SEATTLE – Two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL went at it Thursday night and it was a match-up worth watching.
Both Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers had great moments and head-scratching moments during the 27-24 Seattle victory over Green Bay.
Here are five things we learned, starting with the QBs:
No one is perfect
Rodgers had some typical wow plays we’ve become accustomed to seeing from him. The biggest was a scramble to his right in the first quarter when he launched a 54-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, who was racing down the middle of the field and caught the perfect throw at the 1.
Rodgers also had a 57-yard completion to Davante Adams in the fourth quarter. What’s amazing about Rodgers is his ability to throw deep balls accurately off his back foot while being pressured.
However, in the end, Rodgers proved he’s mortal. On a third-and-2 at the Green Bay 33, Rodgers saw Marquez Valdes-Scantling open in the right flat for what would have been a first down, but Rodgers threw the ball into the turf. He later said the ball got stuck in his hand.
Wilson started the game the way Rodgers ended it. Wilson had a few wildly inaccurate throws, including one in the first quarter that may have been the worst pass of his career.
Doug Baldwin was all alone in the middle of the end zone on a second-and-12 at the Green Bay 21 when Wilson’s throw sailed behind Baldwin and about 10 feet over his head.
“Sometimes you shoot and miss,’’ Wilson said. “The ball bounces off the rim, but you just keep shooting. I know what I’m capable of. You stay the course.”
He did and it worked. As he has done so many times in his career, Wilson led the Seahawks on a game-winning 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. It included two deep throws to Tyler Lockett, one for 18 yards and one for 35 yards, before the 15-yard TD pass to tight end Ed Dickson on a vertical throw to the goal line.
Utah State linebackers put on a show
Bobby Wagner and Kyler Fackrell were the two best linebackers on the field. Both played college ball at Utah State.
Wagner is considered one of the best, if not the best, middle linebacker in the game. Fackrell is just starting to show how good he can be. Wagner had a team-best nine tackles for the Seahawks, including a bone-jarring hit on an Aaron Jones run up the middle in the second quarter.
Fackrell had three sacks and another tackle in the backfield for Green Bay.
Wagner noticed: “I said on the sideline, ‘Man, y’all are letting Utah State be all over the field.’ He was a freshman my last year. You could tell then what he was gonna do.”
Time to pay Frank Clark
Two more sacks for Clark Thursday give him 10 in 11 games, tying his career high. He has 29 sacks in the last three seasons, but this is his first year as a full-time starter.
He’s in the last year of his rookie contract, so it is great timing. The Seahawks should sign Clark to a multi-year deal before the season ends. That could mean that Clark gets the money the team needs to re-sign linebacker K.J. Wright. If it’s one or the other, Clark is the easy choice.
The three-headed running back system is working for the Seahawks
Chris Carson, Rashard Penny and Mike Davis combined for 155 yards rushing on 29 carries. All three contributed in a big way.
Penny had a wild 30-yard run in the first quarter where he changed direction in the backfield, swept around the left side, turned back up field, breaking four tackles in the process. He sprained his ankle on the play, but later returned.
Carson fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, which led to a easy touchdown for the Packers, but he finished 83 yards and one TD on 17 carries. Carson also had a bulldozer run in the fourth quarter where he saved a field-goal scoring drive on a third-and-1 at the Green Bay 31. Carson turned a 2-yard loss into a 12-yard gain, turning back up field and bowling over Packers.
And Davis was the clock-killing back on the final drive when the Seahawks needed to drain four minutes off the clock. He rushed for 17 yards on three carries, including a 7-yard run for a first down that assured the victory.
Horrible clock management by the Packers
Green Bay used its second timeout of the second half with 10:31 to go in the game. The Packers had to punt the ball back to Seattle with 4:11 to play. Green Bay used its last time out with 3:18 to go. Even with the 2-minute warning, Seattle only needed one more first down to end it.
Davis’ first-down run came with 2:34 left. That was it. After the 2-minute warning, Wilson only needed to kneel three times to win the game.
Time for another edition of my Sports Walk of Shame and Sports Hall of Honor. Three of the six entries involve the Los Angeles Rams.
First, three new entries into the Walk of Shame:
The holier-than-thou conference scheduled meaningless powder-puff games in mid-November. The playoff committee should penalize any school that does this for an easy victory.
Here is the list for Nov. 17:
The Citadel at Alabama
Idaho at Florida
Liberty at Auburn
UMass at Georgia
Rice at LSU
UAB at Texas A&M
Chattanooga at South Carolina
And I really hope one of the underdogs wins.
LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald
After the 36-31 victory over the Seahawks ended Sunday at the Coliseum, Donald was on the sideline. Instead shaking hands with the opponents and just walking to the locker room, Donald put his helmet back on and jogged across the field to confront Seattle center Justin Britt.
During he game, Britt shoved Donald moments after Donald stepped out of bounds while running downfield. That caused the first altercation between them. Who knows what happened in the trenches, but putting your helmet back on after the game to start an altercation doesn’t exactly make you look tough or brave.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy
After defensive back Thabo Mwaniki announced he was transferring from OSU, Gundy went on a rant about all transfers, saying it’s “liberalism” and being a “snowflake”.
Obviously, Gundy is injecting his political opinions, which is fine, except in this case it’s not appropriate.
For years, college athletes were glorified slaves to the school they signed with initially, regardless of how they were treated or how much they played. Now coaches like Gundy are all butt-hurt and whine over players opting to try to improve their situation.
But no one says anything about coaches, many of whom like Gundy ($5 million in 2018) make millions of dollars, leaving one school for another to make more money or coach at a bigger and better school. They also leave behind all the kids they recruited and no doubt made assurances to about signing with that school.
And ending on a high not, here are entries into the Sports Hall of Honor:
The Rams front office
After learning the team would get an extra home game Monday night because the field in Mexico City is a quagmire, the Rams announced they would give away tickets to first responders to the California fires and the shooting in Thousand Oaks.
Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth
Whitworth donated his game check Sunday – a whopping $540,000 -- to the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting.
Matt and Sybi Kucher
PGA golfer Zach Johnson had a big problem when his caddie, Damon Green, fell ill in the middle of the opening round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic last week in Mexico.
No worries. Matt Kuchar said his wife, Sybi, would be happy to step in and carry the bag for Johnson. Sybi is no amateur. She has caddied for her husband several times over the years.
Call it karma, but Matt went on to win the tournament, his first PGA Tour victory in four years.
At the halfway point of the season, here’s one comment from me on each NFL team:
Chiefs (8-1) _ Sorry Tom Brady and Todd Gurley, Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the league.
Chargers (6-2) _ Old man Rivers just keeps rolling along, but you would think he’d be over the whole talking trash and whining thing at this point.
Broncos (3-6) _ Vance Joseph, tick-tock, tick-tock.
Raiders (1-7) _ Sitting in that MNF booth never looked so good, right Chucky?
Patriots (7-2) _ Cordarrelle Patterson can play running back and Josh Gordon can look almost like a normal person. Who knew? Bill Belichick, apparently.
Dolphins (5-4) _ Did you know this team can perform magic tricks? They are 28th in offense and 26th in defense, but one game over .500. Abrakadabra.
Jets (3-6) _ Yes, money talks, but Sam Darnold should have stayed another year at USC.
Bills (2-7) _ Quarterback Nathan Peterman is playing in the NFL and Colin Kaepernick isn’t. Nuff said.
Texans (6-3) _ Six consecutive wins after starting 0-3. As long as Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt stay healthy, this team can surprise people.
Titans (4-4) _ Good to be .500 when you’re 30th in total offense.
Colts (3-5) _ Linebacker Darius Leonard is the defensive rookie of the year with a league-leading 88 tackles.
Jaguars (3-5) _ Still a good defense. Still a terrible quarterback.
Steelers (6-2-1) _ Dropped 52 on Carolina Thursday night. And James Conner has one question. Le’ Veon who?
Bengals (5-3) _ Surprising record for a team dead last in total defense.
Ravens (4-5) _ No. 1 defense in yards allowed and No. 2 in points allowed. I think we know which side of the ball is the problem.
Browns (2-6-1) _ No truth to the rumor and interim head coach Gregg Williams has an endorsement from Bounty paper towels.
Rams (8-1) _ If there is one person who can bring them down is cornerback Marcus Peters. He’s been worse than awful. Aqib Talib can’t get back soon enough.
Seahawks (4-4) _ Should have traded safety Earl Thomas when they had the chance. It’s only eight games, but admit it. You’re getting a little concerned that first-round pick Rashard Penny is a bust. Yes, that’s two comments.
Cardinals (2-6) _ Should have traded disgruntled cornerback Patrick Peterson off a team going nowhere.
49ers (2-7) _ Quite a debut for quarterback Nick Mullens, but your great granny could have thrown for a couple of TDs against the Raiders.
Bears (5-3) _ Best record in the division despite having the fourth-best quarterback in Mitch Trubisky.
Vikings (5-3-1) _ Does anything prove the point more on how the draft is a crapshoot than undrafted wide receiver Adam Thielen?
Packers (3-4-1) _ Former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham has two TDs this season. Current Seahawks tight ends have four TDs.
Lions (3-5) _ Gave up 10 sacks last week in a loss to the Vikings. Apparently, no one was open after trading Golden Tate.
Redskins (5-3) _ I’ll have some of whatever Adrian Peterson is drinking these days.
Eagles (4-4) _ Ranking 25th in the league in pass defense is no way to return to the Super Bowl.
Cowboys (3-5) _ Can we just put on a loop Jerry Jones saying Jason Garrett is safe?
Giants (1-7) _ Can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run, a recipe for disaster.
Saints (7-1) _ One day after he arrives, Dez Bryant is done with a torn Achilles tendon. Bad for Dez, but maybe not so bad for the Saints. You have a great receiver in Michael Thomas and you just beat the previously unbeaten Rams. Why risk great team chemistry by signing looney Dez Bryant?
Panthers (6-3) _ Thursday’s 52-21 drubbing in Pittsburgh was ugly, but my favorite part of any Carolina game is Cam Newton’s post-game attire.
Falcons (4-4) _ Good decision to add Bruce Irvin to the defense.
Buccaneers (3-5) _ Does it really matter which quarterback they start?
It shouldn’t end this way for Earl Thomas. Not like this. Not on a cart leaving the field. Not with a probable broken leg. Not with a hateful finger in the air toward the Seahawks sideline.
One of the greatest players in team history, a safety like no other, a Super Bowl champion, a team icon and a hero to so many Seahawks fans, went out in the worst way imaginable.
The picture that went viral, defiantly making his feelings known, is not what anyone wants to remember if this was his final game in a Seattle uniform.
Thomas was beaten for a game-tying touchdown Sunday in the fourth quarter at Arizona. He went down in the end zone, seemingly knowing a fracture has taken place.
The Seahawks would go on to win the game 20-17 on a 52-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. But it was hard to smile. A contentious last few months had come to a dismal end for Thomas and the Seahawks.
“My heart breaks for him,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “I love Earl. I’ve always loved him, everything he’s ever done for us, everything he’s stood for. It’s a bittersweet day.”
This is exactly what Thomas feared, the reason he held out all summer. In the final year of a $40 million, four-year deal, he wanted a contract extension before returning to the team.
He didn’t get it, and returned before the season opener, saying he would remember being disrespected. Continuing to hold out would have cost him $500,000 per game.
He was reportedly fined after missing two practices before the Dallas game last week, but went out and had two interceptions in the victory.
Sunday morning, Ian Rapaport, on the NFL Network, reported the Seahawks wanted two second-round draft choices to trade Thomas. Obviously, that won’t happen now.
So Thomas, knowing his worst fears had come true, left the field with a message for the Seahawks management. He looked across the field and gave the finger, a photo that’s gone viral on social media.
Carroll said he didn’t see it.
“Something was said, but I don’t know anything about that,’’ he said. “Earl was extraordinarily poised on the field. He knew what happened. It just breaks my heart we’re talking about this right now.”
Russell Wilson became the winningest quarterback in franchise history with 75 victories, passing Matt Hasselbeck. But Wilson’s thoughts after the game were about Thomas.
“He is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he’ll come back strong,’’ Wilson said. “It’s an unfortunate situation but we all love him. He will come back at some point and be better.
“I hope I get to play with Earl again. I love who he is as a person. As fans and as people, we sometimes forget this is our livelihood. You hope to play it forever, but it’s never forever. I do believe for Earl it’s not over.”
What happened to Thomas is why NFL players want guaranteed contracts. It’s why they fear going into the final year of a contract without an extension.
However, it’s also true that Thomas has made well over $50 million since becoming a Seahawk eight years ago as a first-round pick from the University of Texas. If he never plays again, he is set for life.
No matter which side you take, this is an ugly way for his Seahawks career to end. No one wanted to see this. Don’t let the image of his finger in the air be the thing you remember.
Thomas gave everything he had on the field on every snap. He made the players around him better. He helped this team win a Super Bowl.
Remember those things, instead.
SEATTLE – The NFL, Jerry Jones and Donald Trump poked the bear. Big mistake.
As expected, the first night of NFL preseason games brought about more protests from players during the national anthem.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee. Some players raised their fist, including Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, a longtime advocate for social justice.
Others remained in the locker room during the anthem, including four players for the
Jacksonville Jaguars and three for the Seattle Seahawks.
“I can’t go out there and stand for something I really don’t believe it in,’’ said Seahawks defensive end Quinton Jefferson. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. You shouldn’t be forced to stand for what you don’t believe in. It’s a free country. That’s how I feel.”
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who never has knelt during the anthem, wore a T-shirt during pregame workouts that read: “More Than 60% Of Prison Populations Are People Of Color”. Baldwin has worked closely with state and federal law-enforcement officials to bring about change.
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, who wrote a book titled, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable”, walked on the field as the anthem was being played.
This situation isn’t going away. The sad thing is it might have gone away if not for a league proclamation, an attention-seeking team owner, and Trump, threatening the players if they continued to protest.
“I think [Trump] speaking out against it is very misguided,’’ said Seattle offensive tackle Duane Brown, one of the players who stayed in the locker room. “It’s not very empathetic toward people’s emotions and feelings who are affected directly or indirectly by injustice.”
Brown said he informed Seahawks coach Pete Carroll of his decision to stay in the locker room during the anthem. Defensive end Brandon Jackson joined Brown and Jefferson. Brown said he plans to stay off the field during the anthem all season.
“I didn’t want to kneel,’’ Brown said. “We told Pete our decision. He understands we all have different realities in this country.”
Trump doesn’t understand or care about different realities. He immediately tweeted his disgust Thursday night, basically saying again players should stand or be suspended.
Jones, the bombastic owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said his players would stand for the anthem and not be allowed to stay in the locker room. A few days after making his statement, Jones kept his cap on while the anthem was played at training camp.
It appeared this issue was dying down before the NFL announced in May that players would be fined if they didn’t stand for the anthem. Players could remain in the locker room if they so desired, and teams would set their own rules on how to handle it.
With Jones and others taking a hard line, league officials realized the May announcement was a mistake, saying they would meet with players to try to find a solution.
“I don’t know if they’ve made any progress toward a decision,’’ Brown said. “There are a lot of people who support the players and a lot of people who are very vocal against us.”
That won’t change. Some people feel the players have a constitutional right to protest how they see fit. Other people are angry and insist the players must stand for the anthem or face the consequences of a punishment.
This is a true dilemma with enormous implications for the NFL, its players and its fans.
My unfiltered insights on our world.