MIAMI — Native Floridian Shaquill Griffin made a pass almost as long as Russell Wilson.
For the Seahawks’ beleaguered defense, it was just as satisfying.
Seattle’s Pro Bowl cornerback made two Pro Bowl-caliber plays in the fourth quarter in front of 12,369 socially distanced fans—many of them roaring for the Seahawks — at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The first was breaking up a pass into the end zone to bigger tight end Mike Gesicki to deny the Dolphins their first lead.
“A gorgeous play,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Then, after another brilliant catch in a big moment by David Moore on a pass from Russell Wilson gave the Seahawks a 24-15 lead, Griffin stepped up into a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick for his second interception of the season.
Griffin and his defensive teammates that had allowed an NFL-record 1,292 yards passing through three games then ran into the north end zone to pose and celebrate Griffin’s game-sealing interception. After the pose, Griffin fired the ball about 30 rows up the lower-bowl stand, toward the spread-out groups of Seahawks fans in blue and green—like family and friends of his from St. Petersburg.
“We get turnovers. We get touchdowns,” Carroll said.
Chris Carson then added his second touchdown run on a day he left the game briefly to get evaluated for a concussion. Wilson threw two more touchdown passes, tying Peyton Manning’s NFL record for most TD throws though the first four games of a season with 16. And the Seahawks went on to beat the Dolphins 31-23 to remain unbeaten through the first quarter of this COVID-19 season.
“It’s lovely,” wide receiver David Moore said. “Lovely, for sure.
“We just playing, trying (to get something going). Once it started, we’re hard to stop.”
Griffin said Sunday’s big plays on the formerly shredded side of the ball: “Today, we proved we can be that defense and secondary that everyone was expecting to be seeing.”
After Miami closed to within 17-15 in the fourth quarter, Wilson completed passes of 9 and 30 yards to lead receiver Tyler Lockett. Those were Lockett’s first two receptions in four targets Sunday.
Then Moore did what he’s often done in his four years in the NFL with Seattle. He made another ridiculous play, at a crucial time.
Moore broke behind a Miami cornerback in the same man-to-man coverage the Dolphins played most of the day. Moore kept running to the back of the end zone, as if he was out of space. Then, as Wilson’s dart of a throw arrived, Moore poetically reached beyond the back-line boundary of the end zone for the ball while he tapped the toes of his cleats inbounds. The exquisite skill to make that play was worth even more than the seven points.
“They told me 23, he likes to squat (short on routes),” Moore said of Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, the DB he blew past for the score.
“After D-Mo’s touchdown, we knew we had control of the game,” fellow receiver DK Metcalf said.
It sealed the Seahawks’ first 4-0 start since their only Super Bowl-championship season of 2013. The Seahawks led 24-15.
“That’s a great accomplishment for us,” Carroll said.
Carson’s touchdown after the Griffin interception made it 31-15 with 4 minutes left, before a Dolphins touchdown in garbage time.
Wilson was prolific again, though not as lethally accurate as in his first three games. He completed 24 of 34 throws for 360 yards, the two more scoring throws and his second interception of the season.
Seattle scored 30-plus points in four consecutive games for the first time December 2015.
The first three quarters were a slog for the Seahawks’ offense, for the first time this season.
The Seahawks’ previously shredded defense? It allowed Miami and 37-year-old Fitzpatrick 415 yards. Fitzpatrick completed 29 of 45 passes for 315 yards, as Seattle blitzed less with All-Pro safety Jamal Adams out injured. But Griffin and the unlikely Ryan Neal, on a pass tipped by hard-charging end Benson Mayowa on a quarterback hit, intercepted Fitzpatrick.
But it stood up when it absolutely had to.
Five times Miami drove inside the Seahawks 27-yard line. Five times Seattle denied the Dolphins touchdowns. Miami settled for five field goals.
The fifth came midway through the fourth quarter. Miami had a first down at the Seattle 16. Then native Floridian Shaquill Griffin made a Pro Bowl play. He leaped over bigger Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki and batted down a would-be touchdown pass in the middle of the end zone.
On third down, rookie defensive end Alton Robinson stormed in from left end, sprinted across the formation and ran down former University of Washington running back Myles Gaskin on a sweep run to the opposite side. That wanted-it-more play for a 2-yard loss forced Miami to settle for Jason Sanders’ fifth field goal at the end of a 17-play drive. The Seahawks stayed ahead 17-15.
That’s when Wilson and the Seahawks offense woke up.
Carson briefly out
Carson finished with 80 yards on 16 carries and the two touchdown runs of 1-yard each, in the first and fourth quarters.
That was after Carson was down again, but only briefly out.
One week after spraining his knee at the end of Seattle’s win over Dallas, Carson left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with an apparent head injury. Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts hit Seattle’s lead running back in the facemask with a hard shoulder blow while Carson was being held up on a mass of other Miami defenders at the end of a short run.
The Seahawks said Carson was being evaluated for a concussion.
Then he returned for the first drive of the second half. He even hurdled a defender—which he has told his worried mother he would no longer do—to highlight an 11-yard catch and run on that opening possession of the second half.
“Chris is a stud football player,” Carroll said. “He ain’t backin’ down for nothing.
“He took a hell of a shot, and got right back up from it.”
Metcalf was more succinct.
“Chris Carson is an animal,” Metcalf said.
Seattle had first and goal at the Miami 6 on that drive. But then: incomplete pass, incomplete pass and Wilson’s second interception of the season. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard jumped over sliding Metcalf in the end zone to pick off Wilson’s pass on third down. That kept Miami in front 17-12 entering the final quarter.
Metcalf took full blame for the rare interception by Wilson. The receiver said he misjudged the closing defensive back behind him while trying to catch the pass with a slide.
It was the second time Seattle came up empty inside the red zone. The first was when Wilson waited on tight end Greg Olsen to come open. Olsen ran into traffic short over the middle instead, and the Dolphins sacked Wilson on fourth and 3. That kept the score 10-6 Seahawks.
Before he got hurt, Carson had six carries for 25 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run, that on Seattle’s first possession. He also had two catches for 9 yards, one for a first down on the opening drive.
Travis Homer gave Carson the second drive of the game off.
It was unclear whether Carson lost consciousness on the field while he stayed down on his back following Roberts’ hit. Carson immediately reached for his facemask with both hands while staying down. Trainers and a team doctor rushed off the nearby Seahawks sideline to attend to him.
Carson got up after a relatively short time down. He spent an extended time in the observation tent behind Seattle’s bench with a doctor. He then walked to the bench area, put his helmet on top of an equipment trunk as he was no doubt told to, then sat on the bench during Miami’s ensuing drive to its third field goal of the opening half.
Seattle’s offense got the ball back with 27 seconds left in the half. Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a touchdown in four plays, the biggest one a 57-yard pass to David Moore on which the Dolphins just let Moore run down the field behind them while Wilson scrambled for more time to throw. During that drive and two time outs to Wilson’s touchdown pass to Homer, Carson stood near his coaches with his helmet propped on his head.
Homer and fellow former University of Miami running back DeeJay Dallas were the only other available running backs for Seattle. That’s because Carlos Hyde was inactive from a shoulder injury.
Dallas got his first career snaps on offense in the first half. The fourth-round draft choice had one, shifty run that made Dolphins miss for 6 yards, and one reception for 6 more yards in the half.
It ended with Seattle ahead 17-9.
Because of declined and offsetting fouls, the Seahawks had no accepted penalties against them Sunday.
Can’t remember the last time that’s happened.