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Gregg Bell: Russell Wilson cooks again, 5 TD passes, L.J. Collier stops Cam Newton, Seahawks win 35-30

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 9/21/2020 By Gregg Bell, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

If Russell Wilson was cookin’ any more, he’d be Gordon Ramsay.

The Seahawks’ record-breaking quarterback who’s never received an NFL MVP vote let alone the award threw rainbows and darts. He threw more screen passes and scramble throws. He left New England’s defense as he left Atlanta’s in the opener.

In shambles.

Wilson threw five more touchdown passes to tie his career high. He completed 21 of 27 passes for 288 yards Sunday night.

Wilson’s latest exquisite performance, new All-Pro safety Jamal Adams personally saving Seattle six more points, and L.J. Collier’s tackle of Cam Newton at the goal line on the final play allowed the Seahawks to hold off the relentless Patriots in a 35-30 victory at CenturyLink Field left eerily empty and quiet by local restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic.

“That was an amazing game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after his team’s 17th win in 18 home openers. “For the fans out there, we missed you so much. ...

“We missed you on that final play. I hope you went nuts.”

That final play: Newton had one final play from the 1-yard line. Seahawks. Patriots. Super Bowl 49, in reverse.

As they had most of the night, the Patriots ran Newton straight into the line on a quarterback-power rush with 3 seconds left needing the yard and touchdown to win. Collier, the defensive end so out of Seattle’s plans as a rookie first-round draft choice in 2019 he was a healthy scratch for five games, ran in behind fill-in safety Lano Hill blowing up the lead block of New England fullback Jakob Johnson. Collier upended the unsuspecting Newton before the 2015 NFL MVP got close to scoring.

Hill likely would not have been on the field if fellow safety Quandre Diggs had not been ejected from the game. Hill replaced Diggs in base defense.

Collier screamed into the empty stadium’s lights after his saving tackle. Coach Pete Carroll hopped around the field and hugged everyone in blue. And the Seahawks headed into next weekend’s home game 2-0, keeping the early, torrid pace set in the NFC West by Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams.

“Imagine if we had fans here today,” Collier said.

“Seattle would still be shakin’.”

Carroll said he, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks defense knew that last play was going to be quarterback power with Newton into the line to win—or lose—it.

Adams said Wagner told the defense it the huddle: “It’s going right.”

Right to where Newton went.

“We took a shot at that play,” Carroll said.

“It was an amazing play. An amazing moment. I’d love to go back out there and do it again.”

Newton and the Patriots drove from their own 19-yard line with 1:25 and two time outs left to the Seattle 13. With 12 seconds remaining, Newton threw high through both hands of Julian Edelman (eight catches, 179 yards), who was open at the goal line.

With 9 seconds, Newton completed a pass to N’Keal Harry to the 1-yard line. The Patriots called time out with 3 seconds to go.

Then Collier made the biggest play of his 25 years on earth.

“It’s an extraordinary moment,” Carroll said of win or lose in one, last snap. “Either you make the play, or you don’t.”

Wilson threw his scoring passes to Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, lead running back Chris Carson (his third TD catch in two games) and even rookie sixth-round pick Freddie Swain.

All against the best secondary in the NFL.

“They want to let him cook,” Moore said, reciting Seahawks’ fans mantra to let Wilson win games by himself more. “And he’s doing what he’s doing. ...

“It’s just a lovely thing to see. The fact that everybody is touching the ball...everyone got touchdowns, it was cool to see.”

His looping toss to Carson on a running-back wheel route down the route sideline put Seattle ahead 35-23 with 4 minutes remaining.

Wilson had five touchdown passes twice in the 2015 season, and one time last season.

“I’m definitely in a zone. Locked in. Dialed in,” Wilson said. “My teammates are, too.

“I’ve been ready to play, since we had our last game (of last season, Seattle’s playoff loss) in Green Bay.

“I have an obsession with this thought process to always find more.”

Wilson is absolutely finding more.

For this season, he has completed 52 of 62 throws (83.9%) for 610 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception that wasn’t his fault. His passer rating for the young season: 140.5.

A perfect rating is 158.3.

Wilson’s nine touchdown passes through two weeks are his most in any two-game span of his career. He went 3-5-3-5 on TD throws late in the 2015 season.

He was winging it mostly to Doug Baldwin then.

Now, it’s everybody.

“It’s just a start,” Wilson said. “I haven’t done anything yet.”

Two of Wilson’s scoring passes were ridiculous catches. The Seahawks took a 21-17 lead in the third quarter on two remarkable plays—one by Metcalf on reigning NFL defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore in the first half and the other by Moore.

Moore magically kept his second, plant foot inbounds across the goal-line pylon following Wilson’s 38-yard pass to him midway through the third period. Moore’s foot hit the foam marker, which appeared to propel his boot back inside the sideline in the end zone for the remarkable score.

The game may have been tied at that point, if not for a brilliant play by Adams to end the Patriots’ previous possession.

New England was blazing down the field with Newton’s sharp passing, and a no-huddle offense on the opening possession of the second half. The All-Pro safety Seattle traded two first-round picks plus veteran starter Bradley McDougald to get in July blitzed off the right edge on third and goal from the 7-yard line. Newton tried to escape away from Adams, to the opposite edge. Adams ran across the field and ran down Adams from behind for a 0-yard sack. No one was in front of Newton. He likely would have scrambled for a touchdown.

Adams’ play forced a field goal. New England led only 17-14 instead of 21-14. The Patriots chased those four missed points the rest of the game.

After Moore’s brilliant touchdown catch, New England was moving again, and the Seahawks’ defensive front was again getting no pressure on the quarterback unless it got help by Adams or Wagner blitzing.

Then Quinton Dunbar broke hard and decisively on Newton’s pass to the short left flat, the aggressiveness that attracted Seattle trade with Washington for him this spring then stand by him for four months while he was charged in Florida for armed robbery. Dunbar snatched his first interception for Seattle, and it led to Seattle taking a two-score lead into the final quarter.

On the ensuing drive, Wilson scrambled 8 yards to the New England 21. On the next play he got smashed as he threw to Freddie Swain in the left flat. There was no one from Swain to Ballard in front of the rookie sixth-round pick. He ran free after the catch to the end zone for his first career touchdown. Seattle led 28-17 on Wilson’s eighth touchdown pass in less than two games this season.

The Patriots responded with Newton’s passing and running, ending with a touchdown pass on a goal-line pop pass to fullback Johnson. Down by five with 14 minutes remaining.

To underline his fire that Carroll has said he loves most about Adams, the All-Pro was shouting mad stomping along the Seahawks’ sideline following the Patriots’ touchdown drive to make it 28-23.

Mistakes to a first-half tie

The Seahawks had 220 total yards of offense to New England’s 117 in the first half. But the game was tied at 14.

That was because of seven penalties on Seattle, which killed two drives and marred others, and tight end Greg Olsen allowing Wilson’s short pass in the left flat on the game’s third play to off his hands into the arms of New England’s Devin McCourty. The three-time Super Bowl-champion defensive back ran uncontested 43 yards the other way for the touchdown unfairly charged to Wilson for an interception he didn’t deserve.

The Seahawks wasted a possession at midfield in the final minute of the opening half. Travis Homer ran to the New England 45, but left tackle Duane Brown, who had limped off earlier then returned, was penalized for holding. Wilson then got sacked for the second time in the half, an 11-yard loss when a three-man Patriots pass rush beat five Seahawks offensive linemen.

New England’s pass rushers destroyed Seattle’s running backs multiple times in the half. Carlos Hyde and Homer each got lifted off their feet into the air trying to stop edge rushers from pressuring Wilson.

Wilson completed 13 of 16 passes in the opening half, for 152 yards, touchdown passes of 4 yards on a dart to Lockett that tied the game at 7 and to Metcalf.

The 6-foot-4, 229-pound Metcalf just manhandled Gilmore, the league’s most highly regarded cornerback for the ball and the 54-yard score. That tied the game at 14 in the second quarter.

“We just knew all week it was going to be a tough game for Gilmore,” Moore said.

At that point, Wilson had completed 44 for his first 51 throws (86%) to begin the season.

“DK was unbelievable,” Wilson said.

Diggs ejected

Quandre Diggs didn’t last long in the Seahawks’ home opener.

The free safety and key glue man in the back of Seattle’s defense got ejected late in the first quarter for a hit at the head of New England’s N’Keal Harry, after the wide receiver’s catch of a pass from Cam Newton on fourth and 3.

Harry caught the pass between Diggs and Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Diggs then lowered the top of his helmet into Harry’s head to make the tackle.

Harry was momentarily dazed then got up and returned to the Patriots’ huddle after getting the first down. The drive ended with Newton’s 1-yard touchdown run that gave New England a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Diggs stomped off the field, angry at the officials for the ejection. They weren’t hearing it. They threw four flags from all angles for his hit.

It’s one a player cannot do, at any level of the sport, in this era of concern about head injuries.

Lano Hill initially replaced Diggs at free safety, with Jamal Adams staying at strong safety. Then Marquise Blair entered for Diggs.

Blair injured

One drive later, Blair, the new nickel, fifth defensive back, injured his right leg spinning around trying to make a tackle on New England running back Sony Michel. Carroll, two trainers and a team doctor ran out to Blair. He stayed down for a moment early in the second quarter, then needed a trainer under each of his arms to steady him for a painful walk straight to Seattle’s locker room.

The team relatively quickly announced he was out for the rest of the game. That was a sign of a bad injury.

“I’m sick about it...It’s probably fairly serious,” Carroll said.

The Seahawks were in nickel or dime, six defensive backs, 70% of the time in their opener last weekend at Atlanta. They were in it almost half the time of the first half Sunday.

Ugo Amadi was next up to play nickel, the job he had as a rookie to end last season.

Hill remained in for Diggs.

Carroll said the Seahawks are now counting on Amadi to step up for the longer term as the nickel back. The obvious inference was that Blair’s injury is going to keep him out for a while.

———

©2020 The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

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