A most emotionally exhausting weekend

I'm grieving the Mariners, trying to avoid being irrationally angry at the Huskies and trying to figure out what the hell to make of the Seahawks. I'm not alone in any of these feelings.

It was a white-knuckle weekend in Seattle sports.

Friday night’s sold-out stadium stirred memories of the place the Seattle Mariners have in our city’s heart and the pins-and-needles uneasiness that comes from must-win baseball. On Saturday, there was a 10-minute stretch of utter agony as the Washington Huskies were stuffed on a fourth-quarter fourth-and-1 and the Mariners surrendered a two-run lead on a three-run homer. The Mariners bounced back. The Huskies did not.

And then there was Sunday when the Mariners suffered a loss that didn’t end up mattering and the Seahawks won a critical game against a division rival that looks better from a distance than it does under a magnifying glass. So, yeah, there’s a lot of ground to cover in the Monday newsletter:

Let’s start with the Seahawks: Hard to overstate the importance of Seattle’s victory in Santa Clara, Calif. First, it avoided the team’s first three-game losing streak since drafting Rusell Wilson. Secondly, the Seahawks are no longer in danger of losing touch with the rest of the NFC West. Not only are they tied with San Francisco at 2-2, but the Rams got whupped at home by the Cardinals further turning things upside down. But mostly, by winning on Sunday, the Seahawks avoided having a true back-against-the-wall game on three day’s rest this Thursday against the Rams. Seattle wasn’t going to make the playoffs if it started 1-4. Not given this division, and while I’m not going to say that everything looks different given that Sunday’s win, things don’t feel nearly so desperate for the Seahawks after that game.

It’s easier to explain the significance of what happened on Sunday than it is to explain how it happened, though. For the first 25 minutes, the Seahawks were an absolute and utter no-show. They didn’t record a single first down in that time, posting a net loss of 12 yards on their first five possessions of the game. And then, without warning, Seattle started running its good offense, driving 80 yards on six plays and scoring a game-tying touchdown with D.K. Metcalf’s 12-yard touchdown with 1:54 left.

That touchdown was the turning point of the game. For the first 25 minutes, Seattle’s offense was getting absolutely punked by the 49ers defense. Then Seattle scored four touchdowns in the span of six possessions, and that includes the final possession of the first half in which Seattle ran the ball twice to exhaust the clock. The resiliency of Seattle’s offense in this game was genuinely impressive. Wilson and the Seahawks took San Francisco’s best defensive punches for the first 25 minutes, weathered the storm and found a way to be at effective and occasionally explosive in the final 35 minutes. I’m just not sure if that entirely explains why the Seahawks won, though.

The 49ers outgained the Seahawks by more than 200 yards, they didn’t have a place-kicker in the game, veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not play in the second half because of a calf injury and was replaced by rookie Trey Lance who looked very much like he was getting his first extended NFL action under center. Oh, and the Seahawks also got the benefit of two San Francisco turnovers, most crucially a second-half fumble of a kickoff return that allowed Seattle to take a double-digit lead.

In other words: San Francisco had a -2 turnover differential, was playing without its putter and lost its starting quarterback to injury and still only lost by a touchdown.

I’m not saying any of this to diminish the significance of Seattle’s victory, but rather to provide a little context. Don’t go overboard in praising Seattle’s defense for what it did and don’t pretend there were no issues with the Seahawks offense. Seattle went three-and-out on seven of their 12 possessions in the game. Now, if the Seahawks win Thursday’s game against the Rams, none of this will really matter. Going 3-2 over the first five games of the season would be more than just acceptable, it would qualify as “good” given the degree of difficulty and the fact that three of the first four games were on the road. Just don’t let Sunday’s victory completely cover up the fact there are underlying issues.

Now to the Mariners: I don’t have much in the way of analysis to offer for the Mariners’ weekend series against the Angels, just a whole lot of gratitude. This was an incredibly fun, tough and thoroughly inspiring Mariners team. So many times they could’ve given in when things looked bleak. So many times they got up off the mat.

I’m bummed, but only because I won’t get to keep watching this team. I’m disappointed, but not in them. I’m disappointed for them. They played better than anyone had a right to expect, and I really enjoyed watching them.

I think the future is really bright for Seattle. Jared Kelenic showed in September and even into October why he will be a star. I think J.P. Crawford, Abraham Toro and Ty France will be key cogs for years to come. And just as importantly, I think this weekend should remind everyone what it feels like when that stadium is full.

But for right now, I’m going to grieve a little bit because I won’t get to watch that team tonight. Or tomorrow. Or ever again really because it won’t be the same team that comes back. You only get a few times that your favorite team fields a group that is as tough and resilient and fun to watch as this one was. Thank you for that, and by “you” I mean Kyle Seager and Crawford, Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzalez. Thank you to France and Kelenic and Jake Bauers. Thank you to Dylan Moore for that grand slam against Houston and thank you to Scott Servais for yelling at that hemorrhoid of an Astros coach who got all mad when Servais was upset at Crawford getting plunked. Thanks to Yusei Kikuchi’s swag and Tom Murphy’s eyes. Thank you to Luis Torrens for hitting well enough to become a DH and to Casey Sadler for being absolutely nails. Thank you to Kendall Graveman for everything he did before the trade and Toro for everything he did after it. I’m going to stop now, not because I’ve named enough people but because you get the idea.

This was an incredible season and I’m always going to remember this team and this season with incredible fondness.

And then there’s that ugly dog of a loss in Corvallis: I don’t have any gratitude to express regarding the Washington Huskies football team. Instead, I’m going to swallow my anger and offer an even-keeled observation: Jimmy Lake wants his team to be tough. It’s why he wore the hate saying “Run the (darn) ball.” It’s why he hired John Donovan. At a time when so many schools are spreading the field and speeding up the tempo, he wants an offense that’s no fancier than a sledgehammer and functions in much the same straightforward manner.

And honestly, I kind of like that. Matt Rhule showed just how well that can work first at Temple, then at Baylor and now in the NFL. It’s an approach that David Shaw has taken at Stanford and under him, the program to achieve a level of sustained success that is really hard given that school’s recruiting restrictions and its institutional lack of speed.

But if you’re going to be Mr. Tough Team, you can’t get punked by Oregon State. And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday night. The Huskies got smacked. They couldn’t stop a Beavers offense that has a veteran offensive line and doesn’t even pretend to have a passing game. The Huskies couldn’t run on the Beavers, either. The Huskies made the right call in going for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield in the final 5 minutes. That quarterback sneak was stuffed, buster. And the Beavers then took the ball and ran it right up the gut and Washington buckled to the point that it decided it was better off letting the Beavers score a touchdown so it could get the ball back.

So Lake’s got a choice: Get this team tougher or open up the offense preferably with someone else calling the plays. Saturday’s loss to Oregon State was not embarrassing nor was it an aberration. It was indicative of a team that does not have the toughness to play the style its coach wants.

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