Let’s get this out of the way early: the Seattle Seahawks deserved to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.
Despite what many are saying across main stream media, the Seahawks are far from a mediocre team. The disturbingly close nature of the contest was a direct byproduct of working out the kinks of a new Seattle season and a terrifying yet hopefully minor injury to Russell Wilson.
But it shouldn’t be all that disturbing. R-E-L-A-X. Good teams find ways to win games. They’re not all going to be pretty.
If it makes you feel any better, the last time we started the season with a game like this was 2013.— Mike Bar (@SeahawkScout) September 11, 2016
The offensive line was hot garbage for a good portion of the game, but in crunch time, it gave a hobbled Wilson the time he needed to lead a 75-yard drive that saw two converted 4th downs and a touchdown to Doug Baldwin, who caught more balls on Sunday than any Seahawks receiver since 2012.
It’s easy to point to all of the moments where Miami could’ve taken advantage and won the game. They were stuffed on a 4th-and-inches early on. Kenny Stills dropped the easiest 70-something yard touchdown you’ve ever seen. A field goal was blocked by Seattle.
All I have to say is this: why didn’t the Dolphins win, then?
Because they were not the better or tougher team on the field. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks made the plays they needed to when necessary and it resulted in a victory.
The sample size of Seattle winning games similar to this has reached an acceptable range to shed the ‘fluke’ label. They’re simply an extremely tough football team to beat. When one phase isn’t meshing well, the other two pick up the slack.
Despite the match’s ugly nature, there was a significant amount of impressive play from the Seahawks that deserves recognition. Luckily for them, that’s what I’m all about. Here we go.
The Lgion of Boom
Notice this doesn’t say “Legion of Boom.” That’s because Earl Thomas had one of the worst games of his career on Sunday. That’s alright with me. If there’s one guy I can trust to work out of a funk and come back stronger than ever, it’s ET3.
The rest of the secondary looked phenomenal. Seriously. Richard Sherman locked it down, per usual, giving up one reception that went for two yards before he dropped the wideout in epic fashion. Kam Chancellor looked like an impact player and was dropping fools left and right, including a key 4th down stop.
I was most impressed, though, by the two guys competing with each other for the cornerback spot opposite Sherman. Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead looked so much better than I ever could’ve hoped.
Shead has always showed promise but he looked the part of a legit boundary corner today. He had a couple of impressive passes defensed, the latter of which could’ve turned into a 95-yard pick six had he gotten there a moment sooner. His recovery on this play was even more exemplary:
On 3rd down inside the Seattle 25, Tannehill rolls out to his left to avoid pressure. Kenny Stills runs a comeback route and Tannehill fires a dart to him on the left sideline, just avoiding Lane’s outstretched arms. Shead whips around and closes with insane speed, breaking up the pass and forcing a field goal attempt.
Shead looks to be the real deal, grading as Pro Football Focus’s highest rated corner from Week 1.
Lane wasn’t far behind. While not seeming to be on top of things during the preseason, he set the tone early on Sunday with multiple drive killing plays. He put the ‘Boom’ back in the Legion.
This specific play stood out to me as his best:
On another 3rd down at midfield, Jarvis Landry runs a crossing route to the right, with Lane playing deep to begin. Tannehill is immediately under pressure so he gets the ball out quickly. It would be converted if Lane does not read it perfectly and break up the pass. Lane is keying in Tannehill’s eyes the whole way. He breaks on the ball and prevents a first down.
While the Dolphins aren’t exactly world beaters, seeing this progress from Lane and Shead is extremely encouraging moving forward. The Rams won’t trot out a much more terrifying stable of weapons next week, nor will the 49ers the following week. The big test will be containing the Jets receivers in Week 4.
Hopefully, Sunday was a sign of things to come. If it was, then this will be the strongest Seattle secondary since 2013. And that is really saying something.
I don’t think there should be any conversation anymore. Doug Baldwin is an elite wide receiver in the NFL. Is there anybody that’s more dynamic out of the slot? He and Wilson have fostered an amazing chemistry over the last few years and it reached its peak on Sunday.
When Wilson was at his most vulnerable and unable to mobilize away from pressure – let alone step into his throws – Dougie B was there, catching nine balls, including the three biggest receptions of the entire game on the last drive. After dominating his matchup on a critical 4th down, Baldwin was the main man in the red zone, securing the game-winner:
Baldwin freezes the nickel corner before releasing to the outside and bearing down on the left corner of the end zone. Wilson floats a perfect pass and Baldwin high points the ball before being dragged down immediately by the trailing defender. If Baldwin doesn’t reach up for the pigskin at its highest point, it’s not a touchdown.
When his quarterback was unable to make magic happen, Baldwin was the safety blanket that got it done and propelled Seattle back into the lead. It seems that 2015 wasn’t a fluke, as Baldwin is on track for some insane numbers.
#Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin is on pace for 144 receptions on 176 targets, 1,472 yards and 16 TDs in 2016.— All Seahawks (@AllSeahawks) September 12, 2016
And he has done pretty damn well when facing the Rams in the past. Let’s see what statistical wonders Doug has in store for us next week.
The foundation of Seattle’s success over the past few years has been built on the bedrock of contributions from lesser-known players who defy expectations and – for the lack of a better term – get shit done. Marsh did just that today. We knew he was an underappreciated special teamer, but he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl caliber third-phaser in 2016. Seriously.
Straight Cash. Alongside this brute of a tackle, Marsh blocked a Miami field goal, retaining Seattle’s lead after Russell Wilson was injured and having trouble moving the ball. Mike Morgan also made some impressive special teams tackles throughout the course of the day, prompting the CBS announcers to dub the two “Marsh and Morgan: The Law Firm.”
I move that this becomes a widely accepted moniker. Your move, internet.
Marsh’s biggest play of the day took place immediately following a terrifyingly almost-successful bomb to Kenny Stills nearly put Miami in field goal range with 26 seconds left:
Michael Bennett supplies the initial pressure by easily sliding past both the right guard and right tackle and around the edge. Tannehill sees this and begins to run to his left. While all of this madness is happening, Frank Clark rushes from the inside and ties up both Brandon Albert and Laremy Tunsil while Marsh turns inside on a stunt. It’s Tunsil’s job to disengage from Clark and fill the gap inside, but he doesn’t and Marsh has a free rip at the scrambling quarterback. He lays out and strips Tannehill before the ball bounces out of bounds with 12 (of course) seconds left.
Not a bad scenario to get your first career sack, eh?
Bruce Irvin started to thrive in his third year in this defense as a situational pass-rusher. It looks like Marsh is following the same trend. If he can be a quality contributor during 2016, Seattle’s defensive line is even deeper than we thought it was, which is a scary proposition for other teams.
Even if Marsh played the game of his life, it’s really nice to see him having the impact that he did. Keep it up, Cash.
–Last week I made the statement that Bobby Wagner looked poised to have a redemption campaign in 2016. He made me look like one smart guy on Sunday, tackling with purpose and making Ryan Tannehill’s life a living hell. While he only made six tackles, he had two key pressures along with making a key stop on 3rd down that led to a turnover on downs the following play.
–Jarran Reed looked awesome while generating push, holding up against the run and batting down two passes. He continues to look like the draft day steal I dubbed him months ago.
–Big Tuba Rubin had a forced fumble to begin the second half, which was good to see. Turnovers will come. Be patient.
–The overall run defense was spotty at first, but improved steadily throughout the game. Arian Foster is still a really good player, and it was good to see them slow him down after initially getting his.
–I dislike three-man rushes. That is all.
–It was cool seeing all of the inside stunts getting home. Clark, Marsh, and Avril all picked up sacks on stunts.
–The coolest part of Marsh’s big day was him telling media that Foster’s early long reception was his fault, as he lost contain. Coming back from that chunk play and making the impact that he did was huge. Just huge.
–The offensive line is going to have an even stiffer test next weekend, going up against Aaron Donald, Dominique Easley, Robert Quinn, and a plethora of other phantoms that haunt Russell Wilson’s nightmares. He’s definitely going to be less mobile than normal, so quick passes are a must. Monitoring Germain Ifedi’s ankle sprain will be big in the coming days.
If there's one game all year to sit Russell Wilson, it's Aaron Donald vs J'Marcus Webb while RW is slowed with an ankle injury.— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) September 12, 2016
–Tyler Lockett had a surprisingly poor day. I don’t expect that to continue. He’ll bounce back in Week 2.
–Paul Richardson was targeted on a deep ball that Wilson overthrew by some ways. As the season progresses, expect them to get on the same page and several of those plays to hit.
–Again, this wasn’t a lucky win. These types of games are extremely valuable. I feel very good about Sunday and so should you. 1-0. Go Hawks.