If the Seattle Seahawks are on Monday Night Football, there's a decent chance a controversial call could help decide the outcome. There was the Fail Mary play against the Green Bay Packers in 2012 or linebacker K.J. Wright's illegal tip against the Detroit Lions last season.
Monday night against the visiting Bills, there was cornerback Richard Sherman jumping offsides and blasting Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter at the end of the first half. Sherman was flagged for being offsides, but should have incurred a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty as well.
Then came a questionable delay of game call. Then a missed field goal.
The 3 missed points ended up being pivotal in the Seahawks' 31-25 win at the Clink. With the victory, the Seahawks improved to 16-3-1 in primetime games under coach Pete Carroll and stretched their winning streak on Monday Night Football to 11.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Referee Walt Anderson's officiating crew blew two calls at the end of the first half
When Sherman ran into Carpenter, it should have been a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, not the five-yard variety for the offside call.
"The referee didn't think the contact was severe enough," said Dean Blandino, the NFL vice president of officiating. "He felt that the players were coming together, and he just didn't think it was a foul. We looked at it, and it is a foul. It is no different than a defender coming offside and hitting the quarterback after the whistle blew, so it should have been unnecessary roughness."
Carpenter, who appeared to flop, was tended to by trainers, which, by rule, meant he had to sit out one play. Confused, players began to run off the field before Anderson yelled that there was still three seconds remaining.
Once both teams returned to their sidelines, the Bills opted to spike the ball with three seconds remaining. Then they were incorrectly called for a delay of game penalty after officials neglected to reset the game clock. Carpenter missed the ensuing 54-yard field goal attempt.
"Any time the play clock goes down under 20 seconds we want to reset it if we are still over the football," Blandino said. "It looked like the play clock had run down to probably five or six seconds so we want to reset the play clock there."
"If there was that little time left, then that's probably a mistake on my part in terms of not pumping the play clock back up," Anderson said. "But I was not aware that it was that far into the play clock."
Bills coach Rex Ryan was not pleased.
"Ridiculous," Ryan said. "Absolutely ridiculous."
After the half ended, Ryan said he and Sherman exchanged words. Sherman said it was too loud to hear Ryan.
So what was said?
"Well, he's mean mugging like he's doing. Whatever," Ryan said. "The guy's a great player, but I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought. I thought he roughed our kicker. It was a ridiculous play, no question. And then he's over on the sideline basically taunting us. So I had some words. I think I said you're too good of a player to act like an ass. I think that's what I said."
2. The Seahawks still couldn't figure out the running game, but the passing game was great
The Seahawks entered Monday with the 29th-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 81.4 yards per game. They were much worse than that against Buffalo, totaling 33 yards on 12 carries.
Running back Christine Michael had a 3-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter that ended with him spinning into the end zone and chucking the football into stands behind CenturyLink Field's south end zone. But Michael was otherwise a non-factor, rushing five times for one yard. Rookie running back C.J. Prosise was quiet too, with nine hashes on three carries.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll maintained the running game will improve, citing Russell Wilson's improved mobility in his ongoing recovery from a sprained MCL.
"I don't read the papers, so I don't know what you guys are writing, but we aren't the same right now, and we haven't been for eight weeks," he said. "That factor has not been the same."
The offensive line didn't provide much in the way of big running lanes, but it's fair to point out the continued absence of running back Thomas Rawls (fibula).
The Seahawks instead were more aggressive in the passing game than they had been at any point this season. The result? Wilson went 20 of 26 for 282 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were one-handed catches from tight end Jimmy Graham.
"We needed to," Wilson said of taking more shots downfield. "We got too many special players not to, and I thought (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell did a great job of calling the plays tonight."
3. The defense was without two of its best players, and it showed
Down two starters in strong safety Kam Chancellor and defensive lineman Michael Bennett, the Seahawks struggled to contain Bills running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
McCoy had 21 carries for 85 yards and four catches for 35 yards, causing an uncharacteristic amount of missed Seahawks tackles in the process.
Taylor had eight carries for 43 yards and a score. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 289 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Seahawks defense struggled especially on third down, allowing the Bills to convert 12 of 17 attempts. The result: Buffalo controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes and out-gained the Seahawks 425-278.
"This isn't unfamiliar right now, we've seen this quite a bit," Carroll said. "It's unfortunate. It isn't just running the football. It's converting and getting off the field on the other side ... we did not have a good night on third down on defense."
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