SEATTLE -- If Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll liked to say, "I told you so," he would have had a full slate of opportunuties to do so after his team beat up on the New York Jets, 28-7, on Sunday afternoon. The Jets, who gave Carroll his first shot at an NFL coaching job in 1994, fired him after one season and replaced him with Rich Kotite. Fifteen years later, the Jets traded up to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, a move that Carroll -- then Sanchez's coach with the Trojans -- publicly questioned.
Carroll was called selfish for failing to give his quarterback validation, but four seasons later, and playing his college coach for the first time, Sanchez looked just as unprepared as Carroll once thought he would be. The Jets didn't score an offensive touchdown, and Sanchez completed just 9 of 22 passes for 124 yards in the game. It was an ignominious way to spend his 26th birthday.
"It's got to turn and it starts with me," Sanchez said after the game. His worst throw was a completion, but to the wrong side, when he telegraphed a throw in traffic to tight end Dustin Keller, and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had an easy pick.
"Strung the play out too long. Got greedy," Sanchez said. "That kind of stuff happens when you do that. So it's my job to move on to the next play, kick a field goal, get us some points, and get out of there. That was the start of things going bad and I've got to play better than that. So that's on me."
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Sanchez was also sacked three times and lost a fumble.
Carroll had better luck with his new young quarterback, the 5-foot-10 5/8 Russell Wilson. The rookie from Wisconsin, whose height dropped him to the third round and off the boards of some teams, completed 12 of 19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He also coughed up what turned out to be the Jets' only score when he fumbled in the first quarter, and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson returned the fumble for a touchdown with 2:50 left in the first quarter.
When he calmed down, Wilson was as efficient and consistent at home as he's been all year -- in five games at CenturyLink field in his rookie campaign, Wilson's thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, and that was another point of validation for Carroll's process. Wilson wasn't supposed to be the starter so soon, but Carroll gave the kid a shot, and he's been amply rewarded.
"He handled it pretty well to just run around and get away from it, but he tried a little bit too hard," Carroll said of Wilson's acumen against New York's defense. "He has to get down and protect the football first. We gave up the ball, and that's kind of unfortunate; we just have not had a play like that all year. I think he was overtrying a little bit, trying to make too much out of it. When he's in a bad situation, just get down, and if we have to punt it, we'll punt it. Hopefully we'll learn from that. We don't want to make ourselves that vulnerable.
"He did make some fantastic plays, though. So, there's going to be a little bit of give and take. It wasn't because he wasn't battling, but we felt like at that time, we were talking to him to not overtry, don't push the issue. If you're getting corralled, just get down and we'll go to the next play. From that point on, he got out and did OK. They did a nice job of pressuring us. It's a tough defense, and they did some good things today. They got to us more than we wanted."
Wilson wasn't the only Seahawks player who threw a touchdown pass -- the Seahawks got a little tricky in the fourth quarter when receiver Golden Tate threw a 23-yard score to Sidney Rice with eight minutes left in the game. It was the perfect personification of one simple fact -- after a somewhat rocky first quarter, the Seahawks simply had their way.
"That's just what type of player I am," Tate said -- he also caught Wilson's first touchdown of the day. "Just get me the ball any way you can -- in the backfield, a reverse, a pass, whatever it is. My mindset is, anytime I get the ball I can make something special happen. A touchdown, a big first down in a crucial moment, a big gain, that's just how I am. That's how I approach every single ball that comes my way, because I don't know how many I'm going to get. So, I want to make the most out of every single ball that comes my way. For me to do that, it starts in practice and how I prepare myself for the game. It's just me playing hard and getting the opportunities from the coaches and the quarterback."
Even when he is the quarterback. Tate threw the ball with his left hand, which gave him a 1-0 lead among the left-handed signal-callers on the field. Tim Tebow has been shut out all season.
So, the Jets' quarterback situation is still filmier and far more undefined, for all the wrong reasons. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said after the game that he feels he can win with Sanchez or Tebow, and he'll certainly get calls this week to make a change, because Tebow looked like the more efficient quarterback in limited opportunities -- though we are dealing with the soft bias of low expectations. Tebow completed all three of his passes for a total of 8 yards, ran pretty well, but looked as overmatched against Seattle's defense as one might expect. Still, Sanchez has regressed to a worrisome degree, and the 3-6 Jets will need to go back to the drawing board.
"Because I believe we can win with Mark, and I believe that we can win with Tebow, but I'm not going to let you or anyone else convince me otherwise," Ryan told the New York media, when asked why he hasn't replaced his starting quarterback. "Because this is how I feel. It gives us the best opportunity to win games, and that's the only reason I make any move."
How does Pete Carroll feel? Eminently satisfied. The 6-4 Seahawks go into their bye week with all the momentum he would want, and with a lot of confirmation for their coach.
"This was a big day for us," he said. "We came to this break, two games into the second half, and we wanted to get these two wins and get on this break and make sure we rest our football team and get ready for the final push. We get to do it with the right feeling, and we're going to try to maximize this time to get well, get our guys all healthy, come back and get on the road again for a couple of weeks and see what we can do with it. I'm real pleased. It was a great stadium, we had some rain to make it typical and classy for us.
"Everything about it was a good day today, so I liked it."
What's not to like?
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