For a while we’re going to look past the effects of Typhoon Sherman that blew through CenturyLink Field in the second half of the Seahawks 26-24 win over Atlanta.
While it was the most notable display of the day, Sherman’s sideline hissy fit was only a conditioned response. The stimulus was the real problem: Blown coverages. Missed assignments. And a stunning and unexpected loss of focus.
It seems like these Seahawks are too mature to be this immature.
They’re too veteran to hit such sloppy patches. They’re too experienced in championship-quality competition to come unglued when they’ve got their cleats on the throats of a contending opponent.
It all allowed the Falcons to score 21 points in less than 12 minutes and erase what had been the most glittering example of three-phase domination against a quality opponent that we’ve seen all season.
The diversion sadly pulled attention away from a couple spectacular performances by Seahawks defenders. Before he left with a knee injury in the third period, defensive end Michael Bennett was having one of his best games, with a tackle for loss and five quarterback hits.
Bennett was unblockable, pressuring Matt Ryan, stopping rushes up the middle, and then pursuing all the way to the sidelines for tackles. It was All-Pro-level stuff. Like Cortez Kennedy in his prime.
With a brilliance on the same order, safety Earl Thomas had the speed and ordnance he played with when he was at his very best.
It was Thomas who pulled in a deflected pass that set up the Hawks for the go-ahead field goal.
But seeing the Seahawks defense giving up three unanswered touchdowns in one quarter was a foreign experience, even if the Falcons were the No. 1-rated offense in the NFL.
And the blown coverages have been too common for a secondary like this — even with the alibi of having strong safety Kam Chancellor on the shelf with a sore groin.
In that third-quarter span, the Seahawks offense generated just two first downs.
Receiver Doug Baldwin calmly and laudably parsed out the culpability. “We can’t put ourselves into situations where we let teams get back into the game,” Baldwin said. “We need to do more than three and outs, and not put any points on the board; it’s a collective effort.”
But for most of the third period, the sideline was roiling with disharmony. The secondary had been getting torched and Sherman was emotionally aflame.
At one point, his helmet was slammed off the turf near the bench.
The Seahawks have risen to contention by being fueled with a competitive passion that is rare in professional sports. Take that away, and it’s a different team.
For the past couple seasons, at least, Sherman has viewed every opponent point as a personal insult. It seems a quaint memory when he used to ask the other team’s players if they were “mad, bro?”
He explained after the game that he was incensed by miscommunication in the secondary that allowed the Falcons to score.
Sherman and most of the rest of the Seahawks defenders are holding themselves up to the goal of being the best defense in the history of the game.
But where is the threshold? It has to be at that point when it becomes such a distraction.
Sherman loves to use a quote that he says he got from defensive coordinator Kris Richard, which gives the admonition to treat both triumph and disaster as imposters. That’s the way, he said, he can keep a level head.
It’s from the Rudyard Kipling poem “If,” and it starts out “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …”
Clearly, the point of the verse was lost on Sherman on Sunday afternoon, when he might have decked Kipling if he had sought to intercede.
The fact is, hysteria aside, this was a crucial win over a Falcons team that had been 4-1, and it almost got frittered away.
But enough of the Seahawks got themselves refocused and rallied to a win that leaves Seattle at 4-1 with the possibility of all good things still ahead of them.
There are teams in the NFL that can’t generate the kind of passion the Seahawks bring to every game, and they’re poorer for it.
But coach Pete Carroll has the challenge of reining in fractious colts; he doesn’t want to break their spirit, but they’re no good when out of control.
“When we get that hot, we have to control it, better so we don’t get in the way of what’s coming up,” Carroll said. “We’ll figure it out.”