SEATTLE --The Seahawks needed a huge day from Russell Wilson and a couple of late stops from their defense, but on a tense night at CenturyLink Field, they held on for a 31-25 victory over the Bills that improved their record to 5-2-1, and gave them an 11th straight win on Monday Night Football.
Here are five rapid reactions from a thrilling Seahawks victory:
1. That was wild. And pretty darn fun.
From a blocked punt early, to a bunch of big plays by both teams, to the strange end to the first half, which required referee Walt Anderson to yell "the half isn't over!" as players from both teams began leaving the field, this was far from a routine football game.
And of course on a night when strange things were happening, Seattle would rely heavily on its offense to pull out a close victory. After scoring just one offensive touchdown in the past two games, the Seahawks came alive against the Bills, particularly in the passing game with Russell Wilson completing 20 of 26 attempts for 282 yards, two touchdowns and a 137.0 passer rating.
"This was a good Monday night ballgame," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said postgame. "What a crazy night out there, fantastic night here at CenturyLink [Field] again. The fans were awesome, and everybody went for it, both teams played really hard and aggressive and wide open, and it was a heck of a football game."
2. Jimmy Graham was ridiculous.
When Wilson tried to hit Graham with a perfectly-placed pass in the back of the end zone, Bills safety Robert Blanton held Graham's left hand down. It didn't matter, because Graham made the play anyway with one hand as an official flagged Blanton for pass interference. Later in the second quarter, Wilson went to Graham in the end zone again, Graham again had one hand pinned down by a defender, and again he made the one handed catch. Those were two of Graham's eight catches for 103 yards, and both came in the end zone where less than a year earlier, Graham suffered a very serious knee injury, from which he is clearly all the way back. If those great catches weren't enough to convince you that Graham is back to playing at a Pro Bowl level, then perhaps him hurdling over a Bills defender did the trick.
3. Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett indeed look healthier.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll mentioned during the week that one reason for optimism when it came to the offense was the way Wilson and Lockett have looked as they continue to get healthier, and sure enough, both players looked better than they have since suffering injuries early in the season.
Wilson moved well in the pocket in what was one of his best passing performances of the year, and he also ran when necessary, including a 3-yard touchdown run, his first of the season, and an 8-yard gain to convert on third down.
Lockett not only had a 43-yard return early to give the Seahawks good field position, that big return appeared to affect the Bills' strategy, because they kicked short the next two times to avoid Lockett, giving the Seahawks good field position again. Lockett also showed impressive elusiveness on a 13-yard run that could have easily gone for a loss had he not made multiple Bills defenders miss.
4. The Bills couldn't cover Doug Baldwin.
Carroll mentioned after Seattle's loss to New Orleans that the Seahawks wanted to get Doug Baldwin more involved, and sure enough Baldwin caught a pass on the first play of the game. That was the start of a big game for Baldwin, who had a 50-yard catch on Seattle's second possession to set up a touchdown, and who finished with six catches for 89 yards. Baldwin could have had an even bigger game, but was on the receiving end of two blatant pass interference calls after he had beaten Bills defensive backs.
5. The defense struggled at times, but came through when it mattered most.
Make no mistake about it, the Seahawks defense is the biggest reason why this team is 5-2-1 and in first place, but on Monday against a very challenging Bills offense, Seattle's defense had a hard time getting off the field.
The Bills went 12-for-17 on third down, including 5-for-5 on a 17-play first-quarter drive that ended with a touchdown. While Seattle's defense will feel like it can clean things up after this performance, a lot of credit also has to go to Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy, who both proved very difficult to contain.
Despite those third-down struggles and strong performances by McCoy and Taylor, Seattle's defense did some good things, including another Richard Sherman interception (his third on the season), 16 more tackles and a half a sack by Bobby Wagner, 11 tackles and a sack from K.J. Wright, two half sacks by Frank Clark and 1.5 by Cliff Avril, who are now up to 6.5 and 9.0, respectively. Even just-signed defense end Damontre Moore contributed, recording two tackles for loss in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks tried to protect a one-score lead.
And most significantly, with the Seahawks clinging to a one-score lead, the defense came up with big stops in the fourth quarter when they needed them most.
See some of the action from Monday Night Football, Seahawks vs Bills during Week 9 at CenturyLink Field.