After absorbing the astonishments, the gaffes, the greatness of stars and the resolve of scrubs, and exhilaration and despair often in consecutive plays across more than three hours of exquisite tension Thursday night, the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks demonstrated why pro football can be so compelling.
And random. Or cosmic. Depends on your point of view.
We know which way Russell Wilson leans.
After what may have been the best game of his remarkable career, the outcome was out of the hands of the Seahawks quarterback.
The defending NFC champion Rams, winners of three in a row over Seattle, seemingly were headed to a fourth. Trailing by a point in the final two minutes, they had the ball last and were gashing their way down the field to set up Greg (The Leg) Zuerlein, one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL (43 of 53 between 40 and 49 yards in his career) for the last-second game-winner from 44 yards.
On the sidelines, Wilson recalled Zuerlein, an eight-year veteran, hitting from 62 yards in a game at St. Louis. Wilson sat down on an overturned water bucket and prayed.
Zuerlein missed. By the width of a football.
Seahawks, 30-29 (box). Nationally televised pandemonium.
“I don’t know who I — I started shaking, I don’t even know . . .” Wilson said. “I blanked out . . . I started shaking somebody, like ‘Let’s go!’ I don’t even really remember.”
He thought back to the pre-game ceremony in which the Seahawks honored longtime owner Paul Allen, who died almost a year ago, with enshrinement in the club’s Ring of Honor. The 12th member.
“I was telling the guys,” Wilson said, grinning, “I think (Allen) blew a little wind, to the right.”
Feel free to scoff. But make sure to offer a more likely explainer as to why this outcome wasn’t a dead heat, fated to be played into infinity.
An evening marbled with great and ghastly moments ended up great for the Seahawks, who started poorly, recovered splendidly, let the Rams back in, who then died and came back to life, only to expire silently as the ball slid past the outside of the upright.
Cosmic or secular, the fourth-youngest team in the NFL is 4-1, and the 3-2 Rams have scored 69 points in two games over four days and are 0-2. Allen was 3-0 raising the 12s flag, and his successor, sister Jody, is 1-0 after doing the honors Thursday.
“Big night for the family,” said a beaming Pete Carroll. “There was some stuff really amazing tonight.”
For once, the seventh-degree black belt master of rhetorical flourish came up a little short.
He did, however, give it a noble go with Wilson’s game, whose stat line — 17 of 23 for 268 yards and a rating of 151.8 (158.3 is perfect), along with 32 yards on eight rushes — is good but doesn’t give life to his precision and his decisions.
“Russell played one of the best games I’ve seen him play,” Carroll said. “I’ve just never seen him — speaking of magic — (come up with) all of the plays he came up with . . . not to just get out of trouble, but to find the receivers and make the throws, just one after another after another.
“He stole the show tonight — on top of what he’s done to start the season off in great fashion.”
One pass rocketed into his career top five by immediate acclamation.
Russell Wilson & Tyler Lockett’s 13-yard TD in the back of the end zone is the MOST IMPROBABLE completion of the last two seasons (6.3%).@TDLockett12 was 0.2 yards from the sideline and 1.1 yards from the back of the end zone when the pass arrived.#TNFonPrime | @Seahawks pic.twitter.com/vgPRim3Q3h
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 4, 2019
Late in the first quarter at the Rams 13-yard line, Wilson was flushed from the pocket and fled hard left under pressure before twisting his torso to fire a ball that seemed to be a throwaway beyond the corner of the end zone. Somehow, WR Tyler Lockett sprang to spear it, and ballerina-pointed his toes inbounds for the touchdown.
The debate will rage as to whether the throw or the catch was better.
“Man, that was a crazy play,” said Rams SS Eric Weddle. “You can play the coverage perfect, cover him up and (Wilson) throws it and he makes a play. You just chalk it up as a great play by Russ and a great play by Tyler.
“I’m not going to lose sleep over a play like that.”
Wilson explained it by invoking his NBA alter ego, Steph Curry.
“How he shoots a basketball,” he said, “that’s how I want to throw the football.”
Speaking of crazy, SS Tedric Thompson’s fourth-quarter interception of a tipped Jared Goff pass was a Legion-of-Boom-worthy astonisher. The pass went through the hands of TE Gerald Everett, down to a sliding Thompson, and was initially ruled incomplete after he touched it twice juggling for control.
After Seahawks coaches in the pressbox saw the replay, they screamed at Carroll to throw the red flag to signal for a review.
“I just saw the ball, I tried to dive for it, and thank God I got it,” Thompson said. “That’s why I got up like that — I knew I caught it.”
Upon seeing the stadium replay, the crowd erupted. But the long pause for review left the mystery hanging, even if players were already celebrating with 2:08 left in the game.
“What a moment for everybody sitting in the stands to watch it,” Carroll said. ‘The build-up to the replay, and the challenge — all that stuff at that moment was spectacular.
“I was happy to be around it.”
Below the spectacle were two developments that may be lost for their subtlety. After RG D.J. Fluker left in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, seldom-used second-year lineman Jamarco Jones, normally a tackle, went the rest of the way against all-world DT Aaron Donald. The Seahawks rushed for 167 yards and Wilson was sacked just once.
“He’s playing guard and here’s one of the best players in football across from him,” Carroll said. “To hang in there, play a good game and survive — it was a beautiful performance.”
After the Rams scored a touchdown late in third quarter for a 26-21 lead, Goff’s attempt for a two-point conversion on an option-read keeper was thwarted inches from the end zone by a power tackle from DT Al Woods, assisted by LB Bobby Wagner. But it took a replay to overturn the erroneous initial call of a score.
The two points denied turned out to be everything.
That’s how close things were all night between two good, flawed teams who produced a hugely entertaining evening on short-notice Thursday. There’s barely enough air left to mention that after 145 run/receiving yards Sunday in Arizona, RB Chris Carson had 123 more Thursday.
“I felt good out there,” Carson said. “Tomorrow will be different.”
Lots of Seahawks felt good Thursday night. Asked for perspective on the spectacle, LB K.J. Wright reached up top.
“Right up there with the NFC Championship,” in 2015 against Green Bay, he said of the 28-22 win after trailing 16-0 at half.
That game put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. The win Thursday didn’t have that sort of heft, but for the first week in October, and for the first time in four games, the Seahawks denied the Rams.
Even if they had to welcome help from the departed.
What. A. Game. Darn near gave me a heart attack (at multiple points). Our final offensive play (3rd and 2 with a first down sealing the win) was an unmitigated disaster. But overall … good, solid win for a team that is, in Russell’s words, “resilient.”
One small thing though … a perfect passer rating is 158.3, not 156.8 ;)
On the botched third down play, the Rams appeared to be alert to trickeration as soon as Lockett started to sweep behind Wilson for a potential pitch. The design had too much telegraphing. Into the trash bin with that.
Thanks for bringing up that play. I was going to try to comment on it, but didn’t. It was indeed an “unmitigated disaster”.
I continue to be concerned about the lack of QB sacks, especially from out high-priced D ends. Hoping things improve when Reed returns.
It’s probably the biggest shortcoming, but Clowney and Ansah are out of football shape. They won’t be in December.
In order to make a SB run, you’ve got to have a lot of things go your way during the season. Starting off 2-0 and 4-1 and not having to climb out of a hole with must-win games in September and October is huge. Being on the plus side of borderline personal foul calls and getting positive replay outcomes is huge. There was a lot of “magic” during the previous SB run. I see some magic happening out there this year too. #RW4MVP
4-1 for Carroll teams is big, because barring significant injuries, in December they are usually freight-training.
Well, well, well, Lady Luck smiled down on the Hawks last night. I’ll take it! “flawed teams who produced a hugely entertaining evening on short-notice Thursday”, good teams both. Yes, flawed teams playing their hearts out and a missed field goal settles the matter. Great fun watching this Thursday night battle.
It was a great evening’s entertainment. Credit to both teams for way more skill than luck.
Thanks Art! Well, no signs at all that you had one heck of a night reporting on that Thursday Night spectacle! (sarc)
What a bundle of cool things, players leaving it all out there, and rising to their best to eeek out a well deserved win. I see them only getting better – they do so every week. This game goes a long way towards increasing the confidence of a very young team. The Seahawks also have learned how to play against the Rams, and even though the previous three games were losses, they seemed to play them better each game, and had just enough to push them over the top for the win last night. The next meeting will no doubt be close, and who knows, maybe they can eeek out a win in LA too. Even splitting with the Rams this season is a huge accomplishment.
BTW Russell’s cosmic connection – sure, I get it and can appreciate where he’s coming from. What an emotional night!
To win the division, the Seahawks needed to at least split the Rams series, and the one at home on a Thursday with travel for the Rams was imperative.
BTW props to the Rams for a valiant effort in tough circumstances.
No doubt! Having a great Rams team to go against makes the Seahawks that much better. Every facet of the Hawks’ game needed to be at its best – all game.
Kudos to the D for bending and not breaking, and the O-line for handling free running Russ without much in the holding penalty area. Both are still a work in progress amongst stellar performances by some.
Good on everything you just wrote. Have Zuerlein on my fantasy team, happy to give those points away. Was it really a whole football’s width? I have found myself groaning when hearing Thompson’s name. No longer. Total concentration. Carson’s near miss catch? And why not run straight up the gut (like in the play that shall never be mentioned) instead of futzing around. If ten wins gets you into the playoffs, the fourth win counts as much as the tenth. At this point in my life, living in the mystery between random and mystify is where it is all at.
I don’t think it was futzing as much as seeing the Rams pressure was set to deny. It was Carson’s only target and reception of the night. Rams weren’t ready for it.
Nice that he was inducted into the Ring of Honor, would be even better if the stadium was named after Paul Allen.
True. He paid for a lot of it, although you, I and our fellow taxpayers deserve a bow too.
Thinking it would be a nice tribute for a man that saved the Seahawks, founded the Sounders, helped to revitalize the SoDo District, and was an economic benefactor of the entire PNW (Trailblazers, EMP, and probably many other things that I am not aware of). Any chance that you can lead the media charge, Art?
Art – your writing and reporting continues to shine and sparkle. I love the “An evening marbled with great and ghastly moments”. Keep up the great work.
And what a game!!
Thanks, Charlie. Even writers enjoy rising to the occasion.
I’m gonna go with cosmic. When I see that Action Green, I just know to my core that it’s a W. And it is!
I’d chalk that up to opponent retinal damage.
The denied two-point conversion: maybe 4 inches from breaking the plane. Thompson’s hand under the pick: the ball was, what, 2 inches off the turf? The missed field goal: maybe 6 inches from being good? That’s three plays with a total of one foot worth of wiggle room. The definition of a “game of inches.” What a spectacular drama. Here’s my question, though. What’s the thinking with the super-loose coverage on a team with no timeouts? I know they don’t want someone to get beyond their coverage, but to give 10 yards of space for those out-patterns just makes no sense to me. Those plays took just 3 or 4 seconds off the clock. If just one of them ends with a tackle in-bounds, the Rams would have been denied at least two plays, possibly 3 with the need to clock it at least once. I think back to the Falcons playoff game in 2012. Matt Ryan dinked and dunked his way to the game-winning FG as time expired. I know that it’s conventional thinking to keep everything in front of you, but the Hawks really slipped the noose last night.
Would like to see a defense in that situation that has the CBs guarding the sideline, forcing tackles inside to the LBs and safeties. Does anyone practice for that situation rather than have a strictly backpedaling prevent defense?
Leaving the middle open to seam routes with that much time on the clock and LA with TOs risks the 30- to 40-yard chunk gain. My answer above says the better solution is an improved rush, which is pending.
Seems I recall John Madden saying that a prevent defense only prevents you from winning the game. I agree completely whether he said it or not.
Good points. They can’t risk the over-the-top bomb. What would help a lot would be more four-man pressure on Goff. That’s hard on a tired D at game’s end, which is why you see lots of desperation drives work. The future will improve shortly with the return of DT Jarran Reed after next week, and the improvement of Clowney and Ansah.
“…to give 10 yards of space for those out-patterns just makes no sense to me”
THIS! And this game so reminded me too of the game with the Falcons. Greg Zuerlein won this one for the Hawks.
So many things had to go just the right way last night, and the ‘Hawks are not usually blessed with that luxury. I’m not superstitious, but I’m not prepared to dismiss some assistance from the RoH’s newest inductee. As always, Art, TY for the classy and thoughtful piece of sports journalism. If anybody wants to burn through a 2nd box of Kleenex, watch the online piece about the day Tedric Thompson was drafted. Comparisons to Earl (one of the greats) would be unfair, but I honestly believe TT will get better and better as his confidence increases.
Seahawks have a lot riding on Thompson. If he doesn’t become NFL-average, they have to go to the well again to fill a vital position. Emotionally, he has to clear himself of the shadow of Thomas.
He can’t play Earl’s game but he can still be good at his own game…even great.
After the game I had a strange feeling of unease, disappointment, letdown, not sure how to describe it. Later I figured it out–I think. It was that the Hawks won, not due to something they did, but something the Rams didn’t do–make what was expected to be an easy field goal for the win. I’m still not sure the best team won. But I figure in big-time pro football, it is not uncommon for games between well-matched teams to be decided game-ending field goals. So one need not apologize for taking what fate gives.
This was a gut-wrencher not to be soon forgotten.
The Rams know the Seahawks got lucky. But that’s true 2-3 times a weekend in the NFL.
What a wild and wacky fun game. I’m all in with the cosmic explanation, but would take it one step further. One of the cosmic rules is that the crazy bounces of the ball have to balance out over the long haul. The Football Gods saw this one coming and cleared some working room ahead of time by putting the Hawks into zombie space against the Saints. The blessings reaped against the Rams were offset by earlier equal and opposite bad luck against the Saints.
Innumerable things to potentially talk about here. One further observation would be the jarring weirdness of a team loudly and proudly committed to the primacy off the run game not having the courage of its convictions in two key short yardage situations. Fourth and one in the 2nd quarter, they bluffed the run and then missed a field goal. Third and one in the 4th quarter, a busted dipsy-do with Russell losing yardage.
According to the philosophy, both situations called for an imposition of brute will with Carson up the middle. Did the Football Gods punished Carroll for his timidity? He needs to resolve a glaring inconsistency here between what he says and what he does.
This game was closer than it had a right to be. The Hawks defense is still feeling it’s way as well as the WR’s. The Rams, as good as they are, didn’t get better in the offseason and Seahawks fans are very familiar that teams get a hangover after they lose a Super Bowl. But this is a game that the younger players can build off of and so can Wilson. He and Dave Krieg are the only Seahawk QB’s to have a perfect passing rating in a game (Geno Smith has also done it as a Jet) and DangeRuss nearly broke the tie. The MVP talk really heated up after this game. I’m predicting in the second half of the season this club will find its way and really produce.
Watching that game told me Russell is #1 for MVP. Yes there had to be a little help from the afterlife to see that ball missed the upright by a tenth of a thousandth from a blue chip place kicker. Had to take a nip or two from the Kracken to return to earth and breath normally. Great read Art.