A game won at the death, that granted the Seattle Seahawks a new lease on their playoff life, usually has more turning points than a dodecahedric roundabout. Seattle 30, Carolina 27 does not disappoint.
I’m particularly interested in three plays that aren’t getting their proper due a day later, and four things the Seahawks didn’t do that they’d usually like to, for, you know, gathering wins.
The Kick Itself
FOR THE #Seahawks WIN! The 40 year old Sebastian Janikowski does it again (via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/zqyZbOwrXL— Sports ON Tap (@SONTHighlights) November 25, 2018
Wait, isn’t this an obvious turning point in the game, THE turning point, and weren’t we going to go for the less obvious stuff instead? Yes. Objection sustained. Except that I’ve seen scant praise for Sebastian Janikowski, and a ton of assumptions that he would... just make the chip shot.
But such an attitude requires ignoring a ton of evidence. A ton of sad, recent evidence.
2016: Steven Hauschka misses in Arizona, leaving the score 6-6 as time expires.
2017: A random Blair Walsh miss, among many. So many misses.
Walsh missed eight FG in 29 tries as a Seahawk and ended up 30th in kicking accuracy that year. He had a bad season. Half his misses were from inside 40 yards. He missed all the time.
Counting any kick before it hatches, even Sunday’s game-winner, would not only ignore history but conveniently also gloss over Janikowski’s own slow start to the season. He only made four out his first seven FG attempts. However! Since a couple fishy Week 4 miscues in Arizona, Seabass has been reliable as you could ever expect any kicker to be. Perfect on extra points, which matters, and only one field goal that came up short against the Chargers — so 11 out of 12 on three-point kicks. Add in the XP makes and he’s split the uprights on 34 of his last 35 attempts. He’s feeling it right now.
Even when your kicker is in the zone, there are no gimmes. Janikowski had to make the kick that his predecessors often shanked. He did. And an overtime, one Russell Wilson would have dominated, again, because that’s what he does, became unnecessary.
It’s OK to make a bigger deal out of this made FG than people have done thus far.
2. The Tackle
Matty Brown’s going to break down this Tre Flowers gem later in the week on this here site, because he’s our buttercup, and he’s smart enough to call it one of the biggest plays of the game.
How many times have we seen a short crossing route turn into a big gain against Seattle? It’s a potent route, designed to prey on young corners and make it hard on them to keep up with the play. It would take a special rookie to follow a receiver well enough, on third down, and come up with the tackle that forces a long field goal...
It's not flashy, but I believe this is @_Slimm7 making the play of the game. Without this third down stop, Seahawks might not even get the ball back. Clutch tackle. pic.twitter.com/BriTAmoZhS— Evan Hill (@EvanonHB) November 26, 2018
Flowers maintains just enough contact with D.J. Moore to trip him up after the catch. Just enough disturbance to deny a first down. Just enough arm length to make it happen. A smaller, slower, or worse-coached first-year player might have allowed the conversion, setting up a shorter field goal for the Panthers, perhaps as time expired, perhaps delivering a fatal wound to the Seahawks season.
3. The Other Tackle
One name we haven’t called in a while: Nazair Jones, number 92. On an afternoon when the Seahawks allowed 476 total yards, the most they have all year, registered zero sacks, and made only three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, this one was particularly well-timed.
We don’t have video yet for a play under the radar like this one; perhaps five still shots will do the trick. Jones is almost instantly in the backfield. He saw the play coming and guessed right, apparently.
Nazair Jones' tackle for a loss in the first quarter was a result of an educated guess based on tendencies. He knew that Carolina likes to run the ball towards its extra offensive tackle near the goal line, so he shot the gap and dropped Christian... https://t.co/Kx5w7MQFc0— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) November 26, 2018
After beating the helpless lineman, he finds himself between the fullback and the running back, Christian McCaffrey (you’ve heard of him). This is not so convenient for the offensive play design.
Naz finishes the play with a vicious tackle that leaves no doubt.
He’s at the bottom of that pile, having denied McCaffrey the hardest yards to get. A loss of three sets up a field goal, when a touchdown might again have sunk the Seahawks in the end.
Jones, once a bright star of the Seattle defense, hasn’t played much this year. He’s been inactive five times, each time a healthy scratch, and coming in to today had only logged 10 percent of defensive snaps. He got on to the field a lot more vs. Carolina, with snap counts pending. It’s a little early to call Jones’ career reborn, this soon, with this little to go on, but it’s very possible that in the wild-card round, we’ll be looking back at this play as a catalyst for his full return to the D-line rotation.
What about the stuff the Seahawks didn’t do, though?
A) They didn’t contain Cam Newton or McCaffrey, or stop the Panthers between the 20s at all. At all at all.
Carolina averaged 8.6 yards per play and rushed for 221 yards. McCaffrey exceeded 100 yards in the air and 100 more on the ground. Only his own fingers, which were clearly doused in butter pre-game, as part of some weird rookie initiation, could stop him.
The Panthers had nine drives. They punted once. Their second-shortest possesion gained 45 yards. Three times they went 70 yards or more.
Carolina put up seven explosive runs of 10 yards or more, and five explosive passes of 20 yards or more. It was a bloodbath, until Seattle’s red zone defense tightened up.
B) They didn’t rush the ball very well.
28 carries, 75 yards doesn’t translate to a very good yards per carry: a mere 2.7 on the day. The pass-aided win marked the first time since Week 3 that the Seahawks failed to get 150 yards on the ground.
The Chris Carson flip, on which he stuck the landing, was pretty cool. I guess.
I wish I was this athletic. pic.twitter.com/EE33LHL03U— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) November 25, 2018
C) They didn’t get any breaks when the ball hit the turf. There was, clearly, a Carolina-friendly homing device installed within the ball. It’s the only explanation for five fumbles on the ground by Panthers, all finding their way back to Panthers hands. Forget deflating the footballs, someone nefarious in Charlotte has been implanting remote controls inside the equipment to direct loose balls to the home team. Logically, this makes the most sense. They should stop doing that before they get caught.
Punts don’t bounce between legs of the receiving team, missing the Panther’s leg by inches, on the same day that five Carolina fumbles bounce the wrong way and a sixth one, by Carson, tries to, only to be overturned.
D) They didn’t record a sack. Usually this spells doom. They didn’t even hit Newton, except on tackles while he was running free in the second level. The pressure was bad, to the point that Newton finished the first half with zero incompletions.
If you had presented, early Sunday morning, a scenario in which the Seahawks allow McCaffrey a career day, Newton goes 25-of-30 without being sacked, let alone hit, and the Panthers punt all of once — that, um, doesn’t sound like a win.
Despite all the Seahawks didn’t do, they still chalked up a victory that puts them in a three-way tie for the final wild-card spot. Doing that was way more important than what the defense, and fate, left undone.
P.S. Fine. You slogged through the article. You get your reward.
RUSSELL WILSON.— NFL (@NFL) November 25, 2018
: FOX #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/eH5TKa8Vsb