By Danny O'Neil
Three things we learned and three things we're still trying to figure out after the Seahawks improved to 9-1 with a 33-10 win over the Falcons in Atlanta:
1. No team is in stronger position to finish the season than the Seahawks.
Not the undefeated Chiefs, who will face the Broncos twice in three weeks. Not the Broncos, who watched quarterback Peyton Manning limp out of Sunday's game against San Diego. Not the 49ers, whose five-game winning streak was halted by a 10-9 loss to Carolina. Not even the Saints.
Seattle is 9-1 despite the absences of Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung (eight games), starting right tackle Breno Giacomini (seven games) and All-Pro center Max Unger (three games). All three could be back this week, as could receiver Percy Harvin, and don't forget this team plays four of its final six games at home, where it has won 12 consecutive games. No one is positioned better than Seattle going forward.
After beating the Falcons in Atlanta, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are now 8-2 in their last 10 road games. (AP)
Seattle has already matched the franchise record with five road victories in a season. The Seahawks have won eight of their past 10 road games if you include their playoff win over Washington last January, the team's first postseason road victory in 29 years.
While Seattle's win in Atlanta didn't erase the sting of losing in the final minute of the divisional round last season, the fact that the Seahawks staked out a 23-3 lead at halftime showed that this team is more than ready to move past the old storylines that include questions about struggling on the road.
"Any time we play out here on this East Coast, we want to make sure we don't fall behind like kind of has been the history," said tight end Zach Miller. "But I feel like we've conquered that demon, so I think we can play anywhere."
3. No more doubting Seattle's wide receivers.
Not this week, at least. Golden Tate was a one-man highlight reel, kickstarting the Seahawks' final drive of the first half with a 32-yard punt return and then finishing it with a one-handed catch that officials had to see twice to believe. He caught six passes for 106 yards, and it wasn't just him. Doug Baldwin caught five passes for 75 yards and Jermaine Kearse caught three passes for 76 yards, including a touchdown.
Every one of those three had a reception of 30 or more yards in Atlanta, and this is a group that's about to add Percy Harvin. Firepower isn't currently a question for this offense.
1. Why did we have to wonder whether Marshawn Lynch would get the ball, third-and-goal at the 1 in the fourth quarter?
Because whether he'd get the ball was very much an uncertainty after the past three games in which Seattle opted to go with three passes and two quarterback keepers when it had the ball inside the opponent's 5-yard line. The results of those five plays were two touchdowns, one interception and a running back whose body language was not, shall we say, the most enthusiastic.
Well, Lynch got the ball in the fourth quarter Sunday, Seattle got a touchdown, and no one had to get tackled in the process thanks to fullback Michael Robinson sealing off his block.
See, was that so hard?
|• Recap | Stats | Game photos | Player interviews||• O'Neil: Dominant Seahawks save the drama||• Huard: Breaking down Kearse's trick-play TD||• Grey: Seahawks answered their critics||• Henderson: TD catch highlights Tate's big day||• 'The Pete Carroll Show': Browner out a while|
Seattle is about to get three starters back with center Max Unger and offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini all potentially back for this week's game against Minnesota.
What about the rest of the lineup, though? There's a question of Paul McQuistan or James Carpenter at left guard while Alvin Bailey stepped in for J.R. Sweezy for a handful of plays at right guard. It will be good to have some options inside, as Seattle must shore up its pass protection.
3. Why did it take the Seahawks so long to put together a complete game?
Seems strange to ask that about a team that's 9-1, doesn't it? But it's true. We've seen this team win ugly at St. Louis. We've seen it win dramatically, coming back from a 17-point deficit at Houston and from 21 points down against Tampa Bay. But we haven't seen this team look as dominant for 60 consecutive minutes as it was in Atlanta on Sunday.
When this team turned the corner last season at Chicago, it never looked back. Will this be a similar moment?