After the 2008 hijacking of the Sonics, the state of Oklahoma gets little slack from Seattle sports fans. But after the Seahawks’ dramatic win in Charlotte Sunday over the Panthers, two obscure football sons of the Sooner State may offer cause for pause in the decade-long acrimony.
Carson, by now a YouTube phenom, had one of the greatest moments, airborne division, in NFL history. His third-quarter leap over Panthers defender Eric Reid resulted in a forward somersault and a half-roundoff, from which he landed on both feet and managed to keep going.
“That was out of this world,” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “All of us said we’ve never seen that happen before. Maybe it has somewhere, but I’ve never seen a guy flip, land on his feet and make some more yards. That was extraordinary.”
The other play, given the situation, was astonishing from the point of sheer guts.
Trailing 27-20 with under four minutes to play and facing a fourth-and-three at the Carolina 35-yard line, the Seahawks skipped the chance for a 53-yard field goal, or a punt.
Instead of a safer run with Carson or a flat pass, QB Russell Wilson, behind good protection, opened the bomb-bay doors. He lofted a perfect ball that Moore, who had 18 career NFL receptions entering the game, caught at full speed over his shoulder almost nonchalantly for the game-tying score.
It came despite tight coverage by Corn Elder, a little-used backup in the game after a first-play injury to starter Donte Jackson. Credit offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with setting up Moore for success by targeting a Panthers vulnerability.
“That was an exquisite job of holding space by David to make his play,” Carroll said. “It was a great throw. Execution was just gorgeous. Going down the stretch to find his way open, and Russ to find him, and protection to be there. Just beautiful football stuff.
“Those were his natural instincts on playing that ball. He delayed the other guy’s opportunity to discover what was going on.”
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) November 27, 2018
The spectacular plays by Carson and Moore were gratifying for the Seahawks on another level: Both have become starters after beginning their NFL careers as seventh-round picks in the same draft.
Moore, from obscure Division II Central Oklahoma in Edmond, was the 226th player taken overall in 2017. Carson, from big-time Oklahoma State, was the 249th player selected. After limited play as rookies, they emerged as starters in positions absent veteran incumbents where the Seahawks were desperate. Moore Sunday had career highs in catches (four) and yards (103).
They are two in a group of young players helping fill voids left by stars. The new guys aren’t close to equivalence yet. But they have made Carroll even more ebullient than his usual amped self, as a 6-5 season heads into December, traditionally under Carroll the Seahawks’ best month.
“There is just a real upbeat aura about this team,” he said. “They’re real hungry to learn, they’re hungry for the challenges. They have not allowed themselves to go downward at any time. They keep looking to the future.
“It’s just been a really good group to work with.”
Translated, it means that moving on from the dramas with veteran stars Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch has had its upside. Each was his own separate case, but glancing around the league shows that every successful team in a salary-capped league has player/management conflict that results in movement. It’s the only personnel constant.
In Seattle, the truth hit harder for fans because the departing players were as engaging as they were dominant, and because so much turnover happened in a relatively short period. After missing the playoffs for the first time in six years, the ability to recover to contention quickly seemed remote.
Finding a contributor such as Moore from the draft’s depths was critical.
“I remember David coming down to LA,” said Wilson of off-season workouts he set up. “We got a lot of work in, also throughout training camp. He has worked extremely hard. He is an amazing athlete.”
Wilson said the big play’s target wasn’t automatically going to be Moore, but when the defense at the snap provided a one-on-one match-up with Elder, the decision was made.
“I saw him going down the sideline and I gave him a chance to make a play,” Wilson said. “I told the guys in the huddle right before, ‘Got to have no fear, let’s go for it.’ We were able to make that big play. Guys stayed calm.”
Unlike numerous witnesses back home, who spent Sunday afternoon delighted to mop up the spills.