Now THAT is what we've been waiting for. The Seahawks dominated the second half of their 38-17 victory and they did so by returning to the Seahawks style of football that we were spoiled with the last couple of years. In a game slaked by icy rain, Seattle all but abandoned the pass and leaned on the most dominant rushing performance the league has seen this season. When the dust settled the Giants were nothing more than chalk outlines on soaking turf, serial death by blunt force trauma in the form of 350 rushing yards and five ground TDs.
I'm less interested in the flow of this game than I am in the themes, namely the reemergence of the particular brand of Seahawks football that we've come to call their identity. In a contest where Russell Wilson's arm (10/17, 2 INTs) was, well, sporadic, the defending Super Bowl champions turned to the strength of their offense and leaned on the Giants defense until it fell over, then they spent the last twenty minutes trampling them like a herd of wildebeests.
There was a sense that the running game was gonna click from the outset, as the Seahawks turned immediately to Marshawn Lynch, giving him the ball four times on their six-play opening drive, with Lynch doing the honors and scoring the opening touchdown. The drive also saw a slick 32-yard completion to emerging boy toy Cooper Helfet and everything appeared to be right as rain, whatever that means.
Unfortunately, the Seahawks decided to take the next ten minutes off, and the Giants scored two quick touchdowns on the back of a Russell Wilson interception and teacup accuracy from Eli Manning. The primary beneficiary was electric rookie Odell Beckham Jr, who finished with seven catches for 108 yards in a game where passing yards were at a premium. With the Giants leading 14-7 and Wilson generally erratic (missing throws high, including overthrowing an open Jermaine Kearse deep on a 3rd & 13), the Seahawks remembered who they were playing and got their depleted offensive line moving forward instead of backwards, read-optioning the ever-loving shit out of New York and coasting for the entire back half of the game.
Marshawn Lynch was as good as he's ever been, barreling through the Giants defense like an apoplectic yak without even having the decency to wipe their remains off his hooves when he was finished. When defenders were in front of him Lynch ran through them like Mario on star-power and when they tried to tackle him from any other direction, the twin that he ate in utero guided him with supernatural peripheral vision from his cockpit behind Marshawn's side eye. All told, Seattle's Pro Bowl running back left the game with 163 yards, four touchdowns, and half a dozen scalps in his ibex-hide satchel.
Emboldened by the team's return to its roots, the Seattle defense started to look like the dominant unit we grew accustomed to last year. The pressure from edge rushers started to get in Manning's face, hitting him nine times while also registering a sack and a fumble recovery. The stress of a hungry pass rush threw off the timing that had been so acute for the Giants offense in the first half and the secondary started to feast. Linebackers sprinted to cover receivers all over the field, defensive backs broke aggressively on passes instead of reactively.
It was like the field suddenly tilted the Seahawks' way in the third quarter, with Seattle gaining yards as a simple matter of course while every second half yard the Giants got came at a premium, like all of a sudden they were all playing with ankle weights on. Even the bounces started going Seattle's way. After three first half turnovers from the offense, the Seahawks forced two of their own in the second half and fell on both offensive fumbles in what was a refreshing regression to the mean.
My favorite defensive play of the game came when Manning foolishly challenged Richard Sherman on a jump ball down the right sideline. Sherman had perfect position and, despite Beckham's effort to climb him like a rope in gym class, the resulting deflection fluttered into the waiting paws of Earl Thomas, who eschewed the touchback in favor of a snarling 47-yard lion's blood return. At that point, it wasn't a question of which side was gonna win, it was a matter of how high the body count would be.
Lynch would get the first four touchdowns, Wilson would add the fifth. The Seahawks scored 31 of the game's final 34 points, including the final 24. The Giants' valiant first half effort netted them a 17-14 lead but the Seahawks went to the locker room, filled their pillowcases with bricks, and spent the final 30 minutes violently ending the slumber party they had invited the Giants to. A game that for so long looked to be in doubt became a savage victory march while the northwest rain bounced off of Tom Coughlin's crimson scowl like sprinklers on an over-ripe tomato.
-The Seahawks came into this game averaging 148.5 rushing yards per game, good for second in the NFL. After today, it's a league-leading 170.8 on an outrageous 5.5 yards per carry. This isn't just a good rushing team, this is a revolutionary one; a ground assault standing in brutal relief of a pass-happy landscape.
-The Seahawks had two 100-yard rushers today in Lynch (21 carries, 140 yards) and Wilson (14 for 107). Christine Michael chipped in 71 yards on four totes himself. Someday C-Mike is gonna get 20 touches in a a game and I'm gonna have to consult a physician to deal with my priapism.
-One of the ongoing subplots for Seattle this season has been the battle for the #2 spot on the RB depth chart. Robert Turbin turned his six carries into a likable 32 yards but he did lose a fumble. On the season, Turbin is now averaging 4.6 YPC on 32 carries while Michael is up to 7.4 on 14.
-What if the Seahawks never pass again? Who says no?
-Good to see Wilson take a few shots up top, although they had wildly variant outcomes. I already mentioned the egregious overthrow to Kearse but his deep shot to Baldwin was underthrown and intercepted by Quintin Demps. Wilson did redeem himself later by escaping a sure sack on third and long to find Kearse for a pretty schoolyard play that moved the ball from Seattle's own 34 to New York's 6.
-Nice to see Kearse starting to emerge as a semi-threatening downfield option. He has now been targeted 38 times this season and has turned those opportunities into 304 yards. For perspective, consider that only four teams in the NFL are averaging more yards per attempt than Seattle is when targeting Kearse.
-The Seahawks don't just lead the NFL in rushing, they also lead the league in yards per carry allowed, matching their season average of 3.2 today by holding the Giants to 54 ground yards on 17 carries.
-Michael Bennett recorded his fourth sack of the season and then proceeded to impregnate the entire stadium with his celebration. Never change, Black Santa.
-Earl Thomas was terrific, as per the yoozh but I was extremely impressed by Jeron Johnson, who made his first career start in place of the recovering Kam Chancellor. Johnson, who made no secret how excited he was, led the team with eight tackles and even broke up a would-be touchdown pass. Not much drop-off from peak-Kam to what we saw from JJ today, and it was a lot better than what they've been getting from Chancellor when he's tried to play through the pain.
-Byron Maxwell returned today and while he was generally quiet (three tackles), he was his usual sticky self in coverage and iced the game with an impressive break up of a fourth down pass. The Legion is inching closer to full strength and may the Lord have mercy on those they face when they get there.
-Bruce Irvin may never generate the stats to justify his first round selection but he has became a very talented situational player. He has the rare combination of abilities to beat a lineman off the edge as well as cover receivers down the field. Just one tackle for loss on his ledger but his versatility gives this defense rare flexibility.
-I'm starting to fall for Kevin Pierre-Louis. That is all.
-Cliff Avril didn't register a single tackle today but was responsible for four of Seattle's nine QB hits. There's value in that.
-Passer Efficiency Differential fell to 7-2 in Seahawks games this season, as Manning's 81.9 outshone Wilson's 53.7, an advantage negated by Wilson's ability to run the ball while Eli remains as mobile as a stop sign.
-A couple of encouraging developments today: third downs and penalties. The Seahawks converted 58.3% of their third downs (7/12) and dialed back the infractions to a respectable six for 50 yards.
-Everything you need to know about how the second half went can be summed up by Marshawn Lynch and Zack Bowman (#31) on this play.
-Brandon Mebane left with a hamstring injury and Luke Willson exited with an ankle injury of his own. No update on the severity of either.
The Seahawks will head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs to see which crowd can claim a higher fabricated decibel reading. It will also be a showdown between two 6-3 teams and provides a matchup that should put Seattle's league-best rush defense to the test. Everyone that matters in the NFC won today, so Seattle's path to the postseason didn't exactly get easier with this afternoon's results but it was great to see them keep pace.
This game was an encouraging reminder of what this team is capable of, a harkening back to the recent enforcement of the team's will on an over-matched foe. This was the type of performance that wins playoff games and should go a long ways towards quieting the tremors that have troubled our hearts for the last month and change. What we saw in the second half today was the type of here-we-come-so-what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it? beatdown that makes you feel like your team is invincible. They're not, but it's nice to have the feeling again.
Onward and upward.