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Seahawks make strides with goal-line stand
Leave it to Heath Farwell to strip the Seahawks’ victory-preserving goal-line stand on Monday night to its roots.
“You get a bland of grass to defend, we’re going to defend it,” said Farwell, who played only one of the 71 defensive snaps the Seahawks had in their 14-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.
But Farwell, a backup linebacker who plays only in the goal-line unit for the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense, made that one snap count as he had the first hit in stopping running back Daryl Richardson for no gain and free safety Earl Thomas finished what Farwell didn’t allow to get started on that third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line with 4 seconds left in the game.
“It’s just a mindset,” Farwell said. “We expect them not to score.”
“Fourth-and-1, what you do says a lot about your team,” said cornerback Brandon Browner, who tipped that last pass away. “Can you dig deep for this ‘W’?”
But there was so much more than Farwell’s blade-of-grass play or Browner’s big breakup that went into that goal-line stand.
First, there was what preceded those final five snaps in a drive that began at the Rams’ 3-yard line. Runs of 8 and 18 yards by Zac Stacy, giving the Rams a first down at their 29. Passes of 21 and 8 yards from Kellen Clemens to Chris Givens and Richardson, giving the Rams a first down at the Seahawks’ 42. A 3-yard run by Richardson that was followed by an 18-yard pass to tight end Lance Kendricks, giving the Rams a first down at the Seahawks’ 21 at the 2-minute warning. Runs of 5 and 10 yards by Richardson, putting the ball at the 6.
“You’ve just got to take a deep breath and relax and just play,” Thomas said when asked how the defense went from allowing chunks of yards to next-to-no yards. “Whatever happens happens.”
That’s when the following happened:
First-and-goal from the 6, with 46 seconds to play – The Seahawks’ Clemons was better than the Rams’ Clemens, as Leo end Chris Clemons pressured the Rams’ QB into throwing an incomplete pass into the end zone.
Second-and-goal from the 6, with 38 seconds left – Richardson ran behind right guard Harvey Dahl, but Thomas stopped him at the 2.
“As the leader of the defense, I just was trying to encourage everybody, just keep them going,” said Thomas, who also was the statistical leader on that evening with 10 solo tackles. “In my mind, I’m keeping poised, calm, waiting for my opportunity. If they make a mistake, I’m thinking I’m going to capitalize.
“But the more pressure you see yourself in, the more true you’ve got to stay to your principles. When guys try to get outside themselves and jump the gun, or do something outside the box, that’s how we mess up. You’ve just got to let everything be loose and keep calm, stay poised and just react. Instead of guessing, you wait for your moments and capitalize. I think we showed a lot of growth in that area.”
Third-and-goal from the 1, with 27 seconds left – Farwell stepped up, and Thomas helped bring Richardson down for no gain.
“It was a great feeling to kind of help the team win,” Farwell said when asked his emotional state after the stand was completed on an incomplete pass. “And that’s all it was to me. To help the team win, the team got a great win. Anytime you get down to the 1-yard line and the drama of the last play, that’s the fun stuff. As a kid, that’s what you dream about – “Monday Night Football,” and to be able to get out on the field and help the team win, that was the best.”
Fourth-and-goal from the 1, with 4 seconds left – Clemens passed to Brian Quick in the left side of the end zone, but 6-foot-4 cornerback Brandon Browner went up and over the Rams’ receiver to tip the pass in-com-plete.
“That’s what it boils down to – fourth-and-1, last play of the game,” Browner said. “I was happy that I got an opportunity to make a play on the ball. They tried me on that play and I’m happy I was in position to make a play on the ball.
“We’re on the 1-yard line; we’ve got 5 yards to be as physical as possible. So that pretty much plays into my hands.”
But what about the mental aspect of pulling off a goal-line stand?
“As a player, we’re not on the outside looking in,” Farwell said. “A lot of times we don’t know the magnitude of it. We just look at it as we’re playing football, it’s a kids’ game, we’ve been playing this game since we were 8-years old. So a lot of times, you don’t realize the big picture of it. We were just playing hard like it was another play.”
Except that it wasn’t.
You could see that in the bundle of contortions that was Pete Carroll along the sideline, where the Seahawks’ coach was experiencing the agony and ecstasy of every twist and turn.
“We had a time out there and I was trying to get the guys over because I was going to tell them all how fired up I was they had this opportunity,” Carroll said. “They were too tired. They couldn’t come to the sideline. I looked up and I think it’s Kam Chancellor and Mike Bennett, there’s just the three of us.”
Bottom line on the goal-line stand? “I thought that was freakin’ awesome,” Carroll said. “I loved it.”