This messy afternoon ended with a review.
Complete confusion in the last 14 seconds was totally appropriate for a game that, honestly, neither team really deserved to win.
But the Seahawks, as is their custom, tend to survive ugly games and frantic finishes — which they did again on Sunday at CenturyLink Field, outlasting Cincinnati 21-20 in a battle of dueling mistakes.
About that review…
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for a career-high 418 yards (yes, you read that correctly), needed about 50 yards for a last-gasp field goal shot and wound up trying to heave a pass.
Rasheem Green and Quentin Jefferson pressured Dalton, and Green hit his arm just as he was in mid-release.
Officials on the field called it a fumble — recovered by Seattle — instead of an incomplete pass, which honestly it appeared to be.
Naturally the clock ran out on the fumble call, which the review gang in New York decided to overturn, and Pete Carroll’s record of never having lost a home opener in Seattle remained intact.
HOWEVER, this victory seemed to disprove the wisdom of legendary sports reporter Grantland Rice, who typed out a famous quote almost a century ago.
“It’s not whether you win or lose,” Rice wrote, “but how you play the game.”
Rice’s outlook clearly doesn’t play in the modern-day NFL.
The Seahawks were decent only in brief spurts against a Cincinnati team that has been almost universally predicted to finish among the league’s bottom feeders.
Thus, Seattle more or less HAD to get out with a win if all the excitement about this 2019 season was going to continue.
If you watched a replay of this game, you’d have the impression that the Bengals had the ball forever and that Dalton could and did complete passes at will.
You’d also think former U-Dub star John Ross has exploded into the big-time target Cincinnati thought he’d be when he was chosen ninth overall in 2016.
Ross caught seven passes for 158 yards and two TDs against a Seattle secondary that looked, well…
On one of those touchdowns throws to Ross, safety Tedric Thompson was standing in perfect position for an interception, but he played the ball with the skill of a beer vendor — jumping too soon and having the pass sail cleanly over his head.
CARROLL may have that same opinion of his secondary, since he left all three linebackers on the field for almost every play, suggesting a lack of faith in any use of a nickel defense — while giving Dalton’s receivers acres of open space.
Throughout the preseason, we’ve heard that the Seahawks were not bothered about finding a replacement for nickel cover corner Justin Coleman, who signed as a free agent with Detroit.
If Coleman’s successor is actually on the current roster, he was hidden on Sunday — locking the Hawks into their base defense more or less permanently.
A veteran like Dalton is going to kill an opponent restricted like that, and he would have, except…
The Seahawks did one thing well on defense, forcing the Bengals into field goals instead of TDs on three red zone trips.
Jefferson had plenty to do with that — rushing hard all day and nailing two sacks.
Newcomer Jadeveon Clowney was effective early and late, with a sack and a batted pass — all of which was barely enough to keep Dalton’s assault from being fatal.
MEANWHILE, the Seahawks were mostly toothless on offense — except for a few big plays that turned out to be critical.
Russell Wilson, who was harried all afternoon and sacked four times, hit Tyler Lockett with a 44-yard scoring throw (his only catch of the game) to open the fourth quarter when the Bengals finally blew a coverage.
That score turned out to be the winner, although it took a terrific third-down blast by Chris Carson — behind the block of backup guard Ethan Pocic — to move the chains when Seattle was running down the clock.
Seattle never mounted drives with any rhythm, although if you’re hunting desperately for positives, rookie DK Metcalf hauled in four passes for 89 yards and drew a pass interference call in the end zone.
It sure appears that the guy is going to be the monster that Carroll has been claiming.
CARSON gained only 46 yards on 15 carries against an amazingly stout Cincinnati defense (last in the NFL a year ago and playing with almost the exact same personnel), but he burst through three tackles on a short TD pass that came on an important third down.
Maybe this is simply the “Seattle Way” — keep all games close by hook or crook, and then let Wilson or the defense make one or two huge plays to snatch a win.
If that’s the plan, they’re one for one to start this season, and…
They seem dead set on proving that Grantland Rice was wrong.
It’s not how you play the game.
It’s what you see on the scoreboard.
Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns for The Press appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve also contributes the “Zags Tracker” package on Gonzaga basketball once monthly during the offseason.