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Seahawks’ Cassius Marsh makes up for mistake with blocked kick, first career sack

"He made the very most of his opportunities," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Cassius Marsh. (AP)

Before Cassius Marsh made the two biggest plays of his career, he found himself on the sideline getting chewed out for one of the worst.

He was one of the guilty parties on the defensive breakdown that allowed Miami’s Arian Foster to break free for a 50-yard reception in the first quarter, a play that turned field position in the Dolphins’ favor. Not exactly the way Marsh envisioned the start to a season in which he’s expected to be a bigger part of Seattle’s defense than he was in his first two.

Then he totally redeemed himself, first by blocking a field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter then with a strip-sack that helped the Seahawks finish off their 12-10 season-opening win. He also made a huge hit on special teams, leveling Miami’s returner on a punt not long after his defensive lapse to turn around what would end up being the most productive game of his career.

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Coach Pete Carroll called Marsh’s play on Sunday “ridiculous” save for that mistake.

“He had a great day. It was just a great day of playing football because it happened in special teams, coverage, it happened blocking the kick, it happened rushing the passer. They were all significant plays in the game,” Carroll said. “How does the backup guy be able to have that much of a factor? That’s because he’s a terrific player. He really is. He made the very most of his opportunities. He made a mistake in there, too. He got his butt chewed on the sidelines, but other than that, he had a fantastic day.”

Said Marsh’s defensive-line mate Michael Bennett: “He was ballin’ today.”

Actually, Marsh is not just a defensive end. He also plays strong-side linebacker, having competed over the offseason to replace Bruce Irvin as Seattle’s starter there. Mike Morgan won that job, but Marsh will still have a role in Seattle’s defense, specifically in nickel situations.

He was lined up at right defensive end on a third-and-6 play on Miami’s second possession, when Foster slipped by him on a screen pass for what turned out to be a 50-yard gain. Marsh was responsible for Foster on that play, but instead of peeling off to run with him out of the backfield, he continued on his way to the quarterback.

“That’s the kind of mistake I can’t make,” Marsh said. “I’ve got to be better for my teammates.”

He was after that.

Marsh wiggled through Miami’s line to block a 27-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter. It preserved what at the time was a 6-3 Seahawks lead and turned out to be especially significant in a game that Seattle won by two points.

Marsh has become one of Seattle’s better special-teamers, but that took coming to a realization that is common for many young players who come to the NFL having always been starters. Marsh hadn’t played much special teams when the Seahawks chose him in the fourth round in 2014, but after a broken foot ended his rookie season early, he knew he’d have to embrace that role once he got back.

“It was brand new and to be honest with you, I didn’t take it very seriously because I just wanted to be a defensive lineman, I just wanted to rush the passer,” he said. “It was something that I had to get over. I got hurt my rookie year, and when I came back, I knew special teams was going to be a huge part of what I was doing. I had to take it seriously because I wasn’t getting as many plays as I wanted to on defense and so I had to take advantage of the plays I was on the field, and that was special teams.

“I saw how valuable it could be to our team and how growing on special teams can help you grow on defense. It’s extremely important to me. I feel very blessed to have learned that lesson early and be able to take advantage.”

After his blocked field goal helped preserve the Seahawks’ lead, Marsh sealed their win with a strip-sack on Miami’s final possession. The Dolphins had 20 seconds left and no timeouts following Seattle’s go-ahead touchdown when Marsh chased down quarterback Ryan Tannehill for his first career sack. Miami retained possession but only had time for a last-ditch play that went nowhere.

“Today was a great day, but I know there was stuff out there that I left on the field and other plays that I could have made,” Marsh said. “I just want to continue to grow and get better.”