Among the footnotes from the foofaraw of the Seattle Seahawks reaching the 4-0 base camp of their 2020 Everest on Sunday was a nugget about Shaquill Griffin from the NFL’s “Next Generation” statheads:
When tracked as the “nearest defender” against the Miami Dolphins, the fourth-year cornerback allowed just one reception for 11 yards on five targets. There was also an interception of some note.
Near perfect is not perfect, however, and besides there was a blown coverage that didn’t show up in even the most advanced analytics.
When his late pick of Ryan Fitzpatrick moved the odds on Miami’s comeback to Donerail levels, Griffin cocked and hurled the football 20-some rows up into the socially distanced audience of 12,369 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Like Fitzpatrick, he’d like to have that one back.
Seems a nephew among the dozen family members and friends in attendance had asked his uncle to snag a football for him.
“I’ll bring you one back if you bring me one back,” Griffin told him.
“Well, we can’t take the football in Pop Warner,” the nephew replied.
“Yes, you can,” Griffin insisted. “Just tell your dad to buy another football for the team, and I want the football that you caught. If you catch one, I catch one.”
Then adrenaline took over, and it now it looks like Griffin will be the one buying a football.
“I got caught in the moment,” he allowed.
A forgivable sin. After all, for the first time all fall, the Seahawks put together something with a passing resemblance to NFL defense.
This is all relative, of course. But in their 31-23 takedown of the Dolphins, the Seahawks didn’t surrender a touchdown until Fitzpatrick’s 10-yard scramble with 110 seconds remaining, and saved the franchise’s fan base from being the first to fall into meltdown panic over an undefeated team.
And if they can limp past Minnesota and into their bye week, the Seahawks may actually be able to field a full first string on both sides of the ball.
On top of the two regulars they’ve already lost for the season — linebacker Bruce Irvin and nickel back Marquise Blair — the Seattle D had to sit three more with injuries on Sunday, including safety Jamal Adams, who spends more time trying to bolster the wanting pass rush with his blitzes than playing centerfield.
So it was largely left to the kids and castoffs Seattle has assembled to hold the fort. Ryan Neal, the practice squad refugee, had another pick, on a ball tipped by linebacker Cody Barton, now the third man to play the strong side. Later, Neal blew up a screen pass that convinced the Dolphins to settle for a field goal — the first of five such times that happened. On the last of those — when the Dolphins could have taken the lead — it was rookie Alton Robinson who foiled them on third down.
Field goals do not a shootout make, and just maybe the Seahawks won’t have to be in one every week.
“The offense has been playing so amazing that it got to a point where we were getting comfortable,” Griffin said.
The Seahawks’ defensive toothlessness has received a thorough airing. The 1,492 yards they’d surrendered was an NFL record through the season’s first three games, and 52 percent of those yards had come in the fourth quarter.
Chris Wallace maintains order at a debate better than the Seahawks protect a double-digit lead.
But after giving up nine pass plays of 22 yards or more against Dallas, the Seahawks conceded just one Sunday. Now, the Bunyanesque Fitzpatrick is no Dak Prescott, and Miami came in 26th in the NFL in offense. But at least the Dolphins had to work for it.
“We knew balls can’t get over our head this week,” said veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, who knocked down three himself. “We knew we had to sink back and (keep) everything in front.”
That’s not necessarily a Legion of Doom mentality, but maybe it’ll keep the secondary from becoming the Legion of Goodwill.
No one seemed to take it more to heart than Griffin, a Pro Bowl alternate a year ago who seemed to be in a contract-year fog. Over the first three games, Griffin had yielded a completion rate of 76 percent — almost 20 points higher than in 2019. His biggest play may not have been the pick, but knocking tight end Mike Gesicki off the ball in the end zone with the score 17-12.
“One thing DBs have to do is just play their coverage,” Griffin said. “There’s always some plays where you find you want to make a play, jump something. And I feel I have to do a better job of that. I have to be smart. Sometimes the play is not there for you to make. There’s going to be times when someone’s going to catch a 5 or 6-yard comeback. But they don’t win games that way. It’s the deep ball and special plays that turn to touchdowns and leads to wins.”
The textbook is being written by Seattle’s offense. Seems as if Griffin and the defense finally decided to go to school.