It was Monday Night Football in Seattle, where weird comes to party.
The sequence before halftime that denied the Bills a field goal will be dissected like the Zapruder film, to just about the same level of agreement. There was the Seahawks’ tackling fiasco, as if RB LeSean McCoy and QB Tyrod Taylor were coated in olive oil. Then there was the Bills running 82 plays and converting 12 third downs, to the Seahawks’ 42 and two, and losing.
So as America scratched divots in its collective scalp trying to figure out what just happened, the Seahawks got away with a 31-25 win that likely exhausted their share of karma for the season, if not until the sun turns supernova.
It wasn’t quite to the level of the 2012 “Fail Mary” game against Green Bay with replacement referees, but may have been enough for 31 other clubs to petition the NFL to deny Seattle any more MNF games. The Pete Carroll Seahawks are now 7-0 on Mondays. And you thought American politics were inexplicable.
“What a crazy night out there,” Carroll said, understating things by a couple of octaves. “Everybody went for it — both teams played hard, aggressive and wide open. An excellent win.”
But as the forensics team yellow-tapes the scene to begin searching for explanations for the evening, there is one thing that a battered Seahawks team can take with them to New England for Sunday’s game against the Patriots: TE Jimmy Graham is a player capable of winning a game with one hand figuratively tied behind his back.
Twice, in fact, did he catch a touchdown pass with his lone free hand, the other illegally occupied with flailing Bills’ personnel. Not only were the grabs remarkable in themselves, they were game-savers for a team that had only one offensive touchdown in the previous two games, and Monday ran the ball 12 times for 33 yards, including 13 yards from a wide receiver on an end-around.
Given the rush-game tradition with the Carroll Seahawks, it is nearly the equivalent of a fish being unable to swim.
Yet they won. They are 5-2-1 with a two-game lead in the NFC West, with a tight end as a savior, one who, despite being 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, was capable of hurdling a tackler.
“I told coach next time I’ll use two (hands), but I didn’t have my left at the time,” Graham said, grinning. He finished with eight catches for 103 yards and was the night’s difference-maker.
“Gosh, what a game” for Graham, Carroll said. “What an incredible player and competitor. Every game is a highlight film of catches. Nothing more fun than watching a guy of that stature hurdle somebody. It was an extraordinary play. ”
But the catching and running feats couldn’t have been done without his little buddy, QB Russell Wilson, who came close to rendering the old Wilson of week one, when he was free of ankle, knee and pectoral injuries.
“I don’t think people realize what he’s been through,” Graham said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for how tough he is. For what (injuries) he has, most guys wouldn’t be in there, honestly. He has so much pride, it’s unbelievable.”
Besides the 17- and 18-yard TD passes to Graham, Wilson, with the Seahawks’ second drive of the game, seemed to deliberately plot a national statement about his return after the Seahawks fell behind 7-0 because of a blocked punt that produced a gimme touchdown.
After a 43-yard kickoff return by Tyler Lockett, Wilson hit WR Doug Baldwin short for five yards, then long for 50 yards, dispelling any concerns that the pec injury cost him his deep ball.
On first-and-goal from the Bills 3-yard line, he called for a read-option, faked to RB Christine Michael and kept the ball around right end for a touchdown untouched by the defense. It was his old specialty shelved since his ankle injury in week two.
“That was the play that was there at the time and I was able to take advantage of it,” he said, avoiding any acknowledgement of sending a message. “I don’t really worry about my own personal stats.”
But he did need to make a point, to himself, his teammates and his opponents: Beware.
He was again a remarkably efficient passer, a week after a mediocre game in the loss to the Saints. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 282 yards and no picks. He was sacked four times, but all four were on the Seahawks’ line that continues to sputter and wobble.
But when given a moment, Wilson ate up yards in chunks, a result of a game-plan revision that Carroll said was done before the Seahawks plane touched down from New Orleans.
“It was time to go,” he said of the return of explosive plays. “We’ve been very careful in how we would expose Russ. He was begging us to do more. We were trying to do the right thing by him. He was doing phenomenal things just to play for last two months.
“We were just kind of holding back. Tonight was the first time where we let it loose.”
But Carroll knows they won’t go far without a running game. Michael, who scored the other touchdown on a three-yard run that gave him a net of one (1!) for the game, seems to be disappearing from the offense.
“This not the format we want, but it’s the format we have right now,” Carroll said. “We need to run the football better to make something out of this season. We know that.”
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, injured Thomas Rawls, the designated successor to Marshawn Lynch, won’t be ready for the trip to New England. For another week, they will have to rely on the Bandage Patch Kids, Wilson and Graham.
For them, hurdles don’t seem to be a tall order.