Baldwin's frustration led to one of those visible sideline confrontations that can appear to be a team falling apart at the seams. Turns out in this case, it was a team coming together, the signature moment of a 24-7 Seahawks victory.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For much of the game, the mounting frustration of the Seahawks’ offense had a slightly different taste to it.
This wasn’t them flailing helplessly, unable to mount an attack. This was the Seahawks mostly dominating the New York Giants’ defense, moving the ball up and down the field, only to self-destruct in maddening ways. Penalties. Dropped balls. A failed fourth-down play at the 1 that thwarted a long drive when a pass clanked off Jimmy Graham’s hands in the end zone. A Thomas Rawls fumble that led to a Giants score.
Finally, after another possession deep into New York territory in the second quarter was frittered away, Doug Baldwin had had enough. His frustration led to one of those visible sideline confrontations that can appear to be a team falling apart at the seams.
Turns out in this case, it was a team coming together, the signature moment of a 24-7 Seahawks victory. What the world saw, thanks to CBS’s camera, was an animated Baldwin pushing away offensive line coach Tom Cable as the offense huddled on the sideline. That was a heat-of-the-moment mistake on his part, Baldwin would say later — “100 percent my fault. I lost my cool.”
But the message got through, and from that point on, the Seahawks outscored the Giants 24-0. The mistakes were fewer, the execution became crisper, culminating in three Russell Wilson touchdown passes in the second half.
“It was all to get us going, and it worked,’’ said wide receiver Paul Richardson.
The instigating factor for Baldwin’s ire, it seems, is that Cable began addressing the team while Wilson already was talking to the group. That was the trigger point, anyway. The real culprit for Baldwin, he would no doubt admit, was zero points despite numerous forays into or on the cusp of the red zone.
“I had told Tom to go ahead and get in the middle of the offense,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, “but Russ got ahead of us by a step. … I think the cool thing was that Doug was trying to make sure that Russell had his chance to rally the guys, because he was fired up and ready to go. They believe what Russell has to say and they wanted to hear what he had to say. I thought that was pretty apparent.”
The way Wilson put it is, “I think two guys wanted the stage at the same time. It’s not a big deal. There are no worries or anything like that. … We were just trying to bring everybody up.”
Rehashing the moment afterward, Baldwin was clearly regretful about the way he had handled it, particularly because he said that his relationship with Cable is top-notch (he apologized to the coach afterwards and the two quickly cleared the air).
“I love Cable to death,’’ Baldwin said. “It’s one of the best relationships from coach to player.”
But just as apparent was that it was all precipitated by a genuine and deep-seated desire to turn around the offense’s misfortunes.
“At that moment, I was really frustrated with the offense as a whole,’’ Baldwin said. “Not the coaching staff; the players. To me, there’s nothing a coach can say. We have to take accountability for that. And so I got a little passionate about it.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even going at Cable. It was just at that moment, I needed the players to take accountability for what we were doing.”
If anyone knows what makes Baldwin tick, it’s Richard Sherman, his teammate since their days at Stanford. And if anyone knows about losing one’s cool with a coach on the sidelines, it’s Sherman, who did so twice, very visibly, last season.
“It comes with the territory,’’ Sherman said. “I think in the outside world, it’s kind of misunderstood. They think about it as disrespect, but in the locker room, in an environment like this, we look at each other as peers. Coaches and players, because they are depending on us just like we’re depending on them and their play-calling.
“We have as much at stake as they do. So, it’s not him yelling at them. It’s him showing them passion, you know, trying to get to the same goals. So, it’s awesome. I mean, I’ve been seeing him do it since he was a freshman in college. It’s been 10 years, 12 years, something like that. And, it’s always gotten the point across.”
Baldwin would have two more opportunities to press his case to the team, albeit in a calmer, more controlled manner — “less antagonistic,’’ he said pointedly.
Once was at halftime, with the Seahawks trailing 7-3, when he and Wilson made the case that they were dominating the game; they needed to realize just how good they were. And before the first play of the second drive of the third quarter, Baldwin gathered the team again to implore them to find a way to finish off drives.
“I was trying to calm the guys down,’’ he said. “I think the biggest thing for us offensively is we have a lot of young guys who haven’t gone through the issues we’ve gone through as an offense. Granted, I’m the oldest guy there, so it’s just me.
“We were just trying to calm them down and let them realize that this is a process. We have to be poised in those moments. It’s not about the coaches. They can install all the Xs and Os they want to but we have to go out there and execute it. We weren’t executing and that was on us.”
That drive ended with a beautiful 22-yard touchdown connection between Wilson and Baldwin, followed in short order by TD passes to Richardson and Graham. Whether that transformation continues will be the story of the Seahawks’ season. Perhaps the words of Baldwin — both the controlled and angry ones — and those of others who spoke Sunday, will resonate with the offense.
The upshot, Baldwin said, is that he and Cable both had the same mindset, though it wasn’t so clear to him in the heat of the moment.
“We both want the same thing,’’ he said. “In that moment, he said what he said and basically it was exactly what I was going to say.”
Obviously, it was a message that the Seahawks needed to hear.