BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 11/09/2016

Seahawks fans haven’t seen many like that

The Seahawks have not recorded many wins in their 41-year history under the bizarre circumstances that prevailed at CenturyLink Field Monday night against Buffalo.

Earl Thomas and the Seahawks survived 12 third-down conversions Monday night. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The Nov. 3, 1996 joust between the Seahawks and Oilers in the lightly lamented Kingdome was largely the kind of yawner that could have been expected from two teams going nowhere (Seattle finished 7-9, Houston 8-8). Mostly, it devolved into an exchange of Todd Peterson and Al Del Greco field goals, each hitting three through three quarters, which ended 9-9.

At 8:24 of the fourth quarter, however, the proceedings perked up. Houston QB Steve McNair startled the sparse crowd of 36,320 by whipping a 65-yard touchdown pass to Chris Sanders, who juked out Seattle cornerback Selwyn Jones on the play. That gave the Oilers a 16-9 lead. In retaliation, John Friesz tossed a 14-yard TD to Joey Galloway to tie the game 16-16 with 4:42 remaining.

Little else of consequence happened until 37 seconds remained in regulation when Del Greco lined up for a 37-yard field goal that would have given Houston a 19-16 victory.

“At that point,” Friesz said later, “it felt real hopeless.”

But then, as the ball was snapped, DE Sam Adams helped collapse the Houston line. A hole opened and Michael McCrary bulled through and blocked Del Greco’s kick — not with his hands, but his chest. McCrary snatched the carom off the plastic Kingdome rug and quickly flipped it to a trailing Robert Blackmon, who whizzed 61 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired.

“That had to be one of the craziest plays in Seahawks history,” said head coach Dennis Erickson, who was right on one account: It was the longest such play in team annals. But crazier still, it enabled the Seahawks to “miraculously” (Erickson’s word) win a game in which they finished with a mere 32 yards rushing.

In 41 Seahawks seasons, that 23-16 win over the Oilers is one of three that Seattle won while rushing for fewer than 40 yards. The second occurred Oct. 28, 2008, when backup QB Seneca Wallace and the Seahawks beat San Francisco 34-13 with 39 rushing yards.

The third? Monday night at CenturyLink Field, when the Seahawks produced a pathetic 33 rushing yards in 12 attempts, including a combined eight carries for 10 yards by RBs C.J. Prosise and Christine Michael.

In other words, the Seattle-Houston game 20 years ago is the only one in which the Seahawks had fewer rushing yards than Sunday night and won.

To illustrate how tough it is to win with such anemic ground production, consider that the Seahawks have won only seven times since 1976 (their first year) when they rushed for fewer than 50 yards. Those games:

Year Date Opp. Att. Yards Score Seattle RBs, Yards
1996 Nov. 3 Oilers 21 32 23-16 C. Warren 34. L. Smith -2
2016 Nov. 7 Bills 12 33 31-25 C.J. Prosise 9, C. Michael 1
2008 Oct. 26 49ers 28 39 34-13 M. Morris 16, L. Weaver 13
1998 Oct. 25 Chargers 23 40 27-20 R. Watters 32, A. Green 1
1999 Nov. 14 Broncos 21 41 20-17 R. Watters 29, A. Green 13
1984 Oct. 14 Bills 22 41 31-28 E. Lane 21, R. Morris 12
2013 Oct. 28 Rams 15 44 14-9 M. Lynch 23, R. Turbin 5

We can expand on this. In addition to rushing for 33 yards Monday night (Tyler Lockett, with 13 yards on an end around, became the first Seattle WR to lead the team in rushing since Percy Harvin had 45 yards at San Diego Sept. 14, 2014), the Seahawks went 2-for-7 on third-down conversions.

Counting all NFL teams over the past 25 years, these are the only ones that rushed for 33 or fewer yards while converting two or fewer third-down chances, and won:

Year Date Team Opp 3rdDwn Yards Result
2005 Jan. 1 Ind Ariz 2 11 Colts 17, Cards 13
2005 Nov. 13 Minn NYG 2 12 Vikings 24, Giants 21
1993 Dec. 19 LARai TB 2 17 Raiders 27, Bucs 20
1998 Oct. 11 Oak SD 2 18 Raiders 7, Chargers 6
1999 Sept. 12 NYG TB 1 28 Giants 17, Bucs 13
2015 Jan. 3 Pitt Clev 2 30 Steelers 28, Browns 12
1999 Dec. 12 Det Wash 1 31 Lions 33, Redskins 17
1999 Oct. 10 Ariz NYG 2 31 Cards 14, Giants 3
2016 Nov. 7 Sea Buff 2 33 Seahawks 31, Bills 25

Not only did the Seahawks deliver another inept rushing performance – 2.8 yards per carry – they failed to contain Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, who “Russell Wilsoned” them so effectively (289 passing yards, 43 rushing) that Buffalo held the ball for 40:17 to Seattle’s 19:43. That came a week after the New Orleans Saints scored on their final six possessions.

“It was up and down,” CB Richard Sherman said when asked to describe Seattle’s defensive performance.

Linebacker Bobby Wagner, though, had the more pertinent response when asked the same question.

“I don’t know what the percentage was, but they (the Bills) were definitely successful on third down. We have to do a better job of getting off the field.”

The Bills converted 12 of their 17 third-down opportunities, which led to a brutal disparity in total plays run: 82 for Buffalo, 42 for Seattle.

That begs the obvious question: Have the Seahawks won a game in which they allowed an opponent to convert 12 third downs?

Yes, on Monday night. That’s the only time. In fact, the Seahawks have won only five times in their history when their opponent converted as many as 10 third downs:

Year Date Opponent 3DAtt 3DConv. 3D% Result
2016 Nov. 7 Buffalo 17 12 70.6 Sea 31, Bills 25
2007 Sept. 23 Cincinnati 18 11 61.1 Sea 24, Bengals 21
2002 Sept. 29 Minnesota 18 10 55.6 Sea 48, Vikings 23
2003 Sept. 14 Arizona 18 10 55.6 Sea 38, Cardinals 0
2003 Sept. 7 New Orleans 19 10 52.6 Sea 27, Saints 10

So the Seahawks head to New England Sunday sans any semblance of a running game and with a defense that hasn’t been able to get off the field for two consecutive weeks.

The Seahawks haven’t won at New England since Sept. 19, 1993 and face a 7-1 Patriots outfit trying to become the first club since the 1960 Cleveland Browns to have no interceptions in the first nine games of a season.

Idle Sunday, the Patriots are 12-4 coming off a bye under coach Bill Belichick and haven’t lost a post-bye game at home since 2002. The Seahawks have a lot of work to do in this short week.


  • jafabian

    I remember this game. The Hawks had issues with their offense (mostly Erickson and Rick Mirer not getting along) but a solid defense. The uncertainty of what city they’d be playing in didn’t help things either.

    I’m surprised at the inconsistency of the rushing game. It’s like the coaches are preferring a passing game for some reason. I haven’t seen the RB’s have problems getting the ground game going and they went away from it on Monday after Michael scored his TD. Maybe they think they’re throwing off defenses, I don’t know.

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