SEATTLE – For once, Jason Witten wasn’t the most lamentable thing about Monday Night Football.
Maybe you folks who watched and listened at home have grounds for dissent. So just take it from the witnesses on hand at CenturyLink Field, who will have ophthalmologists’ offices all over the city working overtime this week to stanch the corneal bleeding.
Then again, rarely has something that looked so bad for so long felt so good.
The 2018 Seattle Seahawks are but one victory away from a certain spot in the National Football League playoffs thanks to their 21-7 win over the hapless Minnesota Vikings, who are paying $84 million to a quarterback who is 4-24 lifetime against winning football teams.
Compared to that, the Seahawks’ exploding cigar act at the opponent’s 1-yard line – now reaching historical proportions – is a trifle.
And, hey, style points aren’t the tiebreaker that settles playoff berths anyway.
“If you want to be a championship team,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson noted sagely, “you’ve got to find ways to win even if it doesn’t look pretty.”
Perhaps that was the very gauntlet the Seahawks were laying down when they decided to model their Nuclear Bile uniforms in prime time.
Now, all this can be overstated. Great defense will put a 5 o’clock shadow on a cover girl, and by every estimation Seattle’s defense was great Monday night – occasionally Legion of Boom great. More on that in a moment.
And Seattle rushed for 214 yards against a defense that wasn’t surrendering even 100 a game. Even Wilson, who this year seemed to have shelved either the burst or desire to run that made him DangeRuss, got off a 40-yard sprint – a little neener-neener moment as one of the lumbering Vikes he outran was Sheldon Richardson, the ex-Seahawk who groused this week about the “terrible” way the club shooed him away in free agency.
Still, this was a 6-0 game until less than six minutes remained, and the highlight had been a “fat boy” reception – 322-pound tackle George Fant hauling in his first career pass lining up as a tight end. That he face-planted nine yards later without being touched matched the décor of the game – and bothered him hardly at all.
“In practice, we ran that play and I dropped the ball,” he confessed.
No wonder that by the time he reached the sideline, he’d landed Moby Dick with a hook and a night crawler.
“He almost scored,” laughed coach Pete Carroll. “That’s how he saw it: ‘Gosh, if I just didn’t slip I would have scored.’”
This vaudeville hardly set the stage for the wild finish. Wilson’s run. The scoop-and-score by Justin Coleman. Bobby Wagner using the muscular shoulders of teammates Jarran Reed and Shamar Stephen to vault the Minnesota line and block a Vikings field goal – the play that figures to have the NFL office apologizing to the Vikings on Tuesday.
But in truth, the winning was done with meat-and-potatoes defense. Bradley McDougald knocking down a fourth-down pass in the end zone. Shaquill Griffin with back-to-back breakups against Minnesota’s two best weapons, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who have rarely gotten less done.
Naturally, this made it tempting to launch a new narrative – the Boom is Back! – which the Seahawks did their best to shoot down.
“I’m not with the comparison stuff,” said Wagner. “You take away from all the amazing players we had here. Everybody is special in their own way.”
Agreed Coleman, “We don’t talk about that at all. We’ve got our own identity.”
But it’s clear that at 8-5 and after four straight wins, the Seahawks are taking mondo satisfaction in redirecting the barbs that came their way after the purge – by injury or intent – of cornerstone players like Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Even now, Seattle is rolling with receiver Doug Baldwin in and out of the lineup and linebacker K.J. Wright just out. The offensive line that used to be a punchline now has pop, even D.J. Fluker nursing a flat tire on the sideline.
Reports of their demise were not just premature, but pap.
And they’re not taking any dissing – even from old friend Sherman who called them “middle of the road” a couple weeks back.
“He’s not in this locker room anymore, so his opinion really doesn’t matter,” said defensive end Frank Clark. “You know what I mean? They’ve got problems over there in San Fran that he needs to be worried about. At the end of the day, this is my team now. This is my defense. Richard Sherman and his era is over here.”
Well, the Seahawks did win a Super Bowl in his era, Frank. Your Hawks are still in pursuit of a wild card.
But then, that can keep them in the beauty contest.
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