Russell Wilson was held without a passing touchdown, but the Seahawks still beat Tennessee 20-13 Sunday. (AP)
By Danny O'Neil
It's not easy to praise a team that fumbled five times and let a field-goal attempt turn into an opponent's touchdown for a second consecutive week.
It's even harder not to be impressed, though.
Seattle beat the Titans 20-13 on Sunday at CenturyLink Field in a game that was notable not for what the Seahawks accomplished so much as what they withstood.
Start with the absences of both starting offensive tackles and tight end Zach Miller. Add in an injury to kicker Steven Hauschka in the second quarter that had an unexpectedly drastic consequence and then throw in the inexplicable: The Titans scoring their only touchdown of the game off a field-goal attempt that went from being botched with a mishandled snap to being an utter abomination when the ball was stripped away on a fumble and returned 77 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the half.
"We didn't handle it very well, obviously," coach Pete Carroll said of the attempt. "We couldn't have handled it any worse, as a matter of fact."
And yet this injury-riddled Seahawks team overcame an error-prone performance to win its 11th consecutive home game. They survived the almost inexplicable, and while it might have been the least impressive of Seattle's five victories this season, that's part of the reason it was so important.
It's one thing to win without playing your best, and another thing to survive your very worst – which is what the Seahawks did at times on Sunday, whether it was Sidney Rice losing a fumble as he extended the ball for a first down he already had or Marshawn Lynch coughing up a ball with the score tied 2 minutes into the second quarter and the Seahawks holding the ball at the Tennessee 2.
"At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to win," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "And that's what we did."
The fact Seattle didn't do it decisively enough for some who watched the game speaks to how standards have been raised this season.
The Seahawks' offense was effective in spite of its mistakes, never punting after the first quarter. Seattle's defense was nothing short of stifling, allowing just one play of more than 20 yards and keeping the Titans offense out of the end zone.
Marshawn Lynch carried the load for the Seahawks' offense, scoring both of their touchdowns and leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards. (AP)
And let's be clear: This game was not a gimme putt. There may be half a dozen truly poor teams in the NFL this year, but Tennessee is not among them. The Titans feature a physical defense, they don't commit turnovers and they refused to beat themselves while playing in one of the league's most difficult venues for an opponent.
And yet the Titans didn't come all that close to winning. Running back Chris Johnson averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry, slow-footed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's 11-yard scramble was the Titans' longest run in the game and the Seahawks outgained the Titans 404 yards to 223.
"I kind of liked what happened today in that regard," Carroll said.
It may seem odd to compliment the resiliency of a patient who survives self-inflicted wounds, but that's exactly what Seattle deserves after Sunday's game.
There were plenty of ways the Seahawks could have lost this game and yet they still found a way to win.
Marshawn Lynch led the team with 77 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns. He led the team with 78 yards receiving, which included a 55-yard completion that is Seattle's longest pass this season.
He was also a central character in the play that served as the most fitting summary for this game. It was early in the fourth quarter and the score was tied 10-10. The Seahawks had the ball, first-and-goal at the Tennessee 2 when Lynch took the handoff, was hit in the backfield and had the ball stripped by linebacker Moise Fokou. Linebacker Akeem Ayers missed his chance to recover, Wilson scooping it up to preserve a possession that produced the go-ahead field goal.
"I felt like I was playing shortstop again," Wilson said.
That one play encapsulated the storyline for Seattle's entire afternoon because after an inexplicable error, the Seahawks still managed to recover and hold on for a victory that will be undeniably important even if it wasn't overwhelmingly impressive.