The football gods won’t always be generous to the Seahawks, because football gods are known to keep things edgy. They’ve got no established agenda except a grudge against the Cleveland Browns.
But during a 24-hour span, from about 4:30 Sunday afternoon to 4:30 Monday afternoon, the football gods saw a team desperate for assistance and decided to intervene.
On Sunday afternoon, the Hawks were trailing Houston, 38-34, with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Texans had the ball at their 28-yard line, third down, needing 4 yards to silence a CenturyLink Field crowd unaccustomed to leaving the NFL’s loudest stadium in silence.
Complicating the challenge for Seattle was the fact rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson had passed for 407 yards and rushed for another 67. When an offense needs 4 yards to seal the deal, it’s probably a good idea to put the ball in the hands of the guy who can’t be stopped.
Instead, the Texans called upon running back Lamar Miller for a standard-issue handoff up the middle, where Sheldon Richardson and Bobby Wagner stopped him after a 2-yard gain.
A third Seattle time out and a punt to the Hawks’ 20 gave quarterback Russell Wilson 99 seconds to advance 80 yards. I presume you’re familiar with how that worked out.
The winning touchdown drive was magical to the point of mystical, but it couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, whose play-calling went conservative when the situation screamed for one last bit of swashbuckling.
“I have to do a better job,” said O’Brien, whose inability to seize the moment proved to be the difference in the Seahawks approaching midseason with 5-2 record instead of 4-3.
The Texans weren’t through giving gifts to the opponents they came within one 4-yard gain of vanquishing. On Monday, Houston helped solidify the Hawks offensive line by sending veteran left tackle Duane Brown to Seattle in a trade that underscored the sense general manager John Schneider is all in on 2017.
At first glance (and subsequent glances), acquiring a three-time Pro Bowl tackle for cornerback Jeremy Lane and a pair of draft choices appears to be a steal.
Injuries and the development of rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin had reduced Lane’s place on the depth chart to second team, a course of events Lane noted last week with a social-media message that could be condensed into two words: Poor sport.
Losing the draft picks – a fifth-rounder in 2018, a second-rounder in 2019 – could turn out to be problematic if the Seahawks endure a 2018 regression as sudden as that of their former NFC West rivals in San Francisco and Arizona.
But why fret about the future when the present poses immediate and tangible potential?
Brown is 32, approaching the decline phase of his 10-year career. In a perfect world, he’s 26. The Seahawks – this just in – don’t live in a perfect world.
The Hawks live in a world privy to the whims of football gods who on Sunday created an ideal scenario for Seattle’s pro scouts. They had a chance to focus their binoculars on Brown, making his season debut at the Clink after a contract dispute reached stalemate status.
The scouts evidently were impressed by Brown’s seamless transition from inactive holdout to reliable interior pillar.
“There was some rust,” Brown admitted after participating in 68 of 71 offensive snaps. “But I thought I did OK after a while.
“A lot to build on.”
The building will be done with the Seahawks, whose young offensive line is consistently inconsistent. Against the Texans, Wilson enjoyed solid pass protection – he attempted 41 passes, and was sacked only twice, for 6 yards – but the only way the deprived-of-daylight running backs were moving was with an escort of policeman on horseback.
“We need to run the ball, we need to get back to that,” tight end Jimmy Graham said Sunday. “That’s what we do. If we run the ball, our defense will never get tired and they’ll just keep punching people out.”
Duane Brown is 6-foot-4 and 318 pounds, smart and savvy and strong, the closest thing there is to a policeman on horseback. If Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and J.D. McKissic can’t combine for more than a yard or two running behind him, it will be evidence the football gods are just messing with us.