BY Art Thiel 08:32PM 10/08/2017

Thiel: Implausibly, Seahawks stay alive in LA

Two improbable plays were required to get the Seahawks past the improving Rams Sunday. The Seahawks had just the improbable players for the tasks.

Seahawks DT Sheldon Richardson had a fumble return and an interception Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Harrowing as were the final moments Sunday in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Seahawks’ annual rock fight with the Rams turned early. When FS Earl Thomas converted an apparent Rams touchdown into a touchback, and when QB Russell Wilson’s rundown of an interception return shriveled a sure touchdown into a field goal, the plays gave the Seahawks a chance to spend the rest of the afternoon walking a figurative tightrope over Niagara Falls.

Leaning, lurching, wobbling, they somehow made it across and wound up in first place in the NFC West. Not a single style point would be awarded for the 16-10 win (box), but juice boxes for valorous conduct were everywhere.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Wilson said. “We’ve always overcome.”

Maybe not always, but in the wake of Seattle’s first road win of the season, its implausibility called for a little hyperbole.

The Seahawks offense again was mediocre — 241 yards for the game, and only 12 touchdowns through five games — and the defense gave up 375 yards. But they won, improbably.

For the final 40 minutes, the defense surrendered nary a point to the team that entered the game as the highest-scoring outfit in the NFL at 35.2 points.

The afternoon’s developments suggested that stat was a little misleading, because Rams second-year QB Jared Goff, who has a bright future, has a below-average present.

Another development was that the Seahawks defense is not past tense.

“People are looking forward to writing us off,” said CB Richard Sherman. “Our demise was greatly overstated.”

Mark Twain could not have said it better.

Forcing five turnovers, supplemented by unforced errors from the Rams, created enough pause to let Wilson squirm and slither his way to a touchdown pass,  plus three field-goal drives of 92 yards total.

“Exciting, tough, hard-nosed, hard-fought, well-deserved win,” said coach Pete Carroll, nearly giggling over his favorite kind of game. “In the second half, the defense kept stopping them, kept stopping them. You get five turnovers, you’re supposed to win the game.”

Even so, the Rams had two shots from the Seattle 20-yard line inside the final 20 seconds for the game-tying touchdown. But Goff, under pressure, missed both throws.

“We made him scatter the ball a little in the second half,” Carroll said. “His throws were getting away. We had some effect on him. We tried to get him off his spot and move around.

“But he was right down there knocking on the door to win the game, so he did pretty good today.”

The fact that the Rams hadn’t already secured the outcome was due in part to a dramatic play much earlier by Thomas. LA appeared ready to conclude its first possession with a touchdown until Thomas intersected at the 1-yard stripe along the sideline with Rams star RB Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second-leading rusher.

Much as he did in a game against the Rams two years ago, Thomas chopped the ball free before Gurley crossed the goal line. After a video review, the fumble was declared a touchback, and and the Seahawks had the ball at the 20.

“We’ve seen him do that before —  every time, it’s phenomenal,” Carroll said. “An exquisite moment to keep them from scoring. Another statement about the guy’s will to win. He will never let up. They were on the verge of scoring a touchdown. It made it a whole different game.”

So too, was the game changed after Wilson in the second quarter made, by his own admission, “a crappy play.” His cross-field throw intended for TE Jimmy Graham was intercepted by FS John Johnson, who had nothing but empty acres of Coliseum sod in front of him.

But as he took off down the sideline, Wilson put on the afterburners and picked out a vector that eventually forced Johnson to slow for a cutback, whereupon he was pulled down from behind by J.D. McKissic. Johnson had run from the LA 12 to the Seattle 19, but the Seahawks defense held the Rams to two yards on three downs, making them accept three points instead of six.

“There was nobody in the stadium who didn’t think that guy wasn’t scoring,” Carroll said.  Out of nowhere, Russell kicks it into high gear and turns him. Great effort by McKissic to stay with it, and get him to the ground.

“Fantastic example of never giving up.”

Also keeping his eye on the ball was Seahawks DT Sheldon Richardson, who made an interception out of a pass tipped by Gurley, and a fumble return off a bounce after Frank Clark knocked the ball loose during a fourth-quarter sack of Goff.

Opportunism was vital because the heart of the offense, the running game, again was semi-pitiful. Starting Eddie Lacy ahead of Thomas Rawls and in place of injured Chris Carson, the Seahawks rushed for 62 yards on 25 plays.

“We kept trying,  but we couldn’t run the ball today,” Carroll said. “They were really tough up front and it was hard on us.

“The passing game really came alive when we moved the ball around a bit.”

In their second year in LA, the Rams have been rejuvenated under new coach Sean McVay and the uptick with Goff. But they have yet to learn the ways of navigating the tightrope.

Noteworthy

The NFL Network reported and Carroll confirmed that LG Luke Joeckel will have minor, presumably arthroscopic, surgery on his previously repaired right knee during the bye week. He is expected to miss little or no playing time . . . All Seahawks players stood for the national anthem to honor the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, a week after nine players remained seated before the previous game against Indianapolis to protest social injustice. “There’s a time and place for everything, and I felt today wasn’t the time, honestly, to sit down amidst everything that’s going on that’s bigger in our country,” Clark told ESPN reporter Brady Henderson.


YourThoughts

  • PokeyPuffy

    Did the Hawks just set an NFL record for fewest points scored in game with 5 turnovers in their favor?

    • Kevin Lynch

      The total Rams gifting didn’t just include the 5 turnovers, four of which were egregious in one way or another, avoidable. The missed chip shot field goal also meant they couldn’t tie the game with a field goal from the 20 at the end. Then there was the “I faw down’ from Goff at a crucial juncture. Goff made some nice throws and the Hawks had some standout plays from Wilson, Thomas, etc. but this particular kind of handout for the Hawks won’t repeat this year.

      • Steed

        This is the kind of game they have been losing to the Rams, so I will not complain when they win one ugly.

  • Steed

    Richardson showed us why we got him. So did Frank Clark. Great strip sack. And, Earl Thomas is from another planet. Where they also think he is amazing like we do.

    Fantastic game by the defense. They stumped Gurley. The Rams offense was putting up big numbers until today.

    Good job by our new kicker too.

    • art thiel

      Goff had a setback. I’m curious to see the nature of his rebound in the rematch.

  • John Brown

    “annual rock fight” …Fantastic description. GO HAWKS!!!

  • Bruce McDermott

    Look at the film again, Art. Wilson made the tackle on the interception return, not McKissic. :)

    • John M

      Agreed, Bruce. After turning him, Wilson fell and reached out and grabbed an ankle. Watching Wilson take off to run down the guy with his interception was great; perfect angle, no slacking off in about 70 yds. and overtook a fast runner to turn him – when’s the last time you saw a QB do that? No one should complain about this game. It was a fight in close and yet “relatively” clean. The ball bounced their way, they took advantage, there were some outstanding plays as Art described, and occasionally the blocking worked enough to win.

      The Hawks always give up plays at the end of a game they’re leading when they go to deep zone; used to be called “prevent,” called by some of us “prevent the win.”

      • Bruce McDermott

        Argh. Goff threw three dimes in that drive. Luckily, only two were caught.

  • ll9956

    During the Rams’ last drive I just about had a nervous breakdown. The Hawks’ pass defense just disintegrated; they lucked out when Goff’s last two throws were incomplete.

    Another gut-wrencher goes into the books. Whew!

  • 1coolguy

    This gane was the personification of and validation of Pete Carroll and his ability to lead. The plays you mention Art, by Thomas and Wilson especially, show the “never quit” mentality Pete has emphasized in these players. True leaders each one is, yet the entire team plays this way and is big reason they are successful and so enjoyable to watch.
    Thank you for yet another insightful article.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. The test of the rest of the season is whether any other players step up close to the level of Wilson and Thomas.

  • Another enjoyable write-up, Art. Fortunately my house is far enough away from a population center that nobody calls the cops on me for screaming at the television for two and a half hours. I don’t remember who the two guys were doing the announcing on TV, but they didn’t even mention Russell Wilson hauling ass downfield to be in the middle of the tackle after his interception. Besides just running the ball, he does things quarterbacks aren’t supposed to do just about every week – blocking, tackling, and other tasks generally reserved for the peasants who don’t get to wear red during the week. Another year is underway.

  • tor5

    Not near a perfect game, but it was sure great to see some of that Seahawk magic. How many players would have even tried to make that Earl Thomas dive at the goal line? And how many QB’s could turn on a dime from the defeat of throwing a pick to make such a stellar defensive play? You make your own luck, as they say, and the Hawks earned every bit of it. 12’s be proud. Their approach to the game is about as good as it gets.

    • Steed

      No kidding. Most players would have watched the TD being scored. Earl ran over and stopped it.

      THESE are the good old days for our Seahawks. Right now. And going back to 2012 of course.

      Easy to see why Earl was the first guy drafted by Pete and John.