SEATTLE — In the final moments of this tense, tight sport, as his staff huddled to take a remaining snap and safe not only a win over the Kansas City Chiefs however a shocking spot in the playoffs, Pete Carroll prowled up-and-down the Seattle Seahawks’ sideline, shouting, hugging, high-fiving and pumping his proper fist defiantly in the chilly, moist air.
Even for a coach recognized for buoyant vitality, the show of sheer elation put a superb level on how completely particular a victory this was for Carroll and his staff.
Remember that little or no was anticipated of the current-version Seattle Seahawks. Many even predicted them to be amongst professional soccer’s backside feeders. This was a staff that missed the playoffs final season for the first time since 2011, then underwent a deliberate overhaul that tossed apart its best-known defensive stars, then started the season with a pair of anemic losses that appeared at the time to be the beginning blocks for a yr of dropping and distress.
Given that background, it made good sense that the 67-year-old Carroll — together with each member of a Seattle staff stacked with rookies and second-year gamers who subsequent month shall be in the postseason for the first time — was prouder than common at the shut of Sunday’s 38-31 win.
“There is an emotion to it that is deep and it’s because there wasn’t many people that thought we could do this,” Carroll mentioned. “Most everybody thought we didn’t have a chance” at the playoffs.
For Seattle, Sunday night was an evening to rejoice perseverance. The staff took fairly some time to tug the covers from its Zero-2 begin. It had a .500 report at midseason, and solely dim, distant playoff hopes.
Carroll and his small passel of veteran leaders — quarterback Russell Wilson, large receiver Doug Baldwin and linebacker Bobby Wagner to call three — hung collectively after they might have folded.
Then, someway, one thing clicked.
In the locker room Sunday night time, Carroll chalked up the flip on this season’s fortunes to a real and stable discovery.
“We know who we are,” Carroll mentioned. “We know what we are attempting to create every week. We know how one can do it. When you might have that reference to who you might be, you turn into very highly effective. I like that that’s the place we arrived, as a result of it was a protracted two years of not having the ability to get again to it. We have been all the time making an attempt. We all the time had it in thoughts.
“We simply couldn’t get it proper.”
What Carroll was talking to in his acquainted New Age patois was the incontrovertible fact that the Seahawks have struggled to reclaim their identification ever since the inglorious finish to Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015, when a brief Wilson go close to the purpose line was intercepted to seal victory for the New England Patriots.
For a number of years — arguably the final three, as an alternative of two — Seattle appeared dogged by the shadow of that ugly loss. Divides amongst the staff shaped, and the protection grew previous, injured, discontent. The offense was an equal mess, epitomized by a operating sport so dangerous that Wilson’s whole of 586 speeding yards final season was at least double that of any of his running backs.
During the most recent off-season, though, Carroll and the team’s general manager, John Schneider, oversaw a remarkable change. Virtually everyone was deemed expendable. Stars like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett: gone. Tight end Jimmy Graham: gone too. Adding to the upheaval, the veterans Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril retired with injuries.
Carroll brought aboard a new defensive coordinator, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach. As the season began, he started a new running back. He salted his defense with rookies and fresh-legged players who had put in only one or two years of N.F.L. work.
As this roller coaster ride of a season has worn on — through big wins over Minnesota, Carolina and Dallas; through tough losses to the Los Angeles Rams; even through the unexpected defeat last week to the lowly San Francisco 49ers — Seattle’s understanding of what leads to success has done nothing but solidify.
The Seahawks entered Sunday’s game against the Chiefs as the winners of four of their past five games. Remarkably, they also had become the league’s best running team, hewing closely to a playing a style more reminiscent of a grinding, 1970s N.F.L. than a team from the modern, pass-obsessed era typified this year by the Chiefs and their young, electric quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
Despite having Mahomes at the helm, Kansas City (11-4) played catch-up nearly all game long, an unenviable position while up against these Seahawks. Seattle took its time. It didn’t cough up turnovers. The offensive line kept opening holes. Chris Carson, the team’s churning, second-year running back, kept plowing powerfully forward. When Carson didn’t have the ball, Wilson either scooted off for his own long runs or launched arcing, pinpoint passes.
The 69,000 fans inside CenturyLink Stadium rocked and roared and swayed deep into the Seattle night, feeding off an energetic coach and his irrepressible team, heading toward the playoffs with unexpected confidence.
“We are so young, and we are just getting started,” Carroll said. “It feels like we are just getting warmed up.”