It could have been one of those buzz-silencing losses, the kind that takes the four weeks of joy that came before and makes you wonder if it’s time to rethink it all.
Instead, the Seahawks somehow left CenturyLink Field on Sunday night with even more good vibes, and ever-growing aspirations. Because if they can win a game like this, where every flaw seemed to be exposed, and stretches where every mistake that could be made was — then, well, the sky is the limit. Still.
Even though, as a giddy Pete Carroll reminded afterward, “This season is a million miles long, and we’re just getting started,” it felt like a game that hinted of this team’s championship mettle. Which is funny because at various junctures it felt like a game that was going to declare just the opposite.
The Seahawks, now 5-0, prevailed 27-26 in a game that came in four distinct parts, each one turning momentum and narrative on its ear: The part where the Vikings dominated in every way and seemed on the verge of blowing the Seahawks out in the first half; the part where the Seahawks surged after halftime, using two key turnovers to score 21 points in a span of one minute and 53 seconds; the part where the undeterred Vikings responded with two touchdowns to regain a five-point lead, and then had a fourth-and-one from Seattle’s 6 at the two-minute warning that would have iced it for good; and the part where Seattle stopped them cold on fourth down and then marched 94 yards to the game-winning touchdown – Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf on fourth down from the 6 with 15 seconds left.
It was that last part that erased – maybe only temporarily – a lot of bad stuff that would have been close to panic-inducing in a loss, and are still worrisome to the extreme even in a win.
The time of possession in the first half was nightmarishly lopsided in Minnesota’s favor. There were times when it seemed like the Seahawks were incapable of stopping quarterback Kirk Cousins or their punishing ground game – even when the league’s leading rusher, Dalvin Cook, went out with an injury early in the second half.
But to Carroll, that made it all the better, in a perverse way. That gave him a chance to prove to the Seahawks’ players what he had told them after a particularly sloppy practice in training camp. He stopped play, gathered them around, and told the players, there’s going to come a time when you’re trailing at halftime, nothing’s working at all, and you’re going to turn it around.
Such lessons, he believes, help the Seahawks survive adversity. It’s a skill to be practiced, just like tackling and blocking.
“You have to feed off one another and support one another, and that comes from a really deep-seated belief you can get this done,’’ Carroll said Sunday night.
“You watched them go down the field on us. Why would we believe we can stop them on fourth down? But we did. Stopped them third down and fourth down. The resilience it takes to come through in situations like that comes from somewhere. It comes from the belief you’re going to get it done. If you don’t feel like that, then you relent. That’s not what these guys are about.”
That mentality manifested itself Sunday not only in the defensive stop at the 6, but in the ensuing drive that was yet another master’s thesis by Wilson in poise under pressure.
Twice he faced fourth-down plays that could have thwarted the comeback. On one, he hit Metcalf with a 39-yard floater. And in the other, he rifled the game-winning touchdown to Metcalf, which was redemption of sorts for both. Wilson had thrown an ugly interception earlier in the fourth quarter that seemed fatal; and Metcalf had a potential touchdown catch stripped out of his hands just two plays before the TD, which could have been fatal as well.
But you can’t underestimate the confidence that surges through the Seahawks when Wilson gets the ball with a chance to win – even in the pouring rain that has been a nemesis in the past.
When Benson Mayowa and Bobby Wagner stopped Alexander Mattison cold on the fourth-down play, K.J. Wright said the entire team felt, “We’re going to win.”
Wright added, “You guys should see the confidence that we have on the sideline.”
The term tight end Will Dissly used, more than once, to describe their mentality in those do-or-die moments was “no flinch,” adding: “It’s a belief that something great is going to happen.”
The result, said the 10-year Seahawks veteran Wright, was “one of the top three or four most impressive things I’ve seen this team do.”
It accomplished multitudes in the eyes of Carroll, who has said he loves these kind of frantic, last-minute wins. When asked why, he seemed incredulous that the question even had to be asked.
“Because it’s so much friggin’ fun!” he said. “But it’s way more than that.”
And then Carroll rattled off the reasons, starting with the fact it gives himself the chance to test his ability to coach with cool and aplomb in the crucible of white-hot tension. And also because it adds to the reservoir of belief that he is certain the Seahawks will have to call upon again.
“We’re making memories, you know? Making memories. … It’s just going to make us that much stronger facing whatever the odds are, the issues are, that are coming down the road.”
That’s a buoyant takeaway from a game that could have deflated the hope that had been building.