SEATTLE – Earl Thomas returned on Sunday to the stadium where he made his reputation, whisked in on a week-long gust of hyperbole, drama and fond reminiscence.
And then he turned out to be mostly an afterthought.
The only thing Thomas’ former team, the Seattle Seahawks, could talk about in the wake of a 30-16 pratfall against Baltimore was his new teammate, Lamar Jackson – the Ravens’ quicksilver quarterback whose remarkable speed and escapes they seemed to find as fantastic as they were frustrating.
“I always wanted to play against Michael Vick,” said Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. “I guess I’m getting the new era with Lamar Jackson right there. I’m a fan of him, though. He’s a great player, did his thing today and won the game.”
Jackson rushed for 116 yards – including the tie-breaking touchdown on a fourth-down gamble – and did just enough with his arm to send the Seahawks to their second loss in seven games, though in essence two crushing turnovers provided the margin of victory.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, in the midst of an MVP-tier year, threw his first interception of the season in the most catastrophic fashion possible – the Ravens’ Marcus Peters returning it 67 yards for a touchdown and a huge second-quarter momentum swing after Seattle had taken a 10-6 lead.
Then, in trying to mount a comeback from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, rookie receiver DK Metcalf fumbled while trying to change hands, and Marlon Humphrey scooped it up and ran 18 yards for the clinching score.
“If you lose the turnover ratio and they score with them,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, “then it’s almost impossible.”
And Jackson’s play shaved that “almost” down to nothing.
The second-year quarterback seized the reins of a 13-13 game in the third quarter after the Ravens had found a rhythm with their running game, driving to Seattle’s 21-yard line.
On third-and-15, Jackson kept on a zone read and skittered his way to the 8, where the Ravens faced a choice on fourth-and-2. Coach John Harbaugh sent out kicker Justin Tucker for the go-ahead field goal – then looked into his quarterback’s eyes and reconsidered.
“I could see it in his face,” Harbaugh said. “I said, ‘You want to go for it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I want to go for it. Let’s get it.’ ”
Jackson didn’t just get the two yards, he got into the end zone on a dash up the middle for a 20-13 lead – and there was more to come.
After a Seattle punt, Jackson kept alive a Baltimore drive that ate up nine minutes with two amazing scrambles. The first covered 30 yards deep in Ravens territory, Seattle sending a blitz that flushed him from the pocket and Jackson simply running away from his “spy,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. Another escape produced a 13-yard gain, and a 20-yard pass to tight end Nick Boyle got the Ravens close enough for a 21-yard Tucker field goal.
“You see he’s special,” said Wagner. “Some of the plays he had, he’s running full speed and just stops on a dime and lets the defender go past.”
Said cornerback Shaquill Griffin, “I don’t know how to explain how Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson play. They’re both fast, but when (Jackson) has the ball in his hands he turns into a running back.”
Overlooked in the hubbub over the killing turnovers and Jackson’s fireworks was the work of a Ravens defense that allowed just a field goal after halftime, giving Seattle’s receivers little room and pressuring Wilson into his poorest performance on the year – under 50 percent passing and a quarterback rating of 65.2.
That part especially warmed Thomas, the safety who was a major part of the Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom secondary – but who in his final appearance in a Seattle uniform gave Carroll a middle finger while being carted to the locker room with a broken leg in a game at Arizona. He found a new home and a $55 million contract with the Ravens that he wasn’t going to get in Seattle.
“Today was big, man,” Thomas said. “My teammates been telling me all week they had my back, and it felt good for them guys to show up and how they did it today.”
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