Asked about the hyper-aggressive young Seahawks fill-in players driven to capitalize on their opportunities, cornerback Byron Maxwell came up with a colorful description.
“We’re savages,” he said. “It’s all about getting the ball, going after it by any means necessary.”
With a number of key plays committed by the Seahawks’ young savages Sunday, Seattle scored a historic 58-0 win over Arizona at CenturyLink Field in a game that solidified their playoff position and credibility.
Further, it validated coach Pete Carroll’s theory that one man’s absence is another man’s opportunity, and was yet another example of how spot-on general manager John Schneider has been in identifying low-round draft talent.
Everything the Seahawks (8-5) accomplished Sunday has to be considered in the context of an opponent that has now lost nine consecutive games and, on a cool, misty afternoon, committed eight turnovers.
But in so many cases, these were Seahawks takeaways rather than Arizona giveaways, and some of the most important Seattle plays were by players who have been, until recently, denizens of the depth chart.
Malcolm Smith, seeing action in the absence of injured linebacker Leroy Hill, scored a touchdown on a muffed punt — a Cardinals bobble that was forced by Maxwell and kept alive by rookie Jeremy Lane.
Maxwell and Lane have been limited to special teams action this season, but the suspension of Brandon Browner and the injury to Marcus Trufant opened the way for them to get on the field.
In Browner’s place, specifically, Walter Thurmond had a strong game with three tackles and one for a loss. But his best effort came on an early Arizona pass that was deflected and was only a few inches from falling incomplete to the turf. Thurmond dived in, though, and tipped it up in the air, like a volleyball dig, where rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner could intercept and return it.
Most of the savages polled in the locker room afterward cited Carroll’s “next man up” philosophy, which stresses reserves’ need to be ready for action at any time.
“Me and Jeremy Lane have a big opportunity, and the team is depending on us to come through,” Maxwell said. “So we have to study and do the necessary things to be successful, and we’re getting after it.”
Thurmond was a little down on himself for not getting an interception on his dramatic tipped ball, but credited Wagner with a nice return. He was in no way rusty in his first start this season, he said, and he was not in the least surprised by the play of the young apprentices who were thrust into action.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Thurmond said, explaining that the results of this have benefits in practice as well as in games. “We’ve got a lot of competition every day in practice; that’s why we get better every week. And then when we get in game situations, we can capitalize and make plays.”
Aggressive plays are a function of confidence, and for the young players, it’s passed down from the starters and the vets, Thurmond said.
“Here’s why these young guys have great confidence,” Thurmond said. “Because guys like Earl (Thomas), Kam (Chancellor) and (Richard) Sherman help them and have confidence in them, knowing they’ll be able to come out and play.”
A secondary theme to the play of the reserves was that none of them are high-priced or highly drafted players. Maxwell and Lane are sixth-rounders; Smith a seventh-rounder. Safety Jeron Johnson, who got a sack and a forced fumble in the second half, was an undrafted free agent.
On the other side of the ball, tight end Anthony McCoy, (105 yards on three catches) was a sixth-round pick in 2010.
Fact is, it would be hard to find a Seahawk who didn’t have a good game Sunday — the most lopsided victory in franchise history. It also marked the first time they’ve had a record with three more wins than losses since the 2007 season.
They have to travel to Toronto this weekend for a game against Buffalo, and then finish up with divisional challenges from San Francisco and St. Louis at home. All the while, a suspension of another star cornerback, Sherman, looms as a possibility.
It’s just starting to seem that, if necessary, the Hawks will find somebody to toss in the lineup who is ready, able, and savagely eager to do the job.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling