The Seattle Seahawks lost the game Sunday. More importantly, they lost their cool and lost some respect.
Fortunately, the loss of composure at the end won't cost the Seahawks any key players entering the most important game of the season. ESPN reported Monday afternoon that no one will a suspension from Sunday's altercations.
A 30-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars became a secondary story in the final seconds with an ugly scuffle after the game was decided. Seattle defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch. Defensive end Michael Bennett dove at the knees of Jacksonville center Brandon Linder.
All this happened while the Jags were in victory formation to simply run the final seconds off the clock.
And defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, who also was ejected, almost went into stands in anger after fans threw drinks and ice at him as he left the field. Hopefully, the fans involved will be identified, arrested and kept out of any NFL games in the future.
The Seahawks were angry over a critical fourth-down play on their final possession when receiver Paul Richardson was pulled to the ground and no flag was thrown.
“It ignited us and we didn’t handle it very well,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday morning on 710-AM ESPN radio. “That’s the wrong way to go. We got too emotional.”
That’s the NFL. Calls are missed. Mistakes are made. It doesn’t excuse what happened afterward. It was awful. It was disgraceful. It was embarrassing and luckily didn't bring suspensions from the league office this time.
Pro Bowl linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright left with injuries in the second half (their status for the Rams game is uncertain) on a defense already without Pro Bowl players Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.
The Seahawks couldn't afford to lose Bennett, Richardson and Jefferson to suspensions heading into the critical game with Rams.
In the locker room afterward, quarterback Russell Wilson tried to emphasize what matters the most: “Next week we go for first place,” Wilson said to his teammates as he walked around the room.
Despite the loss Sunday, the Seahawks (8-5) still control their own destiny in the NFC West. A victory over the 9-4 Los Angeles Rams next weekend at CenturyLink Field would place the Seahawks on top of the division by having two victories this season over the Rams.
“We’ve got to clear our heads,’’ Wilson said. “We have guys who have better judgment than that. The reality is we’re playing for first place. I think we can be better as players and better as people.”
Coach Pete Carroll, knowing he would be penalized, ran on to the middle of the field at the end to try and calm his players.
“I was trying to slow them down,’’ Carroll said afterward. “There wasn’t a chance to get the ball back at that point.
“It’s really disappointing how it ended. We have to be more poised than that. But I loved the way we fought (to come back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit.) There was no thought that we couldn’t come back.”
In the big picture, the outcome of the game doesn’t mean a lot. The Seahawks did what they needed to do the last two weeks by splitting tough games against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jags. And they caught a break when the Rams lost on Sunday to the Eagles.
So all is not lost. The Seahawks still can accomplish their goals. They also can regain their composure in the process if cooler heads prevail.
NFL players are modern-day gladiators, bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. The danger isn’t going away no matter how much the league tries to legislate it.
Some NFL players are fighting back. They are tired of being viewed as the bad guys, the ones who take the brunt of the discipline from the NFL tackling police.
Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell is fed up.
“This is FOOT BALL,” Mitchell told reporters Wednesday. “If you want to see flag football them let’s take our pads off. Give me a flag to pull off. I signed up to play full-speed contact football and we’re not doing that. I feel like I have to ask a guy, ‘Hey, are you ready for me to hit you now?’ That’s crazy.”
Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the year, bristled Wednesday at the rumors the NFL might go to college rules of ejecting a player for one targeting hit.
“It’s terrible,’’ Wagner said. “You can see it now if you watch college games. They are kicking players out for clean hits because they can’t tell from certain angles. I would rather that rule stay in college rather than come up here.”
Even Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin knows what the NFL really is.
“This isn’t a contact sport,’’ he said. “It’s a violent collision sport.’’
All this comes in reaction to the NFL trying to take a tougher stance on helmet-to-helmet contact, particular after three incidents in the Monday night game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Mitchell didn't play Monday because of an ankle injury, but watched from the sidelines and saw all three hits. The one that scared everyone was Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier going down after he made a tackle leading with his head. Shazier suffered a serious back injury and his status remains uncertain.
Two other hits in the game brought penalties from the league. One was on offense by Pittsburgh receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who leveled linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a helmet hit. The third was Bengals defensive back George Iloka’s helmet hit in the end zone on Antonio Brown.
The game was a microcosm of what the league wants to eliminate by taking a tougher stance and ejecting players immediately for targeting.
“There has to be some changes,’’ Wagner said. “But there has to be a better way than ejecting guys for something that isn’t worth an ejection. There has to be more consistency.”
Wagner and Mitchell are upset that a league action can be the same for a hit during a play and a hit after a play has ended. For example, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski received a one-game suspension for launching into Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White while White was lying face down on the turf after the play ended.
“We have to find a way to address it,’’ Wagner said. “You can’t have a play that’s not in the game be the same suspension as a play in the game.’’
Mitchell lashed out at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the same day Goodell signed a five-year contract extension worth a reported $200 million.
“Yes, I’m flustered,’’ Mitchell said. “We have to do better with the leadership running the league. The fans, owners and players all are disappointed in Roger Goodell. We can’t have a guy just hand out discipline on how he sees fit. There needs to be a set guideline.”
Mitchell gave a specific example.
“I’m gonna mess around and get hurt trying to protect an offensive player,’’ Mitchell said. “Maybe your quarterback shouldn’t have thrown that balled messed up.
“That happened to me two years ago. [Bengals quarterback] Andy Dalton threw a ball that [tight end] Tyler Eifert had to dive for. I was aiming for his gut. If he doesn’t dive he doesn’t get hit in the head. That was $50 grand out of my pocket because Andy throw’s a bad ball.”
Wagner and Mitchell feel that type of play could cause a player to be ejected unfairly when there was no intent to target with the helmet.
“I try to never use my head,’’ Wagner said. “But you can be conscious of how you want to hit a player, and as soon as a player lowers his head, he puts his head into it and they still will say it was my fault. It’s hard.”
Mitchell feels the flags and the comments lack fairness.
“Make that make sense,’’ Mitchell said. “I’ve got assholes like [ESPN analyst] Matt Hasselbeck calling me a dirty player and we’ve never met before. I take that personally. You don’t know me. You’ve never had a conversation with me. Don’t judge me by football because football is my competitive side.”
What a commentator says really doesn’t matter, but the NFL is in a difficult position. In the era on increased attention to head injuries and concussions causing long-term health problems, the league has to take a stand.
It’s all but impossible to legislate the brutality out of a game where the players are far more athletic than years past.
In Super Bowl I, not a single starting offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers weighed more than 250 pounds. Right tackle Forrest Gregg, a nine-time Pro Bowler, weighed 249, more than 50 pounds less than most offensive lineman today.
Many linebackers weight 250 today and run at the speed of a receiver or running back 50 years ago.
“Maybe the equipment we have hasn’t caught up with the size and speed of players today,’’ Baldwin said.
That’s a given, but Wagner doesn’t think automatic ejections (as used in the NCAA) are the answer.
“There are hits that are bang-bang and you can’t tell,’’ Wagner said. “It’s subjective. To have a player gone from a game and then afterwards say, ‘Oh man, we messed up.’ It actually was a clean hit, but that player missed out on the game.
“It makes me not want to watch the college game because I know any second a guy can be kicked out for a hit, then he’s suspended for the next game. Nobody wants to see that.”
The NFL may not go as far as the college targeting rule, but it’s clear the league will continue to opt on the side of safety, so players should expect tougher penalties and more ejections.
Players are coached not to use their head while making contact, but it’s still a game with large men running fast making split-second reactions. It's brutal and that won't change.
This week’s Sports Walk of Shame: LaVar Ball, making his 100th appearance.
I've lost track, actually. Maybe more. Heck, I should name the entire category after him.
LaVar is back adding to his shame after pulling his son out of UCLA and blaming the school for suspending LiAngelo, who committed a shoplifting crime on a team trip to China.
And little brother LaMelo, who LaVar already pulled out of high school, won't be attending UCLA, either.
On a side note: UCLA coach Steve Alford just won the lottery.