Michael, who was re-signed Wednesday after a season-ending injury to rookie Thomas Rawls, stepped out of the team’s newly-formed running back committee to rush for a career-high 84 yards on 16 carries Sunday.
On a day that it was pretty much more of the same from the Seahawks, it was a completely different Christine Michael.
The player who threatened to go down as one of the more disappointing personnel moves of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era finally played the kind of game they always expected, helping spark a 30-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns that clinched a fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Other players had more spectacular numbers — quarterback Russell Wilson threw three more touchdown passes to run his incredible streak to 19 in the past five games; and Doug Baldwin caught two more to run his streak to 10 in the past four.
But that has almost come to be expected, as was a defensive performance that aside from allowing an 80-yard drive to open the game was typically dominating. The Browns managed just 230 yards, the fifth-lowest total of the season against the Seahawks.
What was new was Michael, who was re-signed Wednesday after a season-ending injury to sensational rookie Thomas Rawls. Michael stepped out of the team’s newly formed running back committee to rush for a career-high 84 yards on 16 carries as the Seahawks pounded out 182 yards, their third-most this year.
“He was bringing the fire today,’’ Wilson said. “You could see it. … To add a talent like that this late in the season is a big deal.’’
The Seahawks also got a solid contribution from Bryce Brown (43 yards on nine carries), who also re-signed this week as the Seahawks looked to replace not only Rawls but Marshawn Lynch, who missed his fifth consecutive game following an abdominal injury that required surgery.
It was Derrick Coleman who got the first carries, 10 yards on five attempts, all on the first series. Then it was Brown who went next as Carroll did as promised, giving all the tailbacks a look and then deciding on the hot hand.
Michael went third, not getting his first carry until the 13:09 mark of the second quarter.
But from that point on, the tailback spot was pretty much his. Michael gained 9 yards on his first carry and then three plays later on the same drive went for 6 more to take it to the 6-yard line. On the next play, Wilson threw his second touchdown to put the Seahawks ahead for good, 14-7.
After the run that set up the touchdown, safety Earl Thomas grabbed Michael for a brief chat. During Michael’s first stint with the Seahawks, after he was taken with the team’s first choice in the 2013 draft (No. 62 overall, in the second round), he was sometimes too quick to celebrate even the smallest of deeds.
“He said, ‘Just hold it all in, C-Mike, until after the game,’ ” Michael recalled later. “ ‘You’re capable of doing it, just go out there and finish the game and we’ll celebrate after.’ ”
Michael did as Thomas asked. And later, Thomas pointed to that moment and others as a sign that what Michael had said during the week — that he was more appreciative of his opportunity now and more committed to making it work — was more than just words.
“I saw a lot of growth,’’ Thomas said. “Second time around, he’s getting his opportunities and he’s taking it serious.’’
It was the emergence of Rawls during training camp that led Seattle to trade Michael to Dallas for a seventh-round choice, the Seahawks unsure if his commitment to football would ever match his talent running with one.
If he was initially surprised by the trade, he was humbled when Dallas released him after five games and just 51 yards and then left with no options but to sign with Washington’s practice squad before being released Tuesday.
The Seahawks signed Michael after a meeting Tuesday in which he assured them he would do whatever the team asked.
“I told them ‘I just want to grind for you guys,’ ’’ he said, adding he understood he might never get another chance to make something of his NFL career.
Teammates noticed a difference all week.
“I think him being on other teams has definitely been a wake-up call for him,’’ right tackle Garry Gilliam said. “You definitely see a different level of commitment. He’s really into it.’’
Carroll noticed, too.
“He’s been through a lot since he was here before,’’ Carroll said. “He recognized the opportunity. He was very clear about it.’’
Seattle maybe could have beaten the Browns with just Wilson and its defense. But to get far in the playoffs, the Seahawks will need the running game. And with Lynch coming off the first surgery of his career, Michael could be critical. Carroll wouldn’t commit to Michael starting against St. Louis, maybe wanting to make sure he doesn’t take anything for granted.
Michael promised he won’t.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,’’ he said of his roller-coaster season. “Now I’m back here, and I’ve just got to take it one day at a time, one play at time, just do the best I can and be the best me that I can be.’’
|Russell Wilson’s past five games|
|Russell Wilson set an NFL record with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions in five consecutive games.|
|Game||Pass yds||TD passes||Int.||Rush yds|
|San Francisco, Nov. 22||260||3||0||30|
|Pittsburgh, Nov. 29||345||5||0||14|
|at Minnesota, Dec. 6||274||3||0||51|
|at Baltimore, Dec. 13||292||5||0||6|
|Cleveland, Dec. 20||249||3||0||46|