Earl Thomas and the Seattle Seahawks looked nearly unbeatable after dismantling the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, but in Week 2, the defending Super Bowl Champions saw their luck turn on the road.
Sunday afternoon, the fast-paced San Diego Chargers offense—coupled with 100-plus degree temperatures and a little bad luck—proved too much for ET and the Hawks to overcome, as Seattle fell 30-21 in San Diego.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way,” Earl said about the loss. “It’s all about capturing the momentum and we didn’t do that today….What a great learning experience. This is a great learning experience.”
After practicing in Seattle in mid-70 degree temperatures, the Seahawks traveled to San Diego, where the field temperature at Qualcomm Stadium was reported to have reached over 120 degrees with near 90 percent humidity. ET III had another strong outing, and collected seven tackles despite dealing with debilitating cramps due to the heat for most of the contest.
The Chargers won the coin toss and elected to defer, giving Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense the game’s first possession. Seattle looked strong, and racked up two first downs as they ventured into Chargers territory.
However, in what would prove to be a recurring theme throughout the game, Seattle failed to convert a critical third down forcing a punt from Jon Ryan.
No. 29 and the Seahawk defense were then tasked with trying to contain the ever-efficient Philip Rivers. Rivers, who last season led the league in completion percentage and stood fourth in overall quarterback rating, was able to find a rhythm with his receiving core and looked to be threatening early. This gave the Seahawks defense a chance to stand strong and they did just that, holding San Diego to a 50-yard field goal attempt. ET III had two tackles on the drive to keep Rivers out of the endzone.
Not to be outdone, Wilson and the Seattle offense responded almost immediately. Thanks to a poor kick from Nick Novak, Seattle got the ball at their own 40-yard line. On the third play of the subsequent drive, Percy Harvin took a weak-side pitch from Wilson and raced down the sideline 51 yards for a touchdown to put the Hawks up 7-3.
But after taking their first lead, things began to go awry for the defending champs. On San Diego’s next possession,. Rivers was able to drive 80 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown. As the Hawks looked to respond, Wilson got sacked deep in Seattle territory, which forced a punt.
After the next San Diego drive ended with field goal that put the Chargers in front 13-7, San Diego again received the ball in favorable position when Harvin fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Rivers made the most of the opportunity with a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates that staked the Chargers to a 20-7 lead. Afterward, Earl lamented the lack of execution on both sides of the ball for Seattle.
“We didn’t execute the way we normally do,” ET III said about the performance. “We never (usually) let anybody off the hook with penalties. They kept the ball and kept making great plays.”
Down by two possessions for the first time all season, the Seahawks responded quickly as Wilson was able to orchestrate a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half to cut Seattle deficit to six, 20-14, with 30 minutes left to play.
In the third quarter, the heat and humidity took its toll on ET III and the Seahawks. On the Chargers’ second drive of the half, the cramps Earl had been dealing with all game proved to be incapacitating, and forced the three-time All-Pro to head to the locker room for further treatment.
“Heat was a big issue – that’s the first time it’s ever happened to me,” Earl said. “You have to fight through it, next man up and try to get out there as quickly as possible.”
Without No. 29 roaming around in the secondary, the Chargers moved the ball quickly and efficiently, and Rivers was able to find Gates for another touchdown to put San Diego up 27-14 with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter.
But Seattle was far from finished and in a true display of the grit of the Seahawks, Wilson and Marshawn Lynch combined forces to engineer a quick eight-play, 70-yard drive. It was capped with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Lynch with three seconds left in the third that pulled the Hawks back within a touchdown of the lead, down 27-21.
Momentum seemed to be swinging back to the defending Super Bowl Champs and ET III returned to the field to start the final period of play.
No.29 made his return known right away as he and Malcolm Smith combined for a tackle on Ryan Matthews on the first play of the quarter. Seattle then stymied the Chargers offense, forcing a punt from the Seahawks 49-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Seattle offense could not finish what the defense laid out for them and failed to earn a critical first down deep in their own half of the field. Seattle had one more drive to put the game within reach, but could not find a rhythm and went four and out from inside their own 20.
After a few kneel down to kill some clock, Novak hit another field goal with 16 seconds remaining that effectively ended the defending champions’ comeback hopes and made the final score 30-21. In his typical fashion, Earl remained positive after the game, and looked forward to Seattle’s opportunity to learn from their first defeat since last December.
“I think I left everything out there,” ET III said. “I do not have anything to hold my head down about. If somebody beats us, I always feel like it was luck. It’s not about them. No matter if we win or lose, it’s not going to dictate who we are. We will understand what happened out there today when we watch the film.”
Next week, ET III and the Seahawks will turn their attention to another of the game’s elite quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Last February, Earl and the Legion of Boom completely dominated the game from start to finish. No.29 had seven tackles, including one for a loss, and deflected a Manning pass in the 43-8 championship rout.
The rematch is set to take place at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field next Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PDT and will be broadcast nationally on CBS.