TORONTO — Chris Clemons matched a franchise milestone against the Buffalo Bills, becoming the first Seattle player to total double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons since Michael Sinclair from 1996-98.
Jacob Green also reached that plateau from 1984-86.
The University of Georgia product finished with 21/2 sacks against the Bills, including a forced fumble on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick that Bruce Irvin returned to Buffalo’s 10-yard line. The sacks pushed Clemons to a career-high 111/2 sacks on the year. Clemons had 11 sacks in each of the previous two seasons.
Clemons was the defensive end nobody wanted when the Seahawks traded for him in March 2010 with Philadelphia, sending Darryl Tapp to the Eagles. The Seahawks also received a 2010 fourth-round pick in the trade, selecting defensive end E.J. Wilson, who’s no longer with the team.
Clemons developed into one of the Seattle’s anchor players on defense. The Seahawks signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal in the offseason.
“I give all the credit to these guys,” Clemons said, pointing to fellow defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for them. They’re always communicating with me. Since I first came in, they welcomed me to the team.”
“We expect that from him,” Bryant said. “He came out in the second half, and he absolutely took over the game, and gave the team the spark we needed to make sure we finished strong. I’m happy for him.”
Clemons’ forced fumble was one of three consecutive turnovers created by Seattle at the beginning of the second half to help break the game open.
The Seahawks forced 25 turnovers heading into Sunday’s game, but only eight of them had come on the road.
Linebacker K.J. Wright made the first, momentum-changing play, intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick on Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half with the Bills down 31-17. Marshawn Lynch scored two players later on a 13-yard run.
But the most exciting play was Seattle safety Earl Thomas’ first career interception return for a touchdown, a winding, 57-yard run in which he appeared to be moving at a different speed than the rest of the players on the field.
It was Thomas’ third interception of the season.
“When you talk about the great safeties in the league, that’s what they do,” Thomas said. “I definitely want to be the best. And to be the best, that’s what you have to do.
“Every time I catch the ball, I’m trying to get to the end zone. You probably can ask anybody on the team. I practice that way. And it paid off for me today.”
Thomas had to wait nervously on the sideline while the replay official reviewed the play, thinking back to a Braylon Edwards’ touchdown that was overturned against Chicago on Dec. 2 on a similar-type catch.
“You never know in the league what they’re going to call, but I’m glad they called it in my favor,” Thomas said.Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks