SEATTLE – Not to put an indelicate spin on it, but the Seattle Seahawks are the Farmer Ted of the National Football League.
Remember him? From “Sixteen Candles”? He crowned himself – and we’re cleaning it up here – king of the dipsticks.
Well, here are the Seahawks, alone atop the lamentable NFC West, on the strength of Sunday’s bizarre 22-10 burlesque over the Arizona Cardinals, who ruled the roost the past two seasons. Beating the division champs is such a distinction that Seattle coach Pete Carroll “didn’t even mention it all week. Didn’t talk about it after the game, either.
“I love being in first place, but it doesn’t mean anything right now. To me, it’s like the BCS.”
Oh, sure. Flout the NCAA rulebook and then diss the clunky mechanism to decide the national champ. Pete probably thinks the term “student-athlete” is a joke, too.
Speaking of jokes, there was no shortage of punch lines here Sunday. Seattle’s Olindo Mare had to put eight field goals through the uprights to get five to count (maybe it’s like when figure skating used to throw out the worst score). The Cardinals had a 7-yard punt, muffed a punt return and actually kicked away a kickoff return. Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock got a penalty for flopping.
That’s right. They can’t seem to call helmet-to-helmet hits, but NFL refs are Johnny-on-the-flop. Good thing Manu Ginobili doesn’t play in this league.
Yet running through this unsightly mess of a game was the ongoing thread of the Seahawks’ return to competitiveness under Carroll and a roster still being remade on the fly. The 53-man roster now shows 29 who weren’t here a year ago, the latest notable being the “beast mode” running back himself, Marshawn Lynch, who would have had a 100-yard day had tackle Sean Locklear not been so grabby. Lynch, however, was more impressed with the Hawks’ reclamation poster child, receiver Mike Williams.
“Big monster,” he said. “He kind of looks like me out there, except he’s like 6-10 and about 250.”
Easy now, big fella. It was when Williams started tipping 250 that he was eating his way out of the league. It’s remarkable enough that Williams dropped 40 pounds – to 230 – and came back from a two-year NFL exile to even make a roster; over the last two weeks, he’s become Seattle’s leading receiver, and a player opposing teams have to scheme against.
On Sunday, he caught 11 of Matt Hasselbeck’s passes – that’s 20 the past two games – including his first touchdown of the season. And you’d have thought it was the first TD of Williams’ life – but not because he performed some baroque end zone ritual. Because he didn’t.
“I didn’t have a dance of anything,” he said softly. “I just wanted to celebrate with my team.
“It’s all about touchdowns in this league. The quarterbacks coach called me out (Saturday) night at a meeting – ‘You have to stop getting tackled at the 1.’ And I got tackled at the 1 today once, too, didn’t I? Well, I don’t mind Marshawn and those guys scoring touchdowns, either.”
Lynch didn’t get a touchdown, but he got tough, important yards, and looks to be a bullish back the Seahawks really haven’t had since Ricky Watters. Williams, well, he’s something else altogether – not just big, but skilled, humbled and appreciative.
Skilled? On the drive to Seattle’s final points, Williams twisted for a ball thrown to his blind side – high, toward his back shoulder – and pulled it in as corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie flailed helplessly, a 16-yard pickup on third-and-1. For all the fumbles and penalties and misfires that characterized this game, Williams’ catch was an athletic delight.
“If (Hasselbeck) throws it inbounds,” he said, “we need to make a play.”
What Williams’ back-to-back games hint at it is him becoming Hasselbeck’s go-to guy, a la Darrell Jackson or Bobby Engram of years past.
“That’s a strong statement,” Hasselbeck demurred, “but it could easily get there and that’s the goal. If I can get with any of these guys like I was with Darrell or Bobby, that would be awesome.”
But in some respects, it already is. Thirteen more receptions and Williams will have exceeded his total from the three disappointing seasons he logged after being Detroit’s first-round pick in 2005.
“We are the beneficiaries of Mike kind of changing his world around,” said Carroll, who coached him at USC. “I don’t think many guys were thinking that Mike was going to make a comeback – and I have to tell you the truth, I didn’t know if he was either.
“I think he is ready to play football in a big way. But like any player, it’s how long can you do well?”
Same goes for the Seahawks as well, of course. Even in the Dipstick Division.