Mychal Kendricks didn't realize he made a pivotal play in the Seahawks' 40-34 win over the Buccaneers until he made it back to the sideline.
Blitzing off the right edge, Kendricks was picked up by left tackle Donovan Smith, so despite giving up seven inches and 78 pounds to Smith, Kendricks did all he could in that situation to get low and drive his blocker. Since he couldn't see over the much larger Smith, Kendricks didn't realize that he managed to push the left tackle into Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, forcing a fumble that Rasheem Green returned 36 yards to the Tampa Bay 15-yard line.
"I got low, and honestly I didn't know I made the play, because he's huge and he's in my face," Kendricks said. "When they take an angle and take that away, the only thing you can do is bull-rush. So I bull-rushed him, then I jumped to try to possibly hit is arm, but the ball was already out I guess. All I saw was Green going the other way. Then I go to the sideline and K.J.'s like, 'Good job, you made that play.'"
The Seahawks had to settle for a field goal after stalling out in the red zone, but that forced fumble and ensuing Green rumble proved huge not just because it gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24, but because it kept the Seahawks from possibly falling behind after a turnover of their own. Three plays before Winston's fumble, the Seahawks lost the ball on a Chris Carson fumble that gave Tampa Bay the ball at Seattle's 45-yard line. On a day where the Seahawks had a hard time containing Winston and the passing game—"We struggled quite a bit," is how Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it—a short field could have easily turned into another Buccaneers score. But in a game that would eventually go to overtime, Kendricks and Green teamed up to get the ball back to the Seahawks offense with a chance to take the lead.
Seattle's defense didn't play up to its own expectations on Sunday, allowing 418 yards, 319 of them through the air, and 34 points. "We have to do better," middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "We have to find a way to limit the points and limit the yards." But on a day where the defense had its struggles, Kendricks came through with some big plays for a second straight week.
Last week Kendricks had an impressive leaping interception to go along with seven tackles, one for a loss, in Seattle's win over Atlanta. This week Kendricks finished with only four tackles, but his day included a sack, forced fumble, and a leaping pass breakup that might have prevented a big gain had the pass gotten over him and to running back Breshad Perriman, who had room to run.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called the forced fumble, "the start of the great play," and it was just one of many plays by Kendricks that has helped illustrate why the Seahawks have played so much base defense this season in order to keep him, K.J. Wright and Wagner on the field at the same time.
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 9 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kendrick's big performance Sunday, as well as his overall play over the past month, was motivated in part by the battle being fought by friend and former University of California teammate Eric Stevens, who was recently diagnosed with ALS. Kendricks, who has been using social media to encourage donations to help with the considerable medical costs associated with ALS, has gained a new perspective on life and football after learning of his friend's diagnosis.
"I just think about how blessed we are," Kendricks said "When things are bad—and we all know my situation, things have been bad before—I think of moments and times and people like him and the things he's going through. You do some self-reflecting and realize you're more blessed than you realize. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him; he's a really good friend of mine. He reached out to me and let me know he has ALS, and it's so sad. A guy who's so young and so full of life, and he gets that type of message. He tells me that there's treatments out there, but he doesn't have access to those treatments, it's just like, what do you say to a person who's going through that?
"So yeah, I'm out here playing football, and no matter what happens out here, you realize that at the end of the day, you're home, you're healthy and you're blessed. Go to his GoFundMe and help him out. Any money that's raised is going to help him fight this battle, and it's going to be a long battle. I'm here for him, I know he has a lot of other ex-teammates that are there for him… It motivates me and it keeps me going."