Emotions ran high in Seattle for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Buffalo Bills gave the Seattle Seahawks their best take on the brand of football they play in the AFC East that looks strikingly similar to what we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Blue and Green.
After an incredible rendition of the National Anthem by a retired Navy Veteran, two Blackhawks helicopters conducted a flyover, one carrying the American Flag, while the other carried the 12 Flag.
The Seahawks defense knew that keeping the Bills mobile QB Tyrod Taylor contained was a high priority. Also, limiting the ever elusive running back LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy was a key priority as well. Recently un-retired wide receiver Percy Harvin (sound familiar?) was back in Seattle as well, and the Bills brought the points early off of a blocked Jon Ryan punt that was recovered deep in Seattle territory. Taylor faked a handoff to McCoy and scuttled in for a score. Russell Wilson did something similar on the next drive with a beautiful 50-yard bomb to Doug Baldwin, faking a handoff to Christine Michael and rushing for a TD himself.
The Bills would score again with 2:20 to go on a 5-yard dart from Taylor to Justin Hunter. Seattle would strike back, finding Jimmy Graham for an incredible, one handed 17-yard floater in the back of the end zone. Graham was draped by two Bills defenders, and upon replay it appeared that Graham’s left hand was held by the Bills defender. It wouldn’t matter. Graham would end the night with 8 receptions (on 8 targets!!) for 103-yards and 2 TDS. He would also hurdle a Bills cornerback en route to a 1st down conversion that sent the Bills player to the bench for the rest of the game.
Seattle would hold the Bills to a field goal before Christine Michael rushed 3-yards for another score with 4:29 to go in the half. After holding Buffalo to three and out, Wilson again found Graham in a key situation (and being held again by a Bills defender) with Buffalo dialing up the blitz, for an 18-yard score.
As Buffalo got the ball back, that’s when things got all wonky. On a field goal attempt before the end of the first half, Richard Sherman found himself offsides and speeding towards the kicker, Dan Carpenter. Sherman actually got his hand on the football in the holder’s hands, but ran into Carpenter in the process. The flag on the play was for offsides, when Buffalo felt it should have been roughing the kicker.
To make matters worse, because the Bills had no timeouts left, they had to use an injury timeout on Carpenter, which necessitated he come out of the game. As the Bills scrambled to spike the ball and spend their ‘play’ on the field, with Carpenter running back out easily after quizzically gripping his non kicking leg after that first play. In the pandemonium that was those three snaps, the officials did not reset the clock, which caused a delay of game penalty on the Bills, moving them back 5-yards. Carpenter would miss the next attempt, and the ‘Hawks went in at halftime up 28-17.
After halftime, the Bills dialed up the pressure, with both teams going the entire third quarter with no points. Particularly on one play, Wilson finally attempted a spin move to get out of pressure, but spun right into a Bills defensive end. The Bills would score within seconds into the 4th quarter by running back Mike Gillislee, and a successful 2-pt conversion by Taylor to cut the lead to three. Seattle drove back down and Stephen Hauschka kicked a 49 yard field goal to put the ‘Hawks at 31, forcing the Bills to score a touchdown. They came dangerously close, converting third down after third down before a pair of sacks forced Taylor to throw in coverage on 4th and goal. That incomplete cemented the game for a ‘Hawks win.
The offense looked to be unstoppable in the first half, but sluggishly couldn’t get much going. Russell Wilson, sans his ankle brace, displayed rushing ability on more than one occasion, rushing for first downs when it mattered. Outside of him, the running game was nonexistent, as Seattle threw early, often, and found measurable success in the first half. In the second half, Buffalo brought enough blitzes and pass interferences to ensure Seattle moved around the field but not so much that they could capitalize. Buffalo would accumulate 4 sacks of Wilson on the day.
The defense could not get off of the field, allowing Buffalo to convert 12-17 third downs, amass 30 first downs, accumulate 425 total yards of offense, all while racking up 5 sacks. Bobby Wagner led the team with 16 total tackles, with K.J. Wright and Kelcie McCray following closely with 11 and 13 tackles, respectively. Richard Sherman had an interception of Tyrod Taylor in the end zone (which he returned 31 yards), while Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, Brock Coyle, and K.J. Wright all notched a sack.
After the game, Pete Carroll remarked in his press conference that: “It was time to go (take to the air and pass more). We talked about it on the plane last week (referring to the loss at N.O.)…..he (Wilson) had been begging us to let it loose.” Carroll also continued that “In the upcoming weeks, we need to run more… while (passing more) isn’t the format we want, its the format we have now.”
Up next the ‘Hawks travel eastward on a short week, to take on the New England Patriots off of a BYE week on Sunday Night Football. They’ll need to limit third down conversions by the Patriots, attempt to get the run game going, keep Wilson upright and the score close. A hefty demand placed on the ‘Hawks, and a challenge they are no doubt looking forward to taking on. The game is on at 8:30 EST Sunday night on NBC.