2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 5: The Cincinnati Heartbreaker
Every NFL season brings the game known as, “The Heartbreaker.” Many different forms of heartbreak exist. Losing a close game to an underdog. Getting blown out. Throwing the untimely interception. Giving up a winning field goal. Missing the winning field goal. Every fan base wants the heartbreak, save they want to be serving it instead of tasting it. And yet, every season, no matter how good or bad the team, heartbreak shows its ugly face. In the case of the 2015 season, no loss was a greater one than the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game where the Seahawks entered the fourth quarter up 24-7, only give up another fourth quarter rally, losing in overtime, 27-24.
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The Cincinnati Bengals were a complete team, especially on offense; yet, the Bengals and their quarterback, Andy Dalton, had a reputation for being unable to sustain success. A big time defense could always turn the Bengals into domesticated felines, and the Seahawks D did exactly that, holding the Bengals to one touchdown through three-quarters by playing tough, playing smart, and by forcing big plays.
Potential points for the Bengals were stopped by safety Earl Thomas, who picked up a floater from the end zone. With momentum, Thomas snuck in behind Richard Sherman’s block, moving across the field. Out in space, he cut inside on fellow-safety Kam Chancellor’s block. It was off to the races. Thomas was brought down on Cincinnati’s thirty-yard line. Unfortunately, for the self-sabotaging Seahawks, Michael Bennett put in two extracurricular hits on Andy Dalton, negating most of the return.
Midway through the third quarter, just as the Hawks had built a 17-7 lead, Michael Bennett made up for his previous gaffe. He exploded into the backfield, wrapping up a Cincinnati ball carrier. The ball popped loose and linebacker Bobby Wagner scooped it up. He ran into the end zone unopposed, for what felt like the nail in the coffin.
The defense still had its weaknesses. In the first quarter, the LoB gave up a touchdown to tight end Tyler Eifert on a broken coverage, and then gave up a second touchdown to Eifert in the fourth quarter, on a similar route—both involving Kam Chancellor. Since returning, Kam had been iffy in pass coverage. He was not alone. Free agent acquisition Cary Williams, who had been brought in to replace Byron Maxwell, the opposite wing of Richard Sherman, was struggling to fit it, especially in press coverage, where AJ Green burned him twice for big gains.
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The ice-cold offense continued its thawing.
Up at the line, Wilson recognized a Bengal blitz, audibled for protection, and then loaded up and fired downfield. A wide open Kearse would bring in the ball with no difficulties, giving a Hawks a 7-7 tie. Later in the game, on third down, Wilson once again recognized a Bengal blitz, got the right play called, and then stood in the pocket, and taking a big hit, to chuck a beauty at Doug Baldwin. For measure, he was getting the juices flowing with Jimmy Graham, who had eight receptions for 140 yards. For the now $20 million per year face of the Seahawks, Russell Wilson’s development was showing itself. Even at 5’10”, he could operate in the pocket like a traditional NFL quarterback; although, accuracy was an occasional issue.
The game was also a showcase for rookies and bench players.
Filling in for the injured Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Rawls dominated with 23 attempts yielding 169 yards and a 7.3-yard average. Rawls used speed and force in short yardage situations but also showed his big play potential. On a handoff, he stopped on a dime to turn up field. Rawl’s made it a foot-race to the sideline, where he beat three defenders to the turn. Sheading a tackle, Rawl’s stood tall for a sprint to the end zone. It was the first rushing touchdown for the Seahawks all season. Tyler Lockett picked up two catches, one for 22 yards. The young one nearly snagged a big gain along the sidelines but was unable to keep both feet inbounds. Also, DeShawn Shead, a player promoted from the practice squad, picked up a sack on a blitz from the secondary.
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The fourth quarter meltdown is almost too pained to be worth a revisit. Suffice it to say that the defense coughed up another fourth quarter lead, getting burned continuously in hurry-up situations. The offense sputtered, unable to put points on the scoreboard. They would only score 17, for their fourth straight game with a sub-20 point performance. The defeat was just that, a heartbreaker. However, the collapse itself wasn’t the weirdest aspect of the loss. The reality was, outside of the fourth quarter, the Hawks were irrefutably dominate. This team was good enough to beat anybody, if only the games were fifty-five minutes instead of sixty. In a season of ups and downs, for three-quarters this game felt like the breakthrough, the return to form…until it didn’t.
The Hawks would have little chance to dwell on the defeat, for they were out of the frying pan and into the fire. The 5-0 Carolina Panthers were coming to town.
Week 6 will post next Tuesday, April 12th. Stay cool.