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Why the Seahawks couldn’t win in the postseason in recent years

After dominating the NFL early in Pete Carroll’s tenure, there was a drastic lack of postseason success for the Seahawks in recent seasons, and the inability to compete against the Rams and Niners led directly to that lack of postseason success.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Super Wild Card weekend for the 2023 NFL season wraps up Monday with a doubleheader featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. The Seattle Seahawks are, of course, at home and coachless after missing the postseason for the second time in three seasons, and opting to move on from head coach Pete Carroll after fourteen seasons.

Sunday Field Gulls took a look at why the Seahawks were ready to move on from Carroll, and in particular at the results against the division rival Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers over the past two seasons. There was, of course, some pushback against the idea that the Hawks fired Carroll because of an inability to defeat the Rams and Niners, with many positing that it was the lone playoff win in the past seven seasons that resulted in the end of Carroll’s tenure as head coach.

To that end, here’s a look at the results for the 19 playoff games the Seahawks played during the time that Carroll was in charge.

  • 2010 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 41, New Orleans Saints 36
  • 2010 Divisional Round Game: Chicago Bears 35, Seahawks 24
  • 2012 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 24, Washington 14
  • 2012 Divisional Round Game: Atlanta Falcons 30, Seahawks 28
  • 2013 Divisional Round Game: Seahawks 23, Saints 15
  • 2013 NFC Championship Game: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17
  • 2013 Super Bowl: Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8
  • 2014 Divisional Round: Seahawks 31, Carolina Panthers 17
  • 2014 NFC Championship Game: Seahawks 28, Green Bay Packers 22 (OT)
  • 2014 Super Bowl: New England Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
  • 2015 Wild Card Game: Seattle Seahawks 10, Minnesota Vikings 9
  • 2015 Divisional Round Game: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24
  • 2016 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 26, Detroit Lions 6
  • 2016 Divisional Round Game: Falcons 36, Seahawks 20
  • 2018 Wild Card Game: Dallas Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22
  • 2019 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 17, Eagles 9
  • 2019 Divisional Round Game: Packers 28, Seahawks 23
  • 2020 Wild Card Game: Rams 30, Seahawks 20
  • 2022 Wild Card Game: 49ers 41, Seahawks 23

That’s more than a full season worth of games, with the Seahawks posting a 10-9 record in these contests. However, there’s so many results that what needs to be discerned is lost within the laundry list of results. Thus, it helps to break those results down by whether a game is played at home, away or on a neutral field.

Neutral Game Location:

  • 2013 Super Bowl: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
  • 2014 Super Bowl: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

Home Playoff Games:

  • 2010 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 41, Saints 36
  • 2013 Divisional Round Game: Seahawks 23, Saints 15
  • 2013 NFC Championship Game: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17
  • 2014 Divisional Round Game: Seahawks 31, Panthers 17
  • 2014 NFC Championship Game: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)
  • 2016 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 26, Lions 6
  • 2020 Wild Card Game: Rams 30, Seahawks 20

Road Playoff Games:

  • 2010 Divisional Round Game: Bears 35, Seahawks 24
  • 2012 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 24, Washington 14
  • 2012 Divisional Round Game: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28
  • 2016 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 10, Vikings 9
  • 2016 Divisional Round Game: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24
  • 2018 Wild Card Game: Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22
  • 2019 Wild Card Game: Seahawks 17, Eagles 9
  • 2019 Divisional Round Game: Packers 28, Seahawks 23
  • 2022 Wild Card Game: 49ers 41, Seahawks 23

The pattern is much more clear when laid out in this manner. Specifically, the Seahawks under Carroll posted the following records in postseason contests based on game location:

  • Neutral Field: 1-1
  • Home Game: 6-1
  • Away Game: 3-7

It’s really that simple. To win in the postseason is difficult, and it is even more difficult trying to win on the road. In addition, of the three postseason wins the Seahawks managed on the road under Carroll, one was the Blair Walsh game and the other two saw Washington and Philadelphia lose their quarterback due to injury during the game. Whether or not RG3 or Carson Wentz avoiding injury would have made a difference in the outcome of either game, it’s at least worthy of note when conducting a post mortem analysis of the games.

Thus, the simple reality is that the Seahawks won the NFC West four times and enjoyed six home playoff games during the first seven seasons of Carroll’s time leading the team, but won the NFC West just once played just a single home playoff game in his final seven seasons as head coach.

So, it’s not difficult to see that the reason the Seahawks have been lacking when it comes to postseason success in recent years. They’ve simply been unable to win the division often enough to play a significant number of postseason games at home, which has led to a lack of postseason success since - like all teams - they struggle on the road in the postseason. Thus, the lack of postseason success over the past seven seasons is little more than a symptom of the inability of the Seahawks to consistently handle the Niners and Rams since Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay were hired in 2017, especially over the past two seasons.