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Matt Calkins: Seahawks made the most out of the good fortune that came their way

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 13, 2019

Seattle Seahawks free safety Tedric Thompson (33) intercepts pass for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) in the end zone during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks free safety Tedric Thompson (33) intercepts pass for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) in the end zone during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

CLEVELAND – The narrative in northeast Ohio will be that the Browns did what the Browns do. It will say that the orange-domed dolts wrote a note, taped it to a box and gifted Seattle a victory.

But the Seahawks did not improve to 5-1 on Sunday because of their opponent’s generosity. They weren’t given that 32-28 win — they stole it in cold blood.

Whether it was via a blocked punt, forced fumble or end-zone interception, Seattle chopped away at Cleveland’s will before yelling “Timber!” by day’s end. The Seahawks erased a 14-point deficit, staged a fourth-quarter comeback and celebrated on enemy terrain.

Yes, the win was more beast than beauty. And Lady Luck gave the 206 a shout.

But the reason for the Seahawks’ big victory was simple: They made the big plays.

“I’m not a fan of winning like this,” said Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, whose game-sealing interception was one of four turnovers Seattle forced. “It got ugly there in the beginning. … It was an uphill battle the whole time, but it’s a long game.”

For a second, it looked like it was going to be a really long game for the Seahawks. Browns returner Dontrell Hilliard took the opening kickoff 74 yards before Cleveland scored on a 7-yard run less than two minutes later. Seattle answered with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the following possession (though it missed the extra point), but watched the Browns find the end zone on their next two drives to go up 20-6.

The Seahawks defense wasn’t struggling so much as it was downright bleeding. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb were doing whatever they pleased. Then, the stadium silencers began.

First, it was Seahawks receiver David Moore blocking Jamie Gillan’s punt with 10 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second quarter, which led to a Seattle field goal. Then, it was Seahawks cornerback Tre Flowers picking Mayfield off on Seattle’s 39 four minutes later.

Then, it was Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin breaking up a pass in his own end zone and watching Tedric Thompson scoop up the interception, which led to a Seattle touchdown (and missed two-point try).

At one point, it seemed certain the Browns would go up 27-12. By the end of the first half, it was 20-18.

Was that partly because Cleveland was clumsy? Yes. But it was mainly because Seattle was steadfast.

“I just love the way we hung tough and stayed in this game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “There were so many opportunities to let this game go away from us, and our guys would just not do it.”

Perhaps the Seahawks defense hearkened back to Thursday, when they forced four turnovers during practice. It was the most Griffin can remember causing since Seattle drafted him in 2017 – and the takeaways certainly transferred to the game.

On the Browns’ first drive of the third quarter, defensive end Ziggy Ansah knocked the ball out of Chubb’s hands and recovered the fumble on his own 32. Seattle scored seven plays later, when quarterback Russell Wilson connected with Jaron Brown on a 6-yard touchdown pass to put his team up 25-20.

Given Wilson’s stat line – 23-of-33 passing, 295 yards, two TDs, no INTs, a rushing score and a passer rating of 117.6 – it’s absurd that it took more than 500 words for his name to show up. But that just speaks to how commonplace his greatness has become.

After the Browns scored to take a 28-25 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson led a nine-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to make it 32-28. And after Wright’s interception cinched the win, Wilson had notched his sixth straight game with a passer rating above 100 – the longest of his career.

There were other big contributors for Seattle on Sunday, such as running back Chris Carson, who tallied a career-high 124 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, and linebacker Bobby Wagner, whom several members of the defense credited for refocusing them when they were down. And, yes, there were a couple of flags that elicited justifiable boos from the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd, such as a bad blindside block call in the third quarter and a faulty horse-collar tackle in the fourth.

But the big takeaway for the Seahawks was the takeaways themselves – ripping the ball and Browns’ hearts out all at once.

“We had to make plays when we were down,” Flowers said. “And somebody did it every step of the way.”

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