Playing much of a game without eight regular starters is enough to cause any NFL team to put up a disjointed and, at times, sloppy performance.
And that’s what the Seattle Seahawks gave against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
But as everybody in the Seattle locker room reminded inquisitors after the game, nothing matters in the immediate aftermath except the outcome — a 30-24 triumph over winless Oakland.
It buys the Seahawks another week to stay in the hunt while they try to heal their wounds, piece together a network of replacements, and seek ways to build upon their 5-3 record as they enter a very difficult second half of the season.
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“At the end of the day, you just gotta get your job done, execute and get the win, no matter how we get it,” safety Earl Thomas said. “We gotta keep imposing our will on teams and keep stepping on them; we can’t give them life.”
At times Sunday, the Hawks were trying to replace two first-round draft picks and a former All-Pro on the offensive linewith two guys who never started a regular-season NFL game and an undrafted former college tight end.
Line coach Tom Cable is said to have called it the toughest challenge of his career. And this is from a guy who had to coach the Raiders for a couple seasons.
On defense, instead of Bobby Wagner in the middle, there was undrafted rookie Brock Coyle, and instead of Kam Chancellor at strong safety, there was undrafted DeShawn Shead.
Coach Pete Carroll called the win, in light of all the new contributors, an impressive accomplishment
What qualified it as such was the potential impact of it going the other way. Had they not held on for the win, with the Raiders capping their second-half rally with an upset, the Hawks would have been .500 and three games behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West.
While running back Marshawn Lynch reminded reporters afterward that football is “a team game,” it’s fair to point out exceptional efforts by a few Seahawks that saved this one from going sour.
On defense, nose tackle Brandon Mebane was credited with one tackle. But on so many plays he shoved back the Raider interior line to clear the way for others to make tackles.
That helped limit the Raiders to 37 rushing yards on 18 carries.
“We called a certain type of defense that allowed me to do that,” Mebane said. “Something kinda new; we’ve done it in the past, but did it more today because of the scheme they like to run.”
Carroll cited this as Mebane’s best season in an eight-year career.
“He knocked the line of scrimmage back a couple times for big plays for us,” Carroll said. “I think he’s having the most impact he’s had since we’ve been here.”
Another defender with a huge game was linebacker Bruce Irvin, who is making the kind of plays expected of him when he was drafted in the first round of 2012.
After a pair of sacks against Carolina last week, Irvin came up with a leaping interception that he returned for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Lynch was another whose effort lifted the Seahawks when it was most needed. Despite the absence of the varsity offensive line, Lynch rushed for 67 yards and added five catches for 76 yards.
“It was one spectacular play after another,” Carroll said of Lynch’s day.
Jermaine Kearse, meanwhile, came up with the most important special teams plays, forcing a fumble with a kickoff tackle, and recovering a Seahawks fumble on the Raiders’ last-gasp onside kick.
“I mean, it was to win the game, so you have to do whatever it takes,” said the Lakes High School and University of Washington product.
These plays are about hustle, extra effort, and awareness of time and place. They are about possessing the ball, and were crucial on Sunday when other parts of the game were faltering.
Kearse was one of those guys who provided them.
Carroll captured the bottom-line nature of this game on a rainy, gloomy afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
“To get the win, get it done, and keep moving forward …” Carroll said. “… we accomplished something good today.”