CLEVELAND—The first time the Browns offense had the football, it took advantage of a short field and quickly scored to take a 7-0 lead. On their next two possessions, the Browns drove 69 and 92 yards for two more touchdowns, and just like that the Seahawks found themselves trailing 20-6 one play into the second quarter.
"It got ugly there in the beginning," linebacker K.J. Wright said. "… We were calm, I was just more frustrated and confused, like, 'How are they still scoring?' It was just one play after another, guys were messing up all over the field, myself included."
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted after his team's 32-28 win, "(The Browns) looked great early in the game, we were reeling a little bit on defense."
If the Seahawks are anything though, it's resilient, and that applies to a defense led by Bobby Wagner and Wright, who have been through enough in their careers to know that early struggles don't have to tell the story of the entire game. With that in mind, Wagner called his defense together on the sideline after Cleveland's third touchdown and tried to calm everyone down.
"We got on the sideline, Bobby called us all up, and said 'Hey guys, let's settle down, take it one play at a time, just do right, do our jobs, stay in your gaps,'" Wagner said. "Football is simple if you just do right, but at the beginning we were taking turns messing up, but we definitely figured that out and got on the same page."
Asked about that sideline meeting, Seattle's defensive captain explained, "I just felt like we weren't playing how we needed to be playing. That's not the defense we want to be, so I felt like it was important for me to get the guys together and basically just say, 'Do your job, don't try to do too much. Don't worry about the score, we'll be fine if we keep playing our game.' We've got a lot of young guys, myself, Russ (Wilson), K.J., we've been in games like this where it hasn't gone our way and we came back, so it was just letting them know that it's the first quarter, we're fine.
"It was crazy. They came out with a bunch of energy, as we expected. They punched us in the mouth from the moment they stepped on the field, but we weathered the storm, we were able to calm down, settle down and start making plays. Offense made some plays, we made some key plays towards the end, and I just feel like it shows our grit. No matter what, we're never going to give up. We had a lot of gutsy plays this game."
And after that sideline meeting, Seattle's defense settled down and made big play after big play to help lead the Seahawks to a comeback victory. The Browns went three-and-out on their fourth possession, leading to a David Moore blocked punt that set up a field goal. Tre Flowers intercepted Baker Mayfield on Cleveland's next possession, the one after ended on a Tedric Thompson interception in the end zone, and in the second half Ziggy Ansah forced and recovered a fumble the first time Cleveland's offense took the field. Wright finished off the turnover party with an interception late in the fourth quarter to help put the game on ice, and the defense also put together a goal line stand that included a fourth-and-goal stuff at the 1-yard line.
In all, the Browns managed only one score after their initial first-quarter surge, and that touchdown came on a short field after a shanked punt gave Cleveland the ball at the Seattle 24-yard line. And after gaining 302 yards in the first half, the Browns were limited to just 104 in the second half.
"I just loved the way we hung tough and stayed in this game," Carroll said. "There were so many opportunities to let this game go away from us, and our guys just would not do it. The goal-line stand down there, all that that took, all the back and forth, all the things that happened down there was an extraordinary sequence, but our guys wound up stopping them. I was so fired up about that. That's when football is at its very best. It's the height of intensity, it's the most intense moment you can find in the game when you're right down there, and our guys figured out a way to get off the field, which was great."
The Seahawks were plus-three in turnover differential heading into the game, so it's not like they have been bad in that department so far this season, but this was still something of a breakout game for the defense in terms of takeaways, and it was one players thought might be coming after a big "Turnover Thursday" practice earlier in the week.
"We had four picks on five plays," Wagner explained of that Thursday practice. "So I felt like that carried into the game. We got four turnovers, key turnovers, K.J.'s being the biggest one because it got us off the field and kind of closed the game out… We've been waiting for a game like that. We always say they come bunches, and they sure did in this game."
Said Carroll, "It's a huge day. You guys don't know how much we emphasize the football. The source of our philosophy is that it's all about the ball. We were plus three going in and taking pride in that, but we hadn't even had a big day yet. So to come out plus-three again today, that's really important, because we know that everything follows the success about the football, and our guys are committed to that… They come in bunches, and today that was the day."
For the sixth straight game, Russell Wilson was nearly flawless, further cementing himself as a legitimate MVP candidate if not outright frontrunner; the running game was very good again, led by a third-straight 100-yard game by Chris Carson; the receivers made big plays; and the offensive line performed very well despite the absence of two starters. But for all the offense did well, Sunday's comeback wouldn't have been possible if the defense hadn't made a dramatic in-game turnaround, one that helped the Seahawks improve to 5-1 this season.
"Our defense, I thought was amazing, especially in the second half," Wilson said. "They were making huge turnovers—they had four turnovers, three interceptions—just making plays, finding ways to get the ball back. And the fourth-and-1 stop was incredible."
Game action photos from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 6 matchup against the Cleveland Browns.