Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett has been one of the best players on a struggling offense in recent weeks, and he came through with another strong performance on Sunday, catching seven passes for a team-high 68 yards and a touchdown.
Those catches, which included a great toe-tapping sideline catch and a beautiful over-the-shoulder touchdown grab, might not have been Lockett's biggest contribution to Sunday's 30-23 win over the 49ers, however.
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll revealed after the game, Lockett stepped up in Saturday evening's team meeting and led a conversation, one Russell Wilson called "really touching, really special," that very well may have helped the Seahawks snap out a bat stretch that saw them lose six of their previous seven games before Sunday's win.
"These guys are bought in," Carroll said. "They have to be to at this point to be hanging like this throughout. They are, and I trust in the leadership—Bobby (Wagner) and Russ and all the guys, Duane (Brown), I always tell you about that continue to send the message. They keep us together. Last night, Tyler did a really nice job in the meeting. He had a chance to bring up something that he wanted to talk about and gave them the opportunity, and he did a great job with our guys about hanging together and about why we are connected in the way we are. Really cool. I think it had something to do with today."
Carlos Dunlap II, who had two of the biggest plays of the day for Seattle's defense, recording a sack for a safety, as well as the pass breakup on fourth down that clinched the victory, said Lockett, "just basically made it open floor for everybody to communicate their why. Why we sacrifice what we do for this game. Why we continue to work and fight for this game, when the seasons go on the way it is. Why we're here. How did we get here. Where we came from. Who are we doing it for. A lot of the messages were very impactful."
Dunlap wouldn't reveal the specifics of what was said, but did note that the meeting brought players together.
"The best teams are families," Dunlap said. "We got to know each other a lot better yesterday, had one of those hard talks, and it feels good to get this win after something like that. We're setting a new foundation for us to build on, and right now we've got one win on that new foundation, and let's keep stacking them."
And while it's impossible to quantify just how much Saturday night's meeting affected Sunday afternoon's on-field product, what isn't up for debate is the fact that Russell Wilson and a struggling offense played their best game in several weeks, and that a defense that has been so good for most of the season again came through, most notably with a final red-zone stop to secure the win.
"For us, it's one of those things where we never give up," said safety Quandre Diggs, who recorded his team-leading fourth interceptions, one of three Seattle takeaways in the game. "We always fight. This is a very resilient group, and no matter how people bash us, and say we're done and all that, we always believe, and I think that comes from great leadership."
Seattle's offense, which has been out of sync for much of the season, got off to another rough start, but scored put together two second-quarter touchdown drives to get the Seahawks back int the game, then turned Diggs interception into a third touchdown—Lockett's 12-yard score—that put Seattle ahead for good.
As Lockett put it, the team offense has looked good in practice, but on game day there are too many mistakes, some of which were still evident on Sunday like penalties, sacks, or in the case of this particular game, turnovers. But even with those mistake, the offense was able to get on track and look as cohesive as it has since early in the year.
"You're sitting there like, 'Bro, what do we have to do?'" Lockett said. "And I think we finally got past that. We finally were able to put drives together, we finally were able to believe, we finally were able to move the ball and do what it is that we always knew we can do."
And again, it wasn't always pretty. Gerald Everett had a day to forget, fumbling twice and turning what should have been a touchdown into an interception; there were a couple of drive-killing sacks, including two that took the Seahawks out of field goal range; but the Seahawks did enough on offense to convert five of seven third downs during their three touchdown drives, and to run a season-high 68 plays from scrimmage, and to win the time of possession battle for the first time all season, and perhaps most importantly for their chances going forward, Wilson looked the best he has since returning from injury.
"Russ was strong," Carroll said. "Good, solid football game. Made some great throws in the game. Took a couple sacks, we need to talk about that; thought maybe we could get rid of the football. But I thought he played a really good football game. Two-minute drill was exquisite. Again, the play to Tyler for the touchdown, that orchestration of that route and the concept and the call, was a great call, by Shane (Waldron) and great execution by the guys, and great toss. Really, we should have scored the other time down there. Gerald had a chance, he's in the end zone, that's a touchdown. We had the other one, too. Russ had a couple more touchdowns in him today that didn't show up. I thought he played a really good game."
It was a weird, disjointed game, but it was still a win for the Seahawks, a win that, as left tackle Duane Brown put it, "Does everything. Winning does everything. Getting us on the right track. That's a really good team we went against, they've been on a roll, getting a win at home—we haven't been able to win at home for a while—it means everything. It's just a confidence boost, just a lot to build on. We've got a lot to clean up, it wasn't pretty by any means, but we'll take that ugly win any day of the week."
Seahawks players, dancers, and staff will wear custom designed cleats and shoes supporting causes they feel passionate about during Week 13 vs. the San Francisco 49ers on December 5.