2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 8: Sherman Shines
The Seahawks were in an eerily familiar position. Only one year prior, the team had had another perplexing start, going 3-3, showing intermittent flashes of brilliance amongst occasionally severe mediocrity. One such loss occurred against the Dallas Cowboys, a team who—like the Seahawks—finished 12-4 and had their season end in controversy. A deep pass to Dez Bryant, paired with a sensational “catch,” had been ruled incomplete near the end zone; whereas, Pete Carroll had been criticized for his decision to pass instead of run at the conclusion Super Bowl 49. Both teams were fueled by youth. The Seahawks had invested in their defense, and the Cowboys had invested in their offense. And finally, like the Seahawks, the Cowboys had suffered a regression in 2015. DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware had left in free agency, while quarterback Tony Romo—on the short-list for league MVP in 2014—had a broken collarbone, leaving Dallas at 2-4.
Still, the NFC East was a beggars division, and the Cowboy’s had a realistic shot at being division champion. For the Seahawks, it was time to make right on one of the most stinging defeats of the 2014 season.
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After Romo’s injury, the quarterback carousel in Dallas stopped on Matt Cassel. Owner Jerry Jones had traded for Matt, hoping the veteran could enigmatically lead the Cowboys to victory—even though Matt knew few players, had attended few practices, and knew virtually none of the playbook. The results were as expected, but the Cowboys had small reason to hope. Returning from injury was Dez Bryant, and it was essential that Bryant inject potency into a middling Dallas offense. A foil for Bryant was cornerback Richard Sherman, resident superstar of the Seahawks defense; yet, Sherman had had a somewhat sloppy season, being burned for several long gains and giving up a few touchdowns. The Cowboys were hoping to squeeze one in on Sherman—and perhaps steal the game.
Matt Cassel tested Sherman early, on a slant to Bryant. Sherman was all over the route. He reached in and batted the ball away. Soon, Sherman—who usually held permanent residence on the left side of the field—shadowed Bryant to the right. Bryant drove eight yards before stopping hard to nab a timed throw. Sherman pulled up, deflecting the ball. Looking for a big play, something to give the Cowboys an edge in this low scoring affair, Bryant—once again, lined up to the right—shimmied with a lean to the inside before digging in for a sprint down the sidelines. Sherman got himself around, and in the tiniest of glances, saw Cassel coming out of his drop. Smelling an interception, Sherman beat Bryant to the attack point, owning inside position on the throw. The pass sailed inches above Sherman’s fingertips. Only minutes later, Sherman again beat Dez to the attack point on another runner. Bryant obstructed the interception, earning himself the rare flag for offensive pass interference.
Sherman snagged no interceptions, concerning since he had yet to register his first of the year, but he did single-handily eliminate Dallas’s greatest weapon, and by doing so effectively forced the Cowboys passing game into a dump-off system. It was the type of dominant performance Sherman needed to resuscitate the distressed Legion of Boom, which had struggled to close games.
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In the most frightening moment of the season, Ricardo Lockette was stood up on a block that left him lying motionless on the field. Crossing the field for punt coverage, safety Jeff Heath had squared Lockette up, nailing him so viciously Lockette fell limp. Team doctors and players surrounded Lockette, trying to determine the severity of the injury. Lockette was stabilized and rotated onto his back, where belts kept his head and neck aligned with his spine. The shocked stadium—filled with Seahawks fans who had traveled to Dallas—cheered when Lockette, while being carted away, gave two shaking fits, making an “L” with his thumb and pointer finger, a gesture used amongst the players.
Thankfully, Lockette’s injuries were not life-threatening, nor would they leave him paralyzed. He suffered a torn neck ligament, a cervical injury, and wore a neck brace for many months. Used only situationally in the offense, Lockette had a great reputation for his commitment to excellence. He often shined with his exuberance and energy for the game and was a fan favorite. His season through, the long road to recovery began.
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Inconsistency from the offensive line, paired with pre-snap penalties, had put the Seahawks in poor positions regarding downs and distance. Meanwhile, an inaccurate Russell Wilson floated throws, and the ones he didn’t float were dropped. Lynch never hit a stride, averaging only 3.4 yards/carry. What was working was attacking the middle of the field, and tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson were eating a steady diet of it. Graham was used early on a drive that ended in a field goal. He finished with 7 catches for 75 yards. Luke Willson added to the pile with 2 catches for 41 yards, one being the game’s sole touchdown.
Not often does one say that a quarterback made the most important tackle of a game, but Russell Wilson did exactly that. Offensive lineman Alvin Bailey had drawn the short stick against defensive end Greg Hardy, an immensely talented yet deeply troubled player. Bailey’s job was to use a cut block against Hardy, a technique where Bailey would obstruct Hardy by attacking Hardy’s lower torso and thighs; instead, Hardy side-stepped Bailey, using his strength to spring free. At 6’5” and 280lbs, Hardy swallowed parts of the sky as he plucked Wilson’s pass from the air. Already in the backfield, Hardy took off for what he expected was a touchdown. However, the undersized Wilson went low on Hardy, wrapping up the defender’s knee. Once again, Hardy powered through, leaving Wilson one final option. He clamped onto Hardy’s ankle, tripping him—an impressive improvisation for a player whose employment was based on avoiding tackles, not making them.
Having saved the touchdown, the defense held the Cowboys to a field goal. The Seahawks won the game by one point, 13-12, and banked a crucial victory in their quest to return to the post-season.
Week 9 will post next Tuesday, May 2nd. Until then, why not get an early analysis on the 2016 schedule?
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