For about 58 minutes, it looked like the Seahawks were taking this ’90s comeback’ too literally, as a day that began with high expectations looked set to end in bitter disappointment.
But then the Seahawks made the game-changing play in the final minutes that they’ve had more often in the Pete Carroll era — a Julian Love interception off the top of Jamal Adams’ helmet — to steal a victory from the Cleveland Browns, 24-20.
“Our team is such a weak team,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “We find a way to win no matter what.”
And while you can question the artistry of Sunday’s win, in an NFL where only one team has fewer losses than the two Seahawks — the 7-1 Eagles — that’s all that really matters in the end.
On to the grades.
For one quarter, it looked like Smith’s redemption game after a couple of spotty outings as he completed 8 of 12 passes for 136 yards and one TD in the first 15 minutes. After that, Smith was just 11-for-18 for 61 yards, no TDs and two interceptions until the final drive, when he was 4-for-5 for 57 yards and a TD. So do four good streaks make one good game? It’s worth remembering that Russell Wilson also had an awful lot of games like this. The interceptions are clearly too many – Smith has six in seven games after 11 in 17 last season. But making plays when they count is very important in the NFL.
What a strange day running the ball for Seattle, who finished with 13 tackles from their running backs on 55 offensive plays. But the running backs made them count — Kenneth Walker had an early 45-yarder for a score and Zach Charbonnet, who appeared to be playing as the third back, had 53 yards on five carries. The only real complaint was that they didn’t take the ball enough.
DK Metcalf had one of the oddest days of his career with five receptions on 14 total targets. A 43-yarder, however, set up an early Seattle field goal. And then he made the key block to pop Jaxon Smith-Njigba for the game-winning TD. Tyler Lockett shook off a sore hamstring to turn in one of his best games of the season with eight receptions on nine targets for 81 yards and a TD — and no catches longer than 7 yards, leading to the final blow. Smith-Nigba was the game-winner despite appearing to go the wrong way on what was a near-disastrous pick-six in the third quarter. Jake Bobo continues to make big plays.
A tight end
The Browns entered the game allowing just 14 receptions for 101 yards to tight ends this season. Seattle got just two for 32, all by Noah Fant. But one was among the biggest plays of the game, a 27-yard punt on the final drive.
It figures to be as tough a challenge as Seattle’s offensive line would have all season against a strong Cleveland front led by Myles Garrett. And Seattle responded well.
Smith was dismissed once and that was in the fourth over when it looked like he might get rid of the ball. He was only hit three times. The running game was inconsistent. But that’s also to be expected given how good the Browns are up front — and it might have helped Seattle stick more consistently.
Jason Peters worked in some right tackle in his first action as a Seahawk and seemed to hold up. More important to Seattle’s long-term future is that Anthony Bradford seems to be getting more comfortable each week at right guard, and Charles Cross is coming into form after a season-opening toe injury.
Line of defense
There were times when it looked like Cleveland was poised to take control of the game on the ground — and the Browns’ 155 yards were the most Seattle had allowed this season. But the Browns also needed 40 carries to gain those yards and had no drive longer than 12. Twice in the fourth quarter, the defense came up with key stops to keep Seattle in the game. Dre’Mont Jones quietly had a solid game with three tackles and three quarterback hits.
With Uchenna Nwosu out for the season, Seattle started Darrell Taylor and Boye Maffe at outside linebacker. Each came away with a sack — Mayfe’s fifth straight — as the Seahawks held the Browns to two field goals in the second half. Frank Clark worked in the rotation in his first game and had one game. Jordin Brooks had an early sack that led to a Seattle touchdown, and Bobby Wagner was solid again with a team-high 13 tackles.
The only quibble is all those screen lapses, the responsibility of which falls mostly on the back end guys.
Seattle spent most of the game either in a three-back set – with Quandre Diggs, Julian Love and Jamal Adams on the field – or in nickel, in which either Love or Adams were off the field, and Seattle had three cornerbacks (Rick Wallen , Devon Witherspoon and Trey Brown). While the Browns gained some yards, Seattle also forced PJ Walker into two interceptions and a paltry 59.6 passer rating.
It felt like Adams’ best game yet, with eight tackles, one for a loss, and the game-changing fumble. Diggs had nine tackles and a big play when he sniffed a trick play, didn’t bite and forced an incompletion. Wallen was penalized for hands to the face on Cleveland’s final drive before the interception saved the day. But Wallen also came up with his first interception of the season. Statistically, Witherspoon was a bit quieter, with two tackles as his lone numbers. And love made the game unforgettable.
Michael Dixon was forced to kick a season-high five punts and hit quite the mark with a 54.8 average, two inside 20 and 44.8 net. Jason Myers hit on his only field goal attempt. Dee Eskridge regained kickoff return duties in his first game and returned one for 24 yards.
If the Seahawks had lost, not sticking to the run more might have been a major talking point — although, as everyone noted later, Seattle’s early success and the inconsistency of the run made it make sense to keep throwing.
The decision to beat Adams on the fateful third down is something that either looks great or potentially disastrous. On that day, it became one of the most successful calls Clint Hurt has made in his two years as a defensive coordinator.
In the big picture, it was another game where Carroll’s jaded ability to get his team to hang around even when it looked like a lot of things were going wrong again paid off.