But Sunday we were reminded of the No. 1 reason the Seahawks are in the midst of a mini dynasty -- the defense.
Pete Carroll's formula of success, with new coordinators year after year, has been to run a simple but stifling defense, win the turnover battle and eventually get a quarterback who can win games in the fourth quarter. Sunday's 10-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings illustrated that if a team can be good on defense, it can also be lucky (or quite lucky in the case of a missed field goal) and win on a day when little else seemed to go right, especially with Wilson's offense without Marshawn Lynch.
"This team is blessed," Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. "I think this team has been through a lot of things and when you been through these situations you come out ahead. I think we got lucky today. ... I think our defense is better than any over the past four years. We're better because the team has changed a lot but we are still succeeding. When you do that you are better because you have a lot of interchanging parts and people may be missing, but you can come out and play that kind of defense, it shows you are getting better and better."
For a while it was hard to tell which was colder, the weather or the offenses. With temperatures starting at minus-6 degrees and at one point reaching 8 below, the Seahawks held the Vikings to 183 yards on 56 plays, a mere 3.3 yards per play. Bennett was flying around the line of scrimmage and Adrian Peterson was shut down.
Peterson gained only 45 yards on 23 carries in part because defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane stuffed the running lanes in the middle of the field while Bennett maneuvered around blockers to disrupt Peterson's runs before he could even get to the line of scrimmage. Tackling for the Seahawks was as crisp as the freezing air in TCF Bank Stadium. Safety Kam Chancellor stripped a fumble from Peterson on one of his two receptions.
In a nutshell, this was a Seattle defense that, when healthy, looks every bit as scary as Wilson to an opposing head coach.
"We had to treat it just like every other game coming here, but at the end of the day, we knew it wasn't," free safety Earl Thomas said. "This game was huge and tough. My hands were numb and my feet were numb the entire time."
For each of the past four seasons, the Seahawks have allowed the fewest number of points among NFL teams, but in the same way Wilson really took off in the second half of the season, the defense also quietly began to find its form. The Seahawks had to do it the hard way: They survived the two-game holdout of Chancellor, which contributed to two losses. They failed on the signing of cornerback Cary Williams. And they had a number of breakdowns on defense late in games that had them lose five games despite leading in the fourth quarter, almost the opposite of what you'd expect from an experienced group.
The hard way continues.
After two years in which they had the comforts of home-field advantage, the Seahawks started the playoff run in the third coldest game in NFL history. And the road will continue.
Hopefully, the offense can chip in on a day when nothing seems to go right, communication is a problem, and a miraculous play actually gets things going in the right direction.
"For some reason, I couldn't hear the plays," Wilson said, describing head-set problems through a good portion of the first half. "We adjusted and tried to find a way to get something else out. I could hear bits and pieces of the play. You hear their formation or their protection of the route or whatever it may be so you just try to put the two together."
Wilson had to burn three timeouts in the first 18 minutes of the game. The Seahawks were shut out in the first half. And then the strangest communication problem of the day turned into his best play. Trailing 9-0 with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wilson tried to change a play. At times, Wilson admitted the conditions were so cold, his mouth kept freezing and words didn't come out easily.
Something he said at that moment caused center Patrick Lewis to snap him the ball. Wilson didn't see it coming, as he was looking to the side and still mouthing the audible. The snapped ball flew past him and Wilson chased the ball and instead of falling on it, he felt he had enough time to pick it up and scramble. What he didn't know was that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer blitzed a cornerback and a linebacker. Five defenders surrounded him, but somehow Wilson escaped and threw downfield to a wide-open Tyler Lockett, who ran to the Vikings 4-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin with a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 9-7.
Then the D stepped up again. Chancellor ripped the ball from Peterson's right hand on Minnesota's next possession, Wilson made another remarkable play, finding a way to get rid of the ball while being pulled down by Everson Griffin, turning a certain sack or grounding penalty into an incompletion, and keeping Seattle in field-goal range.
The rest was just enough. A close win over another opponent unable to find the end zone for the third time in Seattle's past five games.
"I don't think we played very good for three quarters on offense," Wilson said. "But the defense was unbelievable tonight. Their defense played a great game against us. We were able to come with some huge plays when we needed to. The defense kept hanging in there and we kept believing in one another."
The boom was back in the Legion of Boom at a time when it was most needed. In the year of Wilson, the Seahawks were all about defense on Sunday. It might not have been the exact formula of the regular season, but it's something this team knows well from postseason's past.
Inside the Huddle
It's good news the Cincinnati Bengals are staying with Marvin Lewis as the head coach despite being 0-7 in the playoffs. He and his staff develop players, and the organization, thanks to Duke Tobin, is among the best in football at getting good, young players. The problem facing the Bengals is the possible losses of more good coaches. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson should get a head coaching job. Vance Joseph also could be headed elsewhere.
Brian Hoyer's horrible performance in the 30-0 loss to Kansas City should put more urgency in the Houston Texans' efforts to get a better quarterback. Texans coach Bill O'Brien has gottens got the most out of Hoyer and Ryan Fitzpatrick over his first two years, but the Texans now trail the other three AFC South teams in the QB department.
I would have to list the Saturday night meltdown of the Bengals as one of worst I've seen. They had a two-point lead with 1 minute, 36 seconds left and had the ball on the Steelers' 26. Jeremy Hill's fumble was bad enough. Ben Roethlisberger couldn't throw farther than 10 yards, yet he got off nine plays in 1:23 and the penalties on Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones handed the Steelers the game-winning field goal. Brutal.
Here is the interesting twist on the AFC playoff game between the Steelers and the Denver Broncos. If Roethlisberger plays, he might not be able throw down the field with any effectiveness due to an injured shoulder. Peyton Manning, who doesn't throw well down field anymore, might have more arm strength. Go figure.
This was the first time all four road wild-card teams won on the same weekend. It shouldn't be a surprise, though. The four home teams had quarterbacks making their first playoff starts. The road teams had the experienced, playoff quarterbacks.
Pete Carroll's most interesting decision this week is what to do with Marshawn Lynch. Lynch decided not to play after three full practices coming off his core surgery. The Seahawks had to scramble to get Christine Michael ready to start. Michael gained 70 yards on 21 carries and did well, but he's not Lynch.Tough call ahead.