SEATTLE (AP) — When the Seattle Seahawks announced this would be the week fans would get their wish with long-anticipated throwback uniforms making their debut, it seemed a way to build some hype and attention around a midseason matchup that might lack some excitement.
As it turns out, the Seahawks are grabbing at some nostalgia during the week of what’s become an important game for Seattle and Cleveland.
Both the Seahawks and Browns sit at 4-2. Both are a half-game behind their respective division leaders. Both have shown flashes of being dominant in phases of their games, while simultaneously facing questions about their legitimacy as contenders in their divisions.
“What a great matchup for us and it’s the kind of matchup that you’ve got to have if you’re going to do anything with the season,” Carroll said. “You have to play teams that are like this.”
And by “like this,” Carroll means a Browns team that scored 39 points last week with its backup quarterback and for most of the season has had one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Cleveland will start P.J. Walker at quarterback against the Seahawks after he came off the bench in place of Deshaun Waston to lead the Browns to a 39-38 win over the Colts. It will be the second start of the season for Walker and while his numbers won’t jump off the page, he does own a win over then-unbeaten San Francisco at home and then led the Browns on an 80-yard winning touchdown drive to beat Indianapolis.
“I think operating, getting us in and out of plays and has made some big plays when we need them. Every single one of his games we’ve had to make a play and he’s made them,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Walker goes by P.J. to everyone in Cleveland — except Browns special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone.
“I still call him Phil,” Ventrone said.
Before a stint in the XFL and with the Carolina Panthers, Walker, who was signed to the Browns practice squad in August, spent two seasons with Indianapolis. While with the Colts, he served as Ventrone’s scout team kick returner.
“He was good,” said Ventrone, who recently showed his Cleveland players video of their new starting quarterback returning kicks. “Guys were shocked that he was actually, like, the kick returner, and then I told him that I showed it, and he laughed, obviously.”
Ventrone has been around Walker long enough to know that he some special qualities.
“He’s just got that gamer in him,” Ventrone said.
THE OTHER QB
Seattle QB Geno Smith has always been his own harshest critic. And the mistakes of the past two weeks have lingered with him more than any of the good plays he’s made.
While Smith threw two touchdown passes in last week’s win over Arizona, he also had another red-zone turnover and fumbled a snap. The previous week Smith threw two interceptions and Seattle managed just 10 points in five red-zone trips in the loss to the Bengals.
This week will be a challenge for Smith, facing a Browns defense that is allowing fewer than 250 yards per game passing.
“When I’m being hard on myself, it’s just continuing to push myself no matter what I do in the game,” Smith said. “I’m always going to expect more from myself.”
Myles Garrett doesn’t hide his passion for basketball, going as far as to mimic dribbling moves on the field before rushing the quarterback. He also became a minority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers this week.
There’s also no doubt Garrett has hops. He showed his vertical skills last week at Indianapolis when he jumped over the Colts' line in one motion and blocked a field goal.
It may have been the play of the year so far in the NFL, and was yet another example of Garrett’s greatness.
“He’s doing things that not many humans can do,” Stefanski said of the All-Pro end.
Garrett almost single-handedly wrecked the Colts, getting nine tackles, two strip sacks, a deflected pass and the field goal block.
Garrett’s 82 career sacks are the most by a player before his 28th birthday.
BACK TO THE 90s
Seattle’s throwback look for this season is a nod to the colors the team wore from its inception in 1976 through the 2001 season, with a specific nod to the uniform style worn in the 1990s. Seattle underwent a uniform makeover when Lumen Field opened in 2002 and then updated the look in 2012. But fans have long asked for the original colors to return.
Seattle leaned into the throwback nostalgia with promos and videos with a 90s theme and Lumen Field will be decked out in the old color scheme for this week.
“They're just dope in general. They could fit anybody's style," rookie defensive back Devon Witherspoon said.
While fans have flocked to grab the old-school merchandise, some of the luster will be lost if the silver helmets and blue jerseys are worn in a losing effort.
Then again, the Seahawks didn’t win very much wearing those uniforms the first time around.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl