Kam Chancellor called it.
Sidelined by a groin injury Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks' Pro-Bowl strong safety was a spectator in Sunday's game, and apparently he was also something of a psychic.
The way Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tells it, when the Falcons offense took the field late in the fourth quarter while trying to hold onto a one-point lead, Kam Chancellor told him that Seattle's defense was going to come up with an interception on a tipped ball. Three plays into the drive, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a short pass to Julio Jones, but the ball bounced off of Jones' hands, then off of Richard Sherman's before Earl Thomas hauled in the interception that would help set up the game-winning field goal.
"On the sidelines, Kam Chancellor called it," Carroll said. "He looked me right in the eyes and told me the whole thing was going to happen."
Maybe Chancellor really has some prophetic powers, or maybe he just recognized that Thomas, who at that point was already having his best game of the season, was due for one more game-changing play. Actually, a couple more. Not only did Thomas come up with that interception, he saved one more hard-hitting pass breakup for Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu on Atlanta's final possession, he pressured Ryan on another incompletion, then he was in on coverage with Sherman on a fourth-down pass that went incomplete.
"I thought Earl had a great game," Carroll said. "He made some great break-ups."
Carroll then came up with what might be the most accurate description of Thomas on the books: "He just looks like he's full speed, on fast-forward the whole time."
Describing Thomas' play as being "on fast-forward the whole time" was one good way to describe it, but to some teammates, the best compliment they could give Earl Thomas was that he looked like Earl Thomas, because when you're a four-time first-team All Pro, just being yourself is pretty darn good.
"I thought he played a fantastic game," Sherman said. "I thought he was on course and he made some big hits. He played like Earl Thomas."
Added cornerback DeShawn Shead: "I thought he had an amazing day. That's why he's Earl Thomas, one of the best to ever play this game. I thought he did an amazing job."
By his own admission, Earl Thomas hasn't been Earl Thomas at times this season, and particularly in a season-opening win over Miami in which he had a couple of uncharacteristic missed tackles that allowed the Dolphins to extend big plays.
"I'm very confident," said Thomas, who started his 101st consecutive game Sunday to establish a franchise record. "It's crazy over the years, the more and more I play football—especially how the season started off, I was missing open-field tackles—you kind of take stuff for granted. I'm used to, if something breaks, I'm going to stop the bleeding. But when they're breaking and I'm wobbling and it's not going my way, you've got to take a deep look at yourself in the mirror, you've got to keep pushing, you can't be complacent. When you work hard, you always pray and hope and believe in yourself that it's going to turn out the way it did today.
"I know what I'm capable of. It's so hard to show your skills week in and week out, because we have so many great players, but when you get a chance to stand up, you definitely want to do it."
Thomas stood up in a big way Sunday, often times doing his best Chancellor impersonation with the hard-hitting strong safety sidelined by a groin injury. Thomas was credited with three passes defensed, all of which came via big—and clean—hits in the middle of the field, a Chancellor specialty. Thomas noted his extra physical play while praising the job Kelcie McCray did filling in for Chancellor.
"Of course we want the enforcer there, I don't have to bang my body up so much when he's there, but Kelcie played a great game," Thomas said.
Thomas said he "felt good" and "was in rhythm," on Sunday while standing in his locker more than an hour after the game had ended. It was a much different scene than when, following that disappointing opener against Miami, Thomas quickly left the locker room without even showering, or as he described it later that week, "I just put my tights on and my shorts and slippers, and got out of there. Jumped in my Rolls (Royce) and went home."
On this Sunday, Thomas was one of the best players on the field throughout the game, showing off the range, instincts and fearlessness that have turned him into one of the game's best defensive players.
In other words, Earl Thomas was Earl Thomas.
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 26-24 win vs Falcons at CenturyLink Field.