The Morning After: Seahawks Defeat the Undefeated, Stamp their Contender Card in 27-24 OT Win

Agony and ecstasy. Manic and depressive. We may find out one day that your Seattle Seahawks are actually a grand social art project meant to manipulate our emotions and create a world more empathetic with those who face bipolar disorder, or better understand those who derive pleasure from pain. The only other game in my four decades of watching the Seahawks play that really compares to what we witnessed Monday night was when these two teams faced off for the NFC Championship in 2013. There were aspects of the Dave Krieg game when he eluded Derrick Thomas’ eighth sack to throw the game winner to Paul Skansi, but this game may really stand on its own.

Seattle entered this game as clear underdogs. They were playing an undefeated team on their home turf in prime time. None of those things were the case in 2013. In fact, that Seahawks team lost when they went down to San Francisco that season.

The 49ers entered with clearly the better defense that has been dominant. Their running game has been almost unstoppable and they were getting back both of their starting tackles and their All-Pro fullback.

Seattle had one of the worst defenses in football, just as vulnerable defending the run as they have been in defending the pass. Despite having an MVP quarterback, they still had all sorts of trouble pass protecting and were facing the best pass rush on the planet.

Then, they spotted the favorites a 10 point lead after a first quarter in which they gained a total of 5 yards and had zero first downs. Seattle’s first seven drives went:

  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Fumble
  • Fumble
  • Punt

The offense did not score points until there were four minutes and thirty-seven seconds left in the third quarter.

They fumbled at the 1-yard line. They fumbled at their own 20-yard line and saw it returned for a touchdown. They threw an interception inside the 10-yard line.

In all, the Seahawks had as many drives end in a turnover as they did that ended in points.

And that’s just the offense. The defense dropped not one, not two, but at least three interceptions that likely would have ended the game. The referees also chipped in with crazy calls ranging from whistling Russell Wilson down while he was breaking free for an 8-yard gain to questionable decisions that took away a Shaquill Griffin interception early and turned a Quinton Jefferson sack into a 15-yard personal foul.

They lost Luke Willson and were left with only one true tight end. They lost Tyler Lockett. They lost Tre Flowers and Jadeveon Clowney for some time.

All that. All of that. And they won. They WON.

This game was like summiting Mount Everest to see the splendor of your surroundings, having a heart attack, flat-lining, being brought back to life, sledding back down, having another heart attack, and being brought back to life again. Hug your family. Hug your friends. Hug total strangers (as long as they are Seahawks fans). In an age where equivocation and over-analysis robs us of joy, this is a moment worth savoring, celebrating, and sharing.

How on earth did this defense do what they did? I took a ton of heat for this stance last week about how I would game plan for slowing the powerful 49ers offense:

I was lectured about why it was foolish to ever care about slowing the run and how Jimmy Garoppolo had been great this season. Some of those same folks are now talking about how terrible Garoppolo is and diminishing the effort and performance by this Seahawks defense. Stop. Please stop.

Seattle did what I have been begging for. They picked something, anything, to be good at on defense. They have the personnel to be a very good run defense. Poona Ford, Al Woods, Jarran Reed, Clowney, Bobby Wagner and more. This was the game to rise up and play together.

They did that. Pete Carroll put together a terrific game plan that put the whole game on Garoppolo’s shoulders, and he was not up to the task.

Matt Breida, who has been a game-breaking player all season, finished with 18 yards on 10 carries. The 49ers finished with a season-low 87 yards rushing despite being ahead by 10 in the first quarter.

Ford played his best game of the year. Finally. He was such an important part of why this defense was going to be good this season, and he has been almost invisible. Not last night. He made multiple plays behind the line of scrimmage and even rushed the passer a bit.

Woods continues to be one of the best free agent pickups of the offseason. And Reed finally showed up in the pass rush with 1.5 sacks, including the pivotal strip sack that led to Clowney’s second touchdown of the season and the Seahawks first points of the game.

Clowney was omnipotent. When he was not scoring touchdowns, he was making Pro Bowl tackles (Joe Staley) look like shadow boxers. It was one of the most dominant individual defensive performances in the history of the franchise.

I watched Cortez Kennedy play when he won defensive player of the year. I watched Kenny Easley. I watched Michael Sinclair and Patrick Kerney and Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. There were likely more statistically impressive outings, but only Kennedy had games of pure physical dominance that rivaled what Clowney did on Monday night.

Seattle finally cried uncle on Ziggy Ansah and gave Shaquem Griffin snaps as a pass rusher. He did not record a pressure, but at least pushed the pocket a bit. It was a good sign that the team was willing to explore other options.

Quandre Diggs saw his first snaps and had a big interception. He is a good tackler and has the potential to be a major upgrade in a secondary that really needs it.

It was disappointing to see Marquise Blair benched. The hope has to be that the Seahawks use the bye week to work on Diggs sliding to nickel corner so Blair can play safety. That is the configuration that gets the most talent on the field.

Anything to remove Jamar Taylor will be a positive. He struggled mightily. If the team will not play Diggs at nickel, they have to give Ugo Amadi some reps. Taylor is untenable.

Shaquill Griffin played another marvelous game. He had a great early interception that was nullified by a Taylor penalty, but his best play had to be his game-saving pass breakup 40 yards downfield in overtime. It was the picture of effort and athleticism that is becoming the hallmark of his game.

If the defense can play that disciplined, that together, and with even half that pass rush, this team legitimately moves into Super Bowl contender status. The win was incredible and important, but the performance of that defense was a potential season-changer.

Wilson had multiple chances to put his stamp on this game. He ultimately did what was needed to get the team in position to win. He was so close to having the signature finish he needed to burn his name in the minds of MVP voters. That interception in overtime was a gut punch for a variety of reasons.

He was able to make things work with a patchwork crew at receiver and tight end. Jacob Hollister was absolutely amazing. His touchdown catch was marvelous. Josh Gordon looks like he could be a real upgrade even though he was use sparingly. The bye week will help there as well.

D.K. Metcalf had a very good game that could have been a great game had he not fumbled before halftime. That he put up 70 yards receiving against that secondary is incredibly encouraging.

Seattle is now 8-2. They trail the 8-1 49ers by a game, but hold the tiebreaker. They need to be one game better than San Francisco the rest of the way and beat them in Seattle to win the division. The schedule is tough for a while now, with quality opponents at Philadelphia, home against the Vikings and at the Rams. All those games are at night in primetime.

None of them will be easy. None of them will bring out the best in Seattle the way this game did. The challenge now shifts to figuring out how to sustain this defensive performance while knowing the offense will be much better. There are no other defenses that match the 49ers left on the schedule (other than the 49ers). Minnesota is good. San Francisco is elite.

This offense has the potential to gain momentum with Gordon fitting in, Metcalf improving, and the return of Ed Dickson. Prayers up for Tyler Lockett to recover from what sounds like a serious injury to his lower leg. Losing him would be a massive blow.

Reed and Clowney must continue their tandem of terror. Michael Dickson and Jason Myers must continue their resurgence. Myers deserves a ton of credit for kicking not just one, but two game-winning kicks after being a liability all season.

There are many valleys and peaks left this season, but Seattle now legitimately has its sights set on the highest mountain. There is a ring up there waiting for them if they can make the hike.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. Now was that fun or what?

    Seahawks beat up the 49’ers to a high degree, and I suspect that there’s a reasonably good chance that the 49’ers go on to lose their game next weekend. All the while with the Seahawks sitting on the couch and taking over the number one spot in the division, via the tie breaker from this win.

    Yeah, it’s a good time to be a Seahawks fan!

  2. The game this reminded me of the most was the NFCGC vs the Packers. In that one, it looked like the Seahawks were down and out, but there was still time on the clock and with that, hope for a miracle.

    When the Seahawks marched down the filed in OT it looked like a replay of the Tampa game last week until the INT. With the return into Seahawks territory, I succumbed to the reality the Seahawks would lose, but wanted to see if, just maybe…

    Then when the Seahawks punted with under 2 minutes on the clock, I again had the feeling that this game was going to be lost, or at best, tied.

    But neither of those things happpened and here we are at 8-2 with a win over the previously-undefeated Niners!

    Thanks for the write-up Brian!

  3. The game was scripted but the New Darlings lost. Were the refs incredibly bad, incredibly biased, or just corrupt? First time I woke up angry after a Seahawk win.

    The NFL is responsible for the officiating they put on the field. A full monty of shame on MNF. Gonna bite ’em in the ass someday. And, yo, ESPN, find some announcers who aren’t blatant homers.

    I watched the game at a bar. I’ve been around opposing fans before, and I gotta say Niner fans are truly a breed apart. Here’s hoping they stay that way.

    Gordon made it look easy. Clowney—-wow, right? (Thanks F.O. for Hollister and Diggs, as well).

    Stick a fork in the Niners. They need a QB. Sorry, ours is taken.

  4. At it’s core, football is entertainment, and last night, flaws and all, was ENTERTAINING!!!!!!

    I want to start with some odds and ends that I haven’t seen covered much.

    Best headline this morning; “Clowney, Destroyer of Worlds.” Stud!!!

    Read up on Lockett’s possible Compartment Syndrome………….scary stuff, please let it be as minor as possible.

    Only time will tell how Flash Gordon fits and performs but watch the way he catches the ball. No drama, it’s just smoooooooth. Special talent. Great hands.

    DK is a rook learning the ropes, and he’s got plenty to learn. Last night he got some lessons from the master of intimidation; Sherm. But if you get a chance, watch the jam Sherm puts on him just before Lockett got helmet crowned by both Sherm and Tartt with no flag by the sorry zebras. DK and Sherm were almost in a fist fight, but DK wasn’t going to allow the ol’ man to push him around. Good stuff that.

    How about some love for Geno Smith? Yeah, the dude is two for two in calling the overtime coin toss. Way to go man!

    Speaking of giving some love, lots of concern about whether Joey Hunt can hold up at center. Some is legit. But if you get a chance to watch the goal line surge when Carson scored you’ll see Joey stone his man like Fluke putting a pancake on Suh.

    Now a little analysis/speculation. We’ve been lamenting weak D line play for the season, until last night. What happened to make it get better all of a sudden? Theories/comments abound but one story I heard that’s gotten little press involves Clowney. Based on the intro of that story it sounds like Clowney is a modest guy who, when moving to his new team, chose to wait and see how he’d fit in. No big, “I’m the man” attitude, no “I’m the best, you guys need to know that.”, no, just something like “I need to figure out how I can work in with the system/guys.” Well, apparently Saturday night he had a first time incident. He got up in front of the group and gave an impassioned talk about team work and elevating personal performance. That might be leadership. Might be that that form of leadership is a spark that this defensive unit needed. If so, the reluctant leader needs to keep it going. We’re only going to get what we’ve gotten if we don’t step up beyond just basic talent coupled with whatever skill level the coaching staff has. There are other styles of leadership, some of which is already in place, but genuine passionate leadership may have been lacking. If “The Destroyer” can bring that, all the better.

    1. Joey Hunt got rooked in the first quarter, but if you go back and watch the third quarter, he got even (smiles)!

      1. He sure did! After that one embarrassing moment early, Joey really seemed to get fired up. Sometimes I wonder just how much the peer pressure of having to watch the film afterwards with the rest of the team or unit effects a player? Doug H.

  5. Yes, football is all about entertainment. Maybe players get life lessons and/or a paycheck, but entertainment is all a fan can expect, realistically. (However, I am learning how thoroughly bias blinds).

    For me, the entertainment value of football is compromised by a lack of fairness. I don’t want “my” team to be ripped off or gifted.
    I want fair, competent refs. The world is much too biased. I look to sports for relief.

    Someone else, on another blog, wrote that the game would have been a blowout, had it been called correctly. It doesn’t seem to matter now, because “my” team won, but if the Hawks had lost, I’d be feeling like SB 40 again.

  6. I’ve been saying for over a decade now that the NFL is extremely right winged politically and that bias is consciously applied to Seattle because we’re a “liberal tree hugging” city.

    I even won a contest predicting the Hawks schedule one year because I simply said, “If I’m a bigoted right wingnut and I want to give the Seahawks the worst schedule I can, given Mariner games, etc., how can I do that?” Got every game correct and what days they’d be played on.

    People guffaw when I tell them. Yet, here we are and there it is. All you gotta do is look at how the whole Trump/Kaepernick thing went down to see it’s true.

    1. Interesting opinion, because I see things just the opposite from you Scott.

      NFL allowed the players to disrespect our National Anthem for years, and before that, they even ditched legendary singer Hank Williams Jr. How about “The Rooney Rule” which initiates black racial hiring practices for coaches?

      On a positive note, it was good to see the anthem being televised on MNF once again.

      1. It is not my intent to bring politics into football discussions. It was only my intent to point out that it seems the NFL – especially the officials – seemingly do. That seems the only explanation for the continuous double standard afforded Seattle.

  7. If in the end the Hawks had lost, as long as the rest of the game was much the same, I’d still be quite impressed.

  8. Hey, Jag, (sounds like a song) I’d be too depressed to be impressed, if the Hawks had lost—all their sandlot heroics coming to naught, because of the refs applying a constant double standard.

    And, hey-hey, KJ, it’s okay to pound the turf with a fist when you drop a game-cinching gimme. (A smile looks out of place—just ask Smokey Robinson, if you don’t believe me).

  9. “The win was incredible and important, but the performance of that defense was a potential season-changer.”

    THIS exactly. While I was watching this game, as soon as I saw the Reed/Clowney defensive TD get us back in the game, good physical coverage in the secondary, combined with shouting “oh my god we have a pass rush!” I was all smiles. It seems like forever since this D bailed out the O but that’s exactly what happened throughout this game. Whether we had won or lost, this was what I needed to see to have hope. If that wasn’t just a one off and they can bring back that intensity down the stretch, we have a legit shot at getting to and winning some playoff games.

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