The national audience on the NFL Network saw something new Thursday night.
Pete Carroll’s game. Run, and stop the run.
Never pretty, hardly flawless, but plenty effective to smash a broken team.
The Seahawks’ 31-14 win over the decaying Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) also might have changed perceptions, in the view of Michael Robinson, the fullback who was an opponent before he was a Seahawk.
“I played against them for four or five years, and I knew the (Seattle) reputation,” he said. “They were always soft.”
Four days after a terrible, “soft” finish that cost them a victory against Washington, the Seahawks Thursday were methodical, crusty, grizzled and winners. You know, the full Marshawn Lynch.
I think,” said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, “it was our best game as a team.”
Though wins over the Giants and Ravens were impressive because of the quality of the opponents, the win over the Eagles was significant because the Seahawks came closer to Carroll’s ideal script than any previous performance in a wildly uneven, 5-7 season.
“We did what we set out to do,” said Carroll. A simple statement that is hard to accomplish, especially for a team that started the season painfully young and has become increasingly compromised by injury.
Another tidy post-game summary was provided by Lynch, a rolling ball of nails, gravel and chain mail who crushed the Eagles with 148 yards rushing and two splendid, if amazingly different, touchdown runs.
“We managed the game, we came out with a victory, everybody’s happy and we’re on to our break. Thank you!” he said, throwing on clothes, stuffing his bag with headphones and tablet and blasting past the media scrum as easily as he did the Eagles’ defenders.
As usual, the man’s actions spoke louder than his words, although his teammates were fairly adept at the latter.
“The guy blows my mind every time we step on the field,” Robinson said. “We made a commitment to run the ball a few weeks ago, and he’s doing the right things. He’s doing an awesome job.”
Said center Max Unger: “When you see effort like that from Marshawn, you can’t help but just give it all when you see somebody doing something like that.”
Primary source of the awe came in the first quarter when Lynch seemed to disappear into a scrum at the line of scrimmage — the Philly 15-yard line — emerged a few beats later to open space, then bolted into the end zone. It was a shorter version of the immortal “Beast Quake” 67-yarder that helped beat New Orleans in the playoffs in January.
“I couldn’t figure it out myself,” said a bewildered Trent Cole, an Eagles defensive end. “I thought he was caught up in there and all of a sudden he popped out. I didn’t know who had the ball. He was on his way to the end zone and there was nothing we could do about it.”
The extra effort Lynch applies to his game is drawing roars from Seahawks fans (67,039 Thursday night), who knew something about extra effort themselves by getting to the Clink for a 5:20 p.m. kickoff through Seattle’s rush hour. Lynch heroics were especially pleasing for those who recalled the latter-day Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks’ one-time star who in his last season tarnished his rep by falling down at the first sense of autumn winds.
Lynch’s second touchdown, early in the second quarter, was much more a team effort. The cutback play was blocked superbly by tight ends Cameron Morrah and Zach Miller, allowing Lynch to dash untouched down the far sideline until he hit the goal line.
The 14-0 lead was bulletproof, thanks to a defense that picked off backup quarterback Vince Young four times — including a 77-yard return for a touchdown by linebacker David Hawthorne –– and managed to keep star running back LeSean McCoy to a modest 84 yards rushing.
Without starting QB Michael Vick and receiver Jeremy Maclin as well as a host of other front-liners, the Eagles were hurting, which was made worse with a cross-country flight on only three days rest. Matters were compounded when cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha left the game with a probable concussion.
The Seahawks also took a big hit. Late in the game with the outcome determined, left tackle Russell Okung was thrown down on what Carroll called “an unnecessary play” and injured his right shoulder or pectoral muscle. After the game, Okung had to be pulled away from the Eagles’ defenders.
“It doesn’t look good,” Carroll said, in a tone suggesting Okung will be done for the season.
It will be another personnel blow for which the Seahawks must concoct another workaround. As unlikely as that seems, they at least have 11 days to work on it, getting a reprieve until a Monday night game Dec. 12 against the decrepit St. Louis Rams.
The Seahawks enter that game with the knowledge that, after 12 games, they have figured out some things.
“This is one of my favorite (games),” Carroll said, “because of the way it happened, because we took the ball away from them. We took care of the football and we ran it.”
No turnovers, few penalties, and only 16 passes, 13 of which were caught, for 190 yards. That’s old ball.
Winning ball. Just takes time.