Monday, October 15, 2012

The Morning After, Seahawks Earn Their Stripes, Beat Pats 24-23

This game was over. Doug Baldwin had caught a gorgeous touchdown pass from Russell Wilson with 1:50 to go in the first quarter, and the Seahawks had not scored since. A 10-7 lead at that point, turned into a 20-10 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick was 84-1 when leading by 10 points or more heading into the final period while with the Patriots. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady had the ball at the Seahawks 6-yard line, after marching 82 yards, on what should have been the dagger drive. But then, the heroes slowly started to emerge. Earl Thomas intercepted Brady in the end zone, one of five times the Pats got to the red zone without scoring a touchdown. Seattle ran a wide receiver option with Sidney Rice throwing deep down-field for a big gain on a penalty, only to see Zach Miller fumble the ball at the New England 30-yard line. This game was over. Brady marched his team down into the red zone again, and this time managed to come away with a field goal to make the score 23-10, with just over nine minutes left to play. The Patriots had now scored 16 unanswered points. There is no record of Brady or Belichick ever losing a game when they led by as many as 13 points in the 4th quarter. Believing the Seahawks were going to win at this point would be beyond optimistic. It was certifiable. The entire Seahawks team could have qualified for psychiatric care, because they showed no signs of giving in. Wilson, Golden Tate and Braylon Edwards all made great plays on a "why didn't we do that all game" five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in only two minutes. The defense stopped the Pats again, and the stage was set for game-ending drive for the Seahawks with just under four minutes to play. Only the Seahawks could not even get a first down. They had the ball for 42 seconds before punting it back to Brady. It was over. It had to be. The Patriots offense had only four 3-and-outs in their first 72 possessions of 2012. Seattle's defense made it five on this series. Special Teams joined the party with with a clutch 25-yard punt return to near mid-field. Four plays later, Sidney Rice pushed the defense outside with a great fake, before bursting through the middle of the Pats defense to collect a 46-yard touchdown from Wilson. Pandemonium. Still, Brady and his 29 career game-winning drives was coming back on the field with just over a minute to play. Incomplete. Sack. Incomplete. Then, it was fourth down...



Victory. Sweet, undisputed victory. A Seahawks franchise that was 8-148 when entering the fourth quarter trailing by 10 points or more, had found their way to win #9. The last time they had come back from so far, so late was in 2003 versus the Rams. They did it a game of paradoxes. The defense that yielded 475 yards, the most since a 2010 game against the Chiefs, dropped numerous interceptions, and had allowed the Pats to 8-12 on 3rd down conversions, found a way to hold the Pats to 0 for their final 6 third down attempts and intercept two passes. The Seahawks offense, that could not run the ball, and could not score for nearly three quarters, passed their way to two touchdowns in nine minutes.

It was the rookie quarterback that shined. In three games versus elite NFL quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, and Tom Brady, Wilson has posted a composite 116.9 passer rating, while his opponents have managed a 79.0. That includes a sparkling six touchdowns and zero interceptions. No rookie quarterback has led two game-winning drives in the first six games of the season, until now. No rookie quarterback facing Belichick, while with the Pats, had ever had a passer rating as high as Wilson's 133.7 rating on Sunday. No Seahawks rookie had ever thrown for a rating that high. No Seahawks rookie had ever thrown for as many yards (293). And if chicks dig the long ball, they may want to check out Wilson. No Seahawks quarterback, rookie or other, has ever thrown three passes of 46 yards or more in one game, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Many will point to the horrible secondaries he has faced the past two weeks. While that is fair to bring up for perspective, it ignores the fact that Wilson outperformed the likes of Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco in terms of passer efficiency. It is one thing to play better against bad competition. It is quite another to blow the roof off. Wilson has battled back from the precipice after his losing performance against the Rams, to make significant and steady improvement. We are watching history being written.

Meanwhile, the receivers, tight ends and offensive line that took so much blame for the early problems in the passing game, came up big yesterday. Baldwin caught two big passes to get the team in the end zone. Rice had 81 yards receiving, and would have had another 50 passing if Golden Tate had held on. Tate drew an interference call on that pass and hauled in another 50-yarder. Edwards made a tough catch at a big moment.

Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice have seen their receiving yards steadily improve the last four games

The line gave Wilson a clean pocket to step into for most of his 27 pass attempts. Wilson's height is not an issue when there is nobody within three yards of him. There were no stupid penalties. It was the Patriots who had 6 penalties for 80 yards, while the Seahawks had only 4 for 35.

Seattle is now 4-2, with wins over the Cowboy, Packers and Patriots. National media will not know what to do with this Seahawks team. They will continue to poke fun at Pete Carroll's celebrations on the sideline. They will stammer while trying to make a thoughtful observation about a team they never think about. None of it matters. What matters is the talent, determination and trajectory of this team. They accomplished more than the unlikely on Sunday. They did the unthinkable, and they did it in all phases of the game. It was one to savor. Done savoring? Good, because it will not get any easier this Thursday in San Francisco. If there is a game that supplies enough motivation to reload on such short notice, it will be this one. The Seahawks want this one bad, and all the odds are against them. Most analysts won't pick them. Their opponent will get the lion's share of coverage. Sound familiar?

Tidbits

- Bobby Wagner had 14 tackles, a single-game rookie record for the Seahawks. He is now on pace for 115 tackles, which would shatter Lofa Tatupu's rookie tackle record of 92.

- This is the third straight home game opponents have come to the CLink in droves, talking big, and the third straight game they left mumbling about Super Bowls they won way back when.

- More on Wagner: Michael Robinson made waves in the pre-season by calling him "Baby Patrick Willis." Absurd, right? Well, look at the first six games of their careers:

Willis: 63 tackles, 0 sacks, 4 tackles for loss
Wagner: 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss

Willis is one of the best players in football, so comparisons are still unfair, but there is little doubt Wagner is having a sterling rookie season.




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