To those Seahawks fans who were dismayed by the inelegant play that blistered Sunday afternoon football at the Clink, CB Richard Sherman has an equally inelegant retort: “We’ll take the ugly girl to the prom,” he said, then began cackling.
The lighthearted mood was throughout the locker room, where the victims of misplay were as prevalent as the soiled undergarments strewn about. There could have been a connection, because for a long while it appeared that the Seahawks had messed themselves at home. But no; their guests, the Tennessee Titans, were messier.
“The ball was greased today,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, himself relieved to the point of amusement after the 20-13 triumph/tribute to the “Benny Hill Show. “I haven’t seen that many fumbles and mishandles and stuff.”
The major gaffe came just before halftime, when the Seahawks self-administered a cream pie the size of a manhole cover. So many people did so many wrong things, the Seahawks nearly won election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
A botched field goal attempt made for a 10-point swing and a 10-7 Titans lead, the first home deficit of the season for the temporarily reeling locals. It was also the second botched field goal in the past two games, and seemed destined to be the second of many.
The prologue came when reliable kicker Steven Hauschka decided in the second quarter to become a tackler, and was block-rocked by Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud. Hauschka had to retire to the locker room, from where word came that he was being examined for a concussion.
Turns out he didn’t have a concussion; Reynaud caught him atop the chest and under chin, also bloodying his nose. But the mandatory exam for concussion kept him away from the action through halftime. That didn’t seem a big deal late in the second quarter because the Seahawks were in great position to score a touchdown after the Titans made their own special-teams blunder, botching a punt snap that gave the Seahawks the ball at the Tennessee 38-yard line with 54 seconds left.
But five plays later, having burned through their three timeouts and 52 seconds, the Seahawks were third-and-goal at the Titans 4-yard line when Carroll brain-locked.
Knowing he didn’t have his kicker, he nevertheless opted for a field goal, setting off the ooga horns for the backup unit: Punter Jon Ryan became the placekicker, and reserve safety Chris Maragos would do Ryan’s job of holding for the kick. Even though they had not done so in a game, and barely in practice.
“It was really my call, the way I screwed it up,” said Carroll, throwing himself upon the confessional. “We should have just gone for it, and not worried about (the backup unit). I would take that back in a heartbeat.”
Naturally, Murphy’s Law prevailed: Maragos muffed the snap, Ryan kicked at air, Maragos scooped up the ball and attempted to throw it while falling. The ball was ruled a fumble, and Titans cornerback Jason McCourty took the airborne greaseball 77 yards for a touchdown.
“It looked like,” said Carroll, “a total collapse at the end of the half.”
Given that the Seahawks offense had only 153 yards, had failed to convert five of seven third downs and had no kicker, a total collapse seemed in order. Naturally, Russell Wilson was there to call everyone back from the precipice.
“I thought that it was a smart decision to kick the field goal,” he said brightly, never one to denigrate another in public — especially his coach. “I always want to go for it, but I told coach Carroll that he was a great decision.”
Wilson’s apple-polishing didn’t seem to be going anywhere on the first possession of the third quarter, when WR Sidney Rice fumbled away the ball after a first down catch — one of five Seahawks fumbles (two were lost). But after the defense forced a three-and-out, the Wilson Way took over.
One the next drive, he completed six of seven passes, including a 23-yard scramble of his own. Although the drive stalled, it allowed Hauschka to make his return after the bloody nose and kick a 31-yard field goal to tie the game.
“I thought Russell played a terrific football game today,” said Carroll. “He threw for a bunch, he completed a bunch, ran for a good amount as well — just played football.
“You could see him making things happen and coming through in a lot of really crucial situations for us.”
So he saved Carroll and Hauschka, although the kicker had to undergo a media inquisition rare for him. Afterward, the gaggle of reporters around Hauschka was of much amusement to the rest of the room.
Said one: “Look at all the attention for a bloody nose.”
Bellowed another: “Steven Hauschka, a m——— beast!”
When asked whether it might be advisable to avoid further contact, Hauschka defended his honor as a football player: “You can say that, but you never know when it’s going to be a game-breaking play. Who knows? He could have broke through. I was just trying to help out.”
Given the dominoes that fell after his decision to stick his nose in coverage, he might opt for an arm tackle.
Hauschka underscored his value early in the third quarter with another field goal for a 13-10 lead, then the offense took the burden off him with a 59-yard TD drive following Richard Sherman’s easy interception of Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Seattle 41.
The best news for the Seahawks was a rebound game for the defense after being lit up at Indianapolis. The Titans managed 223 yards of offense, four of 12 on third downs, no touchdowns and a long play of 32 yards.
“They couldn’t run the ball at all, which was great,” said Carroll. “It was great to shut them down like we did.”
The next trick for the Seahawks is to survive the short turnaround week and a flight to Phoenix for the Thursday night game against the Arizona Cardinals. It will be tight, but that should be enough time to wash off the last of the cream pie.