BY Art Thiel 09:20PM 09/11/2016

Thiel: Seahawks’ Baldwin is drama king for a day

The Dolphins should have won this game, but the Seahawks prevailed 12-10 on an emotionally significant day led by Doug Baldwin. QB Russell Wilson has a sore ankle, and he could miss a game, a career first.

Doug Baldwin and Luke Willson celebrate the game-winner Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The day was rich in drama: 9/11 anniversary, opening Sunday for the NFL season, America wrestling with itself. Not that we haven’t seen it all before, but perhaps never have they all knotted up together in one time and place.

Nowhere were matters more knotty than in Seattle, where the Seahawks, because they are Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, jumped in front of everyone in sports to begin untangling.

They spent a lot of emotional energy during the week stimulating a nationally scrutinized controversy. Sunday, they wove together a non-controversial statement about football and life in America that left them with barely enough energy to prevail 12-10 over a Miami Dolphins team that surely spent its long cross-country flight home searching their gear for a win they knew they had.

Then there was QB Russell Wilson, who went all Willis Reed on 69,012 despairing customers, gimping through a perilous final drive on a bad ankle. The drive required two fourth-down conversions and 14 plays, the final of which was an audible to a pass that caused WR Doug Baldwin to gasp.

“What are you doing?” Baldwin said he recalled thinking at the moment. Which was an appropriate thought for most everything in the week.

Wilson floated a low-percentage, fade-route pass on a perfect parabola that only Baldwin was in position to catch, which he did, an inch inside the end zone’s boundary. It proved to be the game-winner with 35 seconds left.

Since Baldwin was a lead figure in the national-anthem demonstration, posting a video Saturday elegantly explaining the franchise-wide appeal for unity instead of racial division, his spectacular catch seemed a Hollywood-penned tidiness to the week-long intersection with real life.

So let’s start at the anthem.

As a flag nearly the size of the field was unfurled, Seahawks players linked arms with each other as well as coaches and sideline staffers to create a single line more than 70 yards long. No one was sitting or kneeling — except on the opposite sideline, where four Dolphins, including RB Arian Foster, knelt in the protest form initiated by Niners QB Colin Kaepernick the previous week.

“We wanted to do something together as a team,” Baldwin said. “We want to honor those lives that have been lost 15 years ago on this tragic day, and also honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom that we cherish.

“At the same time, we’re standing for those lives that are fought for that freedom. We want to ensure freedom and the security of justice for all people. It’s a situation for us where you’ve heard us. The message is very clear, you’ve heard us.

“Now we’re asking you to listen to our message. It’s as simple as that.”

The gesture avoided the perceived flag-disrespect issue that rankled many fans and probably the NFL honchos and their skittish corporate sponsors. But did it convey the anger that turned Kaepernick into a hero for the marginalized?

“Let me clarify that for you,” Baldwin said. “The message that we’re sending is, yes, there are things in our country that need to be changed. But that’s why our country is so great. We’re never afraid to face those challenges head on and make those changes. We’re never afraid to make the uncomfortable the norm, and that’s why we’re so great.

“In this locker room of 53 guys, we believe that, as a team, the only way we’re going to win the Super Bowl is if we do it together. That’s where we arrived. Fortunately enough, we’re in the greatest country that’s capable of doing it. We’ve come so far, but that doesn’t mean that we rest, when we have so far to go.”

Baldwin’s eloquence was matched on the field by his substance. He had nine catches for 92 yards, including two catches for 31 yards, both for first downs, on the final drive that preceded Seattle’s only touchdown.

Baldwin’s resolve was exceeded only by the grit of Wilson.

On Seattle’s first possession of the second half, Wilson was fleeing from Miami dreadnaught Ndamukong Suh when he began to go down and Suh, accidentally but forcefully, stepped on the QB’s right ankle. Wilson hung in for three more plays as the drive stalled.

As he was treated on the sideline, there was sufficient concern to have rookie backup QB Trevone Boykin warm up. But Wilson insisted he could go. He played the rest of the game diminished, but still was able to throw from the pocket.

“You could tell it was bothering him,” Baldwin said. “But you could just see the process in his head — the mental process that you have to go to in order to push out the pain. You could see that going on, through his body language.

“Fortunately enough for us, he was able to do it.”

Wilson, never one to admit to discomfort, made an admission of the obvious — he was hurting.

“It’s a little sore, but I’ll be all right — with a little ice and a little prayer and some treatment,” he said, smiling. “It was just a freak accident.”

He managed to interject a little humor.

“I was pretty limited,” he said, “but I was telling coach Carroll and some of the trainers: ‘When I’m 43, 44, 45 years old and still playing, that’s probably what I’ll look like out there.'”

In fact, he looked like a Seahawks quarterback of old: Dan McGwire, the immobile brother of Mark McGwire and one of the great personnel mistakes of the Ken Behring era.

After the ankle was heavily taped, Wilson narrowed the playbook to handing off or throwing from the pocket. There wasn’t a chance he was going to sit.

“I was (playing), no matter what,” he said. “That’s just my mentality; whatever it takes.”

No one was offering pity; he threw a career high 43 times, completing 27 for 258 yards, including six for nine on the final drive. He even scrambled for four yards in the drive, throwing a scare into the house.

“When I looked and saw him running,” Baldwin said, “all I could think of was for him to get down.”

Wilson survived, as did the Seahawks, thanks largely to a defense that, until a late fourth-quarter drive of 86 yards to a touchdown, held the Dolphins to 145 yards of offense.

Seattle was aided greatly when the Dolphins dropped a certain touchdown reception, had a field goal blocked and chose to pass up a field goal for a fourth-down run that failed.

Just enough was done to allow the Seahawks to limp away with a victory.

Now they go to Los Angeles, for the first time since 1988, to Carroll’s old Coliseum haunt to attempt to win with perhaps a rookie quarterback against a pass rush more formidable than they saw Sunday.

Good thing they have practiced locking arms.

Seahawks players, coaches and staffers locked arms during the national anthem as a gesture of unity. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


  • wabubba67

    Good article, Art. One typo in the first paragraph….led by Doug Baldwin, not fled.

    • You never know with Art. He might have meant it.

    • art thiel

      Crap. Got through three people, including me.
      Fixed. Thanks.

      • wabubba67

        Not that big of a deal. Just an old US History teacher and sometimes writer here…editing papers is what I have done for most of my life. I enjoy visiting this website…keep up the good work!

  • AlaskaHawksFan

    My argument being that, Young Mr. Goody Two Shoes(contracts?) Russell Wilson, could realize more in down the road products endorsements, i.e. soup-to-nuts, dwarfing his mega-deal signing with the Seahawks, if he won one or more Super Bowls now, with this great defense.

    If he had taken a very modest team-friendly minimum contract, with the balance buying him an All-Pro caliber line, gaining protection, an improved running game, career longevity, and a few more seconds in the pocket(he is lethal when he gets that pocket time), all these considerations in total are worth much more in future earnings than he could get with being knocked out of the game as a young man with the hits, and now injury.

    But hey, I’m old, and know a few things about getting hurt on the job young, repeatedly, and the cumulative affects of the constant battering. I’m a commercial fisherman. I missed a few season’s, and massive paydays when I was a knuckle-headed kid. And all those season’s fishing hurt, that makes it damn hard to get out of bed in the morning now, that have greatly inflated my medical bills, were false economy. And I didn’t get the lucrative raingear, long-underwear, and boots endorsement contracts, or the “eat lots of oily fish to ease-your aching-creaky-arthritic joints” old fisherman tv shots, like an Arnold Palmer or Mike Ditka.

    But Russell, sharing the naive belief in the resiliency and durability of youth, took the money now, and keeps repeatedly heading into defensive storms(swarms) in a leaky boat. I just hope his body is as tough as he thinks it is, and he can win Super Bowls and MVP awards now. He’s going to earn multiple MVP’s for sure if he can continue to survive behind persistent mediocre lines and prosper, winning almost all by himself in miraculous fashion.

    Or he’s going to be injured on the sidelines missing games, and watching a succession of low-dollar backups and his team falling into losing-season holes he can’t miraculously comeback from, ruining his potential for greatness, and potential for endorsements into an old, old age.

    • Gerald Turner

      All the other QB’s and agents in the league would have hated him if took a massive pay cut. Plus he would have been tempting old man Murphy way too much.

      • AlaskaHawksFan

        Noted, but another season of mediocre line play with substandard journeymen, the Hawks persistent achilles exposed yet again, let a Ndamukong Suh stomp on Wilson’s achilles with ease. I dearly hope Russell can play next week. But how many more achilles’ stompings do we want to see, with only a Boykin as back-up?

        • wabubba67

          With the expansion of the salary cap, Wilson’s contract already looks relatively inexpensive in comparison to other elite QB’s. It’s an organizational decision to pay defensive members and just a few members of the offense while relying on Wilson’s youth and mobility to make the OL look better than it is. At some, Wilson will age and slow down…and the Seahawks will need to spend more on the OL. That day is coming soon.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Agree, but barring serious injury, that day is still pretty far off in my opinion. He’s 27..

          • art thiel

            True. Carroll said this morning that they are talking about whether to pursue a veteran backup QB.

          • art thiel

            That about sums it up.

        • art thiel

          Every team makes hard choices under a salary cap as to where to tolerate weakness. Because of Wilson and Lynch, Seahawks feel they can skimp on OL. Without Lynch, they spent a first-round pick on a guard. He was hurt yesterday and didn’t play.

      • art thiel

        As I wrote above, it’s a collective bargaining issue. The NFLPA is the weakest of the pro sports unions; for the players’ sakes, we should hope they don’t take fans’ suggestions that undercut their modest leverage.

    • art thiel

      Doesn’t work like that in a pro sport governed by collective bargaining. His union stands against sweetheart deals because the union and player can’t know that salary foregone will be put into places that will provably diminish wear and tear on him. Has nothing to do with youth or naivete, but the common-sense experience of foolish owners/mgmnt squandering resources.

      Every player is entitled to get as much as he can for as long as he can. Pro football careers are on average much shorter than commercial fishing careers, which are very short to begin with.

    • Williec


  • Gerald Turner

    Did you see the shot of the Miami rookie coach smiling after their go ahead TD? OK for a coach to do that at that point in the game, except this smile was just a bit too beamy. Just a smidgin too ‘we got this’. He will learn.

    • art thiel

      Was at the game so I missed the shot, but you’re right: Rookie mistake. Still, you can’t blame a guy for being excited about the prospect of winning his first game as an NFL head coach on the road in Seattle.

    • Bruce McDermott

      Russell Wilson leads the league in 4th quarter comebacks since he started playing, as I understand it. 4 minutes to go and two timeouts to boot–probably a bit premature for a “we got this” moment, if you are a student of the game. Offense stuck up the joint in the NFCC game against Green Bay too, and Wilson had been one of the offenders. Dude does not quit, physically or mentally.

      • art thiel

        Carroll said today he thought Wilson sort of liked the notion of being wounded and still prevailing.

  • Williec

    Quibbles aside, this is a great article. Thank you, Art.

    • Williec

      Oh, and, by the way, we’re following this from far distant Prince Edware Island. Thank you Al Gore for the Internet.

      • art thiel

        Welcome, PE Islander! What brings you to Seattle sports? PEI is on my bucket list.

  • Williec

    Actually I’m a Seattle native currently living in PDX on a trip to PEI. I will say without reservation, keep PEI on your list and bump it up a few spots. Terrific place, better people, excellent music.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the travel tips, Mr. Fromme.

      • Williec