RENTON, Wash. — While they are one of the hottest teams going into the post-season, there’s a lot of past playoff futility for the Seattle Seahawks to overcome — nearly three decades worth.
Seemingly unbeatable at home, the road — especially in the post-season — has been a different tale for the Seahawks. It’s been 29 years since Seattle last won a playoff game on the road. They’ve lost eight straight road playoff games since winning at Miami on Dec. 31, 1983, when only nine players on their current 53-man roster were even born.
On Sunday, Seattle (11-5) travels to the East Coast to take on another hot team, the Washington Redskins (10-6). The Seahawks have won five in a row, and seven of their last eight; Washington brings a seven-game winning streak into the game.
“If you want to be a good team you definitely got to be able to win on the road,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “You never get a scenario exactly how you want it unless you fortunate enough to be like Atlanta.”
The Falcons earned home field throughout the NFC playoffs by finishing 13-3. After being the only team to go 8-0 at home, the only way Seattle can return home for a post-season is if it somehow ends up playing Minnesota for the NFC title.
“In terms of us going forward, we’ve got to go on the road and we’re looking forward to it,” Bryant said.
There was a reason Seattle coach Pete Carroll hoped his team could get at least one home playoff game — the Seahawks have some forgettable road playoff losses.
After beating Miami in the ’83 playoffs, the Seahawks were routed 30-14 by the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC championship game despite beating the Raiders twice in the regular season.
Seattle was routed at Miami in 1984 and in 1987 fell 23-20 at Houston in overtime after rallying to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Seattle won the AFC West for the first time in 1988, only to get top-seeded Cincinnati in the playoff opener and a 21-13 loss.
After a lengthy drought with just one playoff appearance, the Seahawks started their run of success in the middle of 2000s with a wild-card berth and a trip to Green Bay in 2003.
Shaun Alexander scored with 51 seconds left to pull Seattle even at 27 and force overtime where, after winning the coin toss, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told referee Bernie Kukar, “We want the ball and we’re going to score,” as a playful jab to former teammate Brett Favre.
Hasselbeck then threw an interception on the first possession of overtime that Al Harris returned it 52 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
There was another overtime loss in 2006, this time at Chicago, and losses to Green Bay (2007) and again to the Bears (2010) to complete the eight-pack of road woes.
Carroll said the challenge this week is not getting wrapped up in playing on the road.
“There will be a feel about the playoffs, there’s always a kind of air about it that you can sense it’s different, but the key is not allowing that to factor in to what it really takes to prepare well and not miss the message,” Carroll said.
“They will be as excited to play, and I think everybody is going to have great focus this week just because it is the playoffs, but that’s something we’re trying to create on a regular basis so that when we get to this time we’ve already been there done that.”
Seattle got a significant break in the schedule by landing the late afternoon Sunday game on the opening weekend.
The Seahawks are following their normal regular season practice schedule and continuing with a trend of flying to the East Coast two days before kickoff that Carroll started in his first season.
Washington cornerback Josh Wilson knows the difficulty of making that West-to-East trip. He played for the Seahawks from 2007-09 and will now face his former team on Sunday.
“This game being at 4:30 actually may help them a little bit,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely tough when you have that 1 o’clock game. It feels like about 10 o’clock to you. You wake up three hours before the game, so it’s about 7 o’clock in your mind. It’s tough to travel that long distance.”