Russell Wilson came out of the win over Philadelphia last week a bit like the shiny new ornament on the Christmas tree.
Everyone was talking about Wilson as an MVP candidate. Not just for the Seahawks, but for the NFL.
But that candidacy lasted about a week, buried by a flurry of interceptions against Jacksonville.
For only the third time in his career, Wilson threw three, which led to 10 Jaguar points, in the crucial 30-24 Jacksonville win.
Wilson did do Wilson things, including throwing an NFL-record 16th fourth-quarter touchdown pass – a 61-yard strike to Paul Richardson following a typical Wilson backfield dance – but he also missed open receivers, especially in a first half in which the Seahawks failed to score.
His numbers were mundane – he had thrown for only 122 yards until hitting Richardson on the Hawks’ first fourth-quarter possession – which isn’t what you would expect from an MVP candidate.
Wilson finished 17 of 31 for 271 yards passing, though he was able to equal his interceptions with touchdowns, the final one for 74 yards to Tyler Lockett with 3 minutes, 42 seconds left to play to pull the Hawks (8-5) within six, 30-24.
That was when Pete Carroll decided to kick it deep. He had three time outs left, though only one starting linebacker (see below). The Jaguars (9-4) had already rushed for 143 yards.
And the Hawks came within inches of a Byron Maxwell interception of giving Wilson a close-in shot. Still, they forced the three-and-out and Seattle’s offense got the ball back with 2:39 left and 58 yards to go for a win.
But even Wilson could not overcome the ineptitude of the NFL officials.
On a fourth-and-9 from the Hawks’ 43, Wilson tried to hit Doug Baldwin, the only receiver still on his feet on the left side. The Jaguars’ Aaron Colvin slipped and, to save a touchdown, pulled Paul Richardson to the ground.
“I don’t know why it wasn’t called,” Fox analyst Darryl Johnson said of the missed penalty. Neither could Pete Carroll.
It was Wilson and the Hawks’ final chance, though not the final test for referee Gene Steratore’s crew. The game ended with the Hawks, including Michael Bennett, losing their cool. There was a brawl, a punch and two ejections – and then more penalties and Carroll earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Quinton Jefferson, one of the two players ejected, also had a confrontation with fans as he was leaving, which may have an effect on next week’s showdown with the Los Angeles Rams.
Wagner’s the man
If Wilson isn’t the Seahawks MVP, then Bobby Wagner is. Especially with all the injuries the Seattle defense has endured.
But even Wagner couldn’t overcome the voodoo doll-like injuries that have beset the Hawks this season. He has been dealing with a balky hamstring recently – he’s appeared on the injury report often the past couple weeks – that seemed to finally win Sunday.
Wagner was forced out late in the first half and never returned. Not only is he the leading tackler – he came in with 112 tackles and had three more before he left – he is also the guy in charge. And he was missed.
The first three possessions the Jaguars had after Wagner left resulted in touchdowns.
Granted, one came on a 75-yard touchdown pass and another on a 1-yard Leonard Fournette run following a 72-yard punt return, but it’s hard to tell how his absence affected the defense.
It looked as if the defense broke down mentally on the Keelan Cole 75-yard touchdown catch. One of Wagner’s strongest attributes is getting his teammates in the right spots pre-snap.
But Wagner wasn’t only Pro Bowl linebacker injured. K.J. Wright filled a hole late in the third quarter and took a blow to the head. He looked as if he didn’t know where he was. Helped off the field, he headed to the lockerroom and also didn’t return.
Officially, a tough one
It wasn’t an easy day for Steratore’s crew. And Germain Ifedi was right in the middle of most of it.
The Seahawks’ right tackle seems to have a well-earned target on his back. If a flag comes out during a passing play, most Hawk fans immediately figure Ifedi was involved.
He was early on, as he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty midway through the first quarter for, as Steratore described it, “taunting against an official.”
Ifedi had been called for holding and replay showed he said something to umpire Ray Ellison, a 15-year veteran, as the Hawks retreated to the new line of scrimmage. It was impossible to see – or hear – what it was, but Ellison immediately grabbed his flag and tossed it in the air.
That interaction may have played a part in a later incident that didn’t result in a penalty and probably should have.
Ifedi rode defensive end Yannick Ngakoue downfield during the entirety of a Wilson 11-yard run, and Ngakoue didn’t like it. He turned at the end of the play, grabbed Ifedi with two hands and threw him to the ground.
It was an obvious penalty. The closest official? Ellison. The flag stayed in his belt.
Ifedi wasn’t done, though. Later in the first half he was the recipient of two illegal hands to the face calls, both of which gave Seattle first downs. But neither, of course, led to scores.
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