BY Art Thiel 10:58PM 09/27/2020

Thiel: That’s one for the obscure Seahawks

Another desperate last-play defensive stand, another pile of injuries, another Seahawks victory — and more testimony that Russell Wilson cures everything.

WR Tyler Lockett grabs one of his three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

The outcome of a glorious mess of a game Sunday at the Clink was determined by players that usually get stopped by hotel security people who check IDs to make sure are indeed with the band.

“We were down to our last guys,” said coach Pete Carroll.

While stars such as Cowboys RB Zeke Elliott fell down on his own to give up two points, and Seahawks WR DK Metcalf recklessly mishandled the ball to surrender six points, it became the turn of people such as Ryan Neal, Alton Robinson, Damontre Moore, D’Andre Walker and Bryan Mone to show out.

Didn’t matter that less than five percent of Seahawks fans could place any of these guys in their proper roster spots. It only mattered that Carroll knew. Or at least thought he knew.

“All that happened on the sidelines, with our guys getting banged up,” he said. “We just kept hanging, and guys kept going in.

“Eventually (the Cowboys) have to throw the ball in the end zone, and they did.”

Just as boys used to do at sunset on the agreed-upon final play of street ball, the quarterback says to his receivers, “Y’all go deep,” and the defenders run behind the ’57 Chevy in front of Miz Delores’s place, and jump.

Neal, a 24-year-old undrafted free agent practice-squadder from Southern Illinois and thus the epitome of obscurity, jumped the best.

He came down with the interception from QB Dak Prescott and into the spotlight as the preserver of the 3-0 Seahawks’ 38-31 triumph (box) in a game that helped define how different pandemic ball is than the football played on the previous planet.

Arrayed in front of him a Zoom screen of reporters scrambling to find out something about him, Neal blinked.

“I honestly can’t even walk you through the past 24 hours,” he said. “I was walking into meetings (Saturday) thinking I was still on the practice squad and next thing I know, I’m starting on a couple of special teams (plays). I’m like, all right, here we go.”

Things became much larger and faster in the fourth quarter when a muscle began straining in the groin of SS Jamal Adams, the latest health mishap befalling the defense. The player most likely to replace him, Lano Hill, woke up Sunday morning with a previously undiagnosed back problem, and was scratched.

The call went to Neal, who summoned Adams as he limped off the field: “Soon as I figured out what was going on, I said, ‘Talk to me, let me know anything that you see. I need you more now than I needed you when you were on the field.'”

Whatever was said didn’t make much difference.

On the Cowboys’ final four possessions, they traveled 94, 89, 70 and 54 yards. The last number would have been 80 had a receiver corralled Prescott’s fourth-down heave with six seconds left.

The massive yardage totals — Dallas had 522 total, 461 in the air — are starting to lose shock value. The previous week against New England, QB Cam Newton’s final three drives each went at least 75 yards, and in the opener in Atlanta, two of the Falcons’ final four possessions went 75 yards.

Carroll’s blunt, slightly nervous message: Get used to it.

“If we’re going to win a lot of games this year,” he said, “you’re probably looking at six or seven more games like this, that are going to be just right down to the wire. Maybe it’s more than that.

“It’s so hard to be ahead at the end of the game.”

In part, it’s because the pandemic has changed the game. The absence of fans is a big help to visiting offenses, which can communicate more easily. And the preseason restrictions on practice time to avoid the virus have contributed some unknown amount to the injury toll.

Besides Adams and Hill on defense, Carroll said CB Quinton Dunbar’s sore knee made him a scratch, and rookie LB Jordyn Brooks, in his first career start, left with a knee sprain. On offense, rookie RG Damien Lewis left early with a sprained ankle, and RB Chris Carson has a knee sprain. Special teams captain Neiko Thorpe was scratched with a sore hip.

Dallas began the game missing seven starters, including two cornerbacks, two linebackers and two offensive tackles.

“It’s a big burden to be playing these football games,” Carroll said. “We had a lot of guys get banged today. There was a whole slew of guys. This is subjective, totally, but it seems like it’s really a challenge for the players to make it through these early weeks of the season.

“We just have to take it one day at a time,  and one particular player at a time and give them the treatment they need.  Also of course, as you talk in anticipation of (adding players). (General manager John Schneider) is working day and night to try to stay ahead of it.”

At least the Seahawks have the enormous advantage of Russell Wilson, who is a human ShopVac whooshing up everyone’s messes.

All he did Sunday was complete 27 of 40 passes for 315 yards, no turnovers and five touchdown passes, three to WR Tyler Lockett, who had 100 yards on nine catches.

Wilson set an NFL record with 14 TD passes in a season’s first three games, breaking the mark set by Patrick Mahomes in 2018. He’s also the fifth player in history to throw at least four TDs in three games in a row, joining Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Mahomes and Drew Brees.

After a field goal gave Dallas a 31-30 lead with 3:59 left, Wilson went apex cuisine, completing four of six passes on an eight-play, 75-yard drive for the winning points, including a two-point PAT pass.

“I told our guys, I said, Listen, this is the drive,” he said. “If we want to be a championship team, we got to make it right here. And I kind of looked at
(TE Greg Olsen), I said, You’re going to make a big time play for us. Be ready. It’s coming your way. Sure enough, fourth down, game on the line, and he pops open.”

The fourth-and-four pass to Olsen picked up 11 yards. But Wilson’s final pass of 29 yards picked up Metcalf as well as a TD.

In the first quarter, Metcalf hauled in another beautiful Wilson deep ball at the Dallas 9-yard line. But he went into cruise control too soon and had the ball punched out of his hand and out of the end zone for a touchback.

The egregious gaffe was, of course, inexcusable. But not irredeemable.

“I talked to him afterwards,” Wilson said. “I said, Listen, you’re going to have to make a play down the road, so get back in, get focused again, let’s revamp. Things happen. There’s no excuse for it. You know, he’ll never do it again.

“There’s another opportunity. When it comes your way, you’re going to make the play. Just speaking life into it, just knowing that something great’s going to happen. Sure enough  . . . ”

Wilson has yet to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19, but as for whatever ails the Seahawks, the man has the cure.

 

 


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YourThoughts

  • John

    I don’t know if I could get my butterflies to fly in formation through six or seven more of games like this one. My nerves were just aflame by the end of the game. I hope the defense starts acting like a championship defense soon. However, I am not that hopeful.

    • art thiel

      Improvement is certainly possible but I can’t see it reaching NFL average.

      • Stephen Pitell

        Shame on you, Art. I can see NFL average just based upon the play of LJ, Alton,Quem, and Ugo. And Mone and Poona and Reed. We still have Quill, Dunbar, Diggs, and Adams behind all of them. We know they are players. They have proven it over the years. They will get their’s before the year is over.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art. Most bizarre game with such a variety of odd plays: The ball double bouncing off of Flowers, a Dallas safety, Metcalf’s touchback, blocked extra point, three interceptions. On the later, it was great to see some picks, and especially to have Shaquille get his share.

    As for the injuries, at the current rate, Russell will be lucky to be playing with anyone that attended training camp by the end of the season. Hope that’s not the case.

    I’m still pretty disgusted with one Dallas player. I believe it was Tristan Hill the Dallas defensive lineman who both did the death roll, an extra English on Chris Carson’s leg which took him out of the game, and also came at Russell’s head, which at least he got flagged for. Seems like a dirty player. Any chance he could get fined for the Carson abuse?

    • art thiel

      Hill was the culprit, he is being fined. There’s no reason for a gator roll except to maim. Suspension-worthy.

      • DJ

        Good! Thanks

  • Husky73

    “Glorious mess” is right. There was a point in the third quarter where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I walked around the yard for a few minutes.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      And all this time, I thought I was the only one to do that. Go Hawks…

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    • art thiel

      See? The Seahawks are good for your heart and body exercise. Your mind is up to you.

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  • jafabian

    At the rate injuries are going I hope John Schneider has kept Michael Bennett, Byron Maxwell and Breno Giacomini on speed dial.

    • art thiel

      I’m guessing Mike B is on a beach in Hawaii pushing three bills.

  • Chris Alexander

    In 2011, New England gave up 1,131 passing yards in the first 3 games. In 2020, Seattle CRUSHED that record with just a few yards shy of 1,300.

    On the flip-side, the last time Seattle started a season 3-0 was 2013.

    • art thiel

      2011 was also the year the Pats went 13-3 and made the SB.

  • Scott McBride

    Wow, Pete even called up Damien Lewis (who played Nicholas Brody in Homeland)! Who says there isn’t a second career after a successful run in a TV series?

    • Mavis Jarvis

      Loved him in Band of Brothers.

    • art thiel

      I defer to your pop-culture hipness.

  • Kevin Lynch

    I’m impressed with how easy Russell is making it look. Odds on choice for MVP, no question. Good call, Art, on how the absence of fans may wind up assisting visiting teams offenses. That could be a big help post-season for Seattle road games but significantly diminish the home advantage. Looking again at the schedule and how opponents have played through three weeks I’m thinking 11-5 or 12-4 may be possible for the Hawks. A lot of defenses are struggling and a lot of teams struggling with injuries, not just Seattle.

    • art thiel

      The unhindered visitor audio may seem a small thing, but winning margins can’t get much smaller than the past two games.

    • LarryLurex70

      With regards to your first 2 sentences, the guy in KC is pretty good too, and could just as easily be the subject of your comment.

  • 1coolguy

    Just like watching Griffey, knowing he was a future HOF inductee, enjoy watching RW while he’s here, as there may be none better.

    • art thiel

      True. I can even recall thinking that of Spencer Haywood.

      • Husky73

        Thank you. For a while, he was Prince of the City.

    • DJ

      Right on. It’s been a special experience since day one. Looks like we still have a ways to go in taking this all in. He’s got a great thing going with Carroll. It will be interesting to see if Pete will hang in there for Russell’s entire ride – seems like he’s got the genes for it.

  • StephenBody

    I have a hard time understanding how people don’t get a LITTLE excited at watching all the no-name guys get their shots to stick in the NFL. Has everybody forgotten how we “found” Richard Sherman? Walter Thurmond got hurt and Sherman stepped in and never stepped out. Who was Tom Brady before Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Belechick had to use his mostly unknown sixth-round backup? These are some of the best stories in sports. Yeah, I want to ‘Hawks to win but injuries happen and I just think that looking at a 3-0 team and finding NOTHING to focus on but their perceived short-comings is just massive killjoy extravagance. Ugo Amadi was lights-out terrific Sunday and Alton Robinson, well, we saw enough to want to see more. And EVERYBODY has these stunning tsunamis of injuries.

    THREE and O. Eyes on the prize, folks.

    • art thiel

      Good perspective. The underdog narrative is the lifeblood of children’s lit and sports. Raymond Chandler too.

      As I suggested, this is how pandemic ball is likely to play out.

      Most fans want mistake-free near-perfection, and obsess over shortcomings. Human nature.

  • Matt Kite

    When the Seahawks start playing their NFC West rivals, things could get . . . interesting.

  • ll9956

    Thanks for another great piece, Art. These gut wrenchers are taxing my system nervous. Practically speaking, when a team gives up 472 passing yards, it’s apparent that the pass defense needs to improve, if the Hawks are going to have any hope of continued success. Just like someone said (might have been Cam himself) when Cam Newton tried the left side to win the game, “We went to the well once too often”, the same thing could happen to the Hawks in leaning on Wilson in game after game after game.

  • kiltlifter

    The irregular season has gone 3-0 and pass defense seems to not matter. Poor D has to cost the Hawks sooner or later. Or, maybe this season is all about RW and scoring many points.

    • LarryLurex70

      With regards to your last sentence, up until last season, I’ve felt they’ve unofficially been “all about Russ” since Graham and Lynch were injured in 2015.

  • Stephen Pitell

    DK! DK! Take a year off from ALL celebrations. The classiest players always act like they have been in the endzone before. At least take one year off in penance for your earlier mistake.