Richard Sherman was in tears.
He had ruptured his Achilles tendon. He already knew he was out for the season. Yet the three-time All-Pro cornerback finished the game dragging his right leg along the sidelines as if it was made of wood, coaching and cheering his teammates.
“Extraordinary," coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks didn’t win as much as they survived this Thursday in the desert, 22-16 over the Arizona Cardinals.
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Duane Brown and Jarran Reed left injured, too.
C.J. Prosise also left hurt. No surprise there. It’s another ankle issue, a continuation of the high-ankle sprain he’s had for parts of two months.
Shaquill Griffin went into the locker room and apparently had his shoulder popped out of place – and back into place, because he returned. Sheldon Richardson exited and returned, then exited and returned again.
Kam Chancellor, late in the game, went into the sideline tent for evaluation.
Even Russell Wilson, of all people, exited briefly for an injury evaluation – after getting nailed in the chin. He spent a play in the tent of obscurity behind Seattle’s bench getting checked out while backup Austin Davis entered.
And then, this happened:
On a second-and-21 because of two more Seahawks penalties and Seattle leading Arizona 15-7 in the fourth quarter Thursday, Wilson rolled left to pass. He spun away from one free-rushing Cardinals defender at the 40. He ran back to the 30. He spun away from two more flailing defenders.
Meanwhile, Doug Baldwin--himself injured with a quadriceps he strained in pregame because he wasn’t in full condition to play--came across the field and ran one of his signature improvisations routes to the left sideline. Wilson spun again, threw against his momentum and uncorked a jump ball. Baldwin caught it inside his falling defender. Baldwin ran most of the way for a 58-yard catch.
Wilson’s second touchdown pass of the night to Jimmy Graham on the next play clinched Seattle’s event-filled, 22-16 victory.
The Seahawks did not just win their second game in four days thanks to that wondrous, NFL money-making idea called Thursday Night Football.
They survived it. And not at all completely intact.
"This s*** should be illegal,” Baldwin said of Thursday-after-Sunday games. “It is not OK. It’s not OK. You can quote me on that," Baldwin said of Thursday-after-Sunday games.
“This is not OK. ... Absolutely, guys do not have enough time to recover. You can’t recover in four days.”
So many Seahawks couldn't walk without significant pain after this Thursday night "showcase," about 10 piled onto an equipment cart from all angles outside locker room so they could avoid having to walk to the team bus. Sherman and his crutches plus Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett with his plantar-fascia injury on top of wrecked toe were among them.
When I asked Carroll if the NFL needs to end these Thursday games for teams that just played four days earlier, the coach said he didn’t want to answer that.
“I don’t want to pay anything so I’m not going to comment about that,” Carroll said.
“I hope you recognize how difficult this is for NFL players, physically.”
He didn’t mean the sport. He meant the Thursday night games.
Good thing, perhaps, that the Seahawks (6-3) don’t play again until Monday, Nov. 11, 11 days from now, at home on a Monday night against Atlanta.
But that won’t help Sherman.
Sherman’s injury and not returning for the rest of the third and fourth quarters of his 105th consecutive game played was the bigger news than Seattle getting their second safety in two games. Bigger than two field goals from rebounding Blair Walsh. Bigger than more shut-down defensive work against overmatched Arizona fill-in quarterback Drew Stanton, and than the 12 more penalties these Seahawks committed after 16 last weekend.
Seattle leads the NFL with 94 penalties in nine games this season.
Sherman, the three-time All-Pro cornerback, entered the game questionable to play because of an Achilles-tendon issue for which he’s been limited from practicing on-and-off since September. In the middle of the third quarter he fell face-down into the turf then left the field with trainers dragging his right leg behind him.
He angrily pulled away from medical attention. He accepted a hug from Wilson in front of the bench. Sherman spent the final quarter up dragging the injured leg as if it was made of wood and congratulating teammates, shaking and clapping hands.
Carroll called him “a bastion of consistency and competitiveness and toughness.”
Sherman said his Achilles has really been hurting since the win at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 8. He said doctors have tried to keep him out through injuries “for years,” yet “I owe it to those guys,” his teammates, to keep playing. He heard the tendon on the bottom back of his leg into the heel pop on the field while he was making a tackle on Cardinals receiver Jason Brown after Brown’s catch in the third quarter.
He said he’d been managing the injury by avoiding making sharp cuts on the field to keep it from rupturing. But Thursday night he knew the play Brown was running and jumped the route suddenly, intending to intercept Stanton’s pass. That’s when the tendon popped.
Sherman entered his postgame press conference propped on crutches. He left it in tears.
“Yeah, I knew what was happening. It’s been bothering me all season. It’s just one of those things you have to play through it, as long as you can, and if it goes it goes,” Sherman said, shrugging.
I asked if playing his second game on a bad Achilles caused it to rupture.
“I don’t know. It put a lot of stress on it, but I think it would have gone eventually,” he said.
“It definitely didn’t help.”
So why play? Why not sit this one out, rest to play another day--and the rest of the season he will now miss, his first time out since he entered the league with Seattle in 2011?
“Well, because every game matters in this league,” Sherman said. “You go out there and play for your teammates. You try to give it all you got, because they deserve it. That’s what I did. I wanted to give our team the best chance to win. We were kind of beat up at corner, anyway. Didn’t really want to put the young guys out there and stick them in a hard spot. So I just battled.”
Brown, the Seahawks’ big trade acquisition two weeks ago from Houston as a three-time All-Pro improvement to the offensive line, left in the first half with an ankle injury. Matt Tobin replaced him the rest of the game.
Prosise had three carries for 3 yards in his first action in three games. Then he left with another ankle injury.
Richardson left in the first half with a leg injury, returned – then slammed into teammate Frank Clark head-down, head-first while both were chasing after Stanton. Clark and Richardson both went down. Richardson came back in on the drive. Clark stayed out with a thigh injury.
Outside linebacker Michael Wilhoite exited with a calf injury.
Reed stayed out the final three quarters with an injured hamstring.
And Arizona lost three players to injury, including starting left tackle D.J. Humphries and safety Tyvon Branch. Branch got hurt when Graham pummeled him to the ground in the end zone while catching his first touchdown pass. That made it 7-0 late in the opening quarter.
Arizona tied it on a screen-pass touchdown on which Bradley McDougald, the fill-in free safety for injured three-time All-Pro Earl Thomas, ran away from a tackle instead of making it.
Then the Seahawks took the lead in the second quarter the best way they know how – with their defense. And with their new scoring weapon, the safety. Seattle got one for the second time in four days.
Jon Ryan boomed a punt 57 yards to the Arizona 2-yard line. The Cardinals’ Kerwynn Williams inexplicably returned that instead of playing odds in his favor that the ball would bound into the end zone for a touchback and ball at the Arizona 20. The Cardinals Justin Bethel was caught holding as soon as Williams caught the punt, negating his short return and putting enforcement spot of the foul back to the 1-yard line for that drive start instead.
On the next play, Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright went free on a rare inside blitz. That forced Arizona running back Adrian Peterson to cut right immediately after getting the handoff – and right into Chancellor for the safety. That gave the Seahawks the lead for good, 9-7.
The last time, and only other time, Seattle had safeties in consecutive games was 1993.
Walsh kicked two field goals to end the half, after missing all three of his tries in the first half in the rain, wind and cold in Seattle last weekend. What a difference a desert makes. Walsh giving the Seahawks a 15-7 lead meant he felt more comfortable to go inside with his teammates at halftime instead of staying outside to practice more kicks during the entire break as he did last weekend at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle gained 190 yards in the half, and limited the Cardinals to just 90.
The Seahawks got a first quarter touchdown .For one of the few times this season, Wilson and the Seahawks successfully exploited Graham’s size advantage over every cover man in the league in one-on-one coverage near the goal line.