The Seattle Seahawks followed up last week’s huge win with another big 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills. While last week’s win was spectacular, perhaps doing it on the road was even more impressive considering Seattle’s struggles on the road.
After these last two weeks, it would be easy for Seahawks fans to say they’ve never seen a Seattle team play this well two weeks in a row. The extraordinary fact was that the Seahawks became the first team since 1950 (SeattleTimes.com) to score 50 points in back-to-back weeks. Considering that fact, one would be hard pressed to find an instance of any team playing as well in consecutive weeks.
The Seahawks had hoped a win would put them in position to play the San Francisco 49ers in Seattle next week for the lead in the NFC West. But the 49ers held off a 24-point run by the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter to almost guarantee a division title.
Now the only hope for the Seahawks to win the division is a win over the 49ers next week followed up with a win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 17. They would also need the 49ers to lose at home to the Arizona Cardinals.
Though their chances for winning the NFC West are slim, the win over the Bills coupled with the Chicago Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers greatly improves their chances of making the playoffs. They could lock up a wild-card spot with just one win at home in the next two games.
Considering this has been another great week by the team makes it easy to pick winners, but makes for some rather difficult choices on the losing side. The only easy decision this week was deciding who was the biggest loser this week.
The Seahawks have struggled with penalties this year, particularly on the offensive line. There were two holding calls on Anthony McCoy and John Moffitt, but neither were in critical situations.
Sidney Rice may have had the most egregious penalty with a false start on the Bills 10-yard line, but at that point the Seahawks were already up by 20 points.
The most unfortunate penalties came on a punt return by Leon Washington. Both were questionable block-in-the-back calls, but they resulted in a touchdown run getting called back.
Those are all penalties that will happen during the course of any game, though. What they avoided were the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that frustrate fans and coaches.
Overall, considering the penalties the team has taken in the past, having only four plays where the Seahawks took penalties was a positive effort from the team.
Loser: Doug Baldwin
Part of picking winners and losers is singling out individual efforts as well as team efforts.
With the feeling as though at least one player on offense should be singled out, Doug Baldwin was the only player who came to mind. With a potential touchdown catch within his grasp, his drop took points off the board for the Seahawks.
It wasn’t as though Seattle needed the points. It was 37-17 at the time and Steven Hauschka came on the field to make it 40-17.
Baldwin should have some cause for concern, though. Deon Butler was recently re-signed Saturday and was inactive for this game, but Butler could provide competition at the receiver spot and push Baldwin in an attempt to move up the depth chart.
Winner: Earl Thomas
The Seahawks’ only defensive score of the game came by way of an Earl Thomas interception where he made a diving catch with his body fully extended.
He followed an outstanding catch with an even more exciting return. Catching the ball near the Bills sideline, he effortlessly weaved back toward the Seahawks sideline before finishing the 57-yard score, leaving Fitzpatrick face down on the turf and three linemen unable to change direction. Even the speedy C.J. Spiller was unable to get a hand on Thomas.
Up until this point, I was considering putting Thomas in a loser category for at least two missed arm tackles.
A big play can make fans quickly forget about any of the bad. Just as K.J. Wright’s interception made us forget about the defense giving up a first down on 3rd-and-20.
Loser: Richard Sherman
One week after a huge game against the Cardinals, Sherman had a rough game against Stevie Johnson. Part of it had to do with the defense dropping into zone coverage, but he definitely didn’t show the same kind of attitude he did the previous week.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have put Sherman in the loser category last week. He played a great game, but I thought his activity after the play was excessive.
Someone made a good comment that changed my thinking. Essentially Sherman can do whatever he wants if he’s going to have a game as big as he did against Arizona. After watching him this week, I definitely think he needs to show more attitude.
Sherman can even continue to dance with Kam Chancellor and earn illegal celebration penalties if they continue to blow teams out.
Seattle is going to need a big game from him against the 49ers next week, and at this point he is expected to play. According to Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune, the appeal of his suspension for PED use was postponed and no new date has been set.
Winner: Marshawn Lynch
If not for Adrian Peterson’s unreal rushing performance this season, a lot more people would be talking about Marshawn Lynch. His eighth 100-yard rushing game this season puts him behind only Peterson as the league’s top running back.
Lynch now has 1,379 yards and 10 touchdowns. For the second-straight week he has averaged more than 10 yards per carry. For the third time this season he’s picked up more than 100 yards on 12 or fewer carries.
I’d like to think his Pro Bowl-caliber season might just be part of the reason that Wilson doesn’t get more serious consideration as Rookie of the Year. But Robert Griffin III’s running back Alfred Morris does happen to be the guy nipping at Lynch’s heels.
Loser: First-Half Defense
Okay. I’m working pretty hard on this one. It wasn’t a terrible first-half defense; it did force the Bills to punt three times.
Apart from giving up 10 points in the final two minutes of the first half, the Seahawks actually played fairly well. Unfortunately, Seattle didn’t record its first sack or turnover until the second half.
It looked like the first-half defense might continue after halftime. Seattle gave up a first down on a 3rd-and-20, though a lot of credit should go to Steve Johnson for making an incredible catch. Regardless, that all changed when K.J. Wright picked off a Ryan Fitzgerald pass two plays later.
The Seahawks defense proceeded to shut out the Bills in the second half.
One of its biggest struggles in the first half was stopping C.J. Spiller. That was mitigated in the second half with the lopsided score, but had the game been closer, Spiller may have had an even bigger day than his 103-yard rushing performance.
If the Seahawks could’ve created more turnovers, shut down the run or gotten to the quarterback in the first half, then maybe I would have needed to narrow the window down to the final two minutes of the second quarter for this slide.
Winner: Russell Wilson
It wasn’t until the Seahawks win over the Chicago Bears did people start to consider Russell Wilson as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. Leading Seattle to 50 points or more in the last two weeks is going to make it difficult for people to exclude him as one of the top candidates.
With Robert Griffin III sidelined this week due to injury, perhaps Wilson’s three rushing TDs and 92 yards rushing will give him the airtime normally reserved for Griffin. Wilson now has 402 rushing yards this season, which makes it hard to believe today’s rushing touchdowns were the first, second and third of his NFL career.
As impressive as Wilson has been and the improvement that he’s shown, it still may not be enough to change the minds of ROY voters. Though he’s thrown more touchdowns and led the team to impressive victories over some of the league’s top teams, he trails Griffin in many categories including quarterback rating, completion percentage, interceptions, and in passing and rushing yards.
Regardless, he’s in the conversation for the award. If nothing else, I suspect the number of fans continuing to hold out hope for a switch to Matt Flynn has dwindled and will continue to do so.
Though if you haven’t changed your mind yet, I’m not sure what will sway you. Maybe a seven touchdown, 500-yard passing performance?
Losers: Michael Sinclair and Jacob Green
When a team wins in spectacular fashion, sometimes you have to fudge a bit on how you pick losers. Michael Sinclair and Jacob Green are only losers in the sense they now have contemporary company as some of the Seahawks’ most prolific sack artists.
Chris Clemons picked up two-and-a-half sacks on Ryan Fitzpatrick to record his third consecutive season of double-digit sacks. He nearly had another, but Fitzpatrick ducked under his arm as Clemons over-pursued his intended target.
According to ESPN.com, Clemons has 33.5 sacks since coming to Seattle and 53.5 in his career. This season, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans is the only defensive end in the NFL who has more sacks (19.5) than Clemons.
One of Clemons’ sacks led to a fumble recovered by rookie Bruce Irvin. Irvin would’ve scored a touchdown had he not lost his balance at the 10-yard line. The recovery led to a 33-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to take a 40-17 lead.
Winner: Pete Carroll
Not only does the the win mark a milestone for consecutive 50-point games, it also marked Carroll’s first nine-win season with the Seahawks.
Starting the season 2-2 and improving to only 4-4 at the midpoint of the year, some Seahawks fans thought the team might be destined for another losing year. But winning nine games with the opportunity to get two more wins and go undefeated at CenturyLink proves Carroll is moving this team in the right direction.
The only concern Seahawks fans may have about this game is whether or not it was appropriate to run a fake punt up by 30 points in the fourth quarter.
In the postgame press conference, Carroll did show some contrition for the move.
“That was part of our game plan. It was something I could have called off and I didn’t,” said Carroll. “That’s my fault totally for not stopping it from happening.”
I could understand some concerns for sportsmanship, but I also understand there could be some strategy behind the move. Former Seahawks defensive lineman Craig Terrill seemed to think it was a strategic move.
He tweeted, “Some see Fake Punt as rubbing it in. I see it as one more thing the 49ers have to prepare for.”
Loser: Michael Irvin
On Thursday night, Michael Irvin left the Seahawks out of his postseason picks in favor of the Bears and the Cowboys. He said the Seahawks would lose on the road in Buffalo on their way to losing their final two games at home.
Not only did he blow (pun intended) the first part of his prediction, he also said the Bears gave away the game to the Seahawks a couple weeks back.
He could have just as easily wished his Cowboys into winning the NFC East and left the Seahawks in the wild-card race. Instead, he chose to make himself look foolish in picking Seattle to lose to Buffalo.
The only credit he gets is for suggesting the Bills game was the easiest game left on the Seahawks’ schedule. But considering Seattle’s dominance at home, most of us have a hard time believing they’ll lose once (let alone twice) at home to finish the season.