SEATTLE – The Seahawks didn’t seem to understand the premise.
The whole concept of these “throwback” games is to replicate the look of the uniforms, not the grim play of woebegone teams from bygone eras.
No question, they certainly did look fresh in their royal blue and apple green jerseys, with shiny silver helmets, but for most of the game Sunday against Cleveland at Lumen Field, the Seahawks re-enacted the futility of many of the predecessors who had little going for them other than those handsome ensembles.
After a very 21st -century style first quarter, racing to a 17-7 lead, the Hawks performed much as they had back in the ’90s, a decade when they made just one playoff appearance (a loss on Jan. 9, 2000, which, obviously, was not in the ’90s).
For seven consecutive possessions spanning the second, third and nearly all the fourth periods, the Hawks punted five times and threw two interceptions.
(Throwback Flashback at that point: Visions of the well-intended, third-team quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, after a series of injuries and ineptitude left him taking the reins of the 1992 Seahawks, fighting through the long slog of a 2-14 season).
After falling behind, the Browns scored 13 points without a Seahawk answer and took over with less than six minutes remaining. They needed a time-consuming drive to deal the Hawks a disappointing loss.
But contrary to so many of those ’90s team that either botched the rally or were victimized by ill fate (re: Testaverde, helmet TD, 1998), the dame of fortune favored Seattle.
As any coach does, Pete Carroll has often urged his players to use their heads. Safety Jamal Adams responded literally, aborting a blitz to leap and spear a Cleveland pass with his helmet. The ball shot upward and hovered above the Seattle defense long enough that Julian Love might have considered calling a fair catch before pulling down his first interception as a Seahawk.
“I got that from (Lionel) Messi,” Adams said of the header technique. “I was just coming on a blitz and knew I had to make something happen. As long as there’s time on the clock, we’re going to fight until the end.”
Smith, his royal blue No. 7 jersey flashing in the afternoon sun (think: Jon Kitna circa 1999), took over with two minutes left to win the game. He connected on all four of his passes for 52 yards, with the decider going to rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Final, Seahawks 24-20.
Smith-Njigba acknowledged the Hawks’ struggles, but, like a veteran, understood that a win cures many ills. “All the mistakes and all, we’ll look at those tomorrow and try to get them fixed.”
Carroll made an obvious point about the Browns, who came in at 4-2, with a highly rated defense and running game. “These guys are really tough … one of the most vicious pass rushing teams in pro football, and we kept them at bay,” Carroll said. “It’s a fantastic illustration of hanging in there and keeping the belief going.”
After the game, it was pointed out to Carroll that the Seahawks (5-2) were now leading the NFC West Division, having won two in a row while San Francisco (5-3) is on a three-game skid.
Carroll acted as if he hadn’t heard that. Kind of unlikely, I’d wager. Considering how competitive he is, he surely would have asked somebody about the status of his primary rival on this day.
“What? In first place?” he said. “(About) halfway through, we’re in pretty good shape, and that’s good, we’re still growing. We need to just keep growing. When you (win) one and then another one, you’re getting better. It’s hard to stack up wins. And we’ve had three (wins) in a row at home. That’s a pretty good battle cry for us.”
The big messages from this one are that they can beat a good team without being anywhere near their best, and they can snap out of a long period of dormancy and come up when the big plays when nothing else will do.
And, also, that the color of the jerseys and helmets have nothing to do with those talents.
They just make you look good in the process.