With the Seattle Seahawks trailing the Los Angeles Rams 10-7 late in the second quarter Sunday, Russell Wilson took a shotgun snap on first and 10 from the Los Angeles 36 yard line hoping to continue a drive that had already advanced 39 yards in less than a minute. With only 34 seconds left before intermission, the Seahawks had a huge opportunity to take the halftime lead in a game they had trailed 10-0 just moments earlier.
The hurry-up march followed a breakthrough 15-play, 75-yard touchdown sequence that had been the Seattle offense’s first sign of sustained success all afternoon—they accumulated just 46 yards on four first downs total in the first five possessions. Then the Rams blew an excellent chance to secure their lead going into the break by throwing three straight Jared Goff incompletions and failing to wind much clock after taking a kickoff inside the two minute warning.
Now, Wilson had his group on the verge of a demoralizing touchdown, in L.A. territory with a spare timeout in his pocket. Darrell Bevell ordered a play that sent Jimmy Graham up the left seam, Thomas Rawls flaring out of the backfield from his split next to Wilson, and three receivers running a levels combination from the right flank. The Rams rushed just three, with Alec Ogletree hovering at the line of scrimmage to spy Wilson and Connor Barwin dropping into coverage. Justin Britt and Oday Aboushi together absorbed Aaron Donald’s attempted bull rush up the middle and Germain Ifedi mostly handled Michael Brockers one-on-one.
Then this happened:
With his shoulders turned toward Ogletree’s sugary simulation of a rush, left tackle Rees Odhiambo’s first step is to the interior instead of kick-stepping outward to impede edge rusher Robert Quinn getting to Wilson. Quinn explodes from his very wide-7 technique like a sprinter and Odhiambo reacts so late that Quinn barely has to bend his angle of pursuit before he’s a free rusher in Wilson’s face.
A half-second later, Odhiambo is futilely chasing Quinn like a dog after a pony, while Quinn looks like he’s about to turn Russell Wilson into one of those children’s matchup flip books with split pages on a spiral binding that let you make people with different combinations of top halves and bottom halves.
The sack dropped Wilson eight yards behind the previous spot, outside Blair Walsh’s field goal range, and forced the Seahawks to call their last timeout with less than 30 seconds remaining. On second down, Wilson deftly found Doug Baldwin for 15 yards up to the Los Angeles 29-yard line, gaining Seattle enough time and downs to spike the ball and position to set up a game-tying kick. The Rams never scored again as the Seahawks added two field goals in the second half and held on for a classic win that could end up swinging the NFC West. A touchdown in this situation might have made the finish a lot less stressful but all’s well that ends well and rubber baby bubby bunkers, as I say all the time.
However, the sack could have been a lot worse than it was and—potentially—devastated Seattle’s season outlook had Quinn made cleaner contact with Wilson’s upper body or drove him into the turf. Instead, watching the replays you can see Quinn only makes a glancing blow and then twists Wilson so the Seahawks quarterback ends up landing with his weight on Quinn’s body. That saves most of the shock from the blow that might have come had Wilson fell directly on the hard earth or worse—prevents fractured bones, separated shoulder or curdled blood resulting from Quinn’s 270 pounds falling on Wilson with a head of steam.
Notice how, right after the instant I freeze-framed above, where it looks like Quinn is just going to peel Wilson’s banana and the back judge starts to think about mortality and the age of the universe, Wilson steps forward ever so slightly.
Quinn had Wilson lined up like a raft of rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, like a live ram in the wild tilting into the low stretch before battering skulls. Wilson, surely, had not calculated all the vectors of force and velocity and was only shifting to get away. Even with an indirect hit Quinn landing on top of the QB could have rattled Wilson’s brain or altered his spine architecture—at very least the indestructible Wilson might have been too shaken up to make the big play on second and 18 to save the drive’s points. But here Quinn’s speed actually plays to Wilson’s safety, because the glancing contact sends Quinn’s momentum spinning in orbit rather than scudding through him.
I find this series of replays fascinating, hypnotic. I can watch them over and over. In the brief moment when they are both airborne, see Quinn rotate all the way around Wilson’s body so that by the time the ground rushes up to meet them Wilson falls comfortably on top of his foe. They bounce and roll together in the grasp like playful puppies instead of deadly rivals. Not exactly the touchdown Seattle was looking for, but at least not a crash landing. Catastrophe averted.
An impala is basically a ram right? Ok.