Richard Sherman was talking about why he wasn’t getting fined for his near-weekly rip jobs on the NFL, its commissioner and its officiating.
“This is basically reality TV,” the Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro cornerback said last week, “so I guess I’m good for ratings, probably.”
But Sherman could have been talking about the Seahawks on Monday night. Any night. Any day, for that matter.
Yes, Seattle is good for ratings. Certainly.
This game between the Seahawks (4-2-1) and Buffalo Bills (4-4) at CenturyLink Field is Seattle’s first appearance on Monday night this season. Last season, its Monday home game against Detroit — not exactly a premier matchup — was second only to the Bengals-Broncos Monday finale as the most-watched Monday night game of 2015.
Not only are the Seahawks attractive to the NFL’s best television spots, which the league gives to its most popular teams, they win in those spots.
Seattle is 22-8 all-time on Monday nights, a .733 winning percentage that is the league’s best in its longtime showcase slot. They’ve won 10 in a row on Monday night, dating back to a 2004 home loss to Dallas. That’s the second-longest Monday win streak in league history (Oakland won 14 in a row).
Russell Wilson is trying to tie Bob Griese and Neil O’Donnell as the only quarterbacks to win their first six Monday games in a career.
The Seahawks are 15-3-1 in prime-time, regular-season games on any night in coach Pete Carroll’s seven seasons as their coach. When the most people are watching, Seattle is winning.
“I attribute it to the way our guys understand those kinds of moments and opportunities, and how they apply themselves,” Carroll said last week.
“I’m proud to show you those numbers because that’s an accomplishment, not everybody does that. But it’s our guys figuring out how to bring their best regardless of what the circumstances are.”
The Dallas-at-Seattle game on a Sunday afternoon, Oct. 12, 2014, was the second-most-watched regular-season game in the last three years (30.02 million viewers). Only the Patriots-Packers game on Nov. 30, 2014, had more viewers in the last three NFL seasons (30.88 million).
The most-watched Sunday regular-season game last season? The Seahawks game at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 1, 2015 (17.0 rating, 29.39 million viewers).
The most-watched Super Bowl all-time was Seattle’s Super Bowl 49 thriller against New England, with that epic ending of which we needn’t remind you. More than 114.4 million people watched that, a 47.5 rating. The second-highest-rated sporting event of 2015 was the Seahawks’ NFC championship-game win over Green Bay that January (27.4 rating, 49.84 million viewers).
That comeback over the Packers came after the Seahawks earned home-field advantage as the NFC’s top playoff seed. The three times Seattle has reached the Super Bowl, in the 2005, 2013 and 2014 seasons, it’s had all its playoff games at home.
These Seahawks lead the NFC West by 1½ games over Arizona, which was idle this weekend. That’s despite sinking to the NFL’s 28th-best running game.
Wilson has been limited to almost no running or improvising because of a high-ankle sprain and sprained left knee. He’s likely to be wearing a lighter, titanium brace on that knee for the second consecutive game on Monday.
Will he wear the knee brace the rest of the season?
“I’m always big into the safety aspect of it,” Wilson said. “I think it’s probably smart to wear one. I may take it off, who knows? I just take it one day at a time. I could probably honestly go without it, but I’m not sure if that’s a smart decision right now.”
But don’t tell the Seahawks they are fortunate to be in first place with one of the top two records in the conference. After Minnesota (5-3) collapsed late at home to Detroit on Sunday and lost for the third consecutive time, Dallas (7-1) and the Seahawks would be 1-2 in the NFC with a Seattle win Monday.
“Fortunate?” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said, incredulously.
“This not like the previous years, when we were 2-4 (last season) and stuff. I feel like we’ve struggled way more in previous years than we have (this season). This is definitely a better starting point.
“I feel like we always click. We always find it and just keep this roll. So to be where we’re at before, I feel, us hitting this road (to end the season) is definitely a good thing.
Wagner’s right. Since Wilson became the Seahawks quarterback from the first week of his rookie season in 2012, Seattle is 28-6 in November and December. That’s a .824 winning percentage.
This Monday showcase to begin the Seahawks’ November, before the coming weekend’s test at New England, brings the challenge of Buffalo’s dynamic rushing offense with LeSean McCoy. And the Bills defense leads the NFL with 26 sacks.
That’s especially tricky for a Seattle offensive line that remains unsettled and iffy. Left tackle Bradley Sowell is likely to miss his second consecutive game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Undrafted rookie George Fant, a college basketball player at Western Kentucky until the summer of 2015, is ready to start in his second NFL game at the most important spot on the line: Wilson’s backside protector.
Largely because of Wilson’s limitations, the Seahawks have scored one touchdown in their past 23 drives over nine quarters.
The Seahawks’ bye was in early October. They are entering the fourth of 12 games over 12 weekends to end the regular season. With that in mind, Wilson and Carroll said the Seahawks staff approached the quarterback last month and asked him about the idea that he sit out a game (or two) to heal for the rest of the regular season.
Wilson’s response: “No chance.”
Monday is Percy Harvin’s return to Seattle. The former Seahawks wide receiver and kick returner came out of the retirement he’s been in since April to sign with Buffalo last week. Bills coach Rex Ryan said he’s “confident” Harvin will make his 2016 debut against the team that traded him in October 2014 to Ryan’s New York Jets.
Harvin had not even 1 ½ tumultuous seasons in Seattle, but his time was full of injuries, flashes of brilliance and locker-room fights with teammates such as now-gone Golden Tate.
But last week nobody in the Seahawks locker or coaching rooms said anything negative toward Harvin.
“I have no animosity to him. I loved him when he was here,” Wagner said. “I loved him as a teammate and as a person. I’m excited he’s back on the field.”
Wagner said the perception that Harvin was a divisive force that fractured the Seahawks locker room was “all media stuff. I just judge off of me. He was a great person to me, always ‘chopped it up.’ He treated me well. All of our conversations were really genuine.
“He just seemed like a really good person, to me.”
Carroll recalled Harvin’s kickoff return for a touchdown in the rout of Denver in Super Bowl 48 when asked to describe Harvin’s time in Seattle.
“Great. Great Super Bowl. Phenomenal effect he had on us then,” Carroll said.
“We just had to make an adjustment on the roster and we did it. It was just something we had to do, football-wise.”
BUFFALO BILLS (4-4) at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (4-2-1)
Monday, 5:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: ESPN, Ch. 6/16. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks have won seven of the previous 12 meetings, but have lost two of the last three, dating to 2004. These teams haven’t met in the United States in eight years, and the Bills are one of the least familiar opponents for the Seahawks. The last meeting was Dec. 16, 2012, in Toronto, when the Bills were playing some of their home games there. Seattle won that one, 50-17. Russell Wilson that day became the first player in NFL history to run for three touchdowns and pass for a another one in the first half of a game. Seattle last hosted the Bills in 2004, a 38-9 win for Buffalo.
Line: Seahawks by 7.
Will the Seahawks, can they, finally run? If the Seahawks don’t run the ball, and well, against these Bills, they may never — at least not until the injured Thomas Rawls returns, perhaps on Nov. 20. Buffalo is 25th in the NFL in rushing defense, and the Bills will be without their best defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus, who is out with a groin injury. Backup Corbin Bryant is out, so Buffalo has only four healthy defensive linemen. Coach Pete Carroll and play caller Darrell Bevell keep saying they need to run the ball more. They say they are expecting to see rookie C.J. Prosise run more. Staying out of long-yardage downs because of penalties would be a start to getting both to happen.
Protect your most valuable commodity: Been saying it for a month now: Battered Russell Wilson can’t afford to get any more injuries. Yet two games ago, Arizona’s Chandler Jones slammed into his arm and injured his pectoral muscle on his throwing side. Now here come the Bills, who lead the NFL with 26 sacks, and with rookie Shaq Lawson potentially in a special hybrid linebacker/rush end role. And Seattle still has a big question mark at left tackle with Bradley Sowell having a sprained MCL and George Fant only 15 months removed from being a college basketball power forward.
Forget about the refs: OK, we’re about done with the carping and debating about what did and did not get called in New Orleans. The best way to counter whatever calls the officials do or do not make is to get first downs — no matter how many yards the Seahawks have to gain — and prevent the other team from getting first downs. The defense allowed the Saints nine first downs in 15 tries last weekend. That won’t beat anyone, regardless of what the stripes say or do. The Bills will come at the Seahawks with the most varied run game they’ve seen this season. Stopping that is Job One.
The pick: Interested to see if the Seahawks’ stated intent to run translates to long-overdue results against one of the league’s lesser rushing defenses. I say it won’t be a revelation — more like another offensive struggle. But can’t see Tyrod Taylor winning in Seattle on a Monday night.
Seahawks 17, Bills 9.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
32 Christine Michael RB 5-11 221 fourth
Coaches want to see more from him in the run game. False-start on second-and-goal last weekend was a bad reminder.
22 C.J. Prosise RB 6-1 220 rookie
Coaches intrigued after first extended playing time last weekend. Will get more runs as Seahawks search for a spark.
55 Frank Clark DE 6-3 260 second
With Michael Bennett out two to three weeks from a knee scope, can Clark provide near the havoc?
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year
11 Percy Harvin WR 5-11 184 seventh
He’s baaack! Back from six months on his couch. Seahawks had nothing to say publicly but love.
25 LeSean McCoy RB 5-11 208 eighth
Carroll tried to recruit “Shady” to USC. Biggest pure running threat to Seattle yet this season.
45 Lorenzo Alexander LB 6-1 245 10th
From career special-teams guy to NFL sack leader (nine). But he’s questionable (hamstring).