Rookie Russell Wilson rushed for three TDs and threw for another while Earl Thomas returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown as the Seattle Seahawks steamrolled past the Buffalo Bills 50-17 on Sunday.
Seattle (9-5), which wore new wolf grey uniforms, earned its fifth win in six games and cemented its first winning season since going 10-6 in 2007. It also marked the second straight lopsided win for the Seahawks, who downed Arizona 58-0 last week.
Russell was certainly a central figure, completing 14-of-23 passes for 205 yards while rushing for 92 yards on nine carries before just 40,770 spectators at Rogers Centre.
And it could’ve been worse for Buffalo as Seattle’s Leon Washington had an 86-yard punt return TD late in the third quarter nullified by an illegal block before the replay confirmed Sidney Rice didn’t get both feet down on a five-yard touchdown catch in the fourth. Still, the Bills (5-9) were officially eliminated from playoff contention, extending their league-high post-season drought to 13 years.
Marshawn Lynch contributed to Buffalo’s woes, rushing for 113 yards and a TD in his first game against his former team since the Bills dealt their 2007 first-round selection to Seattle in 2010.
But it was Wilson who provided the early fireworks at Rogers Centre before a series-low gathering that sported a myriad of NFL team jerseys. The 2012 third-round pick became the first quarterback to register three first-half rushing TDs since September 2000 when Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper did so versus the Chicago Bears.
Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 21-of-38 passing for 217 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Stevie Johnson had eight catches for 115 yards and a TD while C.J. Spiller added 103 yards rushing with a touchdown.
None of the Bills Toronto Series games have been a sellout at Rogers Centre, which has a seating capacity of 54,000 for football. Last month, 53,028 fans watched the Toronto Argonauts beat the Calgary Stampeders in the 100th Grey Cup game here.
Seattle maintained its hold on an NFC wildcard spot but remains in contention for the NFC West lead. If the San Francisco 49ers lose Sunday night to the New England Patriots, the NFC West foes will meet for the divisional lead next week at CenturyLink Field.
Zach Miller also had a TD for Seattle. Steven Hauschka added five converts and three field goals.
Buffalo’s Rian Lindell booted two converts and a field goal.
Fitzpatrick’s 20-yard TD strike to Johnson late in the first half made the tandem just the fourth in franchise history to connect on 23 or more touchdowns. Spiller, who scored on a 14-yard run, surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the first time.
Wilson and Lynch powered Seattle to a 31-17 half-time advantage in an opening half that featured a combined 526 offensive yards.
Wilson led Seattle on scoring marches its first five offensive possession (four TDs, field goal), effectively capping three of them with touchdown runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards while hitting Miller on a four-yard scoring strike. Buffalo’s defence also had few answers for Lynch, who had 100 yards rushing on just nine first-half carries to stake the Seahawks to a commanding 31-7 second-quarter lead.
Fitzpatrick’s scoring strike to Johnson at 13:50 pulled Buffalo to within 31-14 before Lindell’s 41-yard field goal on the final play rounded out the first-half scoring.
Buffalo’s troubles continued in the third when K.J. Wright intercepted Fitzpatrick on Buffalo’s opening possession and returned it to the Bills’ 20-yard line. Two plays later, Lynch scored on a 13-yard run.
Midway through the frame, Chris Clemons stripped the ball from Fitzpatrick. Seattle’s Bruce Irvin recovered and returned it to the Buffalo 10-yard line, setting up Hauschka’s 33-yard field goal that made it 40-17.
Thomas picked off Fitzpatrick, who was hit just as he was making a throw, and returned it for the TD at 8:47. Michael Robinson’s 29-yard run on a fourth-and-three gamble put the ball at the Buffalo 10, setting up a field goal with 9:17 remaining.
The Bills Toronto Series was unveiled in 2008 amid much fanfare as event organizers wanted to prove Toronto was a viable NFL city. Rogers Communications Inc. paid US$78 million for the contests expecting southern Ontario fans to flock to Rogers Centre whatever the cost.
But a slow economy, high-priced tickets — initially averaging over $180 each, compared to roughly US$51 at Ralph Wilson Stadium — and struggling Bills teams have made it a tough sell.
Event organizers have cut some ticket prices to make games more affordable, but that’s not resulted in a sellout yet. The average ticket price for Sunday’s game was roughly $99.
Scalpers also had to work hard for their money, with many Sunday willing to unload their tickets under face value to make a sale.
The series has given the Bills a huge financial boost. They’re receiving more than double what they’d make if the games were in Orchard Park. N.Y., while being allowed to establish a foothold in Canada’s biggest market.
Still, event organizers have struggled trying to recreate the NFL experience here. A huge attraction for many American football fans is being able to arrive at the stadium hours before kickoff, set up the barbecue to cook a variety of foods while throwing a football around in the parking lot or breaking down the upcoming game with friends over a cold beer.
But provincial laws make that impossible here. And then there was the security as fans were searched and their bags checked before entering the stadium.
The roof was closed, good considering the cold, wet temperatures outside. There were no corporate logos on the turf — just the Bills crest at centre field and their team name in both end zones. What especially stood out were the 10-yard end zones on a 100-yard long NFL field compared to the 20-yard end zones and the 110-yard field in Canadian football.
So too was the Jumbotron running during plays, allowing fans to watch the on-field action. That never happens during Toronto Argonauts contests. As has been the case throughout the series, large banners covered the hotel windows overlooking the field, preventing hotel guests from watching like they could during CFL games.
On Sunday, the following road closures will be in effect between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.:
- Bremner Blvd. west of the entrance way into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (south building) to Navy Wharf Court
- Bremner Blvd. eastbound from Navy Wharf Crescent to Rees St.
- Blue Jays Way northbound from Navy Wharf Crescent to the Renaissance Hotel driveway, south of Front St.
There will also be a pre-game party taking place between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Front Street West, between Blue Jays Way and John Street.
As a result, the following roads will be closed between 12:01 a.m. and 10 p.m. Sunday:
- Front St. W., Blue Jays Way to John St.
- John St., Wellington St. W. to Front St. W.
- Windsor St.,Wellington St. W. to Front St. W.
- With files from 680News