Five minutes and fifty-two seconds. That’s how much time was remaining when the Seattle Seahawks took possession of the ball after the Baltimore Ravens had scored a touchdown to cut Seattle’s lead to 22-17. The Seahawks took possession on their own 20, but committed two penalties (illegal motion, false start) to back them up to the 10. So now it was 1st and 20 instead of 1st and 10.
The Ravens, despite playing poorly most of the game, couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. They had all of their timeouts, the Seahawks were pinned back in their end of the field, and they had to go twenty yards to get a first down. Seattle had also lost their top two wide receivers (Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice) to injury during the game. Momentum was all on Baltimore’s side. The crowd was nervous. All the vaunted Ravens’ defense had to do was get a three and out, and Baltimore would get the ball back in decent field position with plenty of time remaining.
If this had happened during the previous few seasons, there would have been a one yard run followed by another one yard run followed by an incomplete pass and a punt. The Seahawks would have been on their heels, desperately trying to hold on to the lead. A feeling of impending doom would have permeated the stadium.
Not this time.
The Seahawks came out throwing, with Tarvaris Jackson completing a short pass to Golden Tate for a ten yard gain. Marshawn Lynch followed with a strong five yard run. Suddenly, what was a daunting 1st and 20 became a very manageable 3rd and 5. Instead of being conservative and playing not to lose, which Seattle has been doing for far too long, the Seahawks stayed aggressive. Jackson connected with Tate again for a 24 yard gain and a first down. In three plays, Seattle went from being pinned at their 10 to just short of midfield.
With field position now on their side, the Seahawks tried to pound the ball. Lynch ran for four yards on first down. This was important as the Seahawks avoided a second and long situation. They handed the ball to Lynch again and he was stopped for a one yard gain. Seattle again faced a manageable 3rd and 5. Instead of running a third time and trying to kill the clock, the Seahawks continued their aggressive approach. Jackson completed a short pass to Lynch, who was well short of a first down when he caught the ball. Lynch then made a fantastic move to leave two Ravens defenders (including Ray Lewis) grasping at air and got the first down.
Now momentum was all Seattle’s. They continued to pound the ball with Lynch, and were successful in getting two more first downs. That, and poor management of timeouts by Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh, allowed the Seahawks to run the clock out and win the game.
Seattle ended the game on a 12 play, 62 yard drive that ran out those five minutes and fifty-two seconds. I cannot remember the last time a Seahawks team imposed their will in such a fashion. These long, time-consuming drives are what successful teams are able to do regularly. The Seahawks are learning how to put these kind of drives together. Earlier this season, the only way the Seahawks could manage a long drive was with a no-huddle offense, which didn’t use all that much time. If the team can continue to produce drives like the one that ended this game on a consistent basis, the Seahawks are going to become a very good football team.