The Seahawks hadn’t beaten the Giants in the Big Apple since 1983. Then they lost their starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, and still managed to escape with a win.
STEVE: Considering Seattle’s recent history against the New York Giants, its poor record on the East Coast, and the fact that the Giants seemed ready to punch in the winning touchdown inside of three minutes, the Seahawks’ 36-25 victory Sunday has to rank as one of their more remarkable — and entertaining — victories of the past decade. Goes to show again that many NFL games are impossible to predict.
ART: The Seahawks hadn’t won in New York (Jets or Giants) in 28 years, and lost 11 of the last 12 in the Eastern time zone. Then they lost starting QB Tarvaris Jackson to a chest-muscle injury in the third quarter. Clipboard Jesus, Charlie Whitehurst, came off the bench for the first time this season and took them 80 yards for the go-ahead score with 2:37 left. Hard to know what element was more improbable.
STEVE: The whole game was improbable. Seahawks were penalized 10 times and won. They coughed up the ball twice in the red zone and won. Seahawks should have led 28-14 at the half, blowing opportunity after opportunity — and recovered to win. Seahawks needed, of all things, a safety (from lineman Anthony Hargrove), to take a lead in the third quarter. Finally, they needed the longest INT return for a touchdown in franchise history, 94 yards by Brandon Browner (previous record 91 by Sammy Green vs. San Francisco in 1979) to win.
ART: Said head coach Pete Carroll as Browner broke solo with the tipped interception: “My head was exploding. It takes a moment like that turn turn things. I got that whole time (during the return) to enjoy it . . . a friggin’ blast.” Not to mention a huge validation for Carroll and GM John Schneider to find obscure guys who can deliver. I mean, Doug Baldwin?!
STEVE: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game in which two undrafted free agent receivers simultaneously had a bigger impact. Baldwin had eight catches for 136 yards and a TD, and Victor Cruz of the Giants nearly beat the Seahawks by himself with eight catches for 161 yards and a tipped, 68-yard TD from Eli Manning.
ART: Carroll mentioned in the post-game the impacts of Baldwin, Browner and Whitehurst, all non-pedigreed guys overlooked by many in the NFL and said, “That’s all on John Schneider.” For the Seahawks and their fans, the talent acumen has to be gratifying because it’s such a young roster to be beating the Giants on the road. As Carroll said, “We’re 2-3, which means nothing to those on the outside. But we’re rolling.”
STEVE: It must be mystifying for fans to try to track Schneider’s blizzard of transactions. But clearly he has a grasp of what he wants to accomplish, and how he means to do it. Plus, Carroll has said all year that the team would improve — it would just require time. In fact, after the Seahawks started 0-2, Carroll mentioned that he didn’t feel like Seattle had even started the season yet. After Sunday’s win, it’s clear the Seahawks have started. The team that beat the Giants yesterday looked nothing like the team that started 0-2.
ART: “We’re different now,” Carroll said. No kidding. Especially along the offensive line. They learned to pass block by Game 3, and began to run block in the second half against Atlanta last week (a 30-28 loss). They put it together Sunday and were at times dominant, stopping themselves with mostly fixable mistakes. RB Marshawn Lynch told me during the week that the rookies, OT James Carpenter and OG John Moffitt, were no longer rookies, and they backed his talk. Scoring their first points in the first quarter this season (two touchdowns) was resounding proof. Though Jackson was hurt in the third quarter (apparently a torn pectoral muscle of unknown seriousness), the play was a called QB run that went for a first down, not an injury as the result of — as most of us anticipated all season – an obliterating sack.
STEVE: Speaking of Jackson — and Whitehurst — the Seahawks have to be the only team in the league for which the huddle is a negative. Since they went to the no-huddle almost exclusively (second half vs. the Falcons), they have been, as you said, almost dominant. Even Whitehurst, a guy two teams (Seattle and San Diego) deemed to be a backup, went with the flow, especially on the drive that resulted in a 27-yard TD pass to Baldwin that put the Seahawks up 29-25 with 2:37 left.
ART: In his time at Minnesota, Jackson’s best moments were in the no-huddle. Even he admits he’s better when he has no time to think. Same for the rest of the young guys on offense. One of the risks in going up-tempo is penalties for procedure and false start. But the more the Seahawks work with it, the fewer the penalties. But before we swoon too much over the offense, the defense, despite the big (464) yardage, disrupted Manning frequently and simply denied the Giants the run as a significant weapon.
STEVE: The Seahawks held the Giants to just 69 rushing yards (2.8 per pop) while rushing for 145 themselves (entered the game averaging 67.5). The Seahawks gave up some exasperating plays, but when the Giants have guys like Manning (threw for a career-high 420 yards and 3 TDs) and Cruz, the Seahawks are bound to get torched once in a while. My favorite defensive play, though, was the safety.
ART: Carroll said that the safety was not his brilliant call but a blocking mistake by the Giants. Whatever the case, the Giants, besides surrendering the safety, had five turnovers, and DE Chris Clemons had two sacks. The defense was without CB Marcus Trufant the whole game. LB Leroy Hill, though he led the team in tackles, had a hamstring problem that limited him in the second half. One grievous mistake was on the Giants’ final drive when LB Aaron Curry whiffed on an open-field tackle that allowed a first down. But Browner had his back with the pick six — although it was Cruz who tipped the pass to the Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor, before Browner was the third man to the ball.
STEVE: Before the season began, you predicted the Seahawks would go 5-11. I have no idea how they’ll finish, but I’m amazed at the progress they’ve made in the past couple of games. Early in the season, the Seahawks were dreadful. Now, they’re fun to watch — even if they had lost on Sunday.
ART: In my Friday column I predicted the Seahawks would win, 17-16 — please, hold the applause — because this felt like a trap game for the Giants. They killed the Seahawks last season, 41-7, and then had a couple of thrilling wins, including a great comeback the previous Sunday in Arizona. They also had key injuries on both sides of the ball. That doesn’t diminish the fact that the Seahawks were the NFL day’s biggest underdog (10 points) and won by nine where they almost never win. The biggest achievement after five games is competence in all three phases. Now it’s about sufficient depth to survive injuries and their own up-tempo pace — and getting a few breaks. The biggest was when on the Whitehurst-to-Baldwin TD pass, the Giants quit on the play after the snap when the whistle sounded, giving the Seahawks a free play. And they’re supposed to be the smart, veteran club. We in the Northwest offering heaving sobs for the fates this week of Giants and the Yankees.