Credit: Photo: Matt McGee
The two words unspoken in Seattle for the last seven years — since the infamy in Detroit — may now be used with reckless abandon.
Not saying the Seahawks will make it. It's just that there does not appear to be a better team in the NFC.
Besides, it's Christmas, when dreams are the theme and Seattle's sugar plum fairies just danced on the heads of the San Francisco 49ers.
After a 42-13 teardown of the nemesis Niners that was as ruthless as it was efficient, the far horizon is more than visible. It's tangible. The Seahawks clinched a berth in the playoffs by outscoring not only the No. 1 team in the NFL in scoring defense, but their past three opponents 150-30, numbers common to the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals, not the NFL.
Coach Pete Carroll made no attempt to moderate his exuberance over the magnitude of the accomplishment: The win was over his hometown team (Carroll was born in San Francisco); a team run by Jim Harbaugh, the guy who once embarrassed him in a previous job by running up the score just to make him look bad. And Carroll did it on Harbaugh's 49th birthday, no less. To spoil his birthday, Christmas and at least a little bit of his season, well, Carroll was drinking glee by the barrel.
"I take a lot of pride in the fact that we played like that against this team and those coaches," he said. "The thing has been happening. It's been coming together. We're getting better, and you can just feel it and see. It's coming to life for us."
If it were possible to dismiss the 58-0 win over Arizona and the 50-17 win over Buffalo as aberrations due largely to opponent incompetence, it was not possible to apply the same skepticism Sunday night. The entire football nation, via NBC, saw a good 10-4-1 outfit, fresh off a splendid win in New England against the Patriots, torn apart by the whirlwind of rookie Russell Wilson and a team drafting closely behind him.
Of course, the Seahawks had 68,161 pals in the CenturyLink mix, all of whom seemed to have spent the day improving their impersonation of a Boeing jet engine. But the game could have been played in a hyperbaric chamber and the Seahawks would have won.
In a night as heavy with superlatives as raindrops, there was one figure that leaped out: The Seahawks converted 11 of 13 third downs against one of the game's most ferocious defenses.
"That's tough to do in the National Football League and we did it tonight," said the mega-precocious Wilson. "Our timing was perfect. The line did a tremendous job. [Receivers] are running the right routes at the right time. I'm just getting so much more comfortable back there."
"Back there" several times meant outrageous scrambles that had him 15 to 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, only to swivel, duck and sprint away from the 49ers in homage to the best Roadrunner cartoons.
During one swerve-and-curve that included three reversals of field, he turned disaster into a six-yard gain — ironically, a yard short of a third-down conversion, the only one the Seahawks missed other than a deliberate kneel-down.
"With about five minutes left, Sidney Rice told me, 'When we get the ball back, let's just put you in there and let you scramble for five minutes,'" Wilson said. "I started laughing. The line was doing a great job giving me enough time to try to get a positive play out of it, and not make a bad decision."
Wilson rarely makes a bad decision anymore. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards, and his only interception came off a tipped pass that hit running back Robert Turbin in the hands.
Fullback Michael Robinson explained that Wilson's quickness adds an element that is hard to defend.
"He's a scrambler more than a runner like Michael Vick or Cam Newton," he said. "Russell scrambles to get the ball downfield and his head is always up. Early in the season, Pete came to [receivers] and said, 'The kid will get away. Get open.' We started working on our scramble rules."
It should be mentioned that the 49ers were missing to injury perhaps their best defender, lineman Justin Smith. But hey, the Seahawks were down to a fourth string at one cornerback spot. Them's the breaks.
At the other Seattle cornerback spot was Richard Sherman, who may be ready to overtake retired all-pro Deion Sanders in his ability to make headlines as well as plays. Sherman scooped up a field goal blocked by Red Bryant and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, then ended another 49ers drive with an interception in the end zone.
But he will find out in the next 48 to 72 hours, when the NFL decides on his appeal of a positive test for a banned stimulant, whether he gets to stay with the team for the playoffs.
That appeared to be of no concern to Sherman Sunday night after the evisceration of the Niners.
"If you would've told me this would be the outcome, I wouldn't have believed it," he said. "I would say you're making this up. You're talking about the Chicago Bears back in the day or something crazy like that. We beat some pretty good teams, but there is no way we were going to beat this team like this. We expect a different score if we see them again."
That could happen in the playoffs, depending on how the final Sunday of the regular season plays out. What is known at the moment is that the Seahawks are in the playoffs, certified as the team least wanted to play by the other 11 entrants.
At least that's the deal as Carroll and his team see it.