Chopped: Seahawks’ Earl Thomas masters art of goal-line takeaway
LOS ANGELES – Give Earl Thomas a black belt already.
The man has a knack for chopping the ball out of the hands of an opponent who’s reaching for the end zone, which is exactly what he did to Rams running back Todd Gurley in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.
“I saw a chance to strike on the ball,” Thomas said. “I did a great job watching those Bruce Lee movies and carried them to the football field.”
The officials needed to see it twice before they believed it. Gurley was initially awarded a touchdown on his 12-yard run. After the scoring play was reviewed, the call was overturned after it was determined Gurley had the ball knocked out of his hands before he reached across the plane of the goal line or came down out of bounds. The loose ball hit the pylon, meaning possession went to the Seahawks and they were awarded a touchback just as if the ball had been fumbled out of the back of the end zone.
“It was in slow motion,” Thomas said. “I knew I knocked the ball out.”
That touchdown the Rams didn’t score loomed rather large in a game the Seahawks won by six points, and the play was a testament to just how hard Thomas is willing to go.
“He’s relentless,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He’s super fast. Probably one of the fastest on the field, and he’s really good at the karate chop.”
The Rams know that better than anyone because Sunday was the second time they’ve been on the receiving end. Back in 2014, Thomas had a similar play in which he knocked the ball loose from Bennie Cunningham just as he was about to score.
The fact that Thomas had done it before didn’t make the first-quarter fumble he forced any less remarkable.
“I’ve never seen that play before Earl did it the first time,” cornerback Richard Sherman said, “and he’s done it twice.”
Thomas intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to round out his day.