WASHINGTON (AP) — Quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner already are assured of a ninth consecutive winning season — every year they’ve been in the NFL with the Seahawks.
A victory or a tie at Washington on Sunday would put Seattle in the playoffs for the eighth time in that span.
That sort of consistent, continued success for coach Pete Carroll and Co. is precisely the sort of thing Ron Rivera would love to build with Washington, which is assured of extending its three-decade drought without a single 11-win season and owns a grand total of just one postseason win since 2005.
And while there is a long way to go for that big-picture goal, Rivera at least has his club heading in the right direction. Four consecutive victories fueled largely by rookie Chase Young and a talented defense have lifted Washington to a 6-7 record and a spot alone atop the NFC East heading into its matchup with Seattle, which is 9-4 and tied for the NFC West lead.
“This,” Rivera said, “is an opportunity to see where we are and where we’re headed as a football team.”
Rivera, fired a year ago by the Carolina Panthers, is generating NFL Coach of the Year buzz, both for the on-field improvement with a team that was 3-13 last season and the fact that he’s done it while completing treatment for cancer.
“He’s a terrific ball coach and he’s shown that. And he’s doing it again,” Carroll said. “To overcome all of the things — 1-5 and all that, and sick and everything else, and pandemic and you name it, new job — just a fantastic accomplishment.”
Rivera prefers to merely appreciate that Washington is suddenly “relevant,” to use his word.
“The biggest thing is we realize what we did the last four weeks or whatever doesn’t mean anything this coming Sunday,” he said.
“If you go back and look at it,” continued Rivera, whose club’s recent run includes three road wins, two against previously unbeaten Pittsburgh and reigning NFC champion San Francisco, “this stretch was a stretch a lot of people didn’t think we had much of a chance.”
Young’s play speaks for itself: The No. 2 overall draft pick leads rookies with 5 1/2 sacks, and in the first half alone last week he produced a sack, a forced fumble and a 47-yard fumble return for a TD. What’s impressing his coaches and teammates is his sideline-stalking energy and enthusiasm.
“It’s crazy unusual for a rookie, I think, to have the type of leadership that Chase has. Genuine leadership,” said Washington QB Alex Smith, who will miss the game with a right calf injury and be replaced as the starter by Dwayne Haskins.
“I think a lot of young guys, especially high picks, I think you feel pressure to do it some way or somehow. I think Chase is so comfortable in his own skin and being who he is. ... He’s definitely unique."
One of Seattle’s big concerns is the health of starting right tackle Brandon Shell, who has been bothered by a high-ankle sprain. Shell was injured in Seattle’s win over Arizona in Week 11, missed the next two games, then returned last week against the Jets before aggravating the injury and sitting out the second half.
Cedric Ogbuehi and Chad Wheeler struggled as fill-ins. Jamarco Jones was used there as well, but has been out with a groin injury. Not ideal against Washington’s active defensive line filled with first-rounders.
“They’re just loaded. They’re able to play a lot of base defense and be really effective with their four-man rush, but also how they play the run, too,” Carroll said about Washington. “It’s built around those guys.”
No team in the NFL has been better at getting to the quarterback lately than Seattle. After struggling to get regular pressure on QBs in the first half of the season, the Seahawks have 27 sacks over their past seven games, the most in the league during that span. Safety Jamal Adams leads Seattle with 8½ sacks — the most by a defensive back in a season since the stat became official in 1982 — and four other players have at least three apiece.
1,000 TIMES TWO
With a big game against Washington, wide receiver Tyler Lockett could join teammate DK Metcalf in reaching the 1,000-yard mark. Metcalf is second in the NFL with 1,180 yards receiving and averages 17.1 yards per catch. Lockett has 12 more catches than Metcalf (81 to 69) and has 886 yards. Only one time in franchise history did Seattle have two guys reach 1,000: Brian Blades and Joey Galloway in 1995. But there’s also this: Only two wideouts (Brandon Aiyuk of San Francisco and Amari Cooper of Dallas) had 100-yard games against Washington this season.
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