TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — For the fifth straight season, the Seattle Seahawks have won 10 games and are headed to the playoffs, the longest such streaks in franchise history.
So why does this division title and playoff appearance feel so underwhelming? It’s because unlike the previous four playoff appearances when the Seahawks were rolling headed into the playoffs, this time Seattle is limping into the NFC wild-card game against Detroit on Saturday night.
The latest example came in Sunday’s regular-season finale against San Francisco when Seattle slogged its way to a 25-23 victory that again raised more questions than provided answers about what to expect when the playoffs arrive.
But even with the lackluster performance the latter half of the season, Seattle coach Pete Carroll believes the Seahawks have the pieces for a playoff run.
“I think we’ve got great leadership. We’ve got a lot of young guys and we’re bringing them with us,” Carroll said during his radio show on KIRO-AM on Monday morning. “It’s a great challenge, a great exercise in putting it together.”
Seattle is playing on wild-card weekend for the second straight year after squandering its chance at a bye with a home loss to Arizona in Week 16 . Facing the lowly 49ers was supposed to be Seattle’s opportunity to get itself pointed in the right direction headed into the playoffs. And while the win can’t be discredited, the fashion in which it happened failed to provide much confidence.
Seattle fell behind 14-3, needed a huge turnover to get back into the game in the first half and nearly watched the 49ers rally in the fourth quarter before running out the clock with Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and a chunk of Seattle’s starters sitting on the bench as Carroll tried to protect key players.
“When coach made the decision, I was for it and I saw that some other guys weren’t playing, too,” Wilson said after the win. “He just made those decisions. We knew that we were going to have a home game and so that was kind of our focus trying to get some rest, trying to get ready, allowing nothing crazy to happen.”
While Wilson had another solid day, throwing for 258 yards and a touchdown, the biggest concern was Seattle’s inability to run the ball against the worst defense in the NFL. San Francisco was giving up more than 170 yards per game on the ground, yet the Seahawks managed only 87 yards on 25 carries. Take away runs of 26 and 17 yards by rookie Alex Collins in the second half and the Seahawks averaged just 1.9 yards per carry.
In the final three games of the regular season, Seattle averaged 79 yards per game rushing and just 2.9 yards per carry.
“We’re not pleased with it. It’s not anywhere near where we want it to be,” Carroll said.
For all the issues that have surfaced late in the season for Seattle, the Seahawks may have drawn the best possible matchup to open the postseason. Detroit lost its final three games of the regular season, was worse than Seattle at running the ball and doesn’t have a defense most would consider on the same level as the Seahawks.
Then again, Seattle was supposed to blow out the 49ers to head into the playoffs on the rise.
“It’s kind of like a new season now,” Seattle tight end Luke Willson said. “Obviously everyone wants a bye, but that doesn’t really matter to us now. We don’t have it, and we can’t look too far forward.”
NOTES: Carroll said during his radio show Monday that long snapper Nolan Frese played through a high-ankle sprain suffered early in Sunday’s game. He did not have an update on Frese’s status for this week. … Carroll said injured RB C.J. Prosise (shoulder) will have a scan early this week on his fractured shoulder blade. Carroll said if all goes well Prosise could be back in a couple of weeks.
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