RENTON, Wash. — Unbeatable at home.
Undeniably bad on the road.
The Seattle Seahawks (6-5) play in one of the NFL’s most remote outposts. It’s partly why they are so dominant at home, going 5-0 with three victories by at least 10 or more points this season while playing before one of the rowdiest fan bases in football.
But on the road, the Seahawks are a woeful 1-5 this season and need to solve the problem fast if they want to consider themselves a playoff contender. Seattle goes to Chicago on Sunday for its next-to-last road game and a victory over the Bears would go a long way toward helping the Seahawks keep a grip on the final playoff spot in the NFC.
“It’s a mystery I wish I could figure out. At home I know the ‘12th Man’ we love them, it’s like our comfort zone. Anywhere else just feels like it’s out of our comfort zone," said Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill, one of two Seahawks players remaining from the 2005 NFC championship team. “We tend to make it a struggle. Even the games we win we tend to make it a closer game. But I wish I could figure it out."
The road problems aren’t new. Seattle’s struggles outside the Northwest are a long-standing issue that is a mix of having to travel more than any other team in the NFL and often playing what feels like a morning start when going to the Eastern or Central time zones.
And those issues become more glaring because of how good the Seahawks are at home.
Since Seattle opened its new stadium before the start of the 2002 season, the Seahawks are 56-29 at home, including an 8-0 mark in 2005 on their way to the Super Bowl and a 7-1 home record in 2007.
On the flip side, Seattle is just 31-55 on the road during the same time span and 12-34 since 2007. In the Eastern time zone alone, Seattle is 7-20 over the last 10 years.
“We just have to learn how to get over that hump, know that we’re a good team and finish games no matter whether home or on the road. We have to figure out how to win those games and until then we’ll just be middle of the pack," Hill said.
The bottom of Seattle’s road swoon seemed to come during the 2009 season when the Seahawks lost four of their final five road games in their only season under Jim Mora. The Seahawks were outscored 148-46 in losses at Arizona, Minnesota, Houston and Green Bay.
Pete Carroll arrived, but success on the road didn’t immediately follow. In 2010, Seattle made the playoffs, but was 2-6 and outscored by 100 points as the visiting team. Last season, the Seahawks were 3-5 on the road but far more competitive, including a win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants.
This season, being competitive isn’t enough. The Seahawks have been in every game to the final moments, yet their only win was a 16-12 victory at Carolina.
There was a dropped fourth-down pass at the goal line in the final seconds of the season opener at Arizona. There was Russell Wilson’s intended receiver falling down, which turned into an interception late at St. Louis. Against San Francisco, the Seahawks defense was gashed by inside runs. In Detroit, the Seahawks defense couldn’t stop the Lions on third down and Matthew Stafford’s TD pass with 20 seconds left had Seattle smarting after a 28-24 loss.
Then came last week in Miami, where the Seahawks defense gave up 17 fourth-quarter points, capped by rookie Ryan Tannehill leading the Dolphins 65 yards in the final 92 seconds and Dan Carpenter’s game-winning field goal at the gun.
Five losses by a combined 24 points that could be the reason Seattle doesn’t reach the postseason.
“I can’t imagine if anybody has been in more close games on the road than we’ve been in," Carroll said. “... We’re close enough and we know the things are there for us, and we have to make it happen."
Seattle is one of three teams in playoff contention in the NFC with a losing record on the road, and along with Minnesota the only one with just one road victory. The flip side is Seattle is one of three teams undefeated at home, joining Baltimore and Atlanta.
If Seattle stumbles in Chicago the Seahawks will get one more shot at road success in two weeks against Buffalo in Toronto. Getting one of the two road games seems like a must if the Seahawks are going to make the playoffs.
“We’re so close in every game, it comes down to one or two plays basically," Wilson said.