Overcoming an 0-2 start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks clawed back to .500 with a gut-wrenching 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Sunday in what proved to be a bittersweet day.
Aside from winning on the scoreboard and keeping within striking distance to the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams, coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks lost two key players in the process.
Despite receiving an impressive 100-plus yard performance from reserve running back Mike Davis and winning the game as time expired on a Sebastian Janikowski 52-yard field goal, significant injuries to star safety Earl Thomas and rookie tight end Will Dissly stole the headlines.
Carroll confirmed Thomas, who left on a cart after attempting to make a tackle during the second half, suffered a fracture in his lower leg. The disgruntled safety threw an interesting gesture in the direction of Seattle’s sideline as he was being driven away on a cart for x-rays, though Carroll himself downplayed his reaction, simply saying “it’s a big stadium.”
Thomas, 29, held out during the preseason and training camp hoping for a new contract or a trade to another team and has continued to voice his displeasure by sitting out of practices in recent weeks. Rather than settle for a third-round pick in a trade, Seattle reportedly demanded a first rounder for his services, a price other teams such as the Cowboys balked at.
Feeling as though he and Thomas had cleared the air recently, Carroll was visibly shaken speaking to reporters about his injury following the game.
When asked whether or not he could now see why Thomas held out, Carroll responded, “That’s why it’s so bittersweet. We just turned everything around and everything was going in a really positive direction. It breaks my heart we’re talking about this right now.”
As for Dissly, Seattle’s promising fourth-round pick out of Washington, he landed awkwardly after a short reception during the first quarter. Withering in pain on the sideline, he also left the field on a cart and Carroll indicated he suffered a patellar tendon injury in his right knee.
The Seahawks have found their winning formula in recent weeks, though Sunday’s game was far from a perfect performance for Carroll’s team. The injuries further exacerbated the situation.
Defensively, Seattle maintained its high level of play from the past two weeks, limiting the Cardinals to only 263 yards of total offense and forcing an early turnover when cornerback Tre Flowers stripped running back David Johnson. With the game on the line shortly after the two-minute warning, cornerback Justin Coleman made a key tackle on Johnson and kicker Phil Dawson booted the ensuing field goal attempt wide right, giving quarterback Russell Wilson and offense one last shot to win the game.
“Every decision is my decision, so it was on me,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said in regard to his decision to run the football on third and 6. “I felt like we were in a good situation from a standpoint of the field goal and what I was really trying to do was manage the clock there and trying to get them less time as possible to come back.”
Without a single timeout due to poor clock management in the second half, Seattle executed their two-minute drill to perfection, driving 31 yards on seven plays before Janikowski finished off Arizona with a perfect kick between the uprights from 52 yards out.
Unfortunately, with the last drive serving as an exception to the rule, the offense stayed stagnant most of the afternoon, leaving a game that should have been a comfortable win in doubt during the closing minutes of regulation.
Rarely throwing the football down field, Wilson completed 19 of 26 passes for only 172 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown for the first time this season.
Seattle also became the first team to win an NFL game without converting a single third down since 2010, failing on all 10 conversion opportunities.
Additionally, Janikowski missed two crucial field goal attempts in the first half, nearly allowing the Cardinals to pull off the upset in what would have been a debilitating blow to Seattle’s season goals and potential playoff hopes.
Carroll’s club is crawling out of an early hole after losses in Denver and Chicago.