Sure, the NFL is the league of “Any Given Sunday.”
But heading into this particular Sunday, it was hard to think this would be one of those Sundays for the Seahawks.
Seattle was a 10½-point favorite against the New York Giants, who were coming to town holding a 4-7 record and forced to go with journeyman backup Colt McCoy at quarterback in place of injured starter Daniel Jones, with the Seahawks appearing to have finally found a defense to pair with an offense ranked in the top five in both yards and scoring.
But “Any Given Sunday” it was, turning into one of the most forgettable of the Pete Carroll era — and possibly also one of the most damaging — as the Seahawks were shocked by the Giants 17-12.
The defeat dropped Seattle to 8-4 after a 5-0 start that was the best in franchise history, and two games behind the Saints in the NFC and into a tie with the Rams atop the NFC West but officially in second due to L.A. beating the Seahawks earlier this year, meaning the Seahawks now hold the No. 5 spot in the NFC playoffs.
And there was nothing fluky about it.
The Giants pushed the Seahawks all over the field all day long, rushing for 190 yards and 6.1 per carry, the best against Seattle this year, while sacking Russell Wilson five times and holding Seattle to 4.7 yards per play, lowest of the season.
“They played really, really tough and gave us a hard time all game long,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
As the game wore on, the Seahawks looked increasingly tired, and it was tempting to wonder if having played in Philadelphia on a Monday night followed by a truncated week of practice might have taken its toll.
But that figured to be mitigated by the Giants going with McCoy, who came in with a 7-21 career record as a starter. He left 8-21, two of his victories against the Seahawks (he was quarterback for the Browns when Cleveland beat Seattle 6-3 in 2011).
“This sometimes happens throughout the season,’’ said Wilson, attempting to put the best possible spin on things. “You know that not everything’s going to go perfect.’’
No, but Seattle losing four of seven, and suddenly seeing its offense become worrisome just when the defense mostly has righted itself, is at least troubling.
Not that the defense got off scot-free in this one.
Seattle led 5-0 at the end of a bizarre first half, getting a field goal after its first drive and a safety on a blocked punt late in the second quarter. Seattle drove into Giants territory on five of six possessions in the first half but had only the field goal to show for it.
But the way the defense was playing — only one of the Giants’ six drives in the first half went for longer than 14 yards — it figured that one drive by the offense in the second half might be enough to win it.
Instead, the Giants somewhat shockingly ran all over the Seahawks in the third quarter, putting together touchdown drives of 80 and 48 yards, rushing for 138 yards on 11 carries in the quarter, including a 60-yarder by Wayne Gallman that set up the first touchdown, which put the Giants ahead for good at 8-5.
“I was really surprised that we weren’t able to slow them down in the third quarter running the football,’’ Carroll said. “They made some basic stuff and they got away from us, and those two drives in there, they were able to get enough going where that was the difference in the ballgame.’’
The Giants’ second touchdown drive came after the Seahawks failed to convert on a fourth-and-one at their own 48. Seattle had Chris Carson back and seemingly running well — 65 yards on 13 carries for the game. But the Seahawks called a pass play that quickly went awry, Wilson eventually scrambling to try to find anything and throwing incomplete to Carson.
The Giants needed just five plays to move for another touchdown, four of them runs, to take a 14-5 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We just weren’t doing our job,’’ said safety Jamal Adams, who had to race from the other side of the field to stop Gallman’s 60-yard run, though it hardly mattered as the Giants easily got into the end zone from there. “And when you’re not doing your job on defense and they are running the ball like they are running it — efficient — you are going to have a long day. So we didn’t do our job.’’
The Giants then converted a Wilson interception that went off the hands of Carson into a field goal early in the fourth quarter for a 17-5 lead.
Seattle went up-tempo and finally looked something like itself, moving 82 yards in 11 plays with Wilson hitting Carson with a 28-yard touchdown pass with 6:09 left.
But the Giants then got two big first downs to chew up 4:21 of the clock in a drive to the Seattle 42. The march ended there when a third-down pass went incomplete.
And when Wilson hit DK Metcalf for 15 yards and Jacob Hollister for 10 to get to the Giants’ 46 with 1:04 left, it was tempting to think Seattle was again going to salvage victory out of certain defeat as it has so many times in the Wilson era.
Instead, the drive and game ended in a thud, Wilson taking a sack on third down for a loss of 8 yards and then rolling out and throwing desperately downfield in the direction of a heavily covered Metcalf on fourth down, the pass falling incomplete.
It was the first time Seattle has lost as double-digit favorites since a 23-17 defeat at home to the Rams in 2015 as 10½-point favorites.
“Bottom line, comes down to not capitalizing in our situational moments,’’ Wilson said.
Indeed, the Seahawks were 4 for 13 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth downs. Seattle also had no play of longer than 28 yards. Seattle had had at least one play of 38 yards or longer in all but one other game this season.
“We weren’t making plays that change field position,’’ Carroll said. “We didn’t chunk them at all.’’
The seemingly good news is that the Seahawks now are at home against the winless Jets, with the Seahawks already installed as 13-point favorites.
But after Sunday, Seattle knows nothing can be taken for granted.
“We still feel like everything is in front of us,’’ Wilson said. “And we have to go earn it.’’
Sunday showed just how true those words can be.