Sea­hawks, Bron­cos, Cow­boys earn po­ten­tially defining wins

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Barry Wil­ner

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. >> Coaches and well-trained play­ers will tell you that ev­ery win is worth the same. They’re wrong. No bet­ter ex­am­ples can be found than the way Seat­tle, Dal­las and Den­ver won on Sun­day. Those vic­to­ries are the kind that can de­fine a sea­son, cat­a­pult you to spe­cial things.

Most im­pres­sive was the Sea­hawks’ 31-24 win at Foxborough, a place vis­i­tors rarely leave with smiles on their faces. Par­tic­u­larly af­ter set­tling for three field goals, miss­ing an ex­tra point kick and a du­bi­ous 2-point con­ver­sion at­tempt.

But in one of the most bone-rat­tling games imag­in­able — look for Earl Thomas’ hit on Rob Gronkowski for proof — Seat­tle re-es­tab­lished its cre­den­tials as an op­po­nent to be reck­oned with. The Sea­hawks of­ten come on in the se­cond half of the sched­ule, and the way they pun­ished the Pa­tri­ots and also han­dled the hits they were given in re­turn bodes very well for Pete Car­roll’s club.

“It says ex­actly what our creed is: We fight un­til we can’t fight no more,” said safety Kam Chan­cel­lor, whose tight cov­er­age on Gronkowski re­sulted in an in­com­ple­tion from the Seat­tle 1 to end New Eng­land’s chances. “No mat­ter what the cir­cum­stances are, we never look back. We keep push­ing for­ward and we keep fight­ing.”

Seat­tle (6-2-1) won on Rus­sell Wil­son’s arm (348 yards, 124.6 passer rat­ing), Doug Bald­win’s mitts (three TD catches) and that fierce de­fense. It won even though Wil­son re­mains al­most sta­tion­ary (for him) in the pocket be­cause of both­er­some leg in­juries.

“It’s been a tougher year in the sense of ob­vi­ously, the in­juries, and haven’t faced that (lim­i­ta­tion) be­fore,” Wil­son said. “But there was no way I was go­ing to let that stop me. And the men­tal­ity was to do what­ever I could to play the games, and get ready, And just con­tinue to bat­tle, and con­tinue to have that mul­ish ap­proach, and con­tinue to stay stead­fast.”

Den­ver, like Seat­tle, has had plenty of suc­cess re­cently, al­beit with a cer­tain No. 18 at quar­ter­back. It is now 7-3 thanks greatly to its still-staunch de­fense.

And, of course, to a spe­cial teams play for the ages.

Justin Simmons leaped over the of­fen­sive line and blocked a po­ten­tial goa­head ex­tra-point kick by Wil Lutz. Will Parks grabbed the loose ball, re­turn­ing it 84 yards for a de­fen­sive 2-point con­ver­sion with 1:28 left. The de­fen­sive 2-point play was only added to the rules prior to the 2015 sea­son, and this was the first time the win­ning points came on such a play.

“I’ve never had an end­ing like that, es­pe­cially on spe­cial teams,” DeMar­cus Ware said, and he’s been in the NFL for nearly 12 sea­sons. “It was just big, a big vic­tory. I mean usu­ally a game ends from the de­fense be­cause of a forced fum­ble or in­ter­cep­tion or some­thing like that. But see­ing it hap­pen from spe­cial teams, you never see that.”

The ef­fect it could have, par­tic­u­larly with two rook­ies com­bin­ing for such a bril­liant and rare play, is im­mea­sur­able.

The sig­nif­i­cance of an eight-game win­ning streak pow­ered by two other kids — quar­ter­back Dak Prescott and run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott — is that Dal­las is think­ing big. Af­ter its 35-30 come­back siz­zler in Pitts­burgh, the Cow­boys have earned the right to think as big as, well, Big D it­self.

Asked if he’s been around a team where two rook­ies have had such a quick im­pact, Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones replied, “Not two that are so in sync to where they’re feed­ing off each other and the team feed­ing off them. I haven’t seen that.”

What the world saw at Heinz Field was the kind of de­ter­mi­na­tion and re­silience that can lead to cham­pi­onships. Ev­ery time the more-vet­eran Steel­ers de­liv­ered a hay­maker — in­clud­ing a touch­down off a fake spike by Ben Roeth­lis­berger — Dal­las re­sponded.

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