Seahawks running back J.D. McKissic celebrates a touchdown Sunday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Seahawks running back J.D. McKissic celebrates a touchdown Sunday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Little-known players make big contributions in Seahawks’ win

Running back J.D. McKissic scores a pair of touchdowns to spark Seattle’s offense

SEATTLE — On a team loaded with Pro Bowlers and All-Pros, it was a couple of castoffs and role players who ignited the Seattle Seahawks in a 46-18 victory over Indianapolis in an NFL game Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

Don’t let the final score fool you. This game was up for grabs late in the third quarter, and the Seahawks were playing like anything but a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

But huge plays on consecutive downs by — wait for it — J.D. McKissic and Marcus Smith broke an 18-18 tie and turned the game into a rout.

“I would never say bottom of the roster. I would say new guys,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said when asked about the contributions from unheralded players. “I thought it was fantastic.”

McKissic had an electrifying 30-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the season to put Seattle ahead 25-18 with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Then, on the next play from scrimmage, Smith sacked Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett and knocked the ball loose. Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner scooped it up and rumbled 21 yards for a touchdown that made it 32-18 just 13 seconds later.

That pretty much decided the issue, but just for fun, McKissic scored another touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson.

It was a tremendous showing by a young running back who spent most of last season on Atlanta’s practice squad and played one game for Seattle after being released by the Falcons in December.

McKissic, who was undrafted coming out of Arkansas State, played in the final game of last season and had one run for 2 yards and two receptions for 16.

He wasn’t even active for the first three games of this season, but he was told during practice this week that he would play Sunday.

“It was very exciting. You want to take advantage of every opportunity,” McKissic said of getting the news that he would be on the field. “I wanted to contribute to this team and help get this beautiful W.”

Carroll said he was excited for McKissic and not at all surprised by his performance. McKissic finished the game with four carries for 38 yards plus the 27-yard touchdown reception.

“I was thrilled by the way J.D. McKissic jumped on the scene,” said Carroll, who likened McKissic to injured running back C. J. Prosise. “He’s been a great kid. He just hadn’t had his shot yet. He ran into C.J’s role and he did that perfectly for us tonight.”

McKissic tried to downplay the suggestion that his touchdown run lit a fire under the Seahawks.

“I came out and did the best I could for the team,” he said. “Other guys made plays as well, so once we got going, we got going.”

Smith made sure of that.

He said that the key to the sack was changing his technique on Colts right tackle Joe Haeg on a tip from fellow defensive end Michael Bennett.

“The tackle had been setting high the whole game, and the whole time I was bull rushing,” Smith said. “We came to the sideline and Michael was like, ‘Man, take him high and around,’ and that time I took him high and around and got the sack fumble.”

“It was really big,” Smith said. “I know that I can make those type of plays.”

Smith’s route to Seattle started out differently, but bears some real similarities to McKissic’s.

The defensive end was drafted in the first round out of Louisville by Philadelphia but played in just 37 games in three seasons, recording four sacks.

The Eagles cut him this summer, and the Seahawks signed him.

The Seahawks rotate their defensive linemen freely under normal circumstances, but Smith was pressed into extensive duty Sunday when Cliff Avril left the game in the first half with a neck injury.

Smith recorded a half sack in the second quarter and then turned the game for good with his play in the third.

Smith said he typically plays 12-15 snaps in a game but probably doubled that on Sunday as a result of Avril’s injury.

“I was just waiting on my opportunity,” he said. “When Cliff went down, I knew I had to fill that role.

All this after another uninspired first half by a team that many expect to make a run deep into the playoffs.

The Seahawks (2-2) trailed 15-10 at halftime, and the only reason it was that close was because of yet another contribution from an unlikely source.

Cornerback Justin Coleman, who has been cut twice in his career and came to Seattle in a trade with New England for a seventh-round pick, returned his first career interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Coleman became the nickel defensive back Sunday after starter Jeremy Lane was injured.

Coleman’s touchdown put Seattle ahead 10-2, but the Colts (1-3) mounted two touchdown drives later in the second quarter to take the lead going into halftime.

It really felt like the season was on the brink.

Until the new guys made their mark.

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