For all the chatter about the offensive line, the new tight end and the Ciara Curse, the biggest storyline surrounding the Seattle Seahawks was the absence of strong safety Kam Chancellor. His 54-day holdout dogged this team throughout training camp, and the drama carried over into the first two games of the NFL season – but now, two weeks after he returned without a new contract, all is forgiven. In fact, Seahawks fans everywhere should be asking the same thing:
“Wait, how does this guy not deserve a new deal?”
Especially after Seattle beat the Detroit Lions 13-10 on Monday night, thanks to an eye-popping play by Chancellor, who knocked the ball out of Calvin Johnson’s grasp inside the one-yard line to prevent a go-ahead score. Chancellor’s mega-punch on Megatron not only saved the game, it may very well have saved Seattle’s season, helping them level their record at 2-2 after an 0-2 start that saw their vaunted defense allow 713 total yards, 61 points and 40 first downs.
With Chancellor back on the field, Seattle has stiffened considerably, allowing their opponents just 402 total yards, 3 points and 19 first downs.
And yes, the Seahawks’ last two games have also come at home, against teams (Chicago and Detroit) that have combined for one win this season. But after opening with losses in St. Louis and Green Bay – two places that you’d expect Seattle to struggle – it’s encouraging to see the defense come to life thanks to Chancellor’s presence and playmaking: Seattle hasn’t just been stopping opposing offenses, they’ve been snuffing them out.
On Monday night, Matthew Stafford and the Lions were kept in check until the very end. Detroit managed just 139 total yards on their first nine drives and were only saved by Seattle’s continued struggles along the offensive line. The Lions sacked Russell Wilson six times and forced two fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown by Caraun Reid.
Still, Seattle led 13-10 midway through the fourth when Detroit got the ball back on their own nine-yard line and began a 10-play, 90-yard march that saw Matthew Stafford move the ball at will, going 6-for-6 for 77 yards. Seattle’s defense finally reached their breaking point. Or so it seemed.
Facing a third-and-1 at Seattle’s 10, Stafford hit Johnson on a quick route, and as the All-Pro wideout made a beeline for the end zone, Chancellor intervened, punching the ball away and introducing 99-percent of the TV audience to the concept of illegal batting. That controversial non-call will be all folks are talking about on Tuesday, but it shouldn’t be the only topic of conversation. Not when Wilson played a near-perfect game (minus the fumbles) under constant duress and definitely not when one of the game’s premier defensive players makes the year’s best defensive play.
Of course, other guys deserve plenty of credit for the win, too.
Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were aggressive on the edges all night. (Bennett also provided the NFL quote of the year.) Richard Sherman has been kind of quiet ever since his “Super Bowl face of dread,” but it isn’t because he isn’t still a lockdown corner. Johnson and Golden Tate were held to 85 yards on 10 catches. Free agent signee Cary Williams also played a huge part in that. All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had his best game of the season, getting tackles and pressures on Stafford throughout the night.
But how many of those guys can say that they were playing the same without Chancellor? And during a season when he’s been vocal about how unhappy he is with his current situation.
Nothing should diminish that play. With or without the penalty being called, you can guarantee that Johnson won’t ever forget it, the Lions won’t forget it, and when he’s once again asking for a new deal in 2016, Chancellor will make damn sure that the Seahawks won’t forget it.
With results like this, how could they?