SEATTLE — When the Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch caught a pass from Tarvaris Jackson late in the fourth-quarter Sunday, it looked like he was going to come up short of the first down.
The Seahawks would have to punt, and Baltimore, which a week earlier had used a dramatic late-game drive to earn a victory, would have three minutes to attempt another comeback. Instead, Lynch, seemingly cornered by two would-be tacklers, stopped, then bounced to the right and left linebackers Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson grasping at air as the Seahawks running back picked up a first down.
“He made a great play,” Jackson said. “He made like he (was) out there in the back yard playing against some of his cousins or something. … That was big.”
It was perhaps the biggest play of the game and kept alive the most important drive of Sunday’s shocking 22-17 victory over the Ravens. No, the drive didn’t yield points, but after Lynch’s extra effort led to a first down, he and the Seahawks were able to run the clock out before celebrating the team’s most complete victory of the season, and one that ended a three-game losing streak.
The play was symbolic of Lynch’s big effort — the player who fights for every yard got a few more when he needed them most. And it was a play the Seahawks hope can be symbolic of their plans for the second half of the season, when they’ll try to leave a wretched 2-6 start in their wake, much like Lynch did to a pair of Baltimore linebackers.
“This is the beginning of the finish,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We always want to finish well. Today was a beautiful day in making that illustrated. There’s nothing we can do about the first half; it’s second-half time now, what can we do? We went out and we got a terrific start to this thing, so let’s build on it.”
A theme for the Seahawks this week was putting the first half of the season behind them and starting a new chapter. But it seemed hard to imagine Seattle kicking off the second half with a victory over the Ravens, who a week earlier had won in Pittsburgh, the same place the Seahawks endured a shutout loss.
But coming off three straight losses, the Seahawks were the sharper team early, not the Ravens, who came into the game with a 6-2 record. After a Seahawks three-and-out and a Ravens missed field goal, Seattle struck first when Lynch plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Lynch, who rushed for 109 yards and caught five passes for 58 more, had pass receptions of 21 and 23 yards — the second of which Lynch carried to the 1-yard-line to set up the TD — on the drive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ravens returner David Reed fumbled, which led to a Steven Hauschka field goal. Baltimore cut Seattle’s lead to 10-7 with a trick play — Ray Rice took a handoff from Joe Flacco before throwing a TD pass to wide-open tight end Ed Dickson. The Seahawks extended their lead with three more Hauschka field goals, the last of which came after Reed fumbled another kick return.
The Seahawks, who came into the game with a minus-five turnover ratio, got a third turnover early in the third quarter when David Hawthorne intercepted a Flacco pass that was tipped by fellow linebacker K.J. Wright. Once again, the offense failed to turn it into a touchdown, but Hauschka made his team record-tying fifth field goal to give Seattle a 22-7 lead.
“We didn’t turn the ball over today,” said Carroll, whose team is 3-0 when it wins the turnover battle this season. “We threw up a freaking goose egg today and we got three; that’s how it works.”
Baltimore eventually made it a one-score game with a field goal late in the third quarter, then a touchdown with just under six minutes left in the game.
At that point, the ball went back to the Seahawks, who needed to milk 5:52 off the clock or take their chances with Baltimore’s offense on the field. The game-clinching drive couldn’t have started much worse for the Seahawks, who were flagged for a false start and illegal motional penalties, setting up first-and-20 before they had run a play. Two big catches by slot receiver Golden Tate, who was in the game for an injured Doug Baldwin, allowed the Seahawks to pick up a first down. From there Lynch took over, carrying six times and catching one pass, accounting for Seattle’s final 35 yards before Jackson was able to take a knee to run out the clock.
“Coaches love nothing more than to get that situation in the fourth quarter and be able to run the clock out,” Carroll said. “And think about who we did it against, so that’s really cool that that happened. I was really proud of the offensive line. … When we needed it most they were able to grab the running game and take five or six minutes off the clock.”
Seattle heads to St. Louis to face the 2-7 Rams next week, then has four of its final six at home, so as bad as the first half of the season was for the Seahawks, they believe that, beginning with Sunday’s unlikely victory, much better times are ahead.
“We can build on this,” said safety Earl Thomas. “It’s a big, big, big, big win. Everybody’s got a high morale; it hasn’t been like this in a minute. It just feels good to get that W, man.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog