SEATTLE – So, Russell Wilson’s back. Just in time to launch a search for the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive identity.
Hey, it’s always something with these guys.
And you folks think today is going to be interesting.
After losing a week ago when a touchdown pass on the game’s final play failed to connect inbounds, the Seahawks survived here Monday night with a red-zone stand that ended with an incomplete Buffalo pass on the game’s next-to-last play. And that was just the runner-up in the Most Interesting End-of-Half Sequence Contest this night.
Oh, and there was that overtime tie business a couple weeks ago, too.
What’s next? A power outage at Gillette Stadium when Wilson releases the potential game-winner against New England come Sunday night?
Harrowing finishes ring the entertainment bell, but they aren’t very, well, Seahawks – at least not as we know it in respect to how this franchise was built and how it seduced those loyal 12s. Whatever became of ground-and-pound on offense, bash-and-smash on D? On Monday, the Seahawks managed all of 33 yards rushing – receiver Tyler Lockett was the leading ground gainer – and gave up 425 total yards.
“Technically, you’re not supposed to win those games,” admitted defensive end Cliff Avril.
But win they did – 31-25, avoiding what could have been their first string of three games without a victory since 2011. That circumstance and the short-prep date with the Patriots upcoming made it the closest thing to a must-win the NFL has until December.
All the Seahawks know how to play, however, is must-defib football.
“We’re not just thinking of surviving games,” coach Pete Carroll insisted.
Could have fooled us.
Survival in this case came in three stages.
One was the return of Wilson as at least a reasonable facsimile of the franchise-changing quarterback he’s been – looking capable of narrow escapes (though not in the same league as some Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor made) again, actually bootlegging his way to a short touchdown and lighting up the Bills for 282 yards with a 20-of-26 night.
The second was the one-handed receiving stylings of tight end Jimmy Graham, who made not one but two touchdown catches in that vein.
And the third was the end-of-game stand by the beleaguered defense, which has played 123 of 195 possible minutes the last three weeks. The Bills had first-and-goal from the 10, and somehow the slithery Taylor was sacked twice.
Oh, yeah. There was a fourth stage. The Great First-Half Field Goal Fiasco.
The Bills trailed 28-17 when Dan Carpenter readied for a 53-yard kick 3 seconds before the half. That’s when Seattle’s Richard Sherman – who else? – jumped the snap and steamed in toward the ball as flags flew and blew up the kicker.
Referee Walt Anderson called the obvious unabated-to-the-kicker offsides – but “didn’t feel like the actions and the contact, because we were shutting the play down, warranted a foul.”
His boss, NFL officiating veep Dean Blandino, threw the flag Anderson wouldn’t.
“We looked at it and it is a foul,” he said on NFL Network. “It should have been unnecessary roughness.”
But as it wasn’t called that way, Carpenter had to leave for a play after trainers attended to him, forcing Buffalo to spike the ball for a retry. Then there was some obvious misadministration of putting the ball in play that led to a delay of game – and Carpenter then missed a 54-yarder.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” said Buffalo coach Rex Ryan.
He was probably still steaming in the second half when Sherman made an interception on a deep misthrow and wound up in front of the Buffalo bench “mean-mugging,” as Ryan put it.
“I think I said you’re too good of a player to act like an ass,” the coach recalled.
If so, he said it shorthand, starting with an “F” and ending six letters later.
And Sherman? Well, it all kind of rolls off his back, doesn’t it?
He didn’t rough the kicker, he said: “It wasn’t a dirty play. I’m a pro. When you go for a block, that’s what you do. You’re not going to let him have a free play.”
His pick didn’t come on a busted route: “It was a good read by me.”
And whatever Ryan was saying, he didn’t get the message: “I didn’t have any exchange. He was talking to himself, I don’t know. It’s too loud in our stadium to hear anything.”
If the Hawks aren’t defending the way they used to, at least Sherman is doing his part to keep the national dialogue going about him getting away with murder. And the first-half officiating clownshow will no doubt be ascribed to Seahawks villainy, too.
“The refs were horrible at managing it,” squawked Taylor. “They made some horrible calls throughout the game, too.”
At least he stopped short of calling it rigged. Guess we’ll have to wait for today to hear that magic word.
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