SEATTLE (AP) – Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and the Seattle Seahawks are headed to the playoffs for the fourth straight season, thanks to an offense that can’t be stopped lately.
Wilson threw three touchdown passes, two to Baldwin, and the Seahawks clinched a playoff spot with a 30-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Again, it was largely behind the play of Wilson, who put together another elite performance in a week where Cleveland coach Mike Pettine stirred debate by saying Wilson wasn’t in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. Wilson completed 21 of 30 passes for 249 yards and became the first quarterback with three of more TD passes and no interceptions in five straight games, although he was nearly picked off at the goal line by Tramon Williams in the closing minutes.
Right behind Wilson in the record book was Baldwin, thanks to his touchdown catches of 6 and 3 yards. Baldwin joined Jerry Rice as the only wide receivers to have 10 touchdown catches in a four-game span in the same season. Rice had 10 TD catches from a combo of Joe Montana and Steve Young during the 1987 season. Baldwin has grabbed all 10 from Wilson.
Baldwin also became the third wide receiver since 1960 with four straight games with multiple TD catches joining Calvin Johnson in 2011 and Cris Carter in 1995, and matched Daryl Turner’s single-season franchise record of 13 TD catches.
Tyler Lockett added a 27-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 27-10 lead and, while Baldwin was setting records, Jermaine Kearse had the best regular-season game of his career with seven catches for 110 yards.
Coming off arguably the best game of his young career, Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel didn’t make any critical mistakes but only got the Browns into the end zone once. Manziel was 19 of 32 for 161 yards and was intercepted by Marcus Burley with 2:06 remaining trying to force a throw downfield.
Manziel wasn’t fazed initially by making his debut in the loudest venue in the NFL. Manziel mostly silenced the 12th Man on Cleveland’s first drive, leading the Browns on a 15-play march converting four third downs and hitting Barnidge on a 7-yard TD strike. It was the first touchdown drive allowed by the Seahawks defense since the fourth quarter of their win over Pittsburgh, a span of 21 possessions.
Cleveland had 80 yards on its first possession, but just 27 the rest of the first half and 150 the remainder of the game. Isaiah Crowell, coming off a career-high 145 yards last week, was held to 23.
Seattle started with a committee trying to replace the absences of Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls at running back. Derrick Coleman got the first carry, Bryce Brown got a handful of looks, but it was Christine Michael who shined. The former second-round pick by the Seahawks who was traded away to Dallas at the end of training camp and re-signed this week, finished with 84 yards rushing.
But it was the arm of Wilson that made the difference, hitting Baldwin on a pair of TD throws on consecutive drives in the first half to take a 14-7 lead. Seattle got a gift at the end of the first half when Wilson hit Kearse for 39 yards on the final play, but Williams was flagged for facemask on Kearse as he tried to get extra yards. The flag extended the half for one play and Steven Hauschka hit the second of his three field goals.