Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Well Hawk fans, you can watch football for a long time and not see some of the things that occurred today at CenturyLink Field in the Seattle Seahawks victory over the Tennessee Titans. Games like this can be hard on your ticker. Let me give you some examples:
With two minutes and forty-one seconds left in the first half the Hawks had just scored on a Marshawn Lynch 4th and goal, 1 yd touchdown run to wrest the lead from the Titans at 7-3. During the ensuing kickoff the slightly built Seahawk kicker Steven Hauschka made the mistake of trying to tackle the Titans kick returner after he had built up a full head of steam. He compounded the error by trying to tackle the Titans returner high instead of lowering his pads. As a result Hauschka was steamrolled on the play and had to leave the game for repairs to a bloody nose and a concussion check. His effort at being Dick Butkus  would soon come back to haunt the Hawks.
On the possession that followed the Hawks held the Titans, forcing a punt with 1 minute and one second on the clock. The Titans punter fumbled the long center snap and as the ball rolled to his left he momentarily lost his mind. Though there was no Titans player around to receive it, he tried to pick the ball up and throw it as he was being tackled, the ball bouncing around for a while until the refs ruled that the punter was down when he tried the ill advised throw. Plays like that usually result in TDs for the other team but in this instance it just gave the Hawks the ball at the Titan 38 yard line with 51 seconds left in the half. Wilson moved Seattle smartly to the Titan 10 yard line. With twenty seconds left in the half the Seattle QB hit running back Robert Turbin with a short swing pass to the Titan 3. There were twelve seconds left when Turbin was tackled. With the Hawks out of timeouts it was imperative that Turbin hand the ball to the official so he could set it for the next play thus conserving time. Instead he left it on the ground when he got up, leaving it for the official to pick up whenever he got around to it. Always aware, Russell Wilson ran over to the ball, picked it up and, spotting the official, tossed it to him; whereupon the official promptly fumbled it. Wilson was finally able to stop the clock by spiking the ball with 2 seconds left.
Precious time had run off the clock during that 10 second comedy of errors, but that was nothing compared to what was about to happen. With Hauschka on the sideline injured and a field goal being indicated, Pete Carroll called on his punter John Ryan to come in and kick what would ordinarily be a chip shot 3 pointer. While Ryan is no Hauschka, he has done some place kicking and this short field goal was certainly within his range. The problem is that Ryan is normally Hauschka’s holder. That left little used, reserve safety Chris Maragos, who had last held for field goals four years earlier in college, as Ryan’s holder. The center snap appeared to be a good one, but Maragos could not come up with it. As Ryan moved forward for the kick he had to stop abruptly and turn into a blocker as Maragos was trying to corral the ball and do something with it. He managed to grasp it and take a couple steps to his right before disappearing under a bunch of Titans defenders. As he went down his arm carrying the ball came forward at a weird angle and the ball came out, rolling further toward the right sideline, where it was picked up by the Titans cornerback Jason McCourty who returned it 77 yards for a Titan TD.
Now, I was at this game and it looked for all the world on the replays I saw that Maragos was down when the ball came out. But apparently there was not enough confirming visual evidence and the refs ruled that the Titans TD stood as called on the field. One second the Hawks were about to take a 10-3 lead and control of the game and literally, the next second, they were behind 10-7. And it all happened in the last two seconds of the first half.
Like I said, you can watch football a long time and not see some of the things that we saw today at the Clink.
The weird bounces continued in the second half. With twelve minutes to go in the third quarter the Hawks were driving. Wilson hit Sydney Rice for a first down and as Rice was being tackled he fell backward, inexplicably extending his arms back over his head, as if he was stretching for the first down. Bad move Sydney—you already had the first down. A Titans player moving forward hit the ball with his helmet knocking it out of Sydney’s outstretched arms and hands and into the arms of a waiting teammate. Again it looked like Rice was already down when the ball came out but, again, on review there was no confirming evidence. To make matters worse, rookie tackle Michael Bowie came flying into the pile late thus incurring a 15 yard personal foul penalty which was tacked on at the end of the play.
So much for that drive.
For most of the first three quarters of this odd game the strange bounces of the ball seemed to be favoring the Titans. At the start of the fourth quarter that would change. With the game tied at 10, in a series of lightning strikes Wilson moved the Seahawks nearly the length of the field; most of it coming on one of the most beautifully designed plays you’ll ever see. From the shotgun at the Hawk twenty yard line Russell took the snap, faked a handoff to Marshawn Lynch and, while evading a Titans defender, continued to roll to his right looking for a receiver. Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch emerged around the left side of the line and out into the flat on the left side of the field. Whatever defender was assigned to that area of the field, it is no exaggeration to say that there were no Titans within twenty yards of Lynch. Wilson saw him out there and hit him with a gorgeous pass from all the way on the other side of the field. Marshawn hauled the ball in and ran all the way to the Titans 25 yard line for a gain of 55 yards. The Clink went crazy on that one, me included.
From there Wilson quickly moved the Hawks to the Titans three and the 67,000 crazies at the Clink were getting juiced up for a TD. On the next play Wilson handed the ball to Lynch over the left side but he was immediately stuffed by the Titans, one of whom reached in and punched the ball from Lynch’s grasp causing it to bounce backwards on the turf. Titans linebacker Zach Brown had a bead on the ball and, closing on it rapidly, bent to scoop it up. As he did so, whether by design or by accident, he tipped the ball forward, probably thinking he was tipping it to himself. Visions of a 90 yard fumble return for a TD were, no doubt, dancing in Brown’s head. Enter the ever alert Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson. Heeding his own oft stated advice to “stay in the moment,” he picked off the Zach Brown tipped ball and fell to the field thus denying the Titans player his shot at glory and re-securing the ball for the Hawks.
Due to Wilson’s heroics the Hawks salvaged a field goal from potential disaster and took the lead for good in this game at 13-10. They would go on to score one more TD while holding the Titans to a field goal for a 20-13 win.
Despite all the strange plays and fumbles, there was much about this game that was positive for the Hawks. They outgained the Titans by a huge margin, 404 yards to 223. They also had 24 first downs to the Titans 13 and controlled the ball for 33 minutes of the 60 played. Their ground game once again rested on Lynch and Wilson who combined for 150 plus yards and Wilson was efficient through the air completing 23 of 31 for 253 yards. He threw no interceptions. I noted in my preview of this game  that the Hawks needed to improve on 3rd down efficiency and they did, converting 5 of 13. While still not where it needs to be, they at least did better in this vital area of the game. The defense dominated the Titans and did not give up a TD, the only Titans 6 pointer being the unusual special teams play at the end of the first half.
As I noted in my preview Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has a tendency to be intercepted and he lived up to that with two of his passes winding up in Seahawk hands; one to Richard Sherman and one to Earl Thomas. As I also noted, he can be shifty and was able to scramble for 33 yards, but generally the Hawks D was up to the task of stopping Fitzpatrick.
The Hawks now have a short week to get ready to go on the road for an NFC West rival game this coming Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals, which does not give Pete Carroll much time to cure the Seahawks’ sudden case of fumble-itis. Regardless, he will need to if the Hawks intend to keep a date with the Super Bowl in February. Despite their win in this weird game, no team yet has ever fumbled its way to a championship. The Seahawks won’t be the first and I think they know that.
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved