SEATTLE — There are certain things Seattle Seahawks fans have come to expect from Monday night games.
A loud, and in this case, record-setting crowd. A Seahawks victory.
Oh, and a strange play at the end of a half that affected the outcome.
While Monday’s weird play came at the end of the first half of Seattle’s 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills before 69,084 fans at CenturyLink Field, it had ramifications on Buffalo’s final drive of the game.
Trailing by six, the Bills drove down to the Seahawks’ 10-yard line on their final possession before back-to-back sacks forced a fourth-and-goal from the 15. Tyrod Taylor’s pass fell incomplete to give Seattle its 11th consecutive win on Monday Night Football.
“It was a great finish and fortunately our guys were able to hang on,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s a great moment for a defense out there when you have to stop them and keep them from getting in the end zone and those plays just keep coming and any one of those plays could lose the game.”
However, Buffalo would only have needed to kick a field goal for the tie had a made field goal at the end of the first half stood.
With three seconds to go in the opening half, Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter lined up for a 53-yard field goal attempt as Richard Sherman rushed from the left edge and ran into Carpenter’s leg, partially blocking the kick. Sherman was flagged for going unabated to the kicker and the ball was moved up.
“I went for the ball and the holder still had it,” Sherman said. “I didn’t hear a whistle. They say to play to the whistle so I went and tried to block the kick and I got it. I think I got a piece of it and the kicker somehow kept going. I assumed he was going to stop when he saw me going for the wall.”
Since the Buffalo training staff treated Carpenter on the field, he had to leave for a play. Jonathan Williams spiked the ball to bring Carpenter back on and Carpenter appeared to convert the 49-yard attempt. However, the officials didn’t step away from the ball until the play clock was under five seconds and whistled Carpenter for delay of game and negated the field goal. His then-54-yard attempt sailed wide right.
That forced the Bills to require a touchdown at the end, and Taylor’s final incompletion gave the NFC West-leading Seahawks (5-2-1) their first victory in three weeks.
Tight end Jimmy Graham had the sort of game Seahawks fans envisioned when the team acquired him prior to last season with a pair of first-half one-handed touchdown grabs among his eight catches for 103 yards as he continues to show he’s fully recovered from last year’s petallar tendon injury.
“In the last four or five weeks he made a jump,” Carroll said. “He looks better physically than we’ve ever seen him. He looks faster, more explosive, jumping higher than we had ever seen him. The payoff of all this hard work is that he’s in phenomenal shape, he’s as lean as he’s ever been and he just looked great. You can see it on the field and he continues to just play lights-out football.”
The Seahawks’ strong offensive first half gave them a 28-17 halftime advantage, and the Seattle defense kept Buffalo out of the end on its final two drives deep into Seahawks territory to close out the victory.
“We have improvements to make,” Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril said. “I think we tackled poorly today. But credit to those guys. They have some elusive guys back that can make some plays. We just have to get better at tackling and make the plays we’re supposed to make.”
The lone touchdown of the second half came when Buffalo’s Mike Gillislee scored a 1-yard touchdown run, and Taylor rushed for the two-point conversion at 14:26 in the fourth quarter.
That cut Seattle’s 11-point halftime lead to 28-25. Steven Hauschka’s 49-yard field goal pushed the advantage back to 31-25 at 9:49 in the third.
The Bills had three first-half leads and didn’t punt until their fourth offensive possession.
“(Taylor) was doing a great job of scrambling around,” Sherman said. “I think we had him bottled up a few times and he had some miraculous outstanding plays like he’s been doing all season and we’ve got to give him credit.”
Tyler Lockett’s 22-yard return of Buffalo’s first punt gave the Seahawks possession at Buffalo’s 40-yard line. A Bills pass interference gave the Hawks possession at the Buffalo 3. Christine Michael scored on the next play, twirling as he entered the end zone, giving Seattle its first lead of the game at 21-17.
But the Seahawks weren’t done. Graham took over on the ensuing drive with a 15-yard reception on which he hurdled Stephon Gilmore, and a 14-yard reception that set up his 18-yard scoring catch from Wilson. It was Graham’s second one-handed touchdown catch of the game and pushed Seattle’s lead to 28-17.
It was just Wilson’s second passing touchdown since Seattle’s 26-24 win over Atlanta on Oct. 16. The first came on a 17-yard scoring strike that Graham hauled in at the back pylon with Robert Blanton interfering to tie the game 14-14 at 14:54 in the second quarter.
“Both catches he made tonight for touchdowns were phenomenal,” Wilson said. “That’s why he’s here. He might be the best tight end in the National Football League and he can do everything, so that was really cool to watch.”
A 31-yard Carpenter field goal at 9:32 in the second gave Buffalo a 17-14 advantage.
Buffalo had taken the 14-7 lead with a methodical, 17-play drive that went 75 yards, lasted for 10 minutes and concluded with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to Robert Woods.
It followed a 2-yard touchdown run from Wilson that tied the game at 7-7 at 12:21 in the first that was set up by a 50-yard completion to Baldwin and a 43-yard kickoff return by Lockett.
Buffalo blocked Seattle punter Jon Ryan’s first attempt and the ball dribbled out of bounds at the Seahawks’ 3-yard line. Taylor kept the ball on the zone read on Buffalo’s first offensive play for the 3-yard score and Buffalo led 7-0 at 13:32 in the opening quarter.