As the Dallas Cowboys were giving them a beating last Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks defense provided a CenturyLink Field sideshow so fun it was worthy of a title:
Dancing Across From The Lone Stars.
On more than one occasion — during commercial breaks, or before third-and-long plays — the sound system blared rapper Rick Ross’ “Can’t Hold Me Back,” a track that turned a supposedly imposing group of would-be tacklers into defenders with happy feet.
While moving around to a tune has long been a way for cornerback Richard Sherman to occupy himself during the interminable lulls of a televised football game (“you get bored out there,” he explained last season), Sunday represented something of a breakout because 10 footloose teammates on the field joined Sherman.
Spurred on by head coach Pete Carroll, who believes (and has the Super Bowl ring to back up his case) that practices should be buoyant events replete with rap music, the Seahawks’ ‘D’ brought its high-energy practice act to the field Sunday against a balanced, exquisitely prepared Cowboys offense.
It didn’t appear amused.
Playing football with unbridled enthusiasm is preferable to playing it with bridled enthusiasm, I suppose, or playing it with no enthusiasm at all. But there’s a potential problem with dancing while the opposing team is in a huddle: It can make the dancers look foolish.
Take the third-quarter TV break that found the Hawks, on a 10-point roll, set to begin a defensive series at the Dallas’ 19-yard line. They shook their arms and swayed their hips and got their groove on, delighting a crowd unaccustomed to such merriment.
When the music stopped, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo took a silent-count snap and promptly fired a 46-yard strike down the right sideline to Terrance Williams. The wide receiver then did something unwise — he spiked the ball, prompting a delay-of-game penalty — but Williams couldn’t help it.
He’d caught a long pass against a defense that was dancing moments before his team’s huddle broke. If ever an NFL player had an urge to spike the ball outside the end zone, it was then.
Despite the penalty, the Romo-to-Williams connection put the Cowboys in position for Dan Bailey to kick the 56-yard field goal that tied the score at 20-20 — a pivotal sequence in a game the Hawks appeared to have under control.
I don’t want to sound like an ogre ranting about the Seahawks’ appetite for frivolity. They’re playing a violent sport with dangerous consequences, and having some fun during the interludes seems like an innocent coping mechanism.
Put it this way: NFL players in 2014 have done worse things than dance in front of the other team.
Personally? When it comes to on-field behavior that would distress Vince Lombardi, George Halas and Paul Brown — and Mike Holmgren, for that matter — I’m a libertarian. If you want to talk smack, take a bow, dance to Rick Ross, go right ahead.
Just back it up.
The Seahawks didn’t back it up last Sunday. They had 17 chances to make a stop on third down, and they allowed the Cowboys to move the chains 10 times.
It was a performance that enhanced the perception of the Seahawks as America’s schoolyard bullies, brazen guys with attitude and swagger, forever daring some 98-pound nerd to get in their way.
The Cowboys not only stood up to the threat, they threw punches that weren’t returned. One to the gut, another to the jaw, who’s sorry now?
Dancing during a timeout might not be the same as taunting, but to borrow the jargon of another sport, it’s in the ballpark.
If the Hawks are serious about getting back to the basics, they might want to change their demeanor on defense. They might want to realize the challenge of moving as fluidly to music as Arthur Murray is different from the task of wrapping their arms around DeMarco Murray.
A purposeful stare has been known to work.