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Ravens and Seahawks seek success by going back to the future

Two teams with little playoff ambition at the start of the year will have a big say in the postseason, writes Steve O’Rourke.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, head coach Pete Carroll and tight end Ed Dickson.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, head coach Pete Carroll and tight end Ed Dickson.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

I ORIGINALLY WANTED to call today’s column ‘A Seahawks Christmas Carroll’ and base it around the past, present, and future of Seattle’s head coach.

But the whole premise of a piece riffing on Charles Dickens would require Pete Carroll to have a Scrooge-esque revelation that, in order to be a better person — or in this case, football coach — he’d have to change his ways.

However, watching the way Seattle beat the Kansas City Chiefs 38-31 in the early hours of Christmas Eve to clinch a playoff spot proves that, if anything, it is Carroll sticking to steadfastly to his footballing philosophy that has pushed his side back into the postseason.

That philosophy is as old as football itself; run the ball and play good defence.

It starts, as it has done for most of Carroll’s tenure, with Russell Wilson. The quarterback finished with 18 completions on 29 attempts for 271 yards, three touchdowns.

As well as picking apart the Chiefs defence through the air — in particular rookie defensive back Charvarius Ward who will have nightmares about this game — Wilson added 57 yards on the ground.

Running back Chris Carson also helped plenty of fantasy football owners to championship wins with 116 yards and two touchdowns on his 27 carries.

The defence limited a potent Chiefs offence for most of the game, forcing two crucial fumbles, one of which led to a Seahawks touchdown and the other which took three crucial points away the visitors just before the half.

In an era when teams regularly put up 30 points a game, Seattle has only achieved that feat five times this season (and lost two of those games to the Rams) but has dominated time of possession, holding onto the football for an average of 33 minutes and 50 seconds over their last three games.

Another team dominating time of possession this year while running the football and playing great defence on their way to an unexpected postseason berth are the Baltimore Ravens.

And despite teams zigging for younger and younger offensively-minded head coaches, the Ravens — and Seahawks — have kept zagging towards old school football. It might not always be pretty, but it is certainly effective.

This week Baltimore set the tone early by picking of Philip Rivers within 15 seconds of kickoff and never looked like losing after that as they held the Chargers to just 198 total yards (their lowest of the season) and 10 points (also a season low).

It marked the seventh time in 15 games that the Ravens have conceded two scores or fewer.

Ravens Chargers Football Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Source: Kelvin Kuo

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens are 5-1 since Lamar Jackson took over as the starter, despite his team almost completely changing their philosophy for the rookie quarterback.

With Joe Flacco at the helm, Baltimore led the league in pass attempts. Since switching to Jackson during their bye week, the Ravens have run the ball 64% of the time.

They continued to pound the football this week — in what was Jackson’s best game as a professional to date — with 159 total yards on 35 rushing attempts.

Like Seattle, the Ravens complement their rushing quarterback with good running back play and Gus Edwards totalled 92 yards on just 14 carries to break the back of a Chargers teams whose hopes of winning the AFC West were all but dashed with the loss.

During a year in which we’ve spent most of our time marvelling at how teams like the Rams and Chiefs are revolutionising football, the stubbornness of the Seahawks and Ravens to stick with what they know has been rewarded.

Sure, we might still see the Chiefs and Rams put on another 105-point classic in Super Bowl Super Bowl LIII — and who’s going to complain about that — but after what they’ve done to date, would anyone be surprised if it’s Baltimore and Seattle taking the field on the first weekend of February 2019 playing football from 1989?

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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