since Dec. 15, 2013. His last 157 attempts have been interception-free.

Seattle’s defense, meanwhile, intercepted at least one pass in each of those six games. It grabbed five against the Giants in 2013 and three in Arizona in early January.

At the risk of getting flagged for piling on, the Seahawks had more first downs, ran more offensive plays and gained more yards than each of their six opponents. They also converted third downs at a higher percentage and controlled the clock for better than 33 minutes in each case.

Yes, it’s December football. ‘Tis the season when the weather, and an occasional opponent, can get nasty.

nflgsis.com and pro-football-reference.com served as references for this article.

Regular-season series

Overall: Green Bay leads 9-7

At Lambeau Field: Packers lead 5-1

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (86-45 overall; 3-2 vs. Seattle)

Seahawks: Russell Wilson (54-21-1; 2-1 vs. Green Bay)

Air Traffic Controllers

Since 2012, teams with the greatest passer rating differentials in Dec.-Jan. regular-season road games.

Diff.     Team               D-J Rec.

+55.3   Seahawks        8-1

+23.6   Broncos           8-2

+16.5   Chiefs              5-6

+11.0   Bengals           7-3

+8.6     Packers            6-3

+7.5     Jets                  6-5

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