Seahawks Morning After: Seattle finally gets its mojo back and imposes its will
The Seahawks didn’t have a complete performance Sunday in beating the New York Giants, but in the second half they showed us the physical team we’d been waiting for since the season opener.
Times staff columnist
In the second half Sunday, the Seahawks were the Seahawks again. It was unmistakably so, as a stingy and opportunistic defense combined with an overpowering, run-based offense to pound the New York Giants.
By the end, you almost forgot the Giants (3-6) held a 17-14 lead until late in the third quarter. You almost forgot the score was tied at 17 entering the fourth quarter. The Seahawks finally wore down an opponent, like we had become accustomed to watching them do. Like we hadn’t seen them do since a 36-16 victory over Green Bay in Week 1.
“It felt like Seahawks football,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said.
The Seahawks (6-3) needed this. As controversy swirled and injuries mounted, you wondered if they still had that extra gear to separate from opponents and dominate games. On the way to scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half, the Seahawks answered that question empathically.
They still have concerns. The passing game remains out of sync, and as a result, quarterback Russell Wilson has had three straight uncharacteristically inefficient games. And the Seahawks added another starter, underrated nose tackle Brandon Mebane (hamstring), to their injury list.
But the return of center Max Unger, who had missed four games with a foot injury, contributed to the run game’s franchise-record, 350-yard performance in Sunday’s 38-17 victory. Left tackle Russell Okung also returned from a one-game absence.
As always, the humble Unger didn’t want any credit — even though his teammates offered plenty — for the Seahawks’ offensive success.
“I didn’t play very well,” said Unger, who helped Seattle amass 510 yards. “They’re just being nice. I just came back and smoothed out the edges, made sure the communication was rock solid. That’s what my job is.”
In the second half, the Seahawks outgained the Giants 290-100. Wilson improvised and threw an incredible 60-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse in the third quarter to set up a Steven Hauschka field goal to tie the game at 17. Then, on the next series, the turning point of the game occurred — Earl Thomas’ end-zone interception. Richard Sherman and Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had a delightful battle for the football on that play, resulting in a tipped pass, and Thomas caught the deflection. It was similar to the Sherman’s tip — same corner of the end zone and everything — in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
Thomas ran the interception out of the end zone and returned it to the Seattle 42-yard line. The turnover resulted in the first of three fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Seahawks.
The Seahawks weren’t dominant for four quarters Sunday. But from the start, they imposed their will with the run game, and even when the Giants were playing well, it was clear that the difference in the two rushing attacks would catch up to New York. The Seahawks ran for 350 yards and 7.8 yards per carry; the Giants managed only 54 yards and 3.2 yards per carry. Once the Seahawks stopped committing turnovers (three Sunday), the Giants defense had no chance.
Once again, the Seahawks are the best rushing team in the NFL, averaging 170.9 yards after Sunday’s explosion. They also have the fourth-best run defense in the league, giving up just 79.8 yards and 3.2 yards per carry (tied for the league lead). That’s the most dominant aspect of the 2014 Seahawks, and it indicates the strength on both the offensive and defensive lines. As much as we focus on the Seahawks’ poor pass protection on offense and their inconsistency rushing the passer on defense, it should be noted that they are dominant in this other area, and that’s one major vital sign for a football team.
“I like where we’re going,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. “I really do. I told them last night that I think we’ve made a big shift in the last three weeks. I was hoping it would again today. We’re playing the style of football that we want to play, that we’re most comfortable with. Then, see if the other teams can deal with this.”
The Giants couldn’t deal with it. There are tougher teams down the stretch, with six of the next seven games against squads with winning records. But with Marshawn Lynch (140 yards, four touchdowns) carrying the offense and the defense re-establishing its greatness, the Seahawks aren’t a mystery anymore.
“It just felt good,” guard J.R. Sweezy said. “It felt like we were all on the same page.”
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