Monday, September 30, 2013

The Morning After: Seattle's Historic Win Over Houston 23-20

Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

Players play the game. Coaches coach it. Owners own the team. Games like the one we witnessed against the Houston Texans on Sunday belong to the fans. Down 20-3, against a quality opponent playing inspired football in front of their home crowd, with barely a handful of positive plays to cling to, the Seahawks started their long climb back. By the time Steven Hauschka's 45-yard kick finished the trek, strangers and best friends, family and feuders, old and young were brought together under the Seahawks flag that now flew higher than it ever has so early in a season. New fans celebrated the excitement and the fun. Old fans savored it like the perfect bite of steak. Dedicating yourself for 10, 20, 30 years to a franchise deemed largely irrelevant can feel like being a resident in Pleasantville. A game like this one explosively adds color to an almost completely grey world. People become fans for life because of games like this. People become friends because of games like this. In a country where so much divides us, Seahawks fans from every race, creed, age and political affiliation can come together in one common belief: that was fucking awesome.

It certainly did not start that way. After some encouraging moments early on that resulted in a 3-0 lead, happiness left the building for a few hours. Seattle could not stop the Texans on defense and looked incapable of forward movement on offense. It was not until the Texans first possession of the second half that the comeback began. The Seahawks had gone three plays for -2 yards to open the second half, and Owen Daniels had made yet another play behind our linebackers and in front of our safeties for 21-yards. Arian Foster found daylight on a 3rd and 1 run with only Earl Thomas to beat in the open field. Thomas, who ProFootballFocus.com had heavily criticized for missed tackles last year, brought down Foster for a 10-yard gain instead of what might have become a touchdown. Tony McDaniel registered his first sack as a Seahawk on the next play. Then Clinton McDonald beasted through the Texans line to bring down Foster for a three-yard loss on the play after that. Houston would have to punt for the first time in four possessions.

Malcolm Smith knocked the ball free on the next Texans possession, leading to a Seahawks field goal on a drive that totaled zero yards. Now, though, it was the offenses turn to push the agenda in the most unlikely of situations. A team that basically gave J.J. Watt and Co squatters rights in their back-field all day was about to go 98 yards for a touchdown. Fittingly, it started with Golden Tate fielding a punt at the 3-yard line, running out of bounds, and Kellen Davis getting flagged for holding. Make that a 98.5 yard drive.

Russell Wilson then fumbled the snap. Super. Derrick Coleman collected a short pass for four yards to setup a pivotal third down with seven yards to go. Seattle had been 1-7 on 3rd downs up to that point. Seattle had yielded more sacks and tackles for loss than third down conversions, and it wasn't close. NFL history books will tell you the Seahawks had no business getting a first down in that situation. Wilson and Doug Baldwin rewrote the book. On a day when the Texans had arranged multiple group meetings on Wilson's chest, he displayed the poise that defines him while lofting a terrific pass that was only eclipsed by the catch made by Baldwin. Ballerinas are lining up in Renton right now to get lessons in footwork from Baldwin. He is your Blue Swan.

Understand how much mental discipline it takes to go hours without a chance to make a play, and then make a play like that on your first real opportunity. Wilson-to-Baldwin is becoming must-see football. It is about time that Darrell Bevell finds out what the offense looks like with Baldwin featured instead of forgotten. He has earned that.

First down. New life. Bad news for Houston. Wilson remembered his feet on the next play and scrambled for 25 yards. Marshawn Lynch, who played a fantastic game despite a fumble, went for 21 more yards on the next two carries. But it was still not going to be easy. A gorgeous throw to Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown was nullified for offensive pass interference. Move back ten yards. Try the same play to Tate. No flag was thrown despite a blatant hold by the Texans cornerback. Wilson literally runs in circles on the next play before scrambling for 13 yards. Back to Baldwin for another 3rd and 7 conversion. A false start and sack moved the team back 14 yards. It was as if the Seahawks were wrestling with their franchise history, "You will succumb to mediocrity!"

Wilson and the Seahawks ignored the obstacles. He ran for another 11 yards, and then hit Tate for 10, before miraculously scrambling for a first down on fourth down and three. By the time Lynch waltzed into the end zone, the Seahawks had gone 122 yards for a touchdown. Make that 122.5 yards. If 15 yards in penalties, a nine yard sack, a full football field and the league's second-best defense is not enough to stop this team, what is? There may be no answer to that question, Seahawks fans.

Even when Wilson was intercepted on the next drive with only 5:13 to go in the game, and still down by a touchdown, it felt like victory was in the air. Houston fans were already starting to boo their team. Their quarterback and kicker were having their own contest to see who could look less confident in their ability to win a game. They were ahead by a touchdown, and even they knew the stench of humiliation was clinging to them. Their coach was not immune to it.

Foster was ready to shoulder the burden on what should have been the Texans final drive. He had 16 yards on his first three carries. Then, after being stopped for only a yard gain on the next carry, Gary Kubiak chose to pass. Oh Gary. Not wise. Fast forward a couple of years, and we might be able to point to that play call as the reason Kubiak is no longer the head coach in Houston. Their quarterback may never recover from what happened next.

Richard Sherman happened next. There may never have been a better embodiment of manifest destiny than Richard Sherman. He believes the land he sees is his, and that the ball is meant for him. Owen Daniels learned that while the turf had a Texans logo painted on it, the space he occupied belonged to a Seahawk. Sherman looked like a New Yorker boarding the subway as he bodied his way past Daniels and ripped the ball from his hands. His sprint to the end zone was one of those 10-second moments that will last a lifetime. Elation. Muscles were pulled celebrating in the HawkBlogger household. White men who can't jump, sprang from their recliners and found previously undiscovered heights. Spouses, who suffer through the affects of painful losses, rejoiced at knowing their household would be happy for a few days. Fans in San Francisco went back to the realities of their own flawed team after desperately hoping Seattle was not as good as they seemed. This was a truly defining moment for a franchise on the rise.

The message was clear. You can have your best practices of the year. You can come in with a great game plan. You can strut, and pose and celebrate. This Seahawks team will come for you. They will find you. They will bloody your proudest warrior. And they will rip the game from your hands. Your field is theirs now. Your best is not good enough. Their worst is better than your best. And their best is still yet to come.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Just beautifully written. I almost cried.