Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf tackles Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) short of the goal line Sunday, ending an epic pursuit that began with Baker intercepting a pass at the Arizona 2. (Associated Press)

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf tackles Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) short of the goal line Sunday, ending an epic pursuit that began with Baker intercepting a pass at the Arizona 2. (Associated Press)

Hawks let game slip away, but Metcalf’s play was one for the ages

His astonishing TD-saving pursuit was in no way diminished by Seattle’s disappointing OT loss.

There’s a lot to unpack from the Seattle Seahawks’ 37-34 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.

There was quarterback Russell Wilson’s uncharacteristic lack of ball security as he threw three interceptions, including a crushing one in overtime. There’s the Seahawks once again being unable to handle prosperity, as they let another team back into a game after seeming to have control. And there’s Seattle squandering what could have been a commanding lead atop the NFL’s toughest division.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t press pause on all the hand wringing and Monday-morning quarterbacking and take a moment to highlight what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described as, “One of the best football plays I’ve ever seen.”

The play in question wasn’t a highlight-reel touchdown. It wasn’t a goal-line stand. Heck, with everything that went on in Sunday’s wild and crazy contest, it barely received mention in the Associated Press game story that appeared in Monday’s edition of The Herald.

But DK Metcalf’s incredible effort to track down Arizona safety Budda Baker from behind and prevent a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown needs to be acknowledged.

“That was one of the most remarkable plays I’ve ever seen,” Wilson said.

“That’s just an unbelievable play by him, just the effort. I really respect him for that, that’s what it takes, a winning effort.”

With 9 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Seattle had the ball first-and-goal from the Cardinals’ 3-yard line. Wilson lobbed a pass toward Chris Carson in the right flat, but Baker anticipated the throw and picked it off just in front of the goal line, with his momentum sending him streaking down the sideline. Given a head start and nothing but green field ahead of him, no one was going to prevent Baker from a length-of-the-field pick-six.

Not unless that someone is such a ridiculous athlete that even Rick James would consider him a Superfreak.

Metcalf was running a crossing pattern from left to right, so he saw the play develop in front of him. In the replay you can see the moment when Metcalf commits, puts his head down, and begins his full-out sprint in an effort to catch Baker. Baker had a five-yard head start north-south and another seven or eight yards separation east-west, and Baker is no slouch as a runner as the former Washington Husky ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the draft combine in 2017. Yet Metcalf — who is linebacker sized at 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds — blew past Wilson, reeled Baker in and brought him down at the 8, saving a touchdown.

“I was running, the next thing you know I look up and I see this big 14 coming after me. He got me, that was the first time I’ve ever been hawked in my entire life, so I’m going to be working on my speed,” Baker said with a laugh.

I don’t think there’s any amount of work Baker could put in that would make a difference against Metcalf. NFL Next Gen Stats measured Metcalf’s top speed on the play at an astonishing 22.64 mph.

“I did (think Baker was going to score) until that huge stallion of a human came galloping out of nowhere,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

“DK Metcalf is an absolute freak athlete, what an effort play by him, high school coaches will be showing that one for years, just don’t give up on a play.”

Metcalf’s efforts weren’t lost on his teammates, who responded in a big way. The defense came up with a huge stop, denying the Cardinals on fourth down to prevent Arizona from getting any points out of the turnover. Then the offense proceeded to march 97 yards on six plays for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 20-7 lead.

“It was such an incredible play because of what happened afterwards,” Carroll said. “The defense followed and rallied, got out of there in four downs and took the ball off them. The offense goes 97 yards with the drive and scores. I just think it was an inspiring play, nobody could miss it. Everybody that was watching that play, whether you like football or not, you could see that was something extraordinary. I’ve just never seen one quite like that.”

It also came in stark contrast to Metcalf’s gaffe in Week 3 against Dallas, when he caught a long pass for what should have been a 63-yard touchdown, but let up at the end and allowed Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs to punch the ball out of his hands and through the end zone for a touchback. It seems Metcalf has learned his lesson.

Metcalf’s play should have been the decisive moment in Sunday’s game. It should have catapulted the Seahawks to victory. It should have been the one that made all the headlines and served as the centerpiece photo on the front page of sports sections. It wasn’t, in large part because of those other issues that need to be unpacked (and there’s plenty of time for that).

But that doesn’t make Metcalf’s play any less incredible, and it should be recognized for the special play it was.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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