BY Art Thiel 08:32PM 11/03/2013

Thiel: When there’s Lynch, Seahawks don’t flinch

After recovering from a sick stomach, Marshawn Lynch was the man on six of the Seahawks’ final eight plays in a harrowing triumph over the winless Bucs. Lesson learned?

GoldenTate eludes Tampa punter Michael Koenen on his way to a 71-yard punt return late in the third quarter Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

If a Seahawks fan ever wondered what it would be like to experience a double-breaking, 150-foot putt on the 18th green to win a golf tournament, CenturyLink offered a three-and-a-half-hour course Sunday in yelling, “Get in the hole!”

A demanding, draining, perilous, arduous and exasperating afternoon ended with, well, another exhalation. Relief, just like Monday in St. Louis, not exhilaration. The Seahawks, again as bad as a good team can be, did what great teams do: Enough right things to win.

According to fullback Michael Robinson, the Seahawks knew they were going to win. Like a cat who smashes into a closed glass door, the Seahawks staggered away from the collision with Tampa Bay acting as if they meant to do that — going down 0-21 before winning 27-24 in overtime.

“There really is no panic on the sidelines,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “Guys were like, ‘All right, we’re going to go down there and make it happen.’ Talking to the guys the sidelines you wouldn’t have thought we were down by 21 points. I pay attention to that stuff. Guys were all upbeat.”

The hell you say. Fans were throwing up over apartment-balcony rails at the thought of Seahawks losing, and badly, at home to an 0-7 team, and the Seahawks were buffing their nails.

Maybe not quite. At least one Seahawk was having some internal distress too.

“Marshawn got sick in the first quarter,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He just got sick to his stomach from the fast start. It took him awhile to get back. That’s why he wasn’t in there early on . . . the trainers were working feverishly on the sidelines.”

Since Lynch doesn’t talk to media about football, much less his plumbing problems (that is a paid conversation with him), we must accept only his deeds. They were splendid. Lynch ran for 125 yards on 21 carries, including six of the final eight plays in overtime that set up Steven Hauschka’s game-winning, 27-yard field goal.

Lynch’s last two carries produced runs of 19 and 13 yards, as majestic a statement as anyone can make who was not far from unpleasant moments bowing to the porcelain shrine.

“I thought he ran great today,” Carroll said. “He was just a warrior out there. He took advantage of some really good work up front. It was a great finish.”

The justified praise also brings questions. As in: If Lynch is so good, why not give him a chance when the Seahawks had a first-and-goal from the Tampa 3-yard line, trailing 24-17 inside eight minutes to play?

That’s when Wilson was ordered to throw to WR Doug Baldwin on a square-in route. Tampa strong safety Keith Tandy recovered from his bite on play-action to intercept one-handed the pass on the goal line. It was exactly the break Tampa coveted to break Seattle’s home-field momentum and pull off the upset of the NFL season.

“It was a beautifully designed play,” said Baldwin. “I was open.”

“He could have lofted the ball a little better,” said Carroll.”It’s easy to say we we should run the football . . .maybe next time we will.”

“They were fortunate to make a big play,” Wilson said. “I was obviously mad about it.”

All undoubtedly true. And none of it would have mattered if the ball was handed to Lynch.

Sure, it’s easy to second-guess after a bad play happens. But the percentages in that situation are heavily in favor of Lynch over any other option, even when the defense stacks against him. It is particularly so in Seattle’s situation, when its offensive line is nearly in tatters due to injuries.

Already missing both tackles, the Seahawks Sunday lost Pro Bowl center Max Unger to a concussion in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game they pulled LG James Carpenter after he was getting beat, moving LT Paul McQuistan back to guard and bringing on rookie LT Alvin Bailey.

Any time Wilson can be excused from dropping into the pocket, the opportunity should be taken. Sunday Wilson suffered no sacks, but he was hit six times in passing situations, and also rushed six times for 36 yards. He is the most-rocked QB in the NFL, and even Carroll admitted, “Russell kind of got banged up . . . we’ll see what happens.”

Asked directly how he felt, Wilson said, “I feel good. I got hit pretty good a couple times. You just get back up and keep playing.”

Until, of course, you can’t.

After a terrible start — and a first quarter red zone pick — Wilson became better, finishing with 19 completions in 26 attempts for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The better news for the Seahawks was Carroll’s post-game report that injured tackles Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung looked good in warmups and “we’ll see them next week.”

Even with their return, progress won’t be instant because they’ve missed a lot of work, and they aren’t Unger, and they can’t play guard for McQuistan, Carpenter or J.R. Sweezy.

For two weeks in a row, the Seahawks escaped defeat to heavy underdogs only by late heroics from the defense and the quarterback, each of which showed early game vulnerability.

And now, they are at risk of defeat if Lynch perhaps overdoses on Skittles. Even if the opponents are supposedly softer, the margins can’t get much thinner.

 


YourThoughts

  • tedsfrozenhead

    “The Seahawks, again as bad as a good team can be, did what great teams do: Enough right things to win.”

    At this point using the words “great” and “Seahawks” in the same sentence is a stretch. I am a big Seahawk fan, they are my team since ’76 and I’m happy with the win and thankful for the 8-1 record but this team has some glaring problems. The offense seldom shows up for a whole game and today the defense followed suit. Excuses of injuries don’t fly with teams who have championship aspirations. The last couple of games, if played against quality teams likely would have both been losses. After a strong start I am wondering if they are more pretender than contender,

    • art thiel

      I don’t think they’re great, but the second-half comeback was a great feat. And this is November, not January.

      • tedsfrozenhead

        It was indeed a great comeback and that showed some character. I just feel until the Seahawks can put up dominating performances most fans are seeing thru rose colored glasses. If they can’t get it together there will be no deep run in January. The games coming up against the Saints and 49ers should tell the tale. Right now, they are suspect….

  • Hammtime

    This team reminds me a bit of the 2000 Huskies. I remember always having a near heart attack watching that team pull it out in the 4th quarter.

    • art thiel

      I think the three big wins late in 2012 were intoxicating, and the expectations exceed that anomalous run.

  • jafabian

    The defense made adjustments at halftime, giving up only a FG in the second half. The offense has had to make adjustments every game and possibly will be without C Max Unger for the next game. The O-Line has yet to play together all season.The team really needs James Carpenter to step up his game and it isn’t happening. At this point he could be following John Moffit in the off season.

    Wilson is still having problems as a result. He makes adjustments and so far the results are satisfactory. Can’t deny the win loss record.

    • art thiel

      The cumulative effects of the Wilson pummelings are the biggest negative going. Short-route passes helped. Getting Okung in and Carpenter out will help more.

  • osoviejo

    I think the team really needs its bye coming up after the next two games. The tackling I’ve seen against the Rams and Bucs looks tired. It takes extra effort to wrap up and hang on, and what we’re getting instead is the shoulder slam and hope he goes down.

    Carroll also had an interesting observation about the poor tackling. He suggested that it may be a little too much “going for the ball” instead of getting the man down. They don’t (or didn’t) lead the league in takeaways for nothing, and it’s preached consistently in practice, but perhaps a minor adjustment is in order.

    I also think the team needs an infusion of creativity in the offensive game plans. Screens, bubbles, and quick slants–when used–have been an effective counter against the turnstile tackles. Just not seeing enough of that.

    • art thiel

      I believe Carroll when he says the clawing can”t come before the tackling. And I also think Wagner and Thomas weren’t right physically. Too many arm tackles from guys who use their shoulders.

  • Will

    After the last few games if seems the Seahawks are modeling themselves as tightrope walkers … someone should tell them wire walkers, talented or not, rarely get second chances when they fall.

  • tedsfrozenhead

    The intangibles are all there with the Seahawks, but they have not quite gelled yet.

  • Matt712

    I really liked this game. I think the Hawks showed a lot of character. Tampa came in and played lights out football – I mean, out of their freakin’ minds. The Bucs are a better team than their 0-7 (now 8) record and they played like it, adding a ‘nothing left to lose’ mentality and game plan – trick plays and everything – and then went out and executed it almost mistake-free.

    Even the most talented teams don’t always pull themselves off the mat after getting dope-slapped that hard. I think this game had a real ‘gut check’ feel for the Seahawks. Where last week it seemed they stole the win and ran out of town, this week seemed more prideful and more resolved. They didn’t steal it; they won it back.

    I might be proven wrong in the games remaining, but this one seemed like a turning point. Pete Carroll did not seem his usual jovial self at press time and Golden Tate was as stoned cold (and stone-faced) as I’ve ever seen him play (If this is ‘the new him’ I’ll take it). It will be interesting to see if the team plays and is coached with a little more urgency and seriousness than have up until now. As the ebbs and flows of an NFL season go, I think the Seahawks’ slack tide may finally be over.

  • Steve Graham

    Paul Allen, with his bucks and interest in all things scientific, should be able to genetically modify his team. It might provide the needed edge to buff out those bothersome scratches in the chassis.

  • ll9956

    Another great article, Art.

    One must give a tip o’ the hat to the Hawks for hanging in there and engineering a near-miraculous comeback win in OT. That said, the D-line has to improve both in stopping the run and, especially, in the pass rush, which for most of the game, seemed virtually nonexistent. Watching the opposing QB have so much time to throw early in the game was very disturbing.

    The last two wins remind me of a cat with nine lives. How many more times can the Hawks play poorly for most of the game and pull off a late comeback win? Maybe I’m asking for too much, but It sure would be nice to have a couple of victories that aren’t gut-wrenchers.

  • 1coolguy

    Is it past the trade deadline in order to pick up an O lineman or 2?
    If the Hawks had the O line intact they would be on a serious roll.

    • jafabian

      Think it’s too late to get O-Line help because they don’t know the offense. Better to promote Jared Smith off the practice roster instead if they need O-Line help.

  • chaae

    “Bowing to the porcelain shrine”

    THAT is great stuff/writing. ..you’ve won over a new fan in just a few yet wonderfully chosen words….#awesome