The running back’s 30-yard TD run — on his first carry of the season — got the Seahawks, who were struggling against the woeful Colts, going for 36 points in the second half.
You could feel the anger and resentment building amongst Seahawks’ fans.
You could sense the frustration mounting on the Seattle sideline. The unthinkable was in the process of becoming shockingly possible.
It’s not too much of a stretch, or hyperbole, to say the Seahawks’ season hung in the balance as they battled neck-and-neck with Indianapolis late in the third quarter. A home loss against an undistinguished foe — with a young, untested quarterback at the helm — would have been devastating. A 1-3 start would have been all but insurmountable. The list of issues that needed to be fixed was growing.
And then something crazy happened to jolt the Seahawks out of their lackluster stupor. Something electric. Something glorious and galvanizing.
J.D. McKissic happened.
The Seahawks, stumbling and bumbling all game, victimized by two Russell Wilson interceptions, unable to make the big stop on defense, were locked in an 18-18 tie with the Colts after trailing at halftime. A vital 33-yard completion to the previously invisible Jimmy Graham had brought them into Colts’ territory, and they stood second-and-13 at the 30 after a sack.
McKissic entered the game at running back, having not carried the ball all year. The name may have just rang a faint bell. He was only active because C.J. Prosise was injured. McKissic had been undrafted in 2016 out of that football factory, Arkansas State, signed by Atlanta as a free agent, dropped by Atlanta, re-signed by Atlanta, dropped again by Atlanta, and picked up last December by Seattle. He played minimally down the stretch (two carries and three catches in the Seahawks’ final three games, including the playoffs), was a bubble player throughout training camp, made the squad but was inactive for the first three games.
None of that mattered, however, when Wilson handed him the ball and McKissic danced and darted his way downfield, through a hole opened by the Seahawks’ (rightly) maligned offensive line, especially Oday Aboushi, with a downfield block by Tyler Lockett. It was the sort of explosive burst sorely missing this season from the Seattle running game. Whatever rare glimpses there were had come from Chris Carson, who was carted off with a leg injury in the fourth quarter with what could be a significant ankle injury, opening up potential future opportunities for McKissic that his performance had already awakened.
“Man, at first I lost it,’’ McKissic said. “I forgot to celebrate with my teammates. I wanted to run in the crowd. It was crazy. It’s something you dream of. I’m a lucky guy to have that happen to me tonight.”
Perhaps it’s too much to say that McKissic’s run was the spark that saved a season. Certainly, Wilson’s desperate leap into the end zone to cap a 23-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter — punctuated by an emotional fist pump — helped fire up the Seahawks.
But from the point of McKissic’s TD, the Seahawks were a team transformed, outscoring Indianapolis 28-0 to finish the game. What had once seemed to be a possible upset in the making instead wound up a 46-18 Seattle rout— capped by a second McKissic touchdown on a 27-yard pass from Wilson. His first catch of the year, it turned out, was just as dynamic as his first run.
“I think it pumped up the team tremendously,’’ McKissic said of his run. “I’m not saying it was just me, but after that happened, things went great for us. On defense, they played amazing all night, but stepped it up a notch. When they’re stepping up and we’re stepping up, that’s Seahawks’ football.”
“It gave us all some more juice,’’ added Kam Chancellor. “J.D.’s a little guy with a lot of heart. I always tell him about his heart.”
The brilliant grab, between two defenders, was a reminder that McKissic is a flex player, a capable receiver as well as running back.
“I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I got,’’ McKissic said. “I’m very humble about what happened tonight, but it was great to contribute to this beautiful W.”
Rarely has a game gone from unsightly to such a work of art in what seemed to be the blink of an eye — or the burst of a churning running back. Immediately after McKissic’s TD, the Seahawks got a defensive score when Bobby Wagner scooped up a loose ball and rumbled 21 yards into the end zone. Two more touchdowns followed. The Seahawks put down the hammer, outgaining Indianapolis 337-22 in the second half.
“It was a blast to get back to playing Seahawks football,’’ coach Pete Carroll said.
All throughout the game, and even before, many of the Seahawk veteran players had been nagging Carroll, urging him to use McKissic, who had won them over with his effort in practice.
“Because I knew what he could do,’’ explained Richard Sherman. “He is a ballplayer. As old school as it sounds, as rudimentary as it sounds, he is a ballplayer wherever you put him. I’d put him at right guard and feel comfortable. He’s one of those guys that is just a dog, and on this team, we’ve always appreciated and celebrated the uniqueness of players like him.”
And when Carroll did put him in, McKissic fulfilled his dream while he was validating their faith.
“I just wanted to score a touchdown,’’ he said. “The week of preparation, I thought about the ugly and the good. I give other teams so much credit that they’re pretty good and they’re going to hit me this way. So that helped me prepare. I came out and just ran as fast as I could.”
The ugly and the good. That was the story of Seattle’s victory. And it was McKissic who nudged good in the direction of great.
|Seattle has played its best football in prime time. Its 20-3-1 record and .869 winning percentage rank first in the NFL since coach Pete Carroll took over in 2010.|