The Seattle Seahawks nearly had their third interception of Sunday's game when St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens floated a wobbly pass into the end zone after taking a hit from Cliff Avril.
Instead, the Seahawks had a near-disaster.
As Clemens' pass floated to the end zone, safety Earl Thomas had his eyes on it and was ready for the interception. Problem was, so did cornerback Richard Sherman. And cornerback Byron Maxwell. So instead of an interception, the Seahawks Legion of Boom went boom.
"How about that play," Carroll said. "It looked like piranhas going after the football."
The piranha wearing No. 29 joked that the interception should have been his.
"I'm not going to get into that, but you know, Sherm owes me one," Thomas said. "He owes me one. He owes me one, bro."
In the immediate aftermath of the play, however, nobody was laughing. Sherman was undercut and came down hard on his back, and stayed down for a bit while being tended to by trainers before eventually jogging off. Sherman returned to the game the next time Seattle was on defense, however, and Carroll said "he got hit in the hip, but he came back and played, so he's OK."
No punt record
Seattle came into the game on the verge of some obscure history, but in the end the 2008 Atlanta Falcons will keep a record few were ever aware existed.
Through 15 games, the Seahawks had given up only 25 yards worth of punt returns all season, a testament to both Jon Ryan's punting skills, as well as Seattle's coverage team. That 2008 Falcons team, meanwhile allowed 49 yards, a record for a 16-game season, so Seattle seemed well positioned to top that, but that all went out the window when Austin Pettis returned a punt 37 yards, more than doubling the total Seattle had allowed all season up to that point.
Seattle wide receiver Ricardo Lockette got several plays with the team's offense in Sunday's game, including an 8-yard reception, but his biggest contributions came on special teams. Certainly they were his most crowd-pleasing moments. On the final play of the first quarter, Lockette was the first Seattle player down the field to cover a Seahawks punt. Lockette reached St. Louis return man Justin Veltung a split second after he caught the ball, and sent the Rams player sprawling backward with a jarring hit. How does Lockette time his tackles on punt coverages?
"I just watch his eyes," he explained. "His eyes get big when the ball gets close, so it's like" -- Lockette demonstrated by letting his eyes get huge -- "and then, 'Boom.'"
Veltung had to leave the game and was evaluated on the St. Louis bench for a head injury.
Early in the third quarter Lockette had another crunching tackle while covering a Seattle punt. This one came in front of the Seattle bench and forced a fumble from Rams return man Austin Pettis, with the ball bouncing out of bounds. "I'm just doing what I can," Lockette said of his special teams contributions. "If I'm not playing receiver, I'll do whatever else they want me to do. Whether they want me to hold for kicks, whether they want me to learn how to kick the ball, I'll do whatever it is that'll help the team to a championship."
Cornerback Walter Thurmond returned from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, but the Seahawks kept their defensive lineup intact against St. Louis, leaving Byron Maxwell at one starting cornerback.
Maxwell responded with an interception, his fourth in five games since his playing time increased after an injury to then-starting cornerback Brandon Browner.
"Right now, I just want to do what I can to help them team," said Maxwell, who appreciated the vote of confidence given him by Carroll. "What I told (Carroll) is, whatever helps the team. The main thing is the (Super) Bowl. And whatever he thinks will get us to the bowl, that's the (important thing)."
Added Carroll: "He's been incredibly good for us. He's earned the right to stay out there and play ... He's played so consistently across the board in all situations. He's just been great for us and it's a great success story of this season, a big part of it."
Sunday's crowd of 68,264 at CenturyLink Field pushed Seattle's season total to 545,577, a single-season franchise record. The 2013 total breaks the previous record of 545,551 at CenturyLink Field in 2007. And Sunday's crowd was not only big, it was noisy. "The fans, they were electric," said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas was honored before the game with the Steve Largent Award, a prestigious award given to a team member who exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of Largent, Seattle's Hall of Fame receiver, as determined by a vote of his fellow Seahawks. Making Sunday's presentation even more special for Thomas, Largent himself was on hand to give him the trophy. It was, Thomas said after the game, "a great experience."
Largent was the first winner of the award in 1989.
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