The Morning After: Paul Allen’s Angel Eclipses a City Full of Them, Hawks Move to 4-1
I woke up on a Friday morning and grabbed the newspaper first thing, as I always did. Another disastrous Seahawks season was over, and I was surprised to see them show up in the sport section of The Washington Post. There were pictures of what appeared to be moving vans. My heart sunk as I read the story detailing Ken Behring’s plan to move my favorite team to Los Angeles. That was February 2, 1996. The NFL blocked his move and two months later a young billionaire purchased a 14-month option to buy the Seahawks that was ultimately contingent upon the state voting to fund a new stadium. Paul Allen poured his money, his heart, and his wisdom into getting that referendum passed despite basketball being his true sports love. He did it because he cared deeply about the region where he grew up. The bill passed by a mere 36,000 votes. That is how close we came to never having a Super Bowl, never having Beast Quake, never knowing Russell Wilson. It was fitting on a night when Allen was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor, in the stadium he enabled, against a team from Los Angeles, that his team won by the slimmest of margins. This is our team. I will never forget why.
Few Seahawks fans will forget this game. It had one of the greatest catches in franchise history by Tyler Lockett. It had one of the greatest interceptions you will ever see by Tedric Thompson. It had a virtuoso performance by Russell Wilson. The Seahawks were in control and on the ropes time and again. You cannot have exhilaration without the specter of devastation. Everyone was braced for the most crushing of outcomes, and jointly shared in the ecstasy only the Seahawks can bring.
Strangers hugged and high-fived. Noises emanated from people they did not know they were capable of making. Stadium attendants jumped up and down. A young man working in the souvenir shop within the stadium could not contain himself to the counter and burst out the door to run with fans through the concourse like it was Pamplona.
This was not the whooping of the hated 49ers late in 2012 that announced the new kings of the division. It was a resurrection of relevance against one of the league’s best teams playing some of their best football. That Rams team was not the same one that got whooped by the Bucs a few days earlier.
They played wonderfully on offense and made incredible plays that will be tough to replicate. Their largely atrocious offensive line did not yield a sack. Their diminished running back scored two touchdowns. They recovered from a late interception and poor field position to drive down for what should have been a winning field goal. They did all those things, and they lost.
A Seahawks team that had shot themselves in the foot so often in the first three weeks of the season, limited head-slapping errors for the second straight game. Seattle began the game with an early turnover and appeared completely incapable of blocking the Rams defensive line. It was the defense who kept the Seahawks in the game by holding Los Angeles to two field goals.
Down 6-0, the Seahawks offense found it’s stride and went 75 yards for a touchdown, capped by the fantastic throw of Wilson and even more amazing catch of Lockett along the edge of the endzone. It was an impossible play. To be more specific, it was the least probable touchdown catch (6.3%) in the last three seasons, according to the NFL.
After the defense held for another two series, the offense scored another touchdown on a terrific play modification by Brian Schottenheimer that led to a wide open D.K. Metcalf, and then Jadeveon Clowney forced a fumble, it appeared as if the Seahawks were on the verge of making this a comfortable victory.
The offense drove to the Rams 30-yard line and faced a 4th and 1. Pete Carroll chose to go for the field goal, which infuriated fans far and wide. Going for it was probably the right call, but there were no guarantees they would make it, and even fewer guarantees they would have scored a touchdown. A 17-6 lead would have been a strong position with a kickoff likely leaving the Rams with 75 yards of field to cover and just 90 seconds to get there. Jason Myers missed the kick.
That gave the Rams good field position and they finally found a way to move the ball on offense. It still appeared the defense would get off the field with minimal damage when Jared Goff’s pass fell incomplete on 3rd and 10, but the referees called roughing the passer on Ziggy Ansah. That was enough to get the Rams into the end zone.
That whole series set the stage for a total flip of the script the rest of the way. Los Angeles would score on three of their next four possessions, including the first drive of the second half. They were the punchers. The Seahawks offense was now in counter-punch position.
A fabulous kick by Michael Dickson pinned the Rams at their 1-yard line. The defense held, and the Seahawks scored a touchdown. Had that sequence of events not happened, we are not reveling in victory this morning.
The finish, though, was unforgettable. Down 29-24, Seattle drove 70 yards to the Rams 5-yard line facing another fourth down decision with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game. Carroll went for it. Wilson initially looked like he was going to run it in for a score, only to see Chris Carson’s defender close ground and create space for what should have been an easy touchdown catch. Carson bobbled, and then caught the pass to give Seattle a single point lead.
The Rams had more than enough time to get the lead back. The defense forced Los Angeles into a 3rd and 10 when a tipped pass hung in the air just long enough for Thompson to dive and get his hands under the ball for what was the most amazing interception I have ever witnessed. The Tip was the most important, but this one was a feat of unparalleled coordination.
As someone who has been incredibly hard on Thompson, it was wonderful to see him make a play of such significance. The whole defense erupted in celebration rooted not just in what the play meant to the game, but what they all knew it meant to this young man.
They ran the full length of the field and were high-fiving fans in both endzones while everyone waited for the replay officials to confirm what we already knew. The celebrations were premature, but they were based in unbounded joy that is difficult to criticize.
The offense was unable to end the game, and the Rams had no trouble moving into what should have been a sure thing game-winning field goal. A delay of game penalty cost the Rams five yards that very well might have been the difference. Even so, Greg Zuerlein does not miss very often.
In fact, he had attempted six field goals between 40 and 50 yards over his career against the Seahawks. He had made all of them. Not this one. Not this night.
There is so much to reflect on in this game. It may take another full article to seep in the splendor of it all. One thing that stands out to me is the contrast between the persona of this team and the LOB era crew.
That group was defined by the ferocious underdog mentality of low round draft picks and the physical dominance of their defense and running back. They were brash, intimidating, alpha males.
This team far more reflects the persona of their MVP-level quarterback. They are not the biggest. They are unassuming, but willful. There is an innocence and authentic happiness that lights their path instead of dark and deep-rooted desire to prove the world wrong.
It is far too early to say how good this team is. Most of their victories have been incredibly close and against poor competition. Yet, they are 4-1, matching the best start in franchise history.
No team seems completely out of their class. No opponent seems like an easy win. This very well be a year defined by razor thin margins. It may age all of us at hyper speed, but there is not a player better suited to lead through a season like that than Wilson. Nobody is more certain of outcome or more calm in crisis.
While fans bicker about whether he should be used more or used differently, he is just going out there and playing the best football of his career and stacking up victories.
This team has the potential to improve. Jarran Reed returns after the next game. Clowney and Ansah should continue to find their way in this scheme. Jamarco Jones might be an upgrade on the line, as might Phil Haynes coming off PUP following the Browns game. Carroll will continue to tinker with his defense to optimize the talent he has.
They are not yet legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl. There are too many inconsistencies and weak spots that must be sorted out. They are now in full contention for the division title and at least one home playoff game. This was a titanic victory that puts the Rams in a difficult position. They are not going away and the 49ers likely will be there throughout.
Their championship roads lead through Seattle, though, and the Rams were just reminded how formidable this team and this stadium can be. Allen gifted this region a franchise to be proud of. This was a game he would have loved. Something tells me Carroll and Wilson have more thrills in store for us the rest of the way.