In a back and forth game that featured lead changes at every turn, the Seattle Seahawks were eventually able to triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers by a final of 39-30. The teams traded blows all day long, and neither one tackled particularly well, but it was a ridiculously fun game to watch, overall.
It was a relatively quiet first quarter for both teams, despite the Steelers having dominated the eye-test. Things would even out, however, with missed extra points and two-point conversions keeping the scoreline close and strange. The Seattle certainly defense left a lot to be desired in the first half, though, as Ben Roethlisberger just ripped pass after pass through the secondary.
The second half would bring good things for Seattle, as they would put up 25 points thanks to three more Russell Wilson touchdown passes and a one-yard Thomas Rawls plunge. The defense continued to allow Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense to stick around thanks to blown coverages and missed/soft tackles, but was able to hold them to a field goal late in the game, which turned out to be a hugely important decision.
All in all, it was a forgettable game for the Seattle defense, but it's also important to remember that the Steelers have one of the best offenses in the NFL, even without Le'Veon Bell. The Seattle offense was strong, although many would have liked to see a few more carries for Rawls, especially when things weren't going as well in the first half.
1. The Steelers try a fake field goal that ... well, it doesn't work.
The Seahawks have been burned by Steelers trickery before (no, I'm not linking to that play, we know what happened), but not this time. It wasn't the best plan, particularly out of the timeout, but it helped give the Seahawks some momentum, so thank you, Mike Tomlin.
2. Jimmy Graham makes a ridiculous circus catch.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Graham had to leave this game due to injury, but not before making this astounding grab. The concentration to keep the ball in his vision was amazing, but the most impressive part of the whole sequence might be how firmly he keeps his hand underneath the ball as he goes to the ground. Just incredible.
3. Russell Wilson finds Doug Baldwin for an 80-yard TD to top things off.
Most Seahawks were probably just hoping for a first down on this play, but then Doug Baldwin decided to go bananas and take this thing 80 yards to the house. Not a bad way to end a game.
Russell Wilson- 21/30, 345 yards, 5 touchdowns
The Steelers made a clear effort to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket on Sunday. One could say it didn't work out too well for them. Wilson was fantastic all day, although some shoddy tackling from the Pittsburgh defense certainly didn't hurt. Wilson has had a lot more responsibility heaped on him this season in the absence of Marshawn Lynch/under the weight of his new contract, and he showed on Sunday that he's earned that responsibility.
Ben Roethlisberger- 36/55, 456 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
While Wilson had a more efficient day, Roethlisberger was fantastic in his own right on Sunday. With his number one target, Antonio Brown, blanketed by Richard Sherman for most of the afternoon, he exploited his other match-ups, exceptionally. He found nine different receivers on the day, and completed five or more passes to five of them. Markus Wheaton had a huge day for the Steelers (201 yards), but his day isn't possible without Ben's impeccable ball-placement.
Doug Baldwin- 6 catches, 145 yards, 3 touchdowns
Turning out to be one of the only receivers who would have gotten you more fantasy points than Calvin Johnson this week, Doug Baldwin went off. He did a great job all day finding open space in the secondary, and was as slippery and elusive as ever after the catch. He became especially important after Jimmy Graham was lost due to injury, and will remain especially important if Graham is out for an extended period of time.
--This game was a pretty darn good birthday present for Russell Wilson (and me!). Happy birthday Russ, may we both be one year wiser.
--The tackling in the secondary for both of these teams was just awful. Earl Thomas missed at least two huge tackles, DeAngelo Williams was able to split Seahawks defenders en-route to first downs on multiple occasions, and most of Kam Chancellor's big hits took place after the runner had crossed the goal line. The Steelers were equally unimpressive in this area, and while it led to lots of points, there will be some ugly game film for these defenses.
--It seems like every time Jermaine Kearse gets criticized a little bit more than usual, he responds. He found the end zone twice on Sunday, on only four catches. He's still inconsistent and profiles best as a number four receiver, but he's come up big for Seattle more than once, and he probably will again.
--Seattle was pretty good in the red zone, huh?
Seahawks had 4 INT, 4/4 in Red Zone, 7/13 on 3rd Down!— DAVIS HSU (@DavisHsuSeattle) November 30, 2015
Yeah, not bad.
--The Steelers' offensive line was great, but Roethlisberger had all day to throw against the Seahawks. Even the best secondaries need a pass rush to be successful, and the Seattle defensive line had a big of a rough day overall. They need to generate more heat on the quarterback to continue to win games this year.
--You've surely heard this 100 times by now, but this was the first time a Russell Wilson-led Seahawks team has one a game when the opponent scored 24 points or more.
Russell Wilson finally wins a game where his defense gave up 24 points or more. It has to feel good to have that monkey off his back.— Brett Bivens (@NWProSports) November 30, 2015
Hopefully they don't give up 24 or more points in any games going forward, but it was great to see the offense be able to pick up the defense when they do. The Legion of Boom and company have been bailing out the offense for some time now, so it's only fair that the favor get returned every once in a while.
--It's a good thing Seattle won this game, because there would be quite a bit of vitriol being shot Kris Richard's way right now if they hadn't. Richard and his defense are definitely deserving of some criticism as a result of what has been an inconsistent season on that side of the ball so far, but surely not as much as he would be receiving right now had this gone into the loss column.
What it Means
It means that the Seahawks are now comfortably in the playoff picture, once more. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, they would hold the number six seed, and would travel to take on next week's regular season opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, in the divisional round. It's not a bad place for the Seahawks to be at all, as a strong finish to the regular season should assure them a return to the playoffs where they will likely fill the role of "the team nobody wants to play".
In the immediate future, the Seahawks will travel to Minnesota next week to take on the NFC North-leading Vikings. Every game from here on out is basically a "must win to be able to stay comfortable in regards to the playoffs" game, so yeah, they need another win. The Vikings have been one of 2015's surprise teams, currently sitting at 8-3. They are not without their weaknesses, but a bounce back performance will be needed from the Seattle defense to contain Adrian Peterson.