Russell Wilson just looked at Tyler Lockett. That was enough.
Bobby Wagner got teammates together while they were down 20-6 right away to Cleveland and told them “we are better than this.”
K.J. Wright dived for the clinching interception. Then had all the Seahawks rally around him in the end zone to pose into Cleveland’s stunned Dawg Pound section of fans for a faux team picture.
With Sunday’s zany, twisting game on the line, the longest-tenured Seahawks put on a decisive show.
Wilson to Lockett two times on improvisational throws and routes raced Seattle into position for Chris Carson’s go-ahead touchdown run of 1 yard with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. Then on the ensuing drive, Wright intercepted Baker Mayfield’s errant pass from his knees.
On third down, Wilson connected with rookie DK Metcalf for a first down with a Browns defender all over him. That sealed Seattle’s 32-28 victory over the Browns at stunned, irate FirstEnergy Stadium on a gorgeous fall day on Lake Erie.
After the Seahawks’ latest win in another, zany game, safety Bradley McDougald bellowed over the boomin’ bass that shook the visiting locker room’s walls: “FIRST-CLASS, BABY!”
Seattle’s veteran players get to have the coaches’ cushy, wide seats up front following any road victory. The vets have been jetting home in style all season so far. The Seahawks improved to 3-0 on the road for the first time since 1980.
“I’ll probably get that 3B,” McDougald said, smiling at 5 hours on the aisle while his coaches are back in, well, coach.
The defense forced four turnovers. The special teams blocked a punt. Carson carried 24 times for a career-high 124 yards. It was his third consecutive 100-yard rushing day since fumbling issues early, then the help he got from his mental-conditioning guru. Wilson completed 23 of 33 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and yet another passer rating well above 100, 117.6.
Wilson has 14 touchdowns against no interceptions this season. That is as big a reason as any why Seattle (5-1) kept pace in the NFC West with 5-0 San Francisco, which won at the reeling Los Angeles Rams (3-3) on Sunday.
Wilson threw one of his two touchdown passes to Jaron Brown to end a drive that began with his helmet speaker to receive play calls from coordinator Brian Schottenheimer not working. So Wilson embarked on the march by himself, going no-huddle and calling the plays that sent Seattle 58 yards to its first lead midway through the third quarter.
Wilson said he told his teammates before they rallied from down 20-6 one play into the second quarter in a rocking road venue to up 25-20: “We’re made for it. We’re built for it.”
Nineteen consecutive points later, they seized control of this see-sawing game.
Coach Pete Carroll sees a common thread to why the Seahawks are 5-1 for only the third time in their 44 seasons as a franchise, and the first time since their Super Bowl-winning season of 2013. The team has rallied to win in four of its five wins; the only routine victory was 27-10 at the last-place Arizona Cardinals.
Carroll getting rid of aging, less-all-in stars Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas and the franchise spending $194 million to make Wilson and Wagner the highest-paid players in the NFL at their positions is paying off handsomely right now.
“I’m going to go right back to what I’ve been saying: We have really good leadership from the guys that have been around here, Russ and Bobby in particular,” an elated-looking Carroll said.
“The messaging that I am trying to get across to players, they are helping with all the time. They know who we are and what we are all about. They are teaching and leading by example, and doing a wonderful job there. The overall attitude and the mentality that our whole group has in this locker room is that these guys are all together. They are connected. They care. They are playing for one another and get it. They understand how valuable that is, and they keep showing up. That is why you make it through the tough stuff. ...
“Every game has been hard. We have only had one game where we won by more than a touchdown. These are character-builders. And they are going to make us better.
“The tougher, the better for us.”
Sunday was indeed un-easy.
“It was crazy,” Wagner said. “They came out with a bunch of energy, as we expected. They punched us in the mouth the moment they stepped on the field.
“But I feel like we weathered the storm. We had to calm down, settle down and start making some plays...
“We have a lot of young guys. Myself, Russell, K.J., we’ve been in games like this where it has not gone our way and we came back. So it was just kind of letting them know that it was the first quarter.
“And it will be fine.”
ANOTHER WOEFUL START
About that “storm” Wagner mentioned:
The Browns scored 3 points in 60 minutes six days earlier in their 28-point loss at the San Francisco 49ers.
They scored 14 points in first 10 minutes against the Seahawks.
Seattle allowed the Browns to romp for 148 yards of offense and 102 yards on kickoff returns—in the first quarter. Cleveland had more points 1:59 into this game that it had its entire previous one.
The Seahawks were fortunate to be down only 14-6 after one.
The Browns got to the Seattle 46 midway through the second quarter while leading 20-12. Then Baker Mayfield threw past Odell Beckham Jr. into Tre Flowers’ arms for the second-year cornerback’s first career interception.
Cleveland was were at the Seattle 10-yard line with 96 seconds left before halftime, about to add to that 20-12 lead. Then Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin leaped with Landry in the end zone to tip Mayfield’s pass into the air. Safety Tedric Thompson, replaced earlier in the half by Lano Hill then rookie Marquise Blair, raced over to make a diving catch for an interception while prone in the end zone.
Instead of being down two scores, the Seahawks drove with five straight completions by Wilson to the Cleveland 17. With 27 seconds left in the half Wilson threw the latest of his brilliant passes this season: a ball outside right perfectly placed onto Brown’s hands in the end zone, while Wilson was getting hit, too. Wilson’s 13th touchdown against no interceptions this season got the Seahawks within 20-18.
Brown and his fellow Seahawks receivers celebrated his first touchdown by going ‘N Sync.
Seattle went for the two-point conversion to tie the game. Wilson changed the play at the line and handed the ball to pass-catching running back C.J. Prosise. Prosise got stopped up the middle on his run to keep Cleveland ahead into the third quarter.
Thompson left the game for two series after allowing 27-yard completion from Mayfield to Landry on fourth and 7. Two plays later Mayfield ran alone up the middle after dropping to pass for a 10-yard touchdown to put the Browns ahead 14-6.
Mayfield completed 22 of 37 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The top overall pick in the 2018 draft had a poor passer rating of 54.9, because of the killer interceptions.
FAMILIAR END GAME
Down again, 28-25, with the fourth quarter getting late, Wilson and Lockett went into Full Trust Mode.
On third and 5 at the Cleveland 21, Wilson looked to only one man. Lockett ran a short out route to the line to gain and caught Wilson’s pass for the first down. On the next play, Wilson rolled to the right. Lockett ran his initial stop route, then instinctively ran away from zone coverage. Wilson read Lockett’s move and threw inside, to the 1-yard line.
Carson scored on the next play. Jason Myers, who missed an extra-point kick after Seattle’s first touchdown in the first quarter, made this one. Seattle led 32-28 with 3:30 left.
“Obviously, I trust Tyler,” Wilson said. “He’s one of the best receivers in the NFL. ...
“Tyler just does a great job getting open.”
After those 19 unanswered points put Seattle up 25-20 entering the final period, referee Adrian Hill (who had a rough day) called Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry for an illegal blind-side block that did not appear to happen. That incensed the home crowd, and it forced the Browns to punt. The Seahawks were taking control of the game.
But on third and 1, with Carson on the sidelines, usual pass-receiving back C.J. Prosise lost a fumble in Seattle territory.
As usual for the Seahawks, this was not going to be easy.
Cleveland converted a fourth down on a completion to Dontrell Hilliard, when Seattle Pro Bowl Wright almost stopped him short of the line to goal. A measurement showed a Browns first down by the nose of the ball.
“That was a stop!” Wright said, still mad about that play in the tunnel outside the locker room. “We should have challenged it.”
Poona Ford made a brilliant tackle on third and goal at the 1. Then on fourth down, the Seahawks had 12 men on the field. The 12th was end Rasheem Green. Carroll tried to call time out before the flag and play but didn’t get one. On the replay, the Browns appeared on their way to scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a Nick Chubb stretch-play run to the right.
But Browns first-year coach Freddie Kitchens called time out an instant before the snap. So they played the fourth down again—and Cleveland ran the same play. The Seahawks sold out for it, and were waiting. Jadeveon Clowney, Ford and Quinton Jefferson dropped Chubb for a 1-yard loss to keep Seattle ahead early in the fourth quarter.
But the Seahawks’ offense went three and out, the third play to Metcalf. Metcalf had it go off his hands at the line to gain. All-Pro punter Michael Dickson then picked an awful time to shank one: 23 yards from his own end zone.
Two runs by Chubb later, the second one for 3 yards, and the Browns had finally scored that go-ahead touchdown. They got the two-point conversion, too, and led 28-25 with 9:02 left.
All that was after the two touchdown catches by Brown, who had eight catches for all of this season entering Sunday. Brown’s second TD, 6 yards from Wilson down the middle inside the goal line with a dive on third down, put Seattle up 25-20.
And it came from the work of much-maligned right tackle Germain Ifedi.
On the play, Ifedi twice repelled Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett, who began the day second in the NFL with seven sacks then got two more. Ifedi stopped Garrett first with a straight-arm punch on the right edge of the line. Then after he former Texas A&M teammate spun and charged again, Ifedi stymied Garrett again. That gave Wilson the time to look at multiple receivers, the last one Brown for the touchdown.
“I think I more than held my own,” Ifedi said.
DISSLY HURT AGAIN
Tight end Will Dissly had an extraordinary season interrupted by a major-looking injury for the second time in his two years in the NFL. He left Sunday’s game early in the second quarter with an Achilles-tendon injury coach Pete Carroll termed “devastating.”
Carroll said he didn’t have a final word but it appeared Sunday evening Dissly would be out for the rest of the season.
Dissly was running a pass route into the end zone, looking over his inside shoulder in the second quarter. Russell Wilson’s throw under pressure from the Browns was outside Dissly. As the big tight end attempted to turn his body and shoulders, his left leg and foot appeared to give out under him. He crumpled to the natural grass painted brown and orange in the end zone as Wilson’s pass fell incomplete.
Team doctor Ed Khalfayan and trainers rushed to Dissly, who stayed down in the end zone for a moment or two. Two assistants helped him to the sideline while he limped, barely putting weight on his left leg. After a couple minutes of observation by Khalfayan inside a tent behind Seattle’s bench, Dissly got into the passenger seat of a motorized cart and was driven from the field as the Seahawks’ drive ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Dissly had his standout rookie season end after four games in 2018 because of ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. He went on injured reserve and missed the rest of last season.
Hall-of-Fame legend Walter Jones was in the press box Sunday.
He was asked before the game if he brought his cleats.
OK, it wasn’t that bad Sunday for the Seahawks and their situation on the offensive line.
But it was close.
As expected, Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown and rugged right guard D.J. Fluker were inactive with injuries. That left Seattle without 40 percent of its starting offensive line against Cleveland and elite pass rusher Myles Garrett.
Brown could not make it back from a biceps injury he played the previous two games through but re-injured in the win over the Los Angeles Rams Oct. 3.
Fluker pulled his hamstring in that Rams game.
George Fant was poised to start for Brown. Fant is a backup tackle who usually plays about a dozen games as an extra, blocking tight end in Seattle’s running game. He was back at left tackle, where he started 10 games as an undrafted rookie and former college basketball player at Western Kentucky.
“Left tackle for me is home,” Fant said. “It was a little easier for me to transition back to it.
“I’m happy for the win. There are some things I want to go back and correct...but I’m happy with the win.
Jamarco Jones, another backup tackle who impressed coaches filling in at guard for the first time for Fluker against L.A., was ready to make his first NFL start at his new position.
Another injury Sunday would be problematic. Seattle’s lone backup at guard was reserve center Joey Hunt. If a tackle got hurt, Jones would likely slide to his natural position and Hunt would enter for Jones at guard.
Guard Ethan Pocic went on injured reserve Friday with a back injury.
The Browns had three sacks and six hits on Wilson, though on at least one of those sacks the quarterback appeared to hold the ball longer than any offensive line, particularly a patchwork one, can be expected to block. Garrett had two sacks.
PENNY OUT AGAIN
Second running back Rashaad Penny was inactive for the third time in four games because of a hamstring injury. He had been questionable for Sunday.
Defensive end Branden Jackson was inactive for the first time this season. He got a neck injury since the Rams game. That meant more of an opportunity for rookie first-round draft pick L.J. Collier. Collier, healthy all season so far, was active for the third time in six games.
The Seahawks’ other inactives Sunday: rookie wide receivers and draft picks Gary Jennings and John Ursua again, plus extra cornerback Akeem King.