Practice Makes Perfect as Turnovers Fuel Another Comeback Win for Seahawks
Already trailing 14-6 on the scoreboard late in the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Seahawks appeared to have no answers for Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and the Browns high-powered offensive attack.
Despite pinning Cleveland inside its own 10-yard line with a quality punt from Michael Dickson, Seattle’s suddenly porous defense surrendered a nine-yard completion from Mayfield and an explosive 52-yard run from Chubb on consecutive plays to bring a forgettable first quarter to an end.
The second quarter didn’t start off any better, as Browns tight end Ricky Jones-Seal came wide open on a deep crossing route, slipping past linebacker Mychal Kendricks and hauling in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield.
Down 14 in a hostile road environment, linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks didn’t panic, however.
“They came out with a bunch of energy as we expected.” Wagner said after the game. “They punched us in the mouth the moment they stepped on the field, but I felt like we weathered the storm. We had to calm down, settle down, and start making some plays.”
That’s exactly what Seattle did during the final 29 minutes of regulation, creating four turnovers while limiting Cleveland to just eight points the remainder of the game and only 101 yards of offense in the second half.
The change in momentum started on Cleveland’s fourth possession, as Seattle lucked out when receiver Odell Beckham dropped a third down pass that would’ve moved the chains. On fourth down, receiver David Moore shot into the backfield and blocked Jamie Gillian’s punt attempt, leading to a short Jason Myers field goal to trim the lead to 11.
Two possessions later, Mayfield and Beckham weren’t on the same page on a second down pass attempt. The veteran receiver stopped his route earlier than the quarterback expected and the throw went directly into the hands of cornerback Tre Flowers, who made the catch for his first career interception.
Seattle couldn’t capitalize on the first pick, going three-and-out and punting it back to Cleveland. But coach Pete Carroll’s defense was far from done stealing possessions via turnover, which shouldn’t be surprising given how practice unfolded this week.
As indicated by K.J. Wright, Wagner, and several other Seahawks, the defense produced four turnovers in a five-play span during Thursday’s practice session, which proved to be an omen.
Late in the second quarter, Mayfield drove the Browns 70 yards on eight plays all the way to the Seahawks 10-yard line with just 1:36 on the clock before halftime. Running a no-huddle offense, the young signal caller tried to squeeze a throw into Jarvis Landry, who had cornerback Shaquill Griffin draped all over him in coverage.
Griffin managed to get a hand on the football, deflecting it behind him. Alertly, safety Tedric Thompson dove to record his second interception in as many weeks and returned it 18 yards. Russell Wilson promptly guided the Seahawks 88 yards in just 1:07 and hit receiver Jaron Brown for a 17-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-18 heading into the half.
“It is something that we practice. We preach it every day.” Griffin said. “We knew we needed a big play. We just had to stay true. We did not want to change anything up.”
Seattle thwarted another potential Cleveland scoring drive midway through the third quarter. Starting near midfield, Mayfield completed a 19-yard pass to Beckham to swiftly move the Browns to the Seahawks 29-yard line.
Two plays later, Mayfield found Chubb on a screen pass and he looked to have some running room in front of him. The second-year back turned upfield looking to make a play, but defensive end Ziggy Ansah punched the ball out of his grasp and then recovered the fumble, setting up the Seahawks with great starting field position.
As he did following Thompson’s clutch pick in the end zone, Wilson engineered another seven-play, 58-yard scoring drive capped off by a six-yard touchdown pass to Brown, giving the Seahawks their first lead at 25-20.
After both teams traded touchdowns in a back-and-forth final quarter, Wright put the icing on the cake before the two-minute warning. Trying to orchestrate a game-winning drive, Mayfield’s first down pass attempt was thrown behind Dontrell Hilliard and after grazing the back’s hands, the savvy linebacker held onto the deflection to seal Seattle’s fifth win of the season.
“We had been waiting for a game like that and we always say to count our blessings.” Wagner said. “We sure did this game.”
In a contest littered with plenty of positives and negatives, starting slow remains an area of concern for the Seahawks. The team won’t be able to afford giving up 20 quick points every week and expect to continue winning games regardless of how much magic Wilson pulls off on the other side of the ball.
As Wright said after the game, “I’ll take these wins. But at some point, we’ve just got to do right and find a way to win in our style. Eventually it will come back and bite you.”
But on the flip side, Seattle again showed its resiliency and grit behind the leadership of Wagner and Wright, who have been through plenty of adversity-filled games like the one that unfolded on Sunday.
Winning for fourth time after trailing at halftime or later, this Seattle team appears to be built to win such games. It’s embedded in their DNA and making four turnovers certainly facilitated the latest comeback in Cleveland.
Wagner trusts Seattle will put everything together and win some games without having to come from behind in the process. But winning isn’t easy in the NFL and the star linebacker won’t be apologizing for coming out on top on the scoreboard, no matter how ugly the game is.
“At some point, we’ll turn it and play how we’re supposed to play. But a win is a win. We’ll take the wins. If we were losing these games, it would be a whole different story and a whole different energy throughout the whole building.”