October 2, 2016

Seahawks 27, Jets 17

Ryan Fitzpatrick was having nice afternoon. 

He was coming off a 6-interception disaster at Arrowhead, but through 3 quarters against one of the league's toughest defenses he not only had been effective, but he was doing something not even the most elite quarterbacks could do - He was picking on Richard Sherman. 

Fitzpatrick had challenged Sherman, and had completed four passes to Brandon Marshall, including a gorgeous touchdown strike late in the first half. Was Sherman just having a bad day? Was Brandon Marshall just playing out of his mind? Was Fitzpatrick having a career day? Was Sherm... GASP... Slipping?

Early in the 4th quarter, the Seahawks were holding onto a 17-10 lead, but it felt tenuous. It felt like the game was trending towards New York. In three-plus decades as a 12, I hadn't seen a road victory over the Jets since I was eight years old. I had seen crushing defeats in '85, in '87 (a humiliating loss on MNF), in '98 (I don't need to explain that one), in '99 (when a win would have clinched the AFC West - We had root for Oakland in order to back in... Barf) and in '04 (one of the low points in the most frustrating division-winning season anyone could imagine). 

The Jets had the ball near midfield. Marshall blatantly pushed off Sherman, but the pass interference flag flew against Seattle, not New York. It was just one of many questionable calls against the Seahawks by a shaky officiating crew. Even the FOX broadcast team was stunned. If at that point, the Hawks lost their grip on the game, it would have fit a painful but familiar narrative. Not a great road team. Hard for them to win those 10 am pacific east coast games. And so on. 

Maybe for a moment, after he was gifted an ill-gotten PI flag, Ryan Fitzpatrick thought that he could do no wrong. Maybe he thought that he could keep picking on Richard Sherman. 

But he forgot that he was just a guy. He forgot that the most notable Jets quarterback since Joe Namath has been Flash Gordon. He forgot that he was up against the best corner in the game. He once again threw it in Marshall's direction- Only to have it snared out of the New Jersey sky by Richard Sherman. 

In my Columbus apartment, I went WWE-interview-level apeshit - Pumping my first and shouting "Fuck yeah!" at least a dozen times. It was instantly one of my favorite moments in Sherman's Canton-bound career, and the Hawks immediately capitalized and took complete control of the game.

Why did they do that? Because OUR quarterback is ANYTHING but "just a guy." Russell Carrington Wilson is incessantly maligned. He is consistently underrated. Pundits and bobbleheads find nothing more enjoyable than informing the world that he is "good but not elite." The WolfBadger was playing with a high ankle sprain and a strained MCL. Those injuries would send most players to the inactive list, at least for a few weeks... But RW3 was playing. Surely though, he was in trouble. He wouldn't be able to run away from that fearsome New York pass rush. Good, but not elite. 

309 yards and three touchdowns later, the conventional wisdom was shredded. Yes, Wilson could slay you with his arm alone. Give him weapons like Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin and it didn't matter that he was short or anchored to the pocket. He would just bleed you all day long, because Angry Doug aint gonna drop the ball and Graham is like The Incredible Hulk with tackified gloves. We are witnessing something glorious - The Leveling Up of Russell Wilson. After a performance like the one he delivered at MetLife Stadium today, no fair-minded observer can deny that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. 

Of course he didn't do it alone - Graham had another 100-yard day, and Christine "The Awakening" Michael had 90 yards and a TD on 23 touches. The defense absolutely strangled New York in the second half - The Jets' only score after halftime was on a bizarre fumble recovery after a Seattle strip-sack. Sherman got a second interception later in the 4th quarter, and Earl Thomas got another pick of his own, too. 

The Seahawks go into their bye week tied for first in the NFC West with the surprising Los Angeles Rams (and with a 2-game lead over the Cardinals and Niners). They'll come back in two weeks spry, rested, and healthy - and ready to lay waste to the rest of the NFL. This is the best defense in football, and now they are starting to rack up the takeaways. A healthy Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham will terrorize opposing defenses, and Seattle will make a run at securing home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. 

Enjoy the bye week, 12s, Kick back and watch some Red Zone Channel next Sunday, root against the Rams, etc. When our boys come back on October 16, it'll be the start of a 4-month march to Houston. It will be wonderful, and violent, and glorious. 

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