Even though it was just Week 3 of the regular season, a lot was riding on Sunday’s contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. Not only was it a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII, the game was also pivotal for Earl Thomas and the Seahawks, who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The game lived up to all the hype and then some, as ET III and the Hawks captured a thrilling 26-20 overtime victory at CenturyLink Field.
“We’re battle tested,” Earl said after the win. “It’s great to get those tough, hard-fought wins. It brings the team closer. It’s great when you can learn valuable lessons, and you still win the game.”
ET III was flying around Area 29 as usual throughout the contest. He recorded six combined tackles and deflected a Peyton Manning pass that almost turned into a forced fumble. Seattle’s defense forced two turnovers from the Broncos and held the visitors without a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.
From the start, the game was a defensive battle. After Seattle’s opening drive proved fruitless, the Legion of Boom announced their arrival when Kam Chancellor forced a fumble from Montee Ball on Denver’s first offensive play. Even with excellent field position, Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense was stalled by the Broncos defense, forcing Steven Hauschka to chip in a 20-yard field goal to put the Seahawks up 3-0.
Manning and the Broncos then marched down the field, advancing all the way to the Seahawks 10-yard line. But Earl and the Seahawks held strong and refused to allow the visitors a trip to the end zone, instead forcing a game-tying field goal.
As the first half wore on, the teams exchanged uneventful drives as the offenses failed to outsmart the respective defenses. Finally, midway through the second quarter, Wilson and the Seahawks broke through for the game’s first touchdown. On a first-and-10 from the Denver 39-yard line, Wilson connected with a speeding Ricardo Lockette in the endzone for the score. Hauschka converted the extra point and the home team took a 10-3 lead.
On the first play of the ensuing Denver drive, ET III showed exactly the kind of skill that makes him a three-time All-Pro and one of the top defensive players in the league.
Seeking to quickly answer Seattle’s score, Manning threw over the middle into Area 29 in an effort to hit Demarius Thomas for a big gain. Thomas grabbed the ball, but ET III was able to knock it loose just before he touched the ground. Malcolm Smith pounced on the ball to recover the apparent fumble.
However, after further review, officials changed the call to an incomplete pass.
Still, the play displayed Earl’s impeccable nose for the ball and his hard-hitting style. The Seahawks stopped the Broncos from earning a first down, which gave Wilson and the offense one more chance to score before halftime.
Earl Thomas is the smallest guy on Seattle's defense, but everybody knows that he's the Heart of that defense
— Jeremiah Toma (@Jtoma_32) September 22, 2014
— Akhil (@asehgal77) September 22, 2014
With 2:38 on the clock, Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch quickly moved the Seahawks down the field. After the Seahawks entered the redzone on a 12-yard reception from Doug Baldwin Jr., Lynch finished off the drive with a five-yard scoring reception. As such, the Seahawks went into the locker room up with a commanding 17-3 lead.
By shutting down the Broncos offense, the Seahawks became the only team to hold Denver to without a touchdown in the first half since Manning joined the club.
Seattle’s defense picked up right where it left off to start the third quarter. No. 29 made two consecutive tackles on Denver’s opening drive to force another three-and-out from Manning. Seattle managed to hold the Broncos scoreless throughout the quarter; however, the Denver defense was just as stout, refusing to allow the Seahawks’ offense to put the game out of reach.
The complexion of the game changed on Seattle’s first drive of the fourth quarter when Lynch was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Less than two minutes later, Wilson’s pass intended for Percy Harvin was intercepted and run back to the Seattle 19-yard line. The turnover gave Manning ample opportunity to set up a touchdown drive that brought the score to 17-12 with under 10 minutes left in the contest.
Seattle couldn’t convert on their next drive and the Broncos moved down the field to the Seahawks 24-yard line. But just as the visitors threatened the Hawks’ lead, in stepped the LOB. On third-and-11, Manning’s pass intended for Wes Welker was picked off by Earl’s Legion of Boom compatriot, Kam Chancellor, while No. 29 leveled Denver receiver Wes Welker on the back end of the play.
“Manning just tried to put it in a tight space,” Chancellor said. “Earl knocked Welker out of the play and I got the pick.”
After the pick, Chancellor mounted a massive return that set up another score for Seattle.
The game looked to be under control after Hauschka hit a 28-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining that put Seattle up 20-12.
— Dion Bailey (@dbailey_18) September 21, 2014
But Sunday’s victory would not come that easily, and not nearly as easily as Super Bowl XLVIII.
Though Manning and the Denver offense had struggled all game, the future Hall-of-Famer somehow, someway, orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive in less than a minute, and followed that with a two-point conversion completion to Thomas to send the game into overtime. The Broncos worked the left side of the field through the whole drive, avoiding Earl deep and Chancellor and Richard Sherman on the right side.
“We did a great job the whole game just managing his reads, making it hard on him,” Earl said. “But that’s a great quarterback and he did a great job of adjusting.”
In the sudden death extra period, Seattle won the coin toss and elected to go on offense first. The Seattle offense then made up for its previous misgivings with a picture-perfect drive down the field.
The Hawks attack showed all their weapons on the drive. Wilson hooked up with Harvin and attacked the Broncos with his feet and his arm. In the end, he handed to Lynch, who leapt into the end zone from six-yards out for the touchdown to give Seattle the victory. Afterward, Earl complimented the Seattle offense for closing out the game, particularly his team’s quarterback.
“Russell is a competitor,” ET III said about his quarterback. “I’m pretty sure in his mind he didn’t want Peyton Manning to come into his house and steal his show.”
The Seahawks (2-1) will have their bye next week and an extra day of prep on top of the week off.
Seattle will next be in action Monday night, October 6th against the Washington Redskins. Kickoff from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. PDT and the game can be seen nationwide on ESPN.