Rost: Seahawks survive in Cleveland despite slow start, uneven defense
It wasn’t a pretty win. But in the thick of a crowded NFC West race, the Seahawks’ 32-28 win over the Cleveland Browns was one that really, really mattered.
The Browns, who were looking to rebound at home after a 31-3 loss to the 49ers last week, opened the game with a 74-yard kickoff return by running back Dontrell Hilliard. Three plays and one Seahawks penalty later, quarterback Baker Mayfield found tight end Pharaoh Brown for a 9-yard touchdown. And even in Seattle’s ensuing touchdown drive, the Seahawks ran into trouble: Jason Myers’ missed extra point attempt kept the Browns in the lead.
“They punched us in the mouth the moment they stepped on the field,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said after the game. “But I feel like we weathered the storm. We were able to calm down, settle down, and start making plays. Offense made some plays, (defense) made some key plays toward the end. I just feel like it shows our grit. It shows that no matter what, we’re never going to give up, and we had a lot of gutsy plays this game.”
By the start of the second quarter, Browns running back Nick Chubb already had a 52-yard run and a touchdown, Cleveland had pushed its lead to 20-6, and Seattle’s pass rush felt largely absent.
But in the end, none of it mattered. Seattle scored three touchdowns in the second half and forced four turnovers (more on that later) to leave Cleveland with a victory.
“We feel like at some point we’ll turn and play how we’re supposed to play,” Wagner said. “But a win is a win. We’ll take the wins… I think these wins are important because you figure out a way to win games, so down the stretch when you’re playing late in the season you know how to gut a win out.”
An uneven day on defense
The Seahawks were a mixed bag on defense against the Browns. On the one hand, Seattle forced a season-high four turnovers. Three of those were interceptions (one apiece for linebacker K.J. Wright, safety Tedric Thompson and cornerback Tre Flowers, the latter of whom recorded his first career takeaway). Defensive end Ziggy Ansah forced and recovered a fumble, and Seattle also mounted a pivotal goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
On the other hand, Seattle did all of that without registering a quarterback hit or sack, and a defense that had previously performed well against the run allowed 122 yards and two touchdowns to Chubb.
“It wasn’t effective enough to get (Mayfield down),” head coach Pete Carroll said of the pass rush. “I don’t know what his numbers were today. He had a pretty big day… We’ve got to keep working him, we’re trying. Got to get it done.”
It’s no fault of the defense, but a failure to capitalize on a few of those turnovers kept the game close late into the fourth quarter.