DATE: Nov. 13, 2011. VENUE: CenturyLink Field. CITY: Seattle. LINE: Baltimore by 6 1/2. ATTENDANCE: 66,522
Marshawn Lynch certainly will not go down as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, but it’s almost impossible to imagine a runner, present or past, more difficult to tackle or better at second-effort yards. In fact, if anything, Lynch, in his brief time in Seattle, has introduced the remarkable spectacle of third-, fourth- and fifth-effort yards.
Never has Lynch done that more dramatically than Sunday, when his tenacity and will in the fourth quarter negated a spate of Magoo-ish Seattle penalties and enabled the Seahawks (3-6) to avoid their first four-game losing streak since the end of the 2009 season.
On at least three occasions during Seattle’s final, game-clinching drive, the CenturyLink Field throng rose in amazement to acknowledge/applaud Lynch’s utter refusal to go down while Baltimore defenders tried helplessly to insist otherwise.
Seattle’s 22-17 victory over the AFC North-leading Ravens seemed well in hand midway through the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks leading 22-10. But a spate of penalties (eight ludicrous ones in the final quarter), kept a Baltimore drive alive, which allowed the Ravens, on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Ed Dickson, to cut the margin to 22-17 with 5:52 to play.
Because of Lynch, Baltimore never touched the ball again.
Over the next four and a half minutes, Lynch carried the ball and, it seemed, half of the Baltimore roster, with him, picking up two critical first downs, both consuming clock. On one run, Lynch made a pair of bang-bang cutbacks against All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis that rendered Lewis utterly helpless.
On each of Lynch’s runs, he appeared stopped after a yard or two, but kept extending the pile to three, four and five yards. A final, five-yard, heavily impeded run with 1:54 to play, when he appeared to be stopped after one yard, sealed the deal for the Seahawks, who started the season’s second half 1-0 after finishing the first half 2-6.
“Marshawn ran well last week (against Dallas, when he gained 135 yards), and he did it again today,” said head coach Pete Carroll. “That was a great drive for us. For this football team, that was a fantastic accomplishment for us. This was a beautiful day. Let’s build on this.”
Carroll easily could have been trying to build on quicksand. Entering the fourth quarter with a 22-10 lead, Seattle got nailed for offsides (Raheem Brock), illegal use of hands (Clinton McDonald), holding (Roy Lewis), illegal contact (Lewis), unnecessary roughness (Kam Chancellor), unsportsmanlike conduct (McDonald), false start (Russell Okung) and illegal motion (Golden Tate).
The last time this many errors occurred, Peter Sellers was involved.
“The penalties in the fourth quarter were horrible,” said Carroll. “I can’t tell you how fast we can grow up on that. Those penalties could have lost us the football game today. It all comes down to making good choices.”
Nearly a touchdown underdog to the Ravens, who went to Pittsburgh last week and beat the Steelers (23-20), the Seahawks spurted to a 10-0 lead on a one-yard Lynch TD run and the first of five Steve Hauschka field goals.
Before halftime, the Seahawks special teams parlayed two fumble recoveries on Baltimore kickoff returns into field goals and led at the break 19-7. It marked the first time all year that Seattle held a halftime lead.
“Our special teams energy was beautiful, but our setback today was in the red zone,” Carroll said. “We couldn’t get touchdowns. There is still so much out there for us. We have a long way to go and a lot of growing up to do.”
Carroll used the words “beautiful” and “exciting” about a dozen times in describing Seattle’s victory.
“To win against such a great football team is really a great day for us,” he said. “To play such a physical team, and play them well, and go toe to toe, is really beautiful. To be able to run the clock out, with a running game, that’s really cool. This is just a special win in that respect. We have a lot of stuff to clean up, but a lot of guys made plays for us today. And we didn’t turn the ball over. That’s extraordinary. It could have been a much bigger win if we had been effective in the red zone.”
The Seahawks (players and coaches) talked a lot during the past week about forgetting the first half of the season and focusing on exclusively on the second.
“The test,” said Carroll,” was whether we could come back after Dallas (a 23-13 loss). We were able to do that, and that’s a big deal for us. If we can hang in there for the next two weeks, I think we are going to be on the move.”
STARS OF THE GAME: Lynch produced his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game with 109 yards on a career-high 32 carries. He also caught five passes for 58 yards, leading Seattle’s receivers.
— Tarvaris Jackson (Seahawks) completed 17 of 27 passes for 217 yards and no interceptions (he had three last week against Dallas), and looked as good as he did against the Giants in Week 5, when he fairly dazzled (he would have been the player of the game if not for Lynch). Included in Jackson’s effort: Throwing across his body, a marvelous, 50-yard completion to Doug Baldwin that set up a Seattle field goal.
— Hauschka kicked a career-high five field goals, most in a game for Seattle since Olindo Mare drilled five against Arizona on Oct. 24, 2010.
— Earl Thomas (Seahawks) had seven tackles and one pass defensed.
— David Hawthorne (Seahawks) had five tackles, broke up two passes and returned an interception 34 yards, setting up Seattle’s fifth field goal.
— Ed Dickson (Ravens) caught a game-high 10 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. In Baltimore’s second-period, 11-play scoring drive, Dickson caught six passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
GOATS OF THE GAME: Baltimore’s David Reed fumbled twice on kickoff returns (lost both) in the first half, leading to a pair of Seattle field goals. Reed also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
— Roy Lewis (Seahawks) was flagged for two big penalities in the fourth quarter (holding and illegal contact) that kept alive what became a Baltimore touchdown drive.
PLAYS OF THE GAME: Jackson’s 50-yard completion to Baldwin.
— David Hawthorne grabbed a deflected Flacco pass and took it to the Baltimore seven-yard line, setting up Hauschka’s fifth field goal, which gave Seattle a 22-7 lead.
— Malcolm Smith, a Seahawks rookie out of USC, had a huge sack of Flacco (eight yards lost) with eight minutes to play.
MISPLAYS OF THE GAME: Brandon Browner, the most penalized cornerback in the NFL (10), was flagged for interference on Anquan Boldin early in the second quarter, giving the Ravens a first down and keeping a Baltimore scoring drive alive.
— Browner and Thomas collided in the end zone in the second quarter attempting to intercept a Joe Flacco pass. The collision prevented what should have been an easy interception.
— After Baltimore’s second-quarter scoring drive, Jackson lost track of the clock and was called for delay of game.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Seahawks scored 22 points against a Baltimore defense that came in allowing 16 points per game.
— The Seahawks held the run-oriented Ravens to just 12 rushing attempts (75 total yards). Baltimore’s leading rusher, Ray Rice, produced a season-low 27 yards on five attempts.
— The Seahawks allowed only one sack on Jackson, while overwhelmingly dominating the time of possession: 35:01 to 25:49.
— The Seahawks forced Flacco into a career-high 52 passing attempts, with just 29 completions and one interception. Flacco had virtually no impact on the outcome.
LOWLIGHTS: The Seahawks, who entered the game with an NFC-high 70 penalties, were flagged 13 times for 100 yards. Seattle is on a pace to break the franchise record for most penalties in a season — 128 in 1984.
NOTABLE: Seattle rookie OG John Moffitt had his right leg bent at an unbelievably bad angle and left the game in the second quarter with a severe knee injury.
— Three Seahawks — Baldwin, Rice and Chancellor — suffered concussions, seriousness to be determined.
NEXT: The Seahawks travel to St. Louis to play the first of two against the NFC West rival Rams. Seattle then plays four of its next five at CenturyLink Field, starting with the Washington Redskins Nov. 27.