EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The way the Seattle Seahawks play defense, it may not make a difference where they line up in the playoffs.
Seattle. San Francisco. Carolina. The Seahawks’ top-ranked defense is good enough to win on any field and carry Pete Carroll and company back to New Jersey for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 3.
Still, the mostly likely scenario is that the road to the Meadowlands will go through Seattle.
Seattle (12-2) moved to within a win of clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a dominating 23-0 win over the New York Giants on Sunday, showing the league they’ll have no problem on the field that will be used for the NFL title game.
The scary part for the other NFC contenders is that Seattle has been unbeatable at home this season. It has won six in a row and can nail down the home field advantage by winning either of its final regular-season games, at home against Arizona and St. Louis.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better than to go back to Seattle with that great crowd behind us,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who ended the Giants’ only drive with an end zone interception in the fourth quarter. “Especially when you’ve got a chance to lock up home-field advantage so you don’t have to travel in the playoffs. It’s right there in your backyard, it’s very comfortable and you know what to expect.”
The Giants (5-9) had no idea how to deal with Seattle’s defense. They were limited to 181 total yards in being shut out for the second time this season, and had Eli Manning threw a career-high five interceptions.
“Offensively, there is no way to sugarcoat it, it was a pathetic offensive performance,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We didn’t block anybody. We didn’t make any plays. We didn’t create any opportunity for ourselves. I told the players that prepared that I appreciated what they did. I told those that are obvious that they had not, and I felt sorry for them because they are missing the whole thing.”
Seattle has everything and everyone going.
Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell had two interceptions apiece, Marshawn Lynch scored on a twisting, triple-effort 2-yard run, and Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals.
Russell Wilson toyed with New York’s defense, running for 50 yards and throwing for 206 and a touchdown before sitting out the last few minutes.
If they continue to play like this, they are going to be taking a trip back to New Jersey in late January for a second trip to the Super Bowl. They went after posting a franchise-best 13-3 in 2005 and lost to Pittsburgh.
“We’re comfortable playing everywhere we go,” safety Kam Chancellor said. “We treat every stadium the same. We just play our game. But I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back here. That’s our main goal. But you got to take it one week at a time.”
What we learned from Seattle’s shake-down trip to New Jersey:
MARVELOUS MARSHAWN: Lynch, who came into this week with 1,042 yards rushing, fifth best in the league, picked 47 yards more on 16 carries. What might have been the surprise was his six catches for 73 yards. He had 27 receptions coming into the game. “Marshawn did a great job of catching the football today,” Wilson said. “Throwing to Marshawn more is trusting what I see, then get it to the open guy. He was the open guy.”
HARD KNOCKS: Giants receiver Victor Cruz came into the game needing 27 yards to post his third straight 1,000-yard receiving season. It’s now in jeopardy after he sustained a concussion and sprained a knee late in the third quarter. Coughlin was not able to update his condition after the game.
RUSSELL WILSON: Before the game, the Giants marveled at how well Wilson can extend plays. While he was sacked four times, Wilson showed amazing athletic ability in keeping several plays alive, including one scramble that set up a 30-yard pass to Lynch. “You pick your poison with him,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “He’s a great athlete and he’s very quick.”
MANNING WOES: One has to wonder whether Manning might be hitting the downside of a career that includes two Super Bowl MVPs. He has thrown 25 interceptions this season, tying his career high and New York has missed the playoffs four of five seasons. Coughlin believes the season is a combination of Manning making some bad decisions and also not getting enough support the rest of the offense.
BAD BACKUPS: Injuries have forced the Giants to use a lot of backups this season and not many have come through. Guard James Brewer was the latest. He was beaten badly on a couple of plays that resulted in sacks against Manning or pressure that forced him to get rid of the ball.
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