Give the Seahawks an inch of grass - or in this case, FieldTurf - and they'll do everything they can to defend it.
Football fans got a first-hand look at that NFL saying in a highly-literal sense in Seattle's Week 4 matchup with the Lions at CenturyLink Field, where strong safety Kam Chancellor forced a fumble of Detroit's Calvin Johnson just as the Pro Bowl wideout was about to cross the goal line for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
It was the first fumble Johnson lost in 61 career catches inside the red zone and it was a play that ended up preserving a 13-10 win for the Seahawks, who improved to 2-2 on the season and netted their 10th straight victory on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
"We saw one of the great plays in ball when a team's on precipice of winning the football game and the guys make a play," said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. "The play Kam makes is extraordinary. We've seen it before, Earl [Thomas] made one against the Rams a year ago, if you guys remember, right at the same kind of situation. Those guys are battling for the football, so it was a fantastic effort on the night on defense all night long."
The Lions, whose offense had mustered just three points on the day, threatened to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. After orchestrating a 90-yard drive, Detroit faced 3rd-and-1 from Seattle's 11-yard line, where quarterback Matthew Stafford found Johnson on a short pass to his left. Johnson excelled 10 yards toward the end zone, where he came into contact with Seattle cornerback Cary Williams, Thomas, and Chancellor, who jarred the ball loose.
"He had it away from his body," Chancellor said of Johnson's football placement. "They teach you to tuck it tight and it was away from his body, so I just punched at it. I gave up a big play to get them down there. I gave up a seam route, something I didn't see on film.
"I owed it to my defense to get the ball back. I made up for it."
The fumble Chancellor forced rolled into the end zone where it was pushed out of bounds by Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, who was all alone near the football as it was traveling toward the back of the goal line. According to NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino, Wright could have been flagged for illegally batting the football out of bounds, but the back judge didn't feel Wright's actions justified a penalty.
"Judgment call on the field," was Blandino's explanation in an interview with NFL Network. "The back judge felt it wasn't overt and that's why he didn't throw the flag."
A flag would have given the ball back to the Lions, but instead the referees ruled a touchback, awarding the ball to the Seahawks. The play wasn't reviewable, so Seattle took possession and was able to run out the last 1 minute and 45 seconds of regulation for the win.
While a great deal of spotlight will inevitably be placed on a call that was not made, one of "the great plays in ball" - as Carroll put it - is deserving of a bit more attention in this space.
Here's how Seahawks players reacted to Chancellor's game-saving fumble:
"I think it's rare because I feel like we are the only defense that understands that no matter where the ball is at, we feel that we are going to make the play. Even when he caught the ball and is at the one-yard line, we've seen it before - Earl [Thomas] made the play last year against the Rams - and we understand that somebody is going to make a play. The saying is, 'Give us an inch of grass.' That's all it is. We'll make the play."
"That's the thing about this defense, you give us a chance, there's people like Kam Chancellor to save the day. You give us an inch of grass, we've got an opportunity to win the game. It was an amazing play he made. It's great to have him back."
"I just saw Kam going all out. That's what he does. It's just who he is as a football player. I'm glad we made that play. It's something that we needed because it could've gotten ugly at the end. He did a great job. It was a big-time play."
"It goes down to the wire, man, we're going to be there. We've just got to continue to compete and that's just basically what it is. We're going to compete until the clock hits double zero."
"I saw them throw the ball and I just saw Kam do what Kam do. Boom, stole the ball out."
"It's unbelievable. I mean, come on now. Give us an inch and we protected it. It just feels so good. I think we just need games like this for us to come together. I just felt like we were so close. We needed this."
"You're talking about Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, you get those two on a play and something good is bound to happen. Those are two All-Pro players playing at a high level and big time players make big time plays when you need. I think there's been a lot of hoopla and people talking about what Kam did and I think that'll quiet some of the critics."
Take a look at the photos from the Seahawks' 13-10 thrilling victory against the Lions, which made it their 10th Monday Night Football game win in a row.