Through the haze of another Sunday giving up passing yards in amounts that once would have seemed unfathomable but this year are becoming uncomfortably routine — Dak Prescott’s 472 yards were the most Seattle has ever allowed to an opposing quarterback — emerged at least a few defensive highlights for the Seahawks.
And the performance of one player — Shaquem Griffin — appears to be good enough to earn him a permanent spot on the roster.
Griffin was one of the unexpected heroes of the final defensive stand, along with safety Ryan Neal, who had the final interception, and rookie Alton Robinson as the Seahawks hung on for a wild 38-31 win.
Monday, both Griffin and Neal were officially returned to the practice squad.
But coach Pete Carroll said during his Monday meeting with media via Zoom that Griffin will be on the roster for Sunday’s game at Miami.
“He earned it,” Carroll said of Griffin.
That would appear to mean Griffin will be signed to the 53-player roster this week — Seattle has an open spot — though the Seahawks could again elevate him off the practice squad Saturday, as they did last week with both Griffin and Neal.
Regardless, Griffin’s play in 17 snaps Sunday — when he made the most impact in a game during his three-year career — means you can expect to see more of him going forward.
“I’m really excited to see him play again this weekend,” Carroll said.
Griffin was on the field for all but one of Dallas’ 11 plays on its final drive.
He spent the first six working as a rusher off the right side and got credited for one quarterback hit.
After coming out for one play, Griffin then went back in and played essentially as a linebacker in the middle of the field, appearing to have responsibility for covering running backs out of the backfield or on crossing routes.
He was credited for defending one pass, to slot receiver Cedric Wilson. Griffin’s coverage grade of 90.4 from Pro Football Focus led to an overall grade of 85.6 that was the highest of any Seattle defender in the game.
“He did a nice job rushing the passer and in his other ops (opportunities) that he had so I’m looking forward to him to continue to contribute,” Carroll said.
Griffin spent the past two seasons on the active roster and started the first game of his career in 2018 at weakside linebacker at Denver. He has not started a game since, used mostly on special teams and last year at the end of the season in a pass-rush package.
That seemed to go well enough — he combined with twin brother Shaquill for a sack of Aaron Rodgers in the playoff loss to Green Bay — that it was a surprise to many when he was waived in the cut to 53 earlier this month.
Carroll said Monday it wasn’t that Griffin had done anything wrong but just the way the numbers worked out at linebacker, especially after Seattle drafted Jordyn Brooks with its first-round pick.
Seattle kept six linebackers with Griffin the seventh and the odd man out.
“There was really no big plan about it,” Carroll said. “We added one guy, he’s a top pick, and that spot went that way.”
When Griffin went unclaimed on waivers, Seattle was able to get him back on the practice squad. The Seahawks then took advantage of a new rule this year to elevate Griffin, and Neal, from the practice squad Saturday, with Griffin brought up to help replace the injured Bruce Irvin.
“The great thing about it is Griff did not let up for a second (after being waived),” Carroll said. “And so when the opportunity was available, he jumped at it and did a great job, and I’m thrilled about that for him. He looked really good. And he was running all over the place, all over the field, and if we can keep him available for those kinds of opportunities he’s going to continue to show like that.”
And as much as keeping him on the roster is a reward for his play it’s also needed as Brooks is now injured, likely out a few weeks with a knee sprain suffered in Sunday’s game.
Carroll said Cody Barton will move into the starting lineup with Brooks out but didn’t say if Barton will play the weakside spot and K.J. Wright move to strongside in the base defense — as the team did Sunday with Brooks — or if Barton will simply play the strongside spot and Wright will return to playing weakside full time.
Barton starting means Griffin will continue to have to find ways to contribute in specialty packages, as was the case Sunday, when the Seahawks put a lineup on the field for the final drive knowing that the Cowboys were going to have to pass basically every down.
“We played him in a unique situation and he handled it really well,” Carroll said.
The unexpected contributions of Griffin, Robinson (who had a sack on the play before the final interception) and Neal helped put a happier shine on a day when Seattle’s defense again was torn apart by an opposing quarterback.
The Seahawks are allowing 430.6 passing yards per game, which would obliterate the NFL record for passing yards allowed in a game of 299.75 by the 2011 Green Bay Packers.
As Carroll noted, many of the yards again came in the second half with Dallas trailing 30-15 less than a minute into the third quarter — Prescott was 24 of 35 for 289 yards in the final two quarters.
Some yards are to be expected in such situations, especially in a year when offense is up — possibly because the lack of preseason games and a traditional training camp made it harder for defenses to get game-ready. But there were also multiple times Seattle either had breakdowns in coverage or just got beat.
Carroll said Monday that a 40-yard TD pass from Prescott to Wilson in the second half “was a mistake,” and Wright was supposed to have more help than he got.
Carroll was also particularly miffed at two deep passes the Seahawks allowed to Michael Gallup — a 42-yard touchdown with Tre Flowers as the defender and a 52-yard completion with Shaquill Griffin as the defender.
“Everything doesn’t look right to me when we get the ball thrown over our head twice in the same game,” Carroll said. “That’s not supposed to happen, and you don’t remember seeing that happen very often against us. And it’s really good execution on their part, both balls really well thrown and all, but we should be on both of them. So, I’m never gonna be satisfied until the deep ball isn’t part of the game.”