BY Art Thiel 12:42AM 12/03/2019

Thiel: For Seahawks, the hard way is the only way

The 10-2 Seahawks are atop the NFC West, but the harrowing 37-30 win over Minnesota shows it’s going to be broken axles and windshields all the way.

RB Chris Carson found enough holes for 102 yards Monday night against the Vikings. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The path the Seahawks have taken to get to 10-2 and the top of the NFC West is mindful of the old Paris-Dakar auto rally, the off-road endurance race in Africa where participants had to survive heat, mud, dunes, floods, criminals, animals, washouts and blowouts. The goal is not to end the day upside down.

On Monday night before the football world, the Seahawks, coming off a week of illness that had at least eight players sent home sick, quickly fell behind Minnesota 7-0. By halftime, the deficit was 17-10. Abruptly, the Seahawks were ahead, 34-17. Just as suddenly, they were hanging on for dear life.

At the end, the football world was entertained nearly as much as the win over San Francisco, and the Seahawks again were right side up.

Egregious mistakes were countered with outrageous successes, leaving the Seahawks with a 37-30 triumph (box) that is breeding a confidence that every obstacle has a drive-around.

Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ primary perpetrator of pride and peril, could not help but think the hard road is paying off regarding the Seahawks’ ability to handle the post-season, which now seems nearly certain for Seattle.

“I think we have everything we need, and I think we have everything we want,” he said. “I think you got to have a clutch gene, and I think we have that as a team. We have been clutch all year.”

Certainly that’s true for their wins, all but one of which have by eight points or fewer. By no means are the Seahawks a dominant team, at least not as they were in the Super Bowl years. But they are remarkably resourceful.

Coach Pete Carroll, who reached 10 wins for the seventh time in his Seattle tenure, was so ebullient he nearly sprained his giggle.

“I just couldn’t be more excited to have that kind of win to put us at 10 wins,” he said, beaming. “It’s a nice spot for this time.”

The spot at the moment is the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, trailing only 10-2 New Orleans, which owns the tiebreaker because of the Saints’ win in Seattle Sept. 22. The 49ers, in first place all season in the division, are 10-2 after a loss at Baltimore Sunday and  have tumbled to the fifth seed. The Niners finish the regular season in Seattle Dec. 29.

Four games remain, including Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Rams. But with each hard victory, a little more iron is visible.

Monday night’s first of two magnum doinks by the Seahawks came with 5:09 left in the first half, when Minnesota CB Anthony Harris returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. It was Wilson’s fourth interception and second pick-six of the season, but what made it weird was he handled the ball twice.

The first time, his pass was blocked by a Vikings lineman. The ball came back to Wilson, who attempted to swat it down, only to be hit in the chest by another lineman, which re-directed the ball high enough for Harris to snatch it and score.

“We practice that all the time,” Carroll said. “He did exactly the right thing. But he got banged going up, and couldn’t quite get on top of the ball.  So many of these turnovers have been explosive plays, all season long.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s just the scourge of the season.”

In a close game against a tough opponent, it could have been demoralizing. But DE Jadeveon Clowney, who joined Hogwarts By The Sea right at the start of season, has gotten used to the bad spells and the antidotes.

“Every time Russell does that, I say, ‘He’ll make up for it,” he said. “He makes more good plays than bad — who cares about a turnover? We don’t. I don’t think anybody on defense was worried. I didn’t see no panic. We never do that. Next play.”

Then he offered a fresh perspective from his sunny side.

“I don’t mind going out there, getting more snaps,” he said. “He takes so much time off the clock (with long drives), I say, ‘Man, I’m gettin’ no snaps this game.'”

The second magnum doink was on the defense. After an astonishing run of 24 points in less than 11 minutes of the second half that put the Seahawks up 34-17, a blown coverage left Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell with acres of room to score on a 58-yard pass from QB Kirk Cousins. With 12:49 left in the game, the lead was cut to 34-24 and the heretofore riotous sellout at the Clink fell silent.

“It was awful,” Carroll said. “That’s happened one time in two years. We’ve (practiced) it months and months. It’s just a regular adjustment, and it didn’t get communicated. We just blew it.”

Clowney wasn’t about to blame the secondary.

“That dude got behind us, but that’s got to be on the front,” he said of himself and the D-line. “We can’t let (Cousins) get that much time in the pocket. That’s on us. He had a lot of time. It’s a team thing. Not gonna blame the backs.”

The Vikes scored on their next possession to return the one-time blowout to cliff-hanger status, trailing 34-30 after a missed extra point. But the Seattle defense made up for the TDs on the Vikings’ penultimate possession with 3:27 left. After a 19-yard pass to TE Kyle Rudolph got the Vikings to their 35-yard line, the Seahawks forced three incompletions, the last a fourth-down throw that easily could have drawn a pass-interference penalty on Akeem King, but did not.

So the Seahawks were allowed to savor a game that, despite Minnesota having a bye week of preparation, went much to their favored script: 40 minutes of possession time, thanks largely to a season-high 218 yards rushing against a defense stout against the run (94 ypg, sixth in the NFL). RBs Chris Carson had 102 yards on 23 tries and Rashaad Penny 74 on 15, each with a TD, plus a 29-yard gain from punt formation by rookie upback Travis Homer.

“That’s a really good front, and our guys continue to run the football and allow us to control,” Carroll said. “Chris is the starter so he winds up getting more carries, but I don’t know who is one and I don’t know who is two.

“They’re doing great.”

The Seahawks pulled off the defeat of the 8-4 Vikings apparently in the only manner available to them: Off-road, the hard way.

“Close games are cool, aren’t they? I like them,” Carroll said, grinning. “Maybe the 17 points was too much. Maybe we shouldn’t have been ahead by that much.”

If you plan to stick out the December ride, make sure you are equipped with a roll bar, helmet, hunting knife and quality scotch. This season is not for poseurs, dilettantes and lightweights.

CB Tre Flowers came up with a fourth-quarter interception. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

 


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YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Excellent team win and probably the most complete game by the offense this season. There was a let down by the defense but they were able to right themselves in the end. Russell has complete confidence in throwing to younger players like Metcalf, Hollister, Carson, Penny, Moore and Turner. I don’t know if he would in the past when he had Baldwin, Kearse and Graham around. Surprised though that he hasn’t worked Gordon in more and concerned that for the second game in a row Tyler Lockett was a non-factor. More importantly though the Hawks have caught SF who will be visiting the Saints next weekend while the Hawks go to LA to play the Rams. Hopefully another opportunity to put some distance between them and the Shermans. I mean Niners.

    • Lightninbug

      Hate to say it out loud but I’m rooting for the 9ers to beat NO next Sunday and deliver the 1 seed to the Hawks who then control their own destiny as long as they win out to establish home field advantage through the playoffs. Don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch, but more and more it seems doable. If the 9ers fail to down NO, then I’d be surprised if the NFL does not flex the game to a later start when they come to Seattle to meet their fate.

      • Chris Alexander

        Secretly, I’m kind of hoping the same thing. If SF beats NO and we win out then the #1 seed is ours. That said, I won’t be too disappointed if New Orleans kicks the Niners in the teeth and sends them home with their 3rd loss of the season (and 3rd in 5 games to boot).

        • art thiel

          That’s the sports radio talker of the week: What outcome benefits Seattle most. The chance for NFC No. 1 is now tangible, but only if NO loses to someone.

      • art thiel

        Someone needs to beat the Saints again for the Seahawks to get beyond them. The pending game is the best shot.

    • art thiel

      Defense gave up two TDs and three FGs to the No. 1 rated passer. Not terrible, although Thielen was out and Cook got hurt. Lockett was very sick from theflu this week.

      • jafabian

        Does the NFL give flu shots to its players or do they leave it up to them?

  • Tim

    Pete almost sprained his giggle? Priceless! I’m speechless. What a season.

    • art thiel

      I liked that too.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    9ers are 10-2 BTW. Great article, still a ways to go before we sleep. At 34-17 I thought the game might turn into a laugher for the Hawks. The fumble by Metcalf was possibly the reason it wasn’t a laugher. Hopefully the Rams game is not a trap game for the Hawks, no matter how bad the Rams seem to be this year, they still have been a tough nut to crack for the Hawks in recent years and Aaron Donald always enjoys snacking on some Russell Wilson. Great game.

    • Matt Kite

      Rams are still dangerous and loaded with talent. No way to beat them without playing well.

      • art thiel

        Shorter week doesn’t help. Rams got well vs. AZ.

    • art thiel

      Can’t see them overlooking the Rams at all. Carolina, yes.

  • Effzee

    1) Shoulda been 55-17 but we have a knack for giving away touchdowns.

    2) Enough with the chartreuse! What do we have to do to get 80’s throwback uniforms? Who’s the marketing genius over there? They would sell a bazillion jerseys.

    3) Nice Paris-Dakar reference. Ari Vatanen FTW.

    • art thiel

      I was wondering if anyone cared about the obtuse pull. Thanks.

  • Victorian Reader

    “The 49ers, in first place all season in the division, are 9-3 after a loss at Baltimore Sunday . . .” Hey Mr. Thiel, this is not true! The 49ers are 10-2.

    • Lightninbug

      But we still have the tie breaker which makes them #2 in the NFC West.

      • Victorian Reader

        Yes, of course, and I’m happy about that. I just think accuracy is somewhat important in journalism!

        • Lightninbug

          I wish I could type nuance better. I certainly did not feel at all critical of your very correct comment but felt like celebrating the new reality in our division. Which, to be honest and possibly acknowledging the ‘old’ rivalry with the 9ers, is all the sweeter because it is the 9ers we just slipped past.

          The future looks so bright I may need shades, but I will try and exercise caution in my enthusiasm as the surging Seahawks are still reviving the out of date sport’s description of a team that could be often referred to as the “cardiac Kids”.

          • art thiel

            Dated, yes. Still valid.

        • Chris Alexander

          I agree. I read on another site that the Seahawks have a half-game lead over the Niners which is perhaps technically true but not entirely accurate. Saying that both teams are 10-2 but Seattle is in 1st place because they currently hold the tiebreaker is the accurate way to describe the situation.

          • Lightninbug

            Tomato . . . . .tomahto

        • art thiel

          Fixed. Thanks.

  • 1coolguy

    Not to be too much of a homer, but this team is VERY, VERY entertaining! Granted it is easy to back a winner, but it’s how they do it.
    I would love to hear RW in the huddle for the 4th quarter, as I suspect he is very controlled, calm and in charge. As a player it must be so amazing to have a leader like RW where you simply believe he will lead you to victory.
    Before the season there was legit debate whether we would get to 10 wins, and as I recall the national consensus was an 8 or 9 win season. PC has got to get the coach of the year award, having pulled this team together and getting them all trained up to all row together.
    With 4 games remaining, this will definitely be a 12 win season, and perhaps a 14 win season, given how all the players have now come together as a unit. Not the case until the past 2-3 games, and they are getting better every week.
    “If you plan to stick out the December ride, make sure you are equipped with a roll bar, helmet, hunting knife and quality scotch. This season is not for poseurs, dilettantes and lightweights.”
    Great ending to this piece Art! Exceptional, even by your high standards!!

    • dingle

      I hope Russ is better in the huddle than what MNF broadcast in Russ’ “mic’d-up” moments. He’s much more fun to watch than he is to listen to. Either he intentionally went with the blandest, most stereotypical inspirations because he was self-conscious about having the mic on him, or he’s mostly detached from his teammates and doesn’t know what else to say.

      Don’t get me wrong – When the game is on the line, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have behind center, and he leads by example. But next time the ‘hawks are on MNF, can we get the mic on someone else, please?

      • Effzee

        This is correct. I texted my friends before the game that he seemed to be trying waaay too hard to create some kind of persona for ESPN. My exact words: “It seems completely self-conscious and contrived.” I was cringing. I bet there is better footage of him in the moment, in the huddle, after a play, etc., when he didn’t have time to think about the mic being on. Or at least I hope so, because there has to be more to his magic than what they showed us. There just has to be. #dinglekringle

        • Chris Alexander

          I agree with this assessment but, keep in mind that ESPN is editing the comments and deciding what to play on the air. As most of us know, they took some serious flack for airing the Sam Darnold “I’m seeing ghosts” comment, not to mention the fact that ESPN always frames the narrative the way THEY want to.

          • dingle

            Excellent point. We may have gotten the most Velveeta of cheese from Wilson.

            Still – Put the mic on someone else next time.

            Better yet – Do away with the mic on players. We will never get to hear the good stuff.

          • art thiel

            You’re right. If the audio went unedited, it would sound like — well, your workplace/school/bar.

          • art thiel

            Yes, ESPN is treading lightly. The NFL does not want one of its most marketable players damaged.

        • art thiel

          I’d have to guess he was self (and image) conscious.

      • art thiel

        I was working, so I didn’t hear the broadcast. But I really don’t know what anyone who’s following Wilson, like ESPN, was expecting. He’s never going to be the next Sam Kinison.

    • art thiel

      You aren’t a homer by stating a fact: Objectively speaking, this team is a hoot.

      Thanks.

  • DB

    I can’t remember the last time I watched an NFL game with only 4 penalties. Or, more turnovers than penalties. There certainly were a number of close plays where we could have seen the flags come out, but they let things flow without the ticky-tacky. Dare I say that I liked the officiating?

    • art thiel

      The refs are not paid by the flag. But even Carroll was surprised they got out so clean.

  • Topcatone

    Great win. Despite the terrible interference by Flowers (it was). I don’t understand why (seems to be true for the Seahawks a lot) why the defenders don’t turn at the last minute to look. Flowers had an easy interception there, rather than interfere. Tough position I know, and we watch slow motion replays.

    • Chris Alexander

      That was, in my opinion, less of a bad play by Flowers than it was a really GOOD play by the VIkings’ receiver. He knew the ball was under thrown and slowed up so that he’d get the flag. Even if Flowers had turned around, he wouldn’t have gotten the INT because the receiver would have turned into a defender and knocked the ball away (or caught it himself). It hurt to give up 30 yards there but Flowers will learn from the experience (at least one would hope).

      • Will Ganschow

        Chargers Broncos game turned on a wide receiver luring coverage into an interference call. Change interference into a fifteen yard penalty.

        • Chris Alexander

          The argument against making it a 15-yard penalty is that defenders will mug receivers late in games. My suggestion would be to make it a 15-yard penalty until 5:00 remain in tegulation and then change it to a spot foul. It still wouldn’t be a perfect solution, but it might be better than what we’ve got now.

          • art thiel

            Not a bad idea, but I still think a flat 15 remains fair.

          • Will Ganschow

            The last five minutes is when the spot of the foul is most valuable to the offense.

        • art thiel

          Agreed.

      • art thiel

        More than ever this year, WRs are playing to draw the foul, not to catch. Dennis Rodman should un-retire and join the NFL.

    • art thiel

      It’s a very hard thing to give up watching your target when all he needs is an inch of clearance to catch the ball. Good WRs also use face/hand disguises to throw off the DB.

  • Kevin Lynch

    “A little more grape, Captain Bragg”. Russell is the Braxton Bragg (Mexican War) of the Seahawks. He always comes up with more shot. He’s amazing. So was the ground game – more than 200 yards against the Vikes!? I was wrong about this team. I’ll admit it. Pete got them to buy in on constant improvement during the season. Now they are danger-russ. “A little more iron”. Good, fresh way to put it, Art.

    • art thiel

      I said 8-8. Props too to Schneider for Clowney, Diggs and probably Gordon

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    The Seahawks do a season like no other – continually evolving: shoring up personnel needs, replacing weaknesses, allowing new talent to rise, growing together, coaches slowly letting out the leashes, and all the while they’re building confidence, trust, meddle and resolve. Pete and his staff are amazingly patient and disciplined to keep to their plan. What earlier didn’t look much like a Pete Carroll team is looking like by the end of the season it might be the most “Pete Carroll“ team yet. The Seahawks haven’t even played their best games yet. It’s really fun to follow this along, especially since it involves watching a great running game.

    • art thiel

      Good point about this being the most Pete team. And this time, he has no challengers to his authority.

  • Will Ganschow

    So much nostalgia for the Super Bowl team and the Legion Of Boom. Time to let that go and embrace these guys?

    • art thiel

      It’s not as if they were in the Beaver Cleaver era. The comparison remains vivid for all.

  • Charlie Walsh

    Great writing again. Keep those metaphors trucking!

    • art thiel

      Thank you, kind sir.

  • ll9956

    This game was one of the more taxing on the nervous system. This includes the players on the bench. I’m not sure, but it may be significantly easier to be a participating player, who is in a position to do something about the outcome than to be a spectator who can only watch and cringe.

    • art thiel

      Be strong, my man. It’s why nature invented scotch.

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    As always, Art, your articles are insightful, funny, and poignant. As a fan of the ‘Hawks for over 40 years, Seattle always seems to find the difficult and scary way to win. I’m sort of dreading the upcoming Rams game, as their last 3 games (combined) have been decided by a grand total of 8 points. But we are blessed to have RW3. With Russell, NO game ever seems out of reach. He intends to play 10-15 more years, and he’s ALREADY on the cusp of being in the HoF conversation. He’s a magician who seems to always have a few extra rabbits in his hat.

    • art thiel

      The NFL is built to produce exactly this kind of competitive drama. For all the bashing I and others have done to the NFL for its various businss/social misdeeds, this stuff is grand theater.