I had been looking forward to the Monday Night Showdown between the undefeated San Francisco 49ers and the unflappable Settle Seahawks for weeks. Both teams were in the middle of stellar seasons and fighting to win the division, adding tremendous pressure and stakes to the game’s outcome.
Before the game even began, I heard no fewer than seven analysts make game predictions, with each one of them picking the 49ers to win. It’s not surprising; the 49ers were at home, unbeaten, and are very well-coached. But I was amazed by the consensus, not only because Russell Wilson has been playing out of his mind and deftly assembling the best season of his half-of-fame career, but also because the Hawks had yet to unleash three new players upon their opponents.
All three directly contributed to the breathtaking Seahawks 27-24 overtime win.
JOSH GORDON – WIDE RECEIVER #10
The newest addition to the Seahawks offense, Josh Gordon was acquired from the New England Patriots less than two weeks ago. On Monday night, Gordon made his official debut in a Seahawks uniform and showed off his receiving ability for all to see. Wilson targeted Gordon just two times, but in the most clutch of situations, Gordon responded with two tremendous catches.
The first was late in the 4th quarter with the score tied and facing 3rd & 6. Wilson hit Gordon for 13 yards to get the critical first down that led to a go-ahead field-goal kick. The second was during the Hawks’ first overtime drive when, on a 3rd-and-3 play, Wilson found Gordon for 14 yards (against former Seahawk Richard Sherman) to move the chains when we really needed it.
Gordon’s limited role in the passing attack is a byproduct of limited time with the new offense, and I fully expect his snaps to increase as the weeks roll on. In fact, after the Seahawks’ BYE week, I’m certain Gordon will claim an expanded role on Sunday, November 24th against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s early, but Gordon looks like a shot in the passing game’s arm, right when we need it.
QUANDRE DIGGS – CORNERBACK #37
Joining the Seahawks in mid-October from the Detroit Lions, Quandre Diggs had a mild injury that kept him sidelined until last night’s primetime game. Adding much-needed leadership and support to the young Hawks secondary, Diggs had one big play that demonstrated to the league what he can do.
In the third quarter, the 49ers challenged a short-yardage call, which was overturned, giving Jimmy Garoppolo a new set of downs. Leading by 3 points, Garoppolo threw a deep pass for Kendrick Bourne only to have Diggs pluck it out of midair and return it 44 yards before being forced out of bounds.
In the middle of a game when momentum appeared to be swinging things as much as anything, Diggs’ interception was huge. It zapped the energy in the 49ers fans and set up Wilson and the offense for a quick, three-play touchdown to take the lead.
While I don’t expect Diggs to have interceptions in every game, when we needed someone to step up, the newest Seahawks defender made an incredible play when it counted.
JADEVEON CLOWNEY – DEFENSIVE END #90
Unlike his counterparts listed above, Jadeveon Clowney joined the Seahawks in the offseason and made his team debut in week one’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Additionally, Clowney’s reputation preceded his on-field arrival due to his #1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and success since for the Houston Texans. He’s never been known for piling up sacks, never eclipsing 10 in a full season, but that’s not what makes him so special.
As Garoppolo found out first-hand last night, Clowney causes havoc on all sides of the opposing line. Over the game, Clowney finished with one sack, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, five quarterback hits, and 10 pressures – and all that was without an actual blitz being called. As the game wore on, Garoppolo became visibly shaken in the pocket and if it wasn’t due to Clowney’s direct actions, it was that his actions drew 49ers attention, allowing other Hawks to apply their own pressure to the unsteady quarterback.
Monday’s game was certainly Clowney’s best as a Seahawk – and arguably his best single game in the NFL. If you’re a fan of stats, he delivered the gold standard. If you’re more of an eye-test fan, he passed that in flying colors too. He was nothing short of extraordinary, matching Wilson’s offensive prowess with defensive supremacy.
I don’t know if we’ll see him surpass these numbers in any future game—obviously I hope so, but under the bright lights of MNF, when we really needed our pass rush to move Garoppolo out of his comfort zone, Clowney showed up in the biggest of ways, fully cementing his place in the hearts of the faithful 12’s around the Northwest.
This week, the Seahawks are on a well-earned BYE week. So, they can rest up, catch their breath, get healthy, and prepare for the upcoming six games leading to the playoffs. During that run, they’re at the Eagles, home for the Vikings, at the Rams, at the Panthers, home for the Cardinals and, finally, home for the 49ers in what could easily be the game that determines who wins the NFC West and a playoff BYE and who has a wildcard berth.
Along the way, each one of these games will be a challenge to win, but I have no doubt that newcomers Gordon, Diggs, and Clowney will join the rest of the Seahawks to fight to the last moments of every game to win.
And I can’t wait to watch. Go Hawks!