Seattle Seahawks

Ravens blitzes, Seahawks’ inconsistent run game create Russell Wilson’s day to forget

Russell Wilson exchanged jerseys will Earl Thomas following this one.

Maybe he should have switched with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens quarterback was worth more on Sunday.

In fact, he was priceless.

Plain speakin’: Jackson out-played Wilson at CenturyLink Field. That meant for the first time this season, the Seahawks did not have the ultimate advantage in a game.

The best player at the game’s most important position was wearing the other team’s uniform, for a change.

That is why the Seahawks lost 30-16 to Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday. It’s why the lost for the second time in four home games to drop to 5-2 and 1 1/2 games behind undefeated San Francisco in the NFC West before Seattle’s game at Atlanta (1-6) next weekend.

“Lamar can really run. He had some crazy runs,” Wilson said after Jackson’s 116 yards rushing, a running touchdown and scrambles in the fourth quarter broke a 13-13 tie in the second half. “He’s really special out there, especially on some third downs.”

At least Wilson didn’t have to try to catch up to Jackson. The Seahawks who did were wowed.

In the fourth quarter they could not do what the game plan called for, and what they were generally successful doing in the first 2 1/2 quarters of this game: contain Jackson and his 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash inside the pocket, where other defenders were.

The only reason Seattle got a sack on Jackson is because he slipped on the wet, new turf in otherwise open field in the second half. Instead of perhaps a gain of 10 more yards, or more, for the Ravens quarterback, Seahawks defensive end Branden Jackson wandered over the fallen QB and tapped him down at the line of scrimmage for the easiest sack of his career.

A sack for no yards because the quarterback slipped is the only sack Seattle’s defense has in the last three games.

“He’s special,” Branden Jackson said. “I don’t even know how to explain it. He’s a special talent. We knew he had arm strength. He’s a pretty accurate thrower when he gets outside that pocket.

“Once he turns that corner and puts it on, it’s hard to stop him.”

Wilson, meanwhile, got stopped.

He entered Sunday with 17 touchdowns (14 passing, three rushing) and no interceptions. He was the fourth quartertback in NFL history to begin a season with six consecutive games above 100 in passer rating. He was the talk of the NFL for his other-worldly brilliance, headlining premature talk of being the league’s MVP for this season even though 10 games and two-plus months remained to determine that.

Even Thomas, Wilson’s friend and former Seahawks teammate, called Wilson “an MVP-type quarterback” Sunday.

But the Ravens took the lead for the first time Sunday midway through the second quarter on the worst decision Wilson has made with the ball in many moons.

On third-and-6 from the Ravens 34 with just over 5 minutes left in the first half, Wilson had wide receiver Jaron Brown out far right running a one-step stop route at the line of scrimmage. It’s a route that is a quick hitter. If you don’t throw it quickly, you probably shouldn’t throw it at all, because of coverage catching up to the flow of the play.

Wilson didn’t throw it quickly. He shouldn’t have thrown it. At all.

After looking at multiple other receivers Wilson came back to Brown and threw the ball across his body with his shoulders pointing up the field rather than outside right to Brown. Marcus Peters, the former University of Washington cornerback Baltimore acquired in a trade from the Rams this past week, raced in front of Brown and easily intercepted Wilson’s floated pass. Peters returned it 64 yards unchallenged for a touchdown.

Wilson’s first interception after 18 touchdowns this season was an awful one. It handed Baltimore a 13-10 lead late in the half.

“Russell’s play, just a mistake,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “And he knows it.

“He just went late in the flat, and couldn’t do it.

Wilson acknowledged that’s the type of route that if he throws late he’s flirting with danger.

“Yeah,” he said, “especially with him (Peters). He’s pretty quick. ...

“They obviously made the play and took it back to the house. But we weren’t out of the game at that point. We stayed encouraged, were able to move the ball down the field the next drive. ... and the game was 13-13 for a while.”

Indeed, Wilson and the Seahawks had a response to his rare blunder, one that should have proven to be more important than it ultimately became.

Wilson completed three of four passes, included 33 yards on a floater Tyler Lockett caught over his shoulder, Willie Mays-style, with no safeties in the middle of Baltimore’s defense. That went for 33 yards. Wilson then scrambled 11 yards for a first down. The drive stalled without timeouts — thanks to Carroll’s ill-advised decision to challenge a play earlier in the second quarter for pass interference on hand-fighting between Metcalf and a Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr on third down. He lost.

Jason Myers kicked a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 13.

Carroll admitted him challenging that play for PI “was a little bit desperation.”

The Seahawks used all but 2 seconds of the final 5 minutes of the first half after Wilson’s interception. They received the second-half kickoff. Jackson and the Ravens offense didn’t touch the ball from 6:42 left in the second quarter until 12:52 left in the third.

But the Seahawks only got three points with all that time. The game remained tied at 13 into the third quarter.

Wilson finished with his first game in four years below 50 percent in completion rate: 20 for 41, 241 yards, with a touchdown pass in the first quarter to Lockett on another of their improvisational scramble-and-adjust plays to the end zone.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) celebrates a touchdown catch during the first quarter. The Seattle Seahawks played the Baltimore Ravens in a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Joshua Bessex

The Seahawks chose to throw far more than run Sunday, for a change; 29 of their first 44 plays were pass calls by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, when the game was still tied at 13. Seattle ended up calling 42 passes and 25 runs for the game. That was opposite the usual plan: use the run to at least keep opposing pass rushers honest, if not to control the game.

Without Chris Carson running (21 carries, 65 yards) consistently enough to set up Seattle’s play-action passes in the second half, the Ravens’ blitzers and pass rushers swarmed Wilson. He got hit seven times as Baltimore added to its league-leading rate of blitzing.

The Ravens entered Sunday fourth in the league in rushing defense and 25th against the pass. I asked Carroll about all the passing instead of running, if it was part of the plan against the aggressive Ravens defense or just the result of how the game and calls at the line went.

“We were just trying to move the football,” Carroll said. “Try to do what we needed to do. We were aggressive with our calls and our thoughts. That’s just the way the game called for us to play.”

Without having to worry as much as the Seahawks’ earlier foes about the run, the Ravens brought the house, the garage, the yard AND the kids playing out back. Safeties, linebackers and cornerbacks often overwhelmed Seattle’s offensive line.

“Obviously, Russ got hit quite a bit today,” center Justin Britt said. “We were scrambling. ...

“I don’t think we did great” in pass protection.

That made a tough day even more difficult for Wilson. And it made a Seattle comeback almost impossible, after Jackson had turned the tie game into a 23-13 Baltimore lead with his dazzling dashes in the fourth quarter.

Of the interception, Wilson said: “Just disappointed. Just a good player over there. He made a good play.”

For all Wilson has done to bail them out for eight years, six Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl title as their starter, his teammates forgave him.

“Honestly, we don’t really worry about that (interception),” Lockett said. “He makes so many extraordinary plays, we aren’t really worried about, like, that one play, that play that happened. People might say that play changed the game, that play did all this type of stuff, but at the end of the day we still had another half, and it was 13-13. So it really didn’t matter about that play, at all...

“He’s a leader. He does everything he needs to do. He’s positive. No matter what it looks like or what other people think, he’s the person that puts us in these great situations to be successful. He’s the person that allows us to be able to have these fourth-quarter comebacks. ... That’s what we need to be able to continue to be great.

“We are human beings. We make mistakes. ...But we trust him, in every aspect of the game.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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