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‘Big Play Tre’ Brown refuels his reputation with critical pick-six in Seahawks win

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown returns an interception for a touchdown against the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

DETROIT – When they call you “Big Play Tre,” you’d better hold up your end of the bargain.

That’s what Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown did Sunday, inside a Ford Field filled with blue ski masks and eroding optimism.

With 8:14 left in the fourth quarter and the visitors cradling a precarious 24-21 lead, Jared Goff took a shotgun snap from the Lions’ 35-yard line. The 28-year-old quarterback took a three-step drop, looked left and snapped a streak.

“Bam, he threw it right to me,” Brown said after the Seahawks’ 37-31 overtime win.

As linebacker Uchenna Nwosu collapsed on the quarterback, Goff sent a wobbling spiral behind rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Brown pounced on the pass at the 40-yard line, looked up and saw only Penei Sewell.

If he could get past the Lions’ 6-foot-5, 335-pound tackle …

Well, the rest was a wrap.

“First I saw a big 300-pound guy in front of me,” Brown said with a smile. “I said, ‘I have to beat him outside.’ When I beat him outside, I knew I was going to score, because no one was going to catch me.”

That’s not totally true. After Brown glided past Sewell and into the end zone, he raised both arms and dropped the ball. While pointing and flexing at a suddenly silent audience, outside linebacker Darrell Taylor wrapped his arms around Brown’s back.

It was Goff’s first interception in 384 pass attempts.

It was “Big Play Tre” personified.

“I ran towards the fans (after scoring), and I was kind of looking around like, ‘Wow, it’s crazy what one play can do to a whole stadium that’s electric when you’re on the opposite team,’” Brown said. “I was able to take that in and realize what I did for my team, and it was on to the next.”

Indeed, Brown made more than one big play in the Seahawks’ seismic win. After starting cornerback Riq Woolen “got banged up and hurt his shoulder a little bit” – coach Pete Carroll’s words – in the second quarter, Brown entered opposite debuting rookie Devon Witherspoon.

The Oklahoma alumnus – who had lost his starting job to Witherspoon earlier Sunday – produced four tackles, two pass breakups, a sack, a forced fumble and the aforementioned pick-six in relief.

Meanwhile, Witherspoon both soared and struggled. The rookie from Illinois made a pair of fourth-down stops – diving to deflect a pass intended for tight end Sam LaPorta on fourth-and-4 in the second quarter before defending wide receiver Josh Reynolds on a fourth-and-2 throw that went wide at the Lions’ 45-yard line in the second half.

“He had a great time playing today, and he’s going to have some bumps along the way,” Carroll said of Witherspoon. “But he’s a fine football player, and he’s just getting started.”

The 6-foot, 185-pound corner contributed five tackles and a pass breakup in his first career start.

But there were also bumps.

Specifically, Witherspoon endured a disastrous drive – surrendering an 8-yard reception to Amon-Ra St. Brown, a missed tackle, a defensive pass interference penalty and a 36-yard flea-flicker touchdown to wide receiver Kalif Raymond in a five-play span.

“Yeah, that’s tough,” Witherspoon said of the flea-flicker. “I’m thinking crunch, that they’re going to run the ball at the corner. Once I saw them toss it back (to Goff), I was like, ‘Just chase him. Continue to close the space as quick as you can.’

“They made a great play, man. All my teammates were telling me, ‘It’s the league, bro. Just keep your head. Just keep your composure. We’re OK. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to play defense.’”

It wasn’t pretty.

But the Seahawks secondary continued to play.

A week after Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford ignited for 334 passing yards without standout receiver Cooper Kupp, Goff also excelled – completing 28 of 35 passes (80%) for 323 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

But Geno Smith was even better. After the game entered overtime, the Seahawks’ starter led a nine-play, 75-yard drive, culminating in a walk-off 6-yard score to wide receiver Tyler Lockett.

It was Tulsa’s third touchdown of the day.

“(Lockett’s) from Tulsa. We’re from the same area,” Brown said. “For me to get a pick-six and for him to score (the winning touchdown), I was like, ‘Thank God.’ I’d hate to have a pick-six and be on the losing side. I cared about the win more than the six.”

Despite injuries and expectations and booming Detroit decibels, an embattled secondary endured.

“It’s a great (expletive) feeling,” Witherspoon said of his first win. “Shoutout to my team, for sure.”

Added Brown, a cornerback who refueled his reputation: “I got a nickname. A lot of people call me ‘Big Play Tre.’ It’s moreso motivation for me than anything. We were in a situation where I knew I wanted to make a play. I did that for those guys.”