BY Art Thiel 12:25AM 10/06/2015

Thiel: Seahawks make more Monday magic

A preposterous defensive play saved the game for a Seahawks offense semi-helpless against a mediocre Detroit defense. An the Hogwarts end zone still had some Monday magic.

QB Russell Wilson was under near-constant pressure behind an inexperienced offensive line. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Monday night in the Hogwarts end zone at the Clink.

Things happen in that place and time that mere Muggles will never understand. But it’s where the Seahawks, wizards of Monday, prevail and opponents fail.

Inside two minutes to go and inches from a touchdown by an airborne WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit’s best athlete, whose completed flight probably would have created the upset of the NFL season, the Seahawks’ best athlete, SS Kam Chancellor, intruded. He ripped the football away as 69,005 fans beseeched the sporting gods for recovery of the tumbling treasure.

Instead, Seahawks LB K.J. Wright gently tapped the ball out of the back of the end zone to create a touchback, a firestorm and a preposterous 13-10 Seattle triumph — in nearly the exact spot that Golden Tate, then of the Seahawks and now of Lions, three years earlier was given a mystery touchdown that the Green Bay Packers swear to this day was a win-saving interception.

“Now that you look at it, we’re fortunate,” coach Pete Carroll said brightly, an understatement measured in megatons. “It’s the way it goes sometimes. Plays happen and calls get made.

“That’s a very, very unique situation.”

Never mind that there’s no such thing as “very” unique. Nor has there been such a play in NFL history. And few but Wright would have thought to bat the ball instead of jump on it — and then escaped punishment by officials who looked right at the crime and missed it.

“You can’t, I guess, knock it out,” Wright said. “But at the time, I wasn’t thinking that. I was just trying to not mess up the game.”

But mess it up he did — although it came to that point gloriously pre-messed by both teams. The Seahawks’ final defensive play, great as it was, will be remembered more as notorious rather than exceptional. Just as with the Tate catch that generated so much contempt toward the replacements for striking officials that the NFL settled with the union a few days later.

No such political drama will follow this outcome. But an apology from the NFL would be in order for the 0-4 Lions and their beleaguered fans.

“To go 90 yards against a defense like that, in an environment like that,” said disconsolate Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford.  “Not a lot of teams do that. We had our chances and we didn’t get it done.”

Indeed, the Lions had their chances. Although pounded relentlessly by the Seahawks defense coming off a shutout out the Bears a week earlier, the Lions made no turnovers until Johnson’s fumble, and Stafford endured no sacks. They stayed close enough to seize one mistake and turn the game.

Their 24th-ranked defense exploited Seattle’s inexperienced line by beating C Drew Nowak and LG Justin Britt up the middle, and RT Garry Gilliam and TE Jimmy Graham around the edges.

The last of the insults came with less than nine minutes remaining when QB Russell Wilson was sacked a sixth time, this time by SS James Ihedigbo, the ball going free to  Caraun Reid. The 300-pound defensive tackle from Princeton scooped and scored from 27 yards, throwing a thick blanket of hush over the usual rowdy Clink sellout.

“It was a crazy night of football,” Carroll said. The offensive line “was not as good as it needs to be. The protection . . . we didn’t run the ball as well as we wanted.

“Week 2 was our best one, and then we didn’t do as well the last two weeks.”

Again, a massive understatement. The sack total easily would have reached double figures were it any other quarterback than Wilson. He authored an astonishing variety of escapes from pressure. When he dared set his feet, he completed 20 of 26 passes for 287 yards yards and the game’s only offensive touchdown, a 24-yard bullet to WR Doug Baldwin in the second quarter.

“I can’t think of all the crazy scrambles that he made tonight,” Carroll said. “Receivers made the plays, just changed so drastically from what looked like was going to happen to what eventually happened.”

In fact, Seattle’s two biggest offensive plays were total 52-card pickup maneuvers to resourceful WR Jermaine Kearse, one for 34 yards and a second for 50 after the Johnson fumble and touchback. The latter, from a third-and-two at the Seattle 28, clinched the game with 1:34 left because the Lions wouldn’t be getting the ball back.

At least part of the offense’s problems were due to the absence of RB Marshawn Lynch, who missed his first game since 2011 with a sore hamstring. He warmed up in the pregame and was seen running at half-speed, but remained on the inactive list because the Seahawks wanted to save him for next week’s match in Cincinnati against the 4-0 Bengals.

Rookie Thomas Rawls, playing against his home-state team, tried his best, but his 48 yards in 17 carries (with a long of 10) was testament to the fact that he couldn’t take the pressure off Wilson behind the suspect line.

Without Lynch, the Lions game plan targeted Wilson, who has never appeared more vulnerable in a Seahawks uniform. He even had trouble getting good shotgun snaps from Nowak, who’s playing the first center of his life.

“Sometimes these hard lessons help us,” Carroll said. “Maybe we’ll get a little more precise.”

Asked when that might happen, he said, “This week.”

Good luck with that. There’s no Hogwarts end zone in Cincinnati.


YourThoughts

  • Mayrock

    There’s no Hogwarts end zone in Cincinnati, but I’m confident in coach Pete Dumbledore’s bag of charms and potions. The Muggle O-Line however…

    • art thiel

      Good chili in Cincy, however.

  • Lodowick

    The Hawks don’t seem to put a lot of points on the board without turnovers from the defense. Wilson in his prime will not be Peyton in his prime. Or Brady. Or Rodgers. Though you paid him as if he was. He is arguably elite. He can win a lot of games for you. But he needs strong support. Running back, special teams, O-line, turnovers from the defense. If he gets the limited support Peyton got in Indy you are not going to the playoffs much less the Super Bowl.

    • dingle

      And it’s a good thing that Wilson isn’t Peyton, or Brady, or even Rogers, who’s pretty mobile: He’d have been sacked 15 times last night. He’s not the pure passer that the others are, but his skill set seems to fit this team. (Although he needs to add “take better care of the ball” to that list.) And there aren’t too many other quarterbacks I’d rather have is you’re down by 14 going into the 4th quarter.

      However, that offensive line is atrocious and an embarrassment, and eventually it’s going to get Wilson injured. They don’t open holes for runners, and they certainly can’t give Wilson more than 3 seconds in the pocket.

      • Sonics79

        Having RW stand in the pocket like he’s Brady or Manning is insane. He gets about 2 seconds before he’s surrounded. Why they don’t roll him out on play action more (and hit Graham on a post) drives me nuts.

        • art thiel

          Play action works with Lynch, not so much with Rawls.

      • art thiel

        But they can’t go get lineman a quarter into the season. They have to coach these five into minimum competence.

        • dingle

          True, that. So far, Cable’s magic wand hasn’t been able to turn chicken bleep into chicken salad. Will we see incremental improvements over the next few weeks? Based on empirical evidence, I’m skeptical.

    • art thiel

      Every good QB needs strong support. But the Seahawks pay defense first, QB second and everyone else is tied for last.

  • 1coolguy

    Paul Allen wrote Kam a personal check after the game and JS was on the phone interviewing OC’s.1

    • art thiel

      Normally it’s the QB who buys the o-line steak dinners. Here, it’s flipped.

  • MacPhisto92

    Tom Cable has to be fired. I mean, what’s it gonna take? Seriously, Does Russell Wilson have to blow out an ACL or snap his leg in half before they take any action with this magnificent disaster called the ‘offensive line’. I have never in my life seen 5 more worthless O lineman. Peyton Manning would’ve literally been killed had he played behind that line last night. How can this continue???

    • WestCoastBias79

      Tom Cable is an incredible coach. Look at the talent on that line, it is by far the weakest unit on that team. He is not the problem.

    • Pixdawg13

      anyone who thinks Tom Cable is a problem for this team has zero cred for football. Go back to mudding.

      • MacPhisto92

        Please name specific things Cable has done that proves he is not the problem. The Seahawks have had the worst OL in the NFL the entire time he’s been in Seattle, no matter what players they’ve had.

    • jafabian

      Literally killed? As opposed to being figuratively killed? Subtly killed?

      • art thiel

        How about: Killed dead?

      • MacPhisto92

        You’ve never heard the term ‘killed’ used both figuratively and literally? What am I missing here?

    • art thiel

      This is not about coaching. It’s about talent. The Seahawks have paid their stars, and are trying to sneak by on the offensive line. That’s life under a hard salary cap.

    • 1coolguy

      You really don’t know what you are talking about. The Oline talent is bottom feeder material. Remember without Lynch in there the D can simply tee off on RW. Also Bevell apparently has not heard of a 3 step drop 5 to 10 yard pass to loosen up the D.

  • steve51

    It’s time to begin questioning the Seahawks philosophy of not investing in the offensive line. Most teams invest draft picks and/or free agent signings to build a line that can protect their single biggest investment – the quarterback. The Seahawks under Carroll and Schnider have gone cheap, asking Tom Cable to put together a line using former defensive linemen and undrafted free agents. Okung is the only good offensive lineman, and it isn’t clear the Seahawks will make an effort to resign him.

    We probably could have picked up two or three good free agent offensive linemen for what we’re paying Jimmy Graham. A better offensive line would have more impact in terms of both the running and passing game than Graham.

    • 1coolguy

      Goes to show how valuable Unger was leading the Oline.

      • art thiel

        That’s true.

    • Effzee

      The philosophy works, as long as the OC deals in reality. I put this mostly on Bevell. He is the only one seemingly not working with what he’s got. I trust Cable, I trust JS, I trust PC. I think Bevell is a lunatic who is not accepting what is. He’s the one calling plays for the team he wants instead of the team he has. I know Marshawn is out, but its the same with him in. I’ve never bought into Bevell. I think this team wins totally despite his presence. He doesn’t seem to have heard of possessing the ball, eating the clock, and letting the PC defense dominate the game. He habitually puts games in jeopardy. Its like he has so much faith in the defense, that he can just take all the chances he wants, feeling that they will always rescue him. Like last night. I can almost not take it any more. Almost.

      • Sonics79

        Good post. He calls plays based on philosophy on not on his personnel.

        • art thiel

          Not true.

          • Sonics79

            Probably. It’s just so hard to watch them stick with passes from a collapsing pocket leading to scrambles or sacks, when simply rolling Wilson out seems so much more effective.

      • art thiel

        Can’t make consecutive SBs with a lunatic OC. Calm down on Bevell. Fans and media can’t know the personnel problems that lead to some play calls that don’t work.

    • art thiel

      They trust Cable to make these guys serviceable by December. It was Okung who had the worst game. No fix there.

      • steve51

        Okung is no Walter Jones!

        Let’s check in in December

  • Gerald Turner

    Most of the time RW starts slow, and then clicks into the zone in the third quarter. This time he started getting a bit fuzzy and missing passes late, lack of Lynch, perhaps. Christian Michel had to be some kind of good luck starting running back insurance charm, the second he is gone, Lynch is out.Did not the batting the ball rule come in after a raider or fortyniner game in the 70′s? Pete C loves the Chaos. A good Sstorm. Drama for your Mama. He feeds off it like a… Sorry cant stand Harry Potter. Don’t know what wizard in those books feeds off of the maelstrom like ours. Do know that Tom Cable is our friendly ogre Shrek though.

    • art thiel

      Cable as Shrek. I like it.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      John Clayton said the rule goes back to the “Holy Roller” play in
      1978, when Raiders tight end Dave Casper recovered a controversial
      forward fumble to win a game. Clayton said Monday night’s play was a
      non-call that should have been called.

      “This has been a rule that’s been in place,” Clayton said. “Whether
      it’s in the red zone, whether it’s at the back of the end zone, whether
      it’s on the sidelines, you just can’t tap the ball forward. And that is
      one play that should have been an easy call.”

  • jafabian

    Wonder what Paul thought of Bennett calling him out during Kam’s interview? He has to be getting tired of players thinking of him as this bottomless money pit.

    • art thiel

      Not smart of Bennett to call out the boss by name on national TV, but I doubt there will be consequence beyond a warning.

  • Jamo57

    There are certain stadiums where weird things and blown calls always seem to go for the home team; to the dismay, anger and frustration of all who hate that team.

    South Bend is like that. Old Mile High Stadium was like that. The Big House used to be like that and may become so again under Harbaugh.

    Perhaps Hogwarts, er the Clink, is now in that conversation as well. It’s kind of fun to be on the side of the team, and call the stadium home, that pisses off all the haters.

    • art thiel

      Seattle has borne the brunt of the reverse. Remember the NBA Western finals when the Suns and Charles Barkley had 64 free throws to get the dream matchup with Jordan’s Bulls?

  • PokeyPuffy

    Kam’s play reminded me of our last minutes in the superbowl, with the shoe now being on the other foot. It aint over til you cross the goal line with the ball, and its no fluke that Cam and the LOB sniffed this one out and made it happen.

    The tap out was inconsequential, as there was no opposing player within yards. The officials made the right no-call.

    • art thiel

      It was inconsequential, but it also broke the rule. Should have been Lions ball.

  • coug73

    It appears hope has become a method of choice for the Hawks. Fingers crossed, I hope the O line improves, I hope the D makes turn overs, I hope the D scores some points. I hope we win our next game and the next… Magic. magic! We don’t need no stink’in magic.

    • art thiel

      These Wallenda finishes betray an incomplete team.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    How lucky for Seattle that Kam ended his hold out…. well at least
    nobody was whining that Jimmy Grahams catches were down this game. What a
    spectacular defensive play to preserve the game.Actually Kearses 50
    yard catch with under a minute to go preserved the game and for the
    record Wright could have scooped that ball and ran out of the back of
    the end zone.TRUE~he didnt but You can be sure he will if he is ever
    faced with that scenario again in his career.

    • Pixdawg13

      No, KJ will just fall on the ball.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Funny about that… a light tap was a no no but had he groped for the ball and punched it out they wouldn’t be debating it all across the country today…

        • art thiel

          It is about intent. Wright should have faked an attempt for a grab.

    • art thiel

      Carroll will drill that scenario weekly for the rest of his career.

  • Sonics79

    “To go 90 yards against a defense like that, in an environment like that,” said disconsolate Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford. “Not a lot of teams do that.”
    With all due respect to Stafford, a lot of teams have in the 4th quarter. San Diego, Dallas, Packers, Broncos, New England, Atlanta. I’m sure I’m forgetting others. For as great as our defense is, it’s been a long time since they closed out a one-score game by getting the other team on downs.
    We can’t keep relying on dramatic plays that get named afterward in Title Caps to win games.
    But … The Punch was a helluva play.

    • MacPhisto92

      This is so true (and very disturbing). Even in the NFC Championship against SF…..49ers went the length of the field with ease before Sherman’s tip job. Where are the squashing of last minute drives on downs by this ‘dominating’ defense?

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  • MrPrimeMinister

    Honestly, what is the difference between sherman batting a ball out of the endzone and the linebacker doing it. Batted balls happen numerous times in the course of a game–i don’t get the rule.

    • art thiel

      The ball in question was a fumble that belonged to no one, eligible to recovered by either side. So was Sherman’s tipped ball, but he kept it in play to a teammate. The rule is designed to keep offenses from deliberately fumbling the ball forward into the end zone and jumping on it. A loose ball risks a touchback.

  • John M

    It seems everyone has figured it out, more or less; our O-line looked like the charge of the Light Brigade against Nazi panzers. A footnote to that could be, if you’re going to hire a $10M TE whose gone to multiple pro-bowls due to his great ability as a giant receiver, why do you insist on trying to make him a blocker of down linemen (not his long suit) instead of continuing as a giant receiver?

    Russ played one of his best games. Even after two fumbles he earned a score of 125. Who else has done that? That run training the past offseason paid off last night, and may have saved some of his bones from being turned to dough babies.

    Bottom line: come up with a blocking scheme that works or the Hawks will be lucky to make the playoffs, much less another SB . . .

    • art thiel

      Regarding Graham, I would like to see him try. Maybe bump somebody, like you do getting out of an elevator.

      • 1coolguy

        Another excellent unheralded player we don’t have on the Oline is Zach Miller. He did it all including blocking .

      • John M

        Art, you can be brutally direct. Hope he reads you . . .

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Is there a precedent in the league for having an offensive line almost completely staffed by defensive linemen? I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I’ve only been watching the game since 1961-ish.

  • Kirkland

    OK, fellow Seahawks fans. Do The Fail Mary and “The Bat” make up for the blown calls in Super Bowl XL?

    • jafabian

      Nope. In an ideal world the Hawks would have 3 trophies right now.

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