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Blanchette: Inspiration easy to find in Seahawks locker room

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 1, 2020

By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

Russell Wilson was back to juggling his spatula and whisk, DK Metcalf cemented his status as LeBron James’ favorite football player and Bobby Wagner’s defense put the lie to one budding shrub of NFL hyperbole.

Seems the Seattle Seahawks actually can stop a quarterback who’s playing on one leg.

All of it helped make for a happy Sunday in the Northwest, the Seahawks throttling the hated San Francisco 49ers 37-27 at ghostly CenturyLink Field, in the process – and despite surrendering three fourth-quarter touchdowns – making a two-score lead hold up for the first time since the Chuck Knox era, or so it seems.

Hey, it’s always a party when your superstars outdo the other team’s supes.

But this day, the uplift was to be found in the subtext.

Or substext, as it may be.

There’s nothing in the rules that says you can’t play with just 10 men on the field, but things always seem to go better for a team that puts 11 bodies out there, preferably warm. Naturally, there’s going to be some hand-wringing when a player of note goes down with an injury, and minds will be numbed as we are lectured about the – all together now – next-man-up mentality, as if everybody cribs their game plan from the British redcoats.

Nevertheless, there does have to be a next man up, unless one of those cardboard cutouts is going to be drafted from the bleachers.

So this is what left Seahawks coach Pete Carroll perhaps a skosh giddier than usual Sunday evening.

“This game,” he said, “is a very inspirational game in our locker room.”

So choose your particular inspiration.

Was it D.J. Reed? Seattle entered the game without two secondary starters – not counting the nickel back it lost in Game 1 and his replacement who pulled a hamstring last week. So on Sunday, the Seahawks activated Reed from the non-football injury list – where he’d been when the 49ers waived him back in August, figuring no team would claim him, as he wouldn’t likely be available until November.

Except the Seahawks claimed him.

And on Sunday, he was the nickel back against his old team. Before the game was a quarter old, he had picked off 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone.

Or was the inspiration DeeJay Dallas? On the Seahawks’ depth chart, the rookie from Miami is No. 4 at running back. But with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde out with injuries and Travis Homer limited to blocking on passing downs, DeeJay was suddenly Big D.

His totals were modest – just 41 yards on 18 carries and five catches for minimal yardage. But he did score touchdowns on a reception and a run, after having an earlier one wiped out by replay review – prompting him to toss the ball he’d been clutching to his chest back onto the field.

“We were talking before the game and I told him, ‘Great players always have to start somewhere – and that’s going to be today,’ ” Wilson said.

Admitted Dallas, “I felt like I belonged.”

Or was it Stephen Sullivan, who a few weeks ago was a practice squad tight end on a team with too many of them? On Sunday, there he was taking the odd snap at defensive end – helping blow up a particularly ridiculous bit of Niners trickeration to snuff their first drive.

“I didn’t see this happening in a million years,” said Sullivan. “Coming where I come from, a lot of guys don’t make it this far.”

Where Sullivan came from was a hellish childhood in Texas and Louisiana, in a home full of drug and domestic abuse. He saw both parents carted off to jail. He spent some nights sleeping under freeway overpasses, others cadging a couch in the homes of friends. He found a rescuer in a high school librarian and wound up graduating from LSU – and landed with Seattle when the Seahawks decided to trade their way back into the seventh round of the 2020 draft.

“Every kid has their story,” he said. “I don’t go around telling people for them to feel sorry for me. I keep it in my pocket. But who’s saying it didn’t help me get to this point?”

To be fair, San Francisco’s injury woes are even more severe than Seattle’s, and Garoppolo’s lingering ankle troubles made him an easy target for Wagner’s blitzes. Meanwhile, the Niners had no answers for Wilson and especially Metcalf, who had two spectacular TD grabs, spurring LeBron James to take to Instagram and dub the receiver “Baby Bron.”

But for all that, a rarely used scrub like fullback Nick Bellore bulling for a first down on a catch after two hapless Seattle series may have seemed as grand – and important – as Metcalf’s cross-field SportsCenter sprint.

“We’d run out of guys,” Carroll admitted. “Guys had to step up and fill in and play first-class football – and they did it and came through in such a big way. I was inspired by their toughness and guts.”

Sometimes, you need the next man up just to party on.

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