EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Doug Baldwin shoving into the assistant head coach to clear a path for players to rip into players?
It was similar to Richard Sherman, Baldwin’s Stanford teammate, shouting at his team’s offensive coordinator and head coach on the sidelines late last season.
These Seahawks don’t just survive on chaos, on emotions to and sometimes beyond the edge of what’s appropriate. They thrive on that. They win off that.
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Just as after Sherman’s sideline outburst against the Rams in December, the Seahawks awakened and rolled after Baldwin shoved offensive line coach Tom Cable during the first half Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It was 7-0 New York at that point.
"Well, I guess so, yeah," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll deadpanned.
Russell Wilson connected with Baldwin for a 22-yard touchdown pass one play after yet another undisciplined mistake by the offense. That put the Seahawks ahead for the first time, 10-7 in the third quarter. A double-pass and "Fail Mary"-like simultaneous-possession touchdown catch by Paul Richardson in the fourth quarter plus Seattle’s dominating defense throughout beat the even-more-malfunctioning Giants 24-7.
"It was to get us going," Richardson said of Baldwin being, in Baldwin’s word, "antagonistic" on the sidelines in the first half.
"And it worked," Richardson said.
Beyond the sideline drama, Seattle’s defense carried most of the day--again. It took away New York’s running game that had sparked the Giants’ upset win at Denver. That left 36-year-old Eli Manning looking like he was 66. He completed just 19 of 39 passes for 134 yards while throwing to rookie tight end Evan Engram and a gaggle of fifth and sixth wide receivers because the Giants (1-6) have had so many injuries.
Seattle out-gained New York 425-177. The Giants’ only touchdown came after Thomas Rawls lost a fumble in Seattle territory.
“We are who we think we are,” three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said of Seattle’s defense after knocking down a potential touchdown pass early.
It was the seventh time in the Carroll coaching era that began in 2010 that the Seahawks allowed 180 or fewer yards and fewer than 10 points.
"We always expect to dominate," three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said.
"Today, we did."
Thomas was wearing sunglasses with frames as perfectly round—almost as large--as oranges inside the Seahawks’ happy locker room. He returned from being away tending to a personal family matter this past week to anchor the defense’s backline, as usual.
Wilson completed 27 of 39 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and a shiny passer rating of 121.1 for the Seahawks (4-2), who kept pace with the Los Angeles Rams (5-2) atop the NFC West.
Seattle comes home this week to host Houston (3-3) on Sunday.
Wilson appreciated Baldwin’s fire--though maybe not completely at that chaotic moment on the sideline in Sunday’s regrettable first half.
"Wasn’t calm for a second there," Wilson said. "But…Doug has the best intentions in the world. You couldn’t have a better teammate. Could have a more coachable player than Doug. And so I think two guys wanted the stage at the same time."
That time was in a first half during which the Seahawks gave away two touchdowns in excruciating, inexplicable ways.
Seattle had drives of 11 and 16 plays in the opening half. Those produced a total of zero points. The offense ran 12 plays at or inside the Giants’ 15-yard line, aided by two defensive penalties on New York to extend the drive to nowhere. Wilson threw three jump balls to Jimmy Graham that all of the Northwest has been demanding more of, and two were way wide and over the 6-foot-7 tight end. The third one came on fourth and goal at the New York 1, play 16 on that epic, fruitless drive. That ball was directly onto Graham’s hands and off his chest in the end zone. He dropped it, though Giants cornerback Eli Apple got generously credited for a pass broken up by just being there.
"We go up and down the field. You know, there’s a lot of frustration from that," Carroll said.
As the Seahawks were fuming and flubbing about on the field in the second quarter, Baldwin shoved Cable on the sideline in front of the team’s bench. He appeared to be yelling at someone else, in the direction of Wilson, Carroll and the offensive linemen standing a few feet away.
Carroll said "I had told Tom to go ahead and get in the middle of the offense" to talk to it.
But Baldwin wanted Wilson to talk. The longest-tenured player on Seattle’s offense said at that moment he wanted players, not a coach, to get on players.
"I lost my cool," said Baldwin, a Seahawk since 2011 who signed a $46 million extension last year. "It’s 100-percent my fault. At that moment I was really frustrated with the team as a whole, with the offense as a whole--not the coaching staff, the players. Again, it goes back to our X’s and O’s. We had the play calls, we just didn’t executive. Whether it was passing the ball or blocking, catching, you know, jumping offsides, false-starting.
"We just weren’t executing, as players. To me, there’s nothing that a coach can say. WE have to take accountability for that. So I got a little passionate about it. You all know, I love Cable to death. Me and Cable have one of the best relationships from coach to player.
"That was 100 percent my fault. I’ve already apologized to him. He knows how I am. It’s just, at that moment the players needed to realize it was the players, not the coaches.
"Honestly, I wasn’t even going at Cable. In that moment, I needed the players to take accountability for how we were doing."
Baldwin backed up his fire. He caught nine of Wilson’s throws, for 92 yards, and consistently converted third downs with catches and savvy runs after them. He also ran 30 yards to lobby the officials on that Richardson’s simultaneous catch was a touchdown. Indeed, it was.
So, after the week he had, perhaps Baldwin is a future politician, after all.
But Graham dropped what should have been a third scoring pass. A fourth TD throw by Wilson, to Tyler Lockett, got wiped out by Lockett’s penalty for offensive pass interference.
Then, in the third quarter, Wilson caught the Giants in an all-out blitz with no safeties in the middle of the field, cover "zero." Like he’s do so many times in a big way before—such as in overtime of the NFC title game in January 2015, when Green Bay did it and Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse to reach Super Bowl 48—Wilson noticed before the snap and audibled to a touchdown pass. This time he sent Baldwin down the hash marks from the right slot for an easy 22-yard pitch and catch over the wide receiver’s shoulder.
Seattle finally had the lead, and for good.
"Defenses! Figure it out," Baldwin said. "You guys still haven’t figured out. Yeah, they gave us cover zero."
And Baldwin gave us a lot more to talk about all this week.