SEATTLE – Leave it to the Seattle Seahawks to give their fans something to talk about.
On Sunday, that meant both coming into Century Link Field and leaving.
The before: a linking of arms of players, coaches and team staff on the sidelines during the National Anthem on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. – the message being, said defensive end Michael Bennett, that “it’s going to take everybody to build a bridge to something great.”
And the after: a clutch 75-yard drive culminating in Russell Wilson’s 2-yard fade pass to Doug Baldwin with 31 seconds left, rescuing a 12-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins from what had season-opening upset written all over it.
“As long as there’s time on the clock,” said Wilson, “we believe we can make it happen.”
The Seahawks had just over four minutes to find themselves after Ryan Tannehill guided the Dolphins on a long drive of their own for the go-ahead touchdown – but up to that point, Seattle had shown little inclination that it could make anything happen on offense.
The Seahawks had just two field goals to show for a couple of first-half drives, and Wilson had injured an ankle getting sacked by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh early in the third quarter. His mobility compromised, Wilson was even more vulnerable behind Seattle’s bargain-basement offensive line.
And yet they made it look both easy and hard. They converted twice on fourth down – one a 22-yard pass to Baldwin with great protection – before he and Wilson hooked up for the winner, Baldwin outracing Bobby McCain to the side boundary.
After Wilson had changed the play call.
“Honestly, he has never changed the play to that play before,” said Baldwin. “In that moment, I’m thinking, ‘What is he doing?’ But he has shown the propensity to do miraculous things.”
But the Seahawks left an opening to be done in by another miracle when Steven Hauschka missed the PAT kick. But the Dolphins, out of timeouts, missed a deep pass to an open Kenny Stills, and then ran out of time after Seattle backup linebacker Cassius Marsh strip-sacked Tannehill, who fumbled out of bounds.
Up to that point, Marsh – a third-year player with little in the way of a resume – had been a terror on special teams. He may well have won the game for Seattle earlier in the fourth quarter, when he got a hand on Andrew Franks’ 27-yard field-goal attempt that could have tied the game.
“How does a backup guy be able to be that much of a factor?” said coach Pete Carroll. “Because he’s a terrific player. He made a mistake in there, too, and got his butt chewed on the sidelines, but other than that he had a fantastic day.”
The butt-chewing was for a coverage goof on a screen pass that went for 50 yards late in the first quarter. But the Seahawks defense always seem to have an answer for those rare breakdowns – stuffing Arian Foster on fourth-and-1 when Miami coach Adam Gase opted against a tying field goal, in this case. Until their go-ahead drive – when Seattle’s pass rush fell apart – the Dolphins had managed just 143 yards.
But after that drive, it was all up to Wilson, who told his teammates “I’ll play on one leg if I have to.”
Inconsistency in the run game – Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls combined for 98 yards – and the injury made Wilson an easier target, and his 43 passes were the second-most of his career. But he made all the throws he had to on the final drive.
“When it came to the defining moment of the game, he did what he did,” said Bennett. “That’s what you do under pressure. That’s why I define him as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, because the great ones play good under pressure and the bad ones get (stuck) in their mind. He never got rattled.”
Wilson is likely to get an MRI on the ankle this week, but was purposefully vague about it heading into preparations to play in Los Angeles against the Rams next weekend.
“I’ll be all right,” he insisted. “I’ll be ready to roll.”
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