When the Seahawks held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of their Week 7 road game against the Cardinals, it felt inevitable that Arizona would come back. There wasn’t a singular big play, just consistent and relentless marches down the field with Kyler Murray comfortably picking apart Seattle’s defense.
Arizona indeed forced overtime and continued to move the ball with ease before beating the Seahawks, 37-34. Seattle’s pass rush couldn’t get a finger on Murray, let alone sack him. That game proved to be the low point of the Seahawks' most glaring and ridiculed deficiency.
Three days later, the Seahawks acquired Carlos Dunlap in a trade with the Bengals.
Sports are often poetic, as they proved to be again on Thursday night. In the Week 11 rematch between the Seahawks and Cardinals, Arizona trailed by seven in the final minutes of the game. Overtime appeared inevitable once again with the Cardinals reaching Seattle’s 27-yard line.
But on 4th-and-10, Carlos Dunlap called game, sacking Murray and sealing a 28-21 win for the Seahawks.
“Ball-game,” Dunlap said with a big smile following his first win as a member of the Seahawks. “Yessir!”
Being a great pass rusher is just as much about timing as it is volume. The Seahawks spent the first seven games of their season without a closer, and it showed. Now Dunlap has proven to have filled that void.
“It was surreal,” Dunlap said. “With the way the sideline erupted, I can only imagine what it would have been like if the 12s were in there. This team is very exciting. I’m happy to be a part of it. … It’s refreshing. I feel lighter. I’m rejuvenated. I’m excited to continue to go to work. They brought me here to do one job, and I’m happy to be able to say I was able to get it done.
“P.C. was fired up. He almost tackled me on the sideline. That was crazy to see a head coach that involved and the whole sideline was like our 12s today. … The culture here is very lovely and it’s contagious.”
Dunlap’s play has been as infectious as Seattle’s culture. The Seahawks had just 12 sacks through seven games without Dunlap. They’ve exploded for 13 in the three games since he entered the lineup. Dunlap has accounted for 3.0 of those sacks, two of which came Thursday night against Murray.
But that still leaves 10 sacks for everybody else, guys who had been scrutinized prior to Dunlap’s arrival. The veteran defensive lineman shared the glory with his fellow pass rushers as well as a secondary that limited superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins to just five receptions for 51 yards. If those guys can continue to cover, Dunlap knows he can feast upfront.
“I like my odds, I’ll chase after a squirrel all day,” Dunlap said. “As a defensive line, we think the sky is the limit.”
Seattle now has 25 sacks on the season with six games left to play. By comparison, the Seahawks posted a measly 28 last season.
Dunlap has been the obvious catalyst for the uptick in production and could prove to be invaluable to the franchise by the season’s end. He bet on himself upon arriving in Seattle, slashing his 2020 pay to just $2 million for the rest of the season with the carrot of an additional $3 million bonus if he remains on the Seahawks roster on the third day of the 2021 league year.
Seattle could cut Dunlap and rid themselves of his entire $14.1 million cap number, but the franchise will happily pay him that money if his clutch play continues.
“This is just the start,” Dunlap said. “I’ve still got a full story to write. I’ve still got to prove a point and show up when called upon. This is something that I personally still see myself being able to do for years to come.”