It’s November so it’s no surprise that the Seattle Seahawks kickstarted things on Monday night by topping the Buffalo Bills, 31-25, but the way they did it was a little off script.
Without two key starters, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor, the NFL’s top scoring defense had already allowed more points than usual with 9 ½ minutes left in the first half, but Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham decided to put on a show as the Seahawks exploded offensively despite the lack of any running game whatsoever.
In fact, Seattle was dominated statistically, being outgained 425 to 278 as Buffalo held the football for over 40 minutes while running 82 offensive plays to just 42 for the Seahawks.
When Wilson was throwing the football, however, it was spectacular especially when he went looking for Graham, who hauled in two brilliant one-handed touchdown catches in the opening 30 minutes and the one thing we didn’t think we would see — a shootout — started trending in Seattle’s direction as Graham’s second of the night made it a 28-17 game with a minute left in the first half.
A valiant Bills team, which came out with a ton of energy and gave the Seahawks fits for much of the night, just couldn’t battle all the way back from there.
And the vaunted Seattle defense did finally show itself in the waning seconds with Buffalo threatening inside the 10-yard line.First, Cliff Avril exploded around right tackle Jordan Mills to sack Tyrod Taylor on 3rd-and-goal, and then Pete Carroll backed off into coverage as Taylor tried to force the football into Robert Woods unsuccessfully as the Seahawks won their 11th straight “Monday Night Football” appearance and extended the Bills’ misery in the national showcase to six straight games over a 17-year period.
The calendar turning to Turkey month is typically when the Wilson-era ‘Hawks kick in the extra gear and start to take off in the standings. Since 2012 when Wilson arrived in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is now an imposing 29-6 over the final two months of the regular season.
That doesn’t bode well for the light going off in Arizona and the Cardinals somehow catching the Seahawks in the NFC West because with the win over Rex Ryan and Co., Seattle halted a rare two-game winless streak moved to 5-2-1, a full two games over the 3-4-1 Cardinals as the second half will commence for both teams.
“I count on us improving and playing better as we get down the stretch and the closer we get to the finish the better we want to play,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of how we’ve constructed our mentality.”
The last time the Seahawks went three games without finding the win column Wilson was finishing up his college career at North Carolina State in 2011, which also happened to be the last time Seattle didn’t make the postseason.
And that means despite the offensive line woes and the long list of maladies that have limited Wilson (ankle, knee, chest) this season, it’s extremely unlikely that you are going to see some kind of collapse from this Seattle team.
So the real question is are the Seahawks still a legitimate Super Bowl contender?
And that answer likely lies in how healthy Wilson is come January.
It’s tough to get a player with nagging injuries healthy when he’s on the football field every week. And when he’s a quarterback playing with a former college basketball player at left tackle (George Fant), whose previous starting experience on the gridiron before taking over Wilson’s blind side was in middle school, it’s even more difficult.
That said, the mobility that defined Wilson up until this season returned for a bit tonight as he answered Taylor’s early 3-yard, read-option TD run with a 3-yard scoring run of his own.
Add in an actual running game to that over the final two months and maybe Seattle starts looking like a powerhouse again.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.