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Monday metatarsal musings
They must treat each day, each practice and each meeting as if they are starters. They must be ready to not only step in, but step up, and at a moment’s notice.
This is the mantra when you’re a backup player in the NFL. And the Seahawks had to dip into their depth not once, not twice, but three times for Sunday’s if not must-win, then need-to-win game against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field.
First, John Moffitt, who had missed the past five games with a knee injury, was needed at left guard because James Carpenter was ruled out on Saturday because of a concussion. Then, Mike Morgan, who had played primarily on special teams in his season and a half with the Seahawks, was needed because leading tackler and strongside linebacker K.J. Wright got a concussion on the first series of the game and did not return. Later, in the third quarter, Lemuel Jeanpierre was rushed into service when center Max Unger dislocated a finger midway through what turned out to be a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that extended the Seahawks’ lead to 10 points.
Quicker than anyone could holler, “Get in there,” they were. And what they did is not as easy as they made it look.
“During the week, we don’t get a lot of reps (in practice). The starters get all the reps, because they’re the ones who are going to be playing,” Morgan said. “So you’ve got to be so focused, because you never know. One guy goes down and you’re up.
“You’re not expecting that, or hoping for that, but when it comes you’ve got to play.”
Moffitt has played almost exclusively at right guard since being drafted in the third round last year. But the suddenly open spot was on the left side. Rather than make a double move – with Paul McQuistan sliding from right to left – it was Moffitt who was left of center.
“The just asked me and I said, ‘Hey, if it’s fine with Paul, I’d like to go to left,’ ” he said after the game, and the Seahawks’ 30-20 victory that lifted them to 5-4 and back into the picture as far as competing for the NFC West title, at best, or wild-card playoff spot, at least.
“I played the left side in college, so I have a little more experience – especially in the pass protection department at left – and feel a little more natural.”
Morgan had three tackles while playing in the base defense, including one on Adrian Peterson for a 1-yard loss – the same Adrian Peterson who gained 183 yards on his other 16 carries.
“Next guy up,” Morgan said. “It’s all about waiting for your opportunity. It came today and I was ready.”
Jeanpierre started five games last season, one at center and four at right guard. But this season, he had played only on special teams. But when Unger went down, Jeanpierre got in a few snaps on the sideline before having to do it in the game – and his first came with quarterback Russell Wilson in the shotgun.
No worries. Jeanpierre was the center for the final five plays of the scoring drive, when Marshawn Lynch ran for 3, 23, 4 and the final 3 yards for the TD and Wilson completed a 6-yard pass to Golden Tate on third-and-5 – again after taking a shotgun snap.
“When we needed him, Lem was there,” Unger said.
With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Vikings and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for this week’s game against the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field:
The rookie quarterback – Three more touchdown passes for Wilson. All in the first half. All in the red zone. And no interceptions. In the past two games, Wilson has five TD passes and one interception. In four home games, it’s nine TD passes and no interceptions.
That’s a winning formula no matter how you stack the stats.
“Every single week, he always gets better,” said wide receiver Golden Tate, who caught two of those TD passes against the Vikings to give him a team-leading five for the season. “Any coaching points they stress, he always makes sure he gives great effort in fixing them and doing it the way they ask. He’s a driven guy who wants to be the best. He’s developed into the leader of our team, so I’m excited to play with him and watch him grow.”
The Beast Mode back – Lynch was overshadowed on the stat sheet by Peterson, but not when it came to the effort it took for him to gain his season-high 124 yards on 26 carries – which tied his season high.
“Marshawn was fantastic,” coach Pete Carroll said. Especially in the second half, when the Seahawks held the ball for nine minutes in the third quarter and more than 12 minutes in the fourth quarter. That’s when Lynch rushed – and pushed, and bulled, and squirmed, and wriggled – for 69 of his yards.
Peterson was impressed. “There were a couple of times I said to myself, ‘Nice move. Nice cut. Or whatever,’ ” Peterson said. “He does a great job of being physical, and that’s what I’m all about. So he has my utmost respect.”
The rookie middle linebacker – How were the Seahawks ever going to replace three-time leading tackler David Hawthorne? Bobby Wagner, that’s how. The second-round draft choice from Utah State had a team-high 10 tackles against the Vikings, his third double-digit performance in the past four games – when he has 44 of his team-leading 72 tackles.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The run defense – Peterson’s 182 yards were the bulk of the 243 rushing yards by the Vikings. Two weeks ago, the Seahawks allowed 131 to Frank Gore and 175 to the 49ers. This from a unit that was allowing an average of 70 rushing yards entering the Week 7 game in San Francisco.
The Seahawks did make adjustments in the second half, when Peterson had 38 yards. And that’s significant for a defense that has a Week 16 rematch with Gore at home and also will face the Bills’ C.J. Spiller, Bears’ Matt Forte and Dolphins’ Reggie Bush in its final seven games.
Tate’s end-zone leap – We had to go to the source on this one – Carroll. Tate’s second TD came when he took a short pass from Wilson, leaped over a defender near the goal line and then broke the plane with a reach of his arm. The ball came out, but the effort was ruled a touchdown.
“That was crazy,” Carroll said. “I’ll be all over him. But it was great.”
The schedule – Anyway the Seahawks could play all their remaining games at CenturyLink Field?