2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 12: The Youth Movement
The Pittsburg Steelers were in a similar position as the Seattle Seahawks, both had had rough stretches of the season, but had seen a recent uptick in play, and both were battling to obtain a wildcard spot. A victory on this Sunday would put either the Steelers or Seahawks in the driver’s seat. The challenge for the Seahawks was an awesome one. The once elite Legion of Boom had been surgically splintered by quarterbacks who could make pre-snap reads and deliver accurate throws. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was just that, and he was in the midst of an elite season thanks to his chemistry with receiver Antonio Brown. Since returning from injury, Roethlisberger had led the Steelers to a pair of commanding victories, scoring 38 and 30. The Steelers were going to score on the Seahawks, this much seemed certain. A sub-20 point performance from the offense would result in a costly loss. The offense couldn’t just be good—they had to be great. Or more specifically, Russell Wilson had to be great.
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The Seahawks were amongst the top rushing teams in the league and had a history of being a top rushing team. With the emergence of Thomas Rawls, and his break-out game against the 49ers, the Steelers decided to send a clear message. Rawls would not do to them what he had done to others. If the Steelers lost, it would be due to Russell Wilson’s arm. It was a familiar theory. Many teams had had success by selling out to the run and putting the Seahawks in difficult third downs, where the team felt forced to pass. Initially, the Steelers were happy with the plan. While the Hawks had managed to move the ball, the first quarter was a shut-out. A low-scoring game was what the Steelers wanted, but wait…
At the top of the second quarter, Wilson launched a rocket, from the shotgun, from inside the red zone, to slot receiver Doug Baldwin, who had cut up the field, staking out a giant pocket of green in the Steeler’s zone defense. Sure, the Hawks got the one touchdown—they always get one touchdown. Oh, look, Wilson took another one from shotgun and inside the red zone. Securing a low snap, Russell unloaded to Kearse, also having found a hole in the Steeler’s zone. Okay, fine, but it wasn’t in the fourth-quarter—the Hawks fall apart in the fourth-quarter. Three minutes into the fourth, again from the shotgun, again from inside the red zone, Wilson fired another dart to Kearse, splitting the uprights between Steeler defenders for a third touchdown pass. Three touchdown passes in one game was stretching the offense’s capabilities, especially in the red zone, so it was time to lay some bigger bombs. From the thirty-yard-line, Wilson showed play action before sending a throw that fell in the void between three Steelers, which was occupied by Doug Baldwin, for another touchdown. Not to be undone, on 3rd and 9 with 2:22 left and the score 32-30, Wilson took a snap in shotgun, stepped up into the pocket, and connected with Baldwin on a crossing route. Baldwin put a stiff-arm into Steeler defensive back Antwon Blake before hitting the jets to the end zone.
Wilson finished the day 21/30 for 245 yards and 5 TDs. Doug Baldwin accounted for 6 receptions for 145 yards and 3 TDs. Jermaine Kearse added 4 receptions for 75 yards and 2 TDs. From being a team who couldn’t get a first down in the fourth-quarter to three fourth-quarter touchdowns, the post-Lynch offense experienced a blossoming similar to the one Rawls experienced a week prior, and without doubt or question, the Russell Wilson era had begun.
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But it was not solely Wilson who put the Seahawks in this position. It was “The Youth Movement.” 29-year-old Marshawn Lynch, out due to injury, had pushed 22-year-old Thomas Rawls onto the field. 30-year-old Cary William’s benching made room for 26-year-old DeShawn Shead, who broke up several deep passes. All year long, 23-year-old Tyler Lockett had carried his weight and more, delivering in the return game and the passing game. 24-year-old Kevin Smith made a reception for twenty-one yards. 22-year-old defensive end Frank Clark was brought into the line rotation, picking up a sack. 25-year-old Jeremy Lane returned from an extended absence, due to injury, and made an immediate impact. On 4th and 2, the Steeler’s special teams looked to make a splash. They came out of a field goal formation with holder Landry Jones back to receive a deep snap. The defense adjusted, and the correct players dropped into coverage. Jones made a poor decision, sending a floater to the sidelines. Lane undercut it, leaping to secure the grab, and took off to the opponent’s twenty-five-yard line.
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In a game featuring seven lead changes, the Seahawks beat one of the most potent offensives in the league…by utilizing their own potent offense. Many had suspected the Seahawks were capable of this type of production, but Sunday’s performance was miles apart from any other effort during the 2015 season. Winning the game 39-32, Russell Wilson began the day with a 10:7 TD/INT ratio that finished at 15:7. While the defense gave up points and yards—Marcus Burley left with an injury, forcing Lane into the nickel and dime packages before he was game speed—a certain flavor returned to the squad. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin snagged a pass from the line of scrimmage, juggling it before bringing it in for the INT. Kam Chancellor picked up a contested catch, falling in bounds by mere inches. And, to the relief of the entire Pacific Northwest, Richard Sherman’s cold streak came to an end, as he picked up an INT by playing centerfield. Also, he tailed Antonio Brown on the left, on the right, and in the slot, holding Brown to only six catches for 51 yards.
Week 13 will post next Tuesday, May 23rd.
Previous posts in the Re-watch Series:
Week 1, The Rams…Again | Week 2, The Pack Attack | Week 3, The Good News Bears? | Week 4, Kam’s Big Comeback | Week 5, The Cincinnati Heartbreaker | Week 6, Lockette’s Great Grab | Week 7, Karper-can’t | Week 8, Sherman Shines | Week 10, The Tales of Two Halves | Week 11, My Name is Thomas Rawls.