Kam Chancellor punched the ball loose for a fumble, and K.J. Wright batted the loose ball out of bounds.
One of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s pet phrases is that something good is about to happen.
Even Carroll, though, likely couldn’t have envisioned what developed as Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson rumbled toward the end zone at CenturyLink Field with under two minutes left and a potential go-ahead touchdown in his sights.
As Johnson tried to fight through Cary Williams into the end zone — the same end zone made famous in 2012 by Golden Tate’s last-second catch against Green Bay to win a “Monday Night Football” game — Kam Chancellor dived and punched the ball out with his right hand.
“We saw one of the great plays in ball,” Carroll said of a play that ultimately gave Seattle a 13-10 victory over the Lions, alternating staving off what would have been a disheartening defeat. “When a team is on the precipice of winning the football game and a guy makes a play — the play Kam makes is just extraordinary.”
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From there, it bordered on the bizarre and morphed into controversy.
As the ball bounced toward the back of the end zone, Seattle linebacker K.J.Wright decided to bat it out of the end zone, knowing it would result in a touchback and give possession to the Seahawks.
“Just trying to make a good play for my team,” Wright said.
Batting the ball in the end zone, though, is illegal.No penalty, though, was called.
Had the penalty been called, Detroit would have retained possession and gotten a first down inside the 1-yard line.
Instead, Seattle got possession and was able to run out the clock.
Carroll noted the game would not have been over — the Lions still would have had to score. But he also acknowledged that the Seahawks caught a break. “Now that you look at it we are fortunate,” he said. “… It’s unfortunate the officials didn’t know how to do it, for their sake. It’s just the way it goes sometimes that plays happen and calls get made and we live with it and do the best we can.”
As reporters waited afterward to talk to Wright, Carroll pulled him away briefly and explained the rule and what he should do next time. As he did, Michael Bennett yelled “Smart-ass play, K.J.”
Wright, though, said next time he’ll handle it differently.
’“I’ve got to just catch the ball next time instead of illegally batting it,” he said.
Wright said he didn’t want to jump on the ball for fear of it squirting away.
“I didn’t want to try and catch it and fumble it,’’ he said.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network that a penalty should have been called.
“You can’t bat the ball in any direction in the end zone, in either end zone,’’ he said. “K.J. Wright batted the football. That’s a foul for illegal bat. The back judge (Gregory Wilson) was on the play and in his judgment he didn’t feel it was an overt act so he didn’t throw the flag. In looking at the replays it looked like a bat so the enforcement would be basically we would go back to the spot of the fumble and Detroit would keep the football.’’
The play, though, was not reviewable, so once it was called on the field, that was that.
And the Seahawks felt the controversy shouldn’t overshadow the play made by Chancellor, who in his second game back with the team after ending a 54-day holdout made a play that may have saved the season.
Detroit had moved from its own 9-yard line to the Seattle 11 where on third-and-one, Matt Stafford threw to Johnson, who got open by ducking inside and then going outside of cornerback Cary Williams.
Chancellor, coming from the side, said he saw Johnson holding the ball a little loose.
“He had it away from his body,’’ Chancellor said. “They teach you to tuck it tight, and it was away from his body so I just punched it.
“I gave up a big play, gave up a seam route (a 26-yard pass to tight end Tim Wright that moved the ball to the 20), a route we hadn’t seen on film, and I owed it to my defense to get the ball back. I just realized we had to get the ball. It just happened to be a situation where I saved the game.”
Chancellor said he didn’t see Wright bat the ball out of the end zone, having turned to the sideline where the celebration had begun.
The game revealed lots of flaws — notably six sacks of Russell Wilson and a stagnant offense. But it also revealed that the Seahawks still know how to find a way.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ said safety Earl Thomas, who was also in on the tackle. “I mean, c’mon now. Give us an inch, and we protected it. It just feels so good.’’
|The Seahawks continue to be involved in controversial endings in big games. Four of five have gone their way:|
|Fail Mary, Sept. 24, 2012||Officials rule Golden Tate caught pass on Hail Mary pass in end zone against Packers||Seahawks, 14-12|
|Super Tip, Jan. 19, 2013||Richard Sherman tips 49ers pass for interception by Malcolm Smith for clinching interception in NFC title game||Seahawks, 23-17|
|Impossible Comeback, Jan. 18, 2015||Jermaine Kearse makes 35-yard TD catch from Russell Wilson in OT, completing comeback from 19-7 deficit||Seahawks, 28-22|
|Super pick, Feb. 1, 2015||Russell Wilson 1-yard slant pass to Ricardo Lockette is intercepted by Malcolm Butler, preserving NE’s Super Bowl win||Patriots, 28-24|
|Bat man, Oct. 5, 2015||Kam Chancellor punches ball out after reception at 1. K.J. Wright knocks ball out of end zone for disputed touchback||Seahawks, 13-10|