We can’t blame the Seahawks loss to the Jaguars on a single play. Jacksonville won the game 30-24 for thousands of reasons — none bigger than the fact that they are extremely talented on defense and Leonard Fournette is a generational talent at running back — but “final plays” tend to stand out for good reasons. When Seattle had a 4th-and-9 from their own 43, it turned out to basically be their final play.
It should not have been.
With 2:39 remaining, down six points, the Seahawks got the ball at their 42-yard line. The first down play was a pass to Jimmy Graham that he dropped. The second down play was a completed 9-yard pass to Doug Baldwin that should have been at least a 10-yard play and a first down. Unfortunately - and this is at least as huge as a drop or a non-call - Baldwin made a split-second decision to save split seconds instead of getting the first down.
Doug Baldwin did not get a first down on this play pic.twitter.com/n4qhw0bSbF— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) December 11, 2017
Baldwin regretted the decision. Pete Carroll knows it was a mistake, but mistakes happen. And after all, Seattle had two more opportunities to gain a yard and a new set of downs. The Seahawks have never had any issues when they needed just one yard, right???
Except that on third down, Seattle not only was flagged for illegal motion, but since the play was not blown dead the Jaguars were able to sack Russell Wilson for a loss of eight, bringing up the crucial 4th-and-9.
This play ended up being an incomplete pass to Baldwin, but Wilson absolutely should have targeted Paul Richardson. (It was not the only time in the game that Wilson overlooked a golden opportunity to target Richardson, but that’s for another piece.) Not because he was open, but because Jacksonville cornerback Aaron Colvin guaranteed that Richardson would not be open by pulling him down to the ground. Not once — but twice. Within a second of game time, Colvin twice made an effort to hold and pull down Richardson on the game’s penultimate drive.
luv 2 see a potentially game-deciding non-call on 4th down pic.twitter.com/XC4PNgcFB3— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) December 11, 2017
Now, again, check out how f***ing brilliant Richardson is at the snap of this ball. He jukes Colvin out of his freaking shoes, which causes Colvin to lose his footing immediately and fall backwards to the ground. If Colvin does not interfere, he knows that Richardson might be un-guarded towards a game-tying touchdown.
Another view. It's not often you can say that one call decided the game, but this one certainly did pic.twitter.com/LU8g4U5sPo— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) December 11, 2017
Colvin’s first move to grab Richardson’s shoulder may simply be instinctual. When you’re falling or lose balance, it’s natural to try and find something to stop you from falling. This could still not be excused as “incidental” in the context of being a penalty, but maybe it could at least be excused as unintentional holding. It’s still holding, but maybe it is unintentional.
HOWEVER. The initial grab of Richardson’s shoulder was not enough to take Richardson to the ground. He looks like he’s about to maintain his balance and break free .... at which point, Colvin clearly turns and grabs Richardson by his right foot, pulling him to the ground, officially taking him out of the play.
Aaron Colvin gets juked out his shoes and as he's falling to the ground, tries to pull Paul Richardson down with him. When that fails, Colvin, grabs his right foot to pull him down. 4th down. No flag. Game over. pic.twitter.com/bei3h8MEsT— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) December 11, 2017
Wilson said after the game that he wanted to target Richardson initially, but saw him out of the play and went to Baldwin instead. He should have drawn attention to the obvious hold, but it was another split second decision gone awry. That being said, he also should not have had to draw attention to the hold, it should have been a penalty anyway. And if Colvin does not interfere, Richardson could have very well scored six to tie the game 30-30.
And at that point, who knows what would have happened. Blair Walsh may have missed the PAT, which is indisputably possible. He may have made the PAT and the Seahawks may have gotten burned on defense in the final minute, which is indisputably possible, especially since they were without Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright. Seattle could lose this game with the flag, no question about it. Unfortunately, we will never know the outcome of the game if the Seahawks had gotten a new set of downs, just like we won’t know what would have happened if Baldwin had made sure to get the first down on 2nd-and-10 or if Graham had caught an easy catch. We know that Wilson had yet another incredible fourth quarter.
He just didn’t get quite enough help this time from his teammates, nor did he get the call he should have gotten on the hope-killing “final” play.