BY Art Thiel 02:37AM 09/21/2020

Thiel: A chat in a quiet end zone saves Seahawks

As happens with Seahawks and Patriots, it came down to the final moments. Sunday, it was Belichick’s turn to flub. The Seattle defense, not Wilson, had the final word.

Kickoff for the Seahawks-Patriots game at 5:23 p.m. Sunday — sunny, dry, empty, but on. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

If the usual rowdy crowd had been at the Clink — in full throat when the two best NFL teams over the past decade were deciding the Sunday night national showcase game on fourth and goal at the 1-yard line with three seconds left — Seahawks SS Jamal Adams might never have gotten the word that LB Bobby Wagner said that the Patriots’ final play was going to be a run to the defense’s right.

Adams was certain that New England QB Cam Newton was going to take the snap and jump over the line. Adams was preparing to meet him in the air.

“Like he always does,” said Adams. “I was playing plays in my mind, you know, from film study.

“I would have guessed wrong.”

Able to talk normally in the absence of the audio riot, LB K.J. Wright convinced Adams that Wagner knew his stuff.

“I did not want to make a mistake and jeopardize the team,” said Adams, so he joined the swarm to the right as Newton went to his left with the ball.

FS Lano Hill undercut Newton’s lead blocker. DE L.J. Collier, the maligned first-round draft choice, shot through for the hit that sent Newton into the freshly cleansed Puget Sound air, head over heels, landing two yards short of the game-winning touchdown.

“That’s a play that we had favored in the game and we ran it a couple of times,” Newton said. “We figured that we went to the well one too many times.”

Adams could hardly believe it.

“Coming down on the backside, the whole line getting penetration — oh, man,” Adams said. “What a defensive stand. That was big, flipping Cam.”

Since Adams is a newbie to Seattle, he doesn’t know how big.

Sure, the dramatic 35-30 victory (box) over the remade but still villainous Patriots is a notch on any team’s collective belt. But out-smarting the Patriots at the 1-yard line has a special resonance for those who still are still awakened occasionally by The Game That Cannot Be Unseen.

Of course this wasn’t a Super Bowl. The teams are much changed. This time, roles reversed.

That’s still Bill Belichick on the sidelines, this time calling a play the Seahawks were ready for, and it’s still WR Julian Edelman catching 11 passes for a career-high 179 yards. And it’s still Pete Carroll on the sidelines, this time getting it right, and it’s still QB Russell Wilson throwing five remarkable touchdown passes.

It is 2020, not 2015, yet beating the Pats is still beating the Pats.

But it was also a lot like 2019, when nearly every Seahawks game was a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls. The climax moments, however, were heavy with irony — the defense delivered the winning blow, after Wilson missed on a critical play.

On the Seahawks’ final possession, at third-and-1 and their own 31 with 1:55 left, the Seahawks elected to throw. Not a swing pass or a flat pass, but a low-percentage deep ball to WR Tyler Lockett that was overthrown by less than a yard.

“We had other routes that got covered,” said coach Pete Carroll, answering yet another question about why the Seahawks threw on a critical short-yardage moment against the Pats instead of rushing. “(The deep ball) just shows you the kind of confidence that he had . . . That was his third choice. That’s how I saw the play. You can ask him.”

So, Russell?

“We’ve hit that many times in the past,” he said. “We just barely missed that one. They went cover zero. We almost had it, and that was basically it.”

Whatever the reason for the call, the Seahawks had to punt, taking the game out of the hands of its premier playmaker and into the hands of its lamentable defense.

From the New England 19, Newton looked either like his MVP self from Carolina in 2015, or his Pats predecessor, Tom Brady. He completed five of eight passes and offered up a 12-yard run to deliver the Pats to the doorstep of a big road win in a transition year.

Newton finished 30 of 44 for 397 passing yards, adding 47 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. So it made sense that he should have the ball to decide matters, after leading the Pats to 464 yards of total offense.

“I could have made it right just by bouncing it,” Newton said. “I was trying to be patient, and thinking too much. Or I could have dove over the top. There’s
so many things that flash through me and (when) you’re playing a fast defense like that, as soon as you guess, you’re wrong.”

He didn’t guess wrong often, mostly because the woeful Seahawks pass rush, the uncorrected weakness of the off-season, gave him time for careful consideration.

There were a few valid explanations for the defense’s problems. FS Quandre Diggs was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first quarter. Not long after, his replacement, Marquise Blair, went down with what looked like a serious knee injury. Near game’s end, DE Bruce Irvin was lost to a sprained knee.

Nevertheless, they had but one sack of Newton (Adams), five QB hits and one interception. There were times in the final drive that in the pocket he looked like a bored man looking for a bus.

Aside from waiting for young defenders to grow into their roles, there doesn’t seem much that can be done by the Seahawks, other than to let Wilson carry the freight.

He seems capable.

He hit on 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards, dishing scores to DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Chris Carson and rookie Freddie Swain. Wilson’s first and only turnover of the season was a pass on the opening drive that skittered through the hands of veteran TE Greg Olsen to CB Devin McCourty, who returned it 43 yards. The pick-six hung heavy.

“It just kind of loomed as significant throughout the night,” Carroll said. “It kept them in the game. I love the way we bounced back from that. But that’s seven points we gave them, and just seemed to hang on. It made it a really tight game.”

The break was what the beleaguered visitors needed after a tumultuous offseason. The Patriots lost five key defenders and a starting center in free agency. They cut longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski. And eight players opted out of playing because of concerns about the coronavirus, most in the NFL. And of course, Brady left after 19 seasons to Tampa Bay.

Given the roster predation, the Pats shouldn’t have been that close to the Seahawks. But a Seattle defense that has given up 1,000 yards in two games means every opponent with a solid quarterback will have a good shot at hanging in, especially at the Clink and its void of noise.

“We missed you so much I can’t tell you,” Carroll said of the fans. “We’re so used to this extraordinary following, a crowd and an energy and juice. Our guys are trying to fill in for you. I just wish so much that you’d have been there for the last play of the game.”

Belichick has wishes too, and one was fulfilled.

“I’m glad,” he said, “we only have to play him once every four years.”

How about a rematch in February?

 

 


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YourThoughts

  • BB46

    We gave up a LOT of yards,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, But NOT that last one.

    • Chris Alexander

      Bend. Don’t. Break.

    • Chris Alexander

      Saw a tweet that pointed out that Cam had run the ball 19 times in his career from the 1-yard line and, until last night, had NEVER lost yardage.

      • art thiel

        He was due, then, yes?

    • art thiel

      Tough way to make a living as a defender.

  • Tim

    Incredible game. Winning in this fashion will only help a young defense. I think it’s plausible that Seattle wins with offensive this year as the defense grows and gets better. I like our chances getting to February!

    • eyeroq

      I still think they need to shore up the DL via trade and additional signings to have a shot. But barring losing key players to whims of the injury gods I’m with you.

      • Chris Alexander

        Got suggestions on who the team should target with less than $6M in cap space (much of which is presumably reserved for in-season injury replacements) and no significant draft capital after the Adams trade?

        I, like pretty much every other 12 on the planet and, I’m sure, the coaches as well, AGREE that the D-line needs help. But HOW? The team basically “made their bed” and now they have to “sleep in it” … even if it ends up being their Achilles heel all season.

        • BB46

          Shaquem Griffin,,,,,, Speed edge rusher

          • Chris Alexander

            Funny. Doesn’t “count” though since the criteria was “via trade and additional signings”.

          • art thiel

            He has no game beyond speed. That’s not enough to help.

        • art thiel

          The market is meager, and will be depleted further by teams seeking repairs after Sunday’s injuries. Clay Matthews at 34? I don’t think so.

      • art thiel

        I don’t think the DL trade market is likely in a year when, because of the pandemic, teams know less about other teams’ personnel. And today’s injury news complicates the defense’s outlook.

    • art thiel

      The defense is going to have to grow faster than sunflowers.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    It begs the question, why on earth would Wilson & Co. throw the ball on 3rd & 1, a low percentage long ball late in the game instead of running it? I had flashes of, Oh no not again. They gave the ball back to the Pats which drove the length of the field and came within 3 seconds of snatching the win right from the Hawks. I could just hear Marshawn saying, just run the ball while whispering, I’ve seen this once before. Better ending, but yikes.

    • 1coolguy

      My thoughts EXACTLY – The running game did great, over 150 yds, and Carson is a BEAST – He’s on his way to Beast Mode, no doubt – and they call a PASS? A real insult to the OL, just like in the SB.
      As soon as I saw no backs, I also thought “this is the SB disaster all over again”.
      Given the success of the running game, there is no excuse for not running the ball.
      One more set of downs would have allowed the Hawks to all but run out the clock.
      I know, I know, we are not the coach, but come on. The high percentage play was a run with Carson.
      PS: Thanks for the last paly clip Art – Always love seeing a fine Hawks play! Also the insight about Wagner calling the play to their right, causing Adams to see what a great play caller Wagner is.

      • Husky73

        I missed the final series and play, because I put my foot through my TV on third and one…..I heard the Seahawks won.

        • Kevin Lynch

          I missed the last two Patriot drives because I thought the Hawks had put the game to bed!

          • art thiel

            Me too. But I was professionally obligated to stay.

        • art thiel

          You should know better with the Seahawks. They cost you a lotta TVs.

      • art thiel

        I agree. As I wrote above, overconfidence. This was against one of the best secondaries in the game. Going empty allowed NE to adjust its defensive call. A mistake the Seahawks barely got away with.

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    • Chris Alexander

      New England expected run so it made sense to pass. The deep throw was the 3rd option. And were it not for the poor snap, the throw might have been better. All that said ….

      I would 100x rather have seen the Hawks be AGGRESSIVE there than to watch them be their old, ultra-conservative, “run even when the other team KNOWS you’re going to run and do it into a stacked box anyway” … even if they had ended up losing the game as a result.

      We can’t have it both ways. Sometimes plays work, sometimes they don’t. Had the throw been on target, all we’d have been talking about today was how AWESOME it was that the team had the guts to stick the knife into the Patriots and twist it in that situation to ice the game.

      • art thiel

        It’s always fun to have a credo that applies to every circumstance. But circumstantial pragmatism has to come into play.

        A throw is still a plausible option, but by going empty they lost the run option against a good secondary. I agree that the poor snap threw off timing, and Carroll said the primary options were jammed. Nevertheless, the success rate of pass only was low. They made a mistake.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        But the throw didn’t work so your justification is moot. The Hawks were EXTREMELY LUCKY to have gotten away with such an ill advised play, and being AGGRESSIVE at that point of the game is over confident stupidity. They won the game nonetheless. How bout dem Cowboys?

    • art thiel

      I think Wilson and Schottenheimer were confident in the number of times they’ve hit that shot to Lockett. But they were overconfident. Way too much risk, because NE had all three TOs once they got the ball.

  • dingle

    I said some rather unkind things to my television regarding the choice to throw deep on 3rd and 1.

    Lucky, lucky Seahawks.

    • Howard Hart

      X2!

    • art thiel

      They weren’t lucky on the pass to Olsen. Spend all game getting it back.

  • Topcatone

    I thought the poor snap threw Wilson and timing with Tyler off. That was key. Snap was way off to the side. For me, the running game (and pass protection for Wilson) was key. Kudos to the O-line. I was impressed with Carlos Hyde. He can definitely help spell Carson. With a young pass defense, it is going to be an exciting season as Wilson will for sure have to be unleashed. If the pass defense gells, watch out for the Hawks. Dunbar should be starting. We had no pass rush, but the other corners were playing way too loose for a QB like Newton. Newton had the kind of protection that Brady had. Even against the Hawks blitz.

    • Howard Hart

      “If the pass defense gells, watch out for the Hawks”

      This! I was spoiled by the Legion of Boom. Hopefully they tighten up or QBs like Aaron Rodgers are going to slice and dice the Hawk’s defense into a bloody mess

      • Husky73

        Irvin is out for the season.

        • art thiel

          So is Marquise Blair.

    • art thiel

      With the empty formation, the Pats adjusted coverage. Lockett was no longer the primary target. It was a bail-out throw. Low percentage.

      Dunbar is starting.

  • Howard Hart

    “On the Seahawks’ final possession, at third-and-1 and their own 31 with
    1:55 left, the Seahawks elected to throw. Not a swing pass or a flat
    pass, but a low-percentage deep ball to WR Tyler Lockett that was
    overthrown by less than a yard.”

    A huge mistake they were lucky enough to recover from.

  • Kevin Lynch

    The offense looks excellent and the game was sure dramatic but…I wouldn’t read too much into the win. The division will likely swing on the four games against L.A. and Arizona. Those are going to be BIG games.

    • art thiel

      It is legal to be well pleased with 2-0. And division games are always big.

  • WestCoastBias79

    The pass rush wasn’t good, but there were also about three more times that a non-giant mobile QB would have been sacked. Also, if Greg Olsen hadn’t have gifted the pick 6, it probably wouldn’t have been close. The Patriots are a good team. This was a solid win. This Seahawks squad looks legit. Last year they felt like scrappy pretenders. This squad looks like a contender.

    • art thiel

      It was a solid win. But with today’s injury news about Irvin and Blair, uncertainty creeps in.

      Pete did mention those near-sacks. a lesser QB would have fallen.

  • Chris Alexander

    “(Cam) looked like a bored man looking for a bus …”

    Oh. My. God. Never a truer sentence written. Dude had an average of 4-5 seconds per throw the last couple drives (and most of the game, if we’re being honest) and arguably could have held the ball for 10+ seconds on many of them without EVER feeling any pressure.

    Once Adams had to actually COVER receivers instead of playing in the box and rushing, Seattle had ZERO ability to pressure Cam. NONE!

    • art thiel

      He operated three drives in the fourth quarter of 75+ yards. Seahawks were helpless.

  • woofer

    The big winner here is the NFL because its faked up season is proving to be good entertainment despite the adjustments. No epidemic breakouts of virus infection. Rusty teams have played better than expected resulting in a number of exciting games. The level of player effort and enthusiasm seems not to be impacted by an absence of live spectators. And the desperate fans, bless them, are humbly grateful to have something — anything — to watch that looks and feels like the real thing.

    In other words, it’s working. Finally, in Trumpistan something is actually working.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think this is a faked-up season, for reasons stated. Some compromises and limits, but they have put a huge effort into managing the virus.