Bobby Wagner stood at his locker. His lip was bloodied.
So was the Seahawks’ defense
The All-Pro linebacker and his teammates spent most of Sunday chasing Lamar Jackson. In vain.
“Yeah,” Wagner said. “Once he gets going, it’s...he’s really fast.”
For the only time so far this season, the Seahawks did not have the best player at the sport’s most important position. Baltimore did.
With Sunday’s game on the line in the fourth quarter it the Ravens’ quarterback — not Russell Wilson — who took over.
Jackson, on pace to break Michael Vick’s NFL record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a season, darted and sprinted past Wagner and Seattle’s defense for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down in the third quarter. Then he zoomed for 43 yards on runs and threw for 27 more on Baltimore’s 9-minute drive in the fourth quarter. Jackson created 70 of the 86 yards on the Ravens’ march to the clinching field goal.
Then Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey picked up a fumble after a catch by Seattle rookie DK Metcalf and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 30-16 loss to Earl Thomas and the AFC North-leading Ravens at soaked, sad CenturyLink Field.
“All week we kept saying ‘Earl, we got you,’” Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “The Seahawks moved on from him. I think everyone knew that they felt like he didn’t have it anymore. It wasn’t a happy go-away. It was more like, ‘You don’t got it anymore. We don’t really want you.’
“So we felt like it’s just a game—but for Earl, a little bit more.”
Wilson was uncharacteristically poor on his first interception of the season, which new Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters returned for a touchdown in the first half.
It was so bad Wilson felt compelled to apologize to his teammates in the locker room after this second loss in four home games this season. His teammates would have none of it, after all the times he has bailed them out over eight seasons and a Super Bowl title as their starter.
“Somewhere you have to make a mistake. You’re going to mess something up,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “How many games can you without making an error like that? I don’t know.
“Everybody in the locker room knows it. Russ said something after the game. They’re telling him, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ We understand that there’s a burden to that, and all. But we’ve seen Russ do so much.
“It was just a bad play.”
Jackson didn’t have any of those.
The Seahawks (5-2) dropped to 1-1/2 games behind unbeaten San Francisco in the NFC West largely because Wagner had his most challenging day in years. A few times he tried to spy Jackson. Most times he was covering Baltimore’s tight ends down the field. When Jackson didn’t see Wagner in the middle — and often even when he did — the Ravens QB ran or threw for big gains.
Baltimore’s dynamic, second-year leader with 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash repeatedly got outside Quinton Jefferson, Clowney and Seattle’s defensive ends while the Seahawks stayed mostly in base, 4-3 defense; they went nickel with an extra defensive back on just eight snaps, third downs and long. Later in the game Jackson wisely decided to take off running more when he saw Seattle in man-to-man coverage. When the Seahawks were in man, Wagner’s and teammates’ backs were to Jackson covering their receivers down the field. The quarterback would take off running into the open spaces Baltimore’s pass patterns created.
Ravens receivers were basically running clear-out routes for Jackson to romp freely behind.
Another example from the game-clinching drive: When Wagner vacated the middle to cover a Ravens deep route to the goal line on second-and-12 at the Seattle 27 and the score 20-13, Jackson thew into the void in the Seahawks’ defense. Tight end Nate Boyle gained 20 yards to the Seahawks 7-yard line. Justin Tucker then kicked his third field goal to put Seattle down 23-13.
If anything, the Seahawks could have had their best defensive player spy Jackson far more than they did.
“A lot of it was really smart by him. I think he recognized that we were in man, and they ran some seams (vertical deep routes down the middle) and got us off our guy and took off,” Wagner said.
“He’s a really special, and fast, player.”
Jackson raced for 116 yards on 14 carries. He stayed on pace to break Michael Vick’s NFL record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback. Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run on fourth down to put the Ravens ahead to stay, 20-13 in the third quarter.
“He was better than us today,” Clowney said. “He was better than our defense.
“He won the game.”
Wilson, for a change, did not.
Seattle’s quarterback entered the game with 17 total touchdowns (14 passing) and no interceptions. He had been the national talk as the early favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award for this season—even though there were still 10 games to play in the regular season.
Then Sunday happened.
Wilson completed 20 of 41 passes for 241 yards, one touchdown and one, horrid interception. It was Wilson’s first game below a 50-percent completion rate in four years. He was 14 for 32 on Nov. 15, 2015, in a home loss to Arizona.
After becoming the fourth player in NFL history to have a passer rating of better than 100 in each of his first six games to a season, Wilson’s was 65.2 against Baltimore (5-2).
His really, really bad interception on an uncharacteristically poor decision in the first half—and Baltimore’s swarming defense being faster than Chris Carson (65 yards on 21 rushes, a long of 9 yards) trying to bounce his runs outside — are why Seattle squandered its defense holding the Ravens’ offense in check for the first 2-1/2 quarters.
“Just made a bad play...just disappointed,” he said.
Baltimore’s was leading the NFL with 450.7 yards per game and was scoring more than 30 points per game entering Sunday. The Seahawks’ defense held the Ravens to five first downs, 178 yards and two field goals at the midway point of the third quarter. The game was tied at 13.
Until Jackson took over.
Jackson and the Ravens’ league-leading rushing attack began controlling this game late in the third quarter. They ground down Seattle on an 11-play drive that went right at the Seahawks.
Linebacker K.J. Wright made two plays to save touchdowns, a pass breakup in the end zone, then stopping Jackson on a 13-yard run that appeared might go for a score. On fourth-and-2 at the Seahawks 8-yard line, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh initially sent out his field-goal unit. Then he called timeout, changed his mind and went for the first down.
Jackson ran a power quarterback lead run off right tackle through huge space for a touchdown. The Seahawks trailed 20-13 entering the fourth quarter.
“I always wanted to play against Michael Vick,” Clowney said. “I guess I’m getting the new era with Lamar Jackson right there.”
Wilson took the longer view after the game: Still nine games remaining. Seattle at 5-2. Game next weekend at reeling, 1-6 Atlanta, which lost quarterback Matt Ryan to an ankle injury Sunday in its 37-10 home loss to the Rams.
“A lot of season left,” Wilson said, unprompted, to end his postgame press conference.
Wilson is human
The talk of the NFL for his other-worldly brilliance through six games became a regular, mistake-making human being in the first half of his seventh game.
The Ravens took the lead for the first time midway through the second quarter on the worst decision Wilson has made with the ball in many moons.
On third-and-6 from the Ravens 34 with just over 5 minutes left in the first half, Wilson had wide receiver Jaron Brown out far right running a one-step stop route. It’s a route that is a quick hitter. If you don’t throw it quickly, you probably shouldn’t throw it at all because of coverage catching up to the flow of the play.
After looking at multiple other receivers Wilson came back to Brown and threw the ball across his body with his shoulders pointing up the field rather than outside right to Brown. Peters, the former University of Washington cornerback Baltimore acquired in a trade from the Rams this past week, raced in front of Brown and easily intercepted Wilson’s floated pass. Peters returned it 64 yards unchallenged for a touchdown.
Wilson’s first interception after 18 touchdowns this season was an awful one.
Wilson acknowledged that’s the type of route that if he throws late he’s flirting with danger.
“Yeah,” he said, “especially with him (Peters). He’s pretty quick.”
But Wilson and the Seahawks had a response that should have proved more important than it ended up being.
Wilson completed three of four passes, included 33 yards on a floater Tyler Lockett caught over his shoulder, Willie Mays-style, with no safeties in the middle of Baltimore’s defense. That went for 33 yards. Wilson then scrambled 11 yards for a first down. The drive stalled without timeouts — thanks to Carroll’s ill-advised decision to challenge a play earlier in the second quarter for pass interference on hand-fighting between Metcalf and a Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr on third down. He lost.
Jason Myers kicked a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 13.
Carroll admitted him challenging that play for PI “was a little bit desperation.”
The Seahawks used all but 2 seconds of the final 5 minutes of the first half after Wilson’s interception. They received the second-half kickoff. Jackson and the Ravens offense didn’t touch the ball from 6:42 left in the second quarter until 12:52 left in the third.
But the Seahawks only got three points with all that time. The game remained tied at 13.
Thomas was a Ravens game captain. He waved to the Seahawks’ sideline after the pregame coin toss and handshakes with Seattle’s captains.
Yes, this time, Thomas used his entire hand gesturing toward the sideline.
Fans in the tunnel from the field leading to the Ravens’ locker room held out Thomas Seahawks jerseys at him as the All-Pro safety ran off at the end of pregame warm-ups.
“I felt focused,” Thomas said. “That was my main goal: just come in here and feel focused. I had my juice right.”
Late in the first quarter, Wilson kept the ball on a read-option play around left end and ran into the open field as Thomas quickly closed. Wilson slid the wet turf before his good friend had the chance to hit him, for an 8-yard gain. Wilson tapped Thomas on the backside after the slide. Thomas tapped Wilson on the shoulder in return.
No, Wilson said, he wasn’t about to take on his friend in the open field there.
“I knew it was Earl,” Wilson said. “We looked at each other. We knew. He knew it was me and I knew it was him.
“I wish he was on our team, just because he’s such a great player, such a great friend, his family and everything else.
“But when I got out there I was like, ‘OK, that’s Earl. You know, so... I wasn’t trying to do something crazy.”
After the game ended, Thomas and Wagner hugged at midfield. Thomas then exchanged game jerseys in the middle of the field with Wilson. Thomas and Wilson then hugged, too.
“I hold Earl in high regard, man. I really love him,” Wilson said.
Thomas ran off the field twirling Wilson’s game jersey in the tunnel to the locker room as Ravens fans who stuck around to celebrate his triumphant return roared.
Blair’s first NFL start
Marquise Blair made his first NFL start because of injuries, and the rookie second-round draft choice impressed.
He reached across Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews breaking to the outside and deflected a third-down pass away midway through the second quarter, just after the Seahawks had pushed their lead to 10-6 with a Jason Myers field goal. The Ravens punted for the second time in the opening half.
3 starters, top reserve out
Seattle made top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah inactive for Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury he got forcing a fumble in the previous game at Cleveland.
Ansah, 30, missed for the third time in seven games this season. He missed the first two games recovering from a groin injury in August.
Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown missed his second consecutive game because of a biceps injury he’s had for a month but played through until re-injuring it Oct. 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.
George Fant made his second consecutive start at left tackle.
Safety Bradley McDougald’s streak of 31 consecutive starts dating to November 2017 ended. He was inactive because of back spasms he woke up with Tuesday. That was after he played all 68 snaps in last weekend’s win over the Browns.
The 28-year-old sure tackler and play-maker on the ball has played in all 38 regular-season games since Seattle signed him from Tampa Bay before the 2017 season, though he played through a knee injury last season then had surgery on it this past offseason.
He’s been adept at interchanging effectively between strong and free safety, becoming one of the defense’s more dependable and indispensable starters.
Carroll said McDougald may be able to play next week at Atlanta.
“We think so,” Carroll said.
“But, he still has to do it. He still has to get well. He has back spasms, you know, and that didn’t really release the way that sometimes they do.”
Lano Hill would normally have replaced McDougald. But he was inactive with an elbow injury. Carroll said Friday Hill may miss a couple of weeks. That would include next week’s game at Atlanta.
McDougald and Hill being out led to Blair’s first NFL start. The rookie second-round draft choice from Utah started at strong safety next to free safety Tedric Thompson.
D.J. Fluker had also been questionable to play because of a hamstring injury that had kept him inactive the previous two games. Seattle’s right guard was active on Sunday but only on an emergency basis. Usual backup tackle Jamarco Jones started for the second consecutive week at right guard for Fluker.
Seattle’s other inactives Sunday: rookie draft picks Gary Jennings and John Ursua at wide receiver again, plus guard Jordan Roos.