Ah, that feels better doesn’t it? Aside from the Chris Carson injury, which was a got damn regional tragedy, this game checked nearly every box we hoped it would going in. Not that it looked that way from the get-go...
That the Seahawks are slow starters has gone from a local acknowledgement to a universally accepted football truth. For years now, the Seahawks have come out of the starting blocks like they’re running in waist-deep water- from both an individual game and overall season perspective. This fact is so well-established that it’s treated as part of the eternal law of physics, a statement from national broadcasters spoken in an as we all know... tone of voice. Death, taxes, slow Seahawks starts, and husbands not doing chores the way their wives want them to.
The Seahawks offense did their best to follow the narrative, shrouding a single big play to Angry Groin Baldwin with a whole half of under-cooked three-and-out casserole. It seemed as if every series started with two nowhere handoffs followed by a pass attempt into an expectant net of defensive backs on 3rd & long. I understand the value of a successful run game, and we’ve certainly seen the benefits of doing it in the past, but it’s been about a million games since the Seahawks have effectively established a consistent rushing attack, so, I dunno.
As a result, the first half followed the same uncomfortable script as every other first half this season, a low-scoring grinder in which the defense spends twice as much time on the field as off it. After an opening field goal, the Seahawks offense sputtered for 20 minutes, the team’s only touchdown coming on a gorgeous pick-six from the recently added super-athlete Justin Coleman. More on that in a bit.
Aside from the surprise defensive score, the Colts offense was fairly effective, turning two long drives, a safety, and an interception into an awkward 15-10 lead at the half. During the game’s opening 30 minutes, the Colts managed to convert seemingly every 3rd down attempt they had, and always by 2” or less. Seattle lost out on just about every subjectivity the first half had to offer, be it a coaches challenge, official review or ball-spotting. In a way, it’s a function of the Seahawks defensive approach; you can score on us, but you’ll have to do it underneath, and we don’t think you can.
Seattle gives up very little over the top, in fact it almost never happens. To score on them, you need to either somehow bust a run or a short pass open, or rack up a bunch of first downs against a defense that boasts eight Pro Bowlers. It’s just that, well, the Colts did. Backup-QB-turned-Andrew-Luck-seat-warmer Jacoby Brissett deftly kept the ball out of Seattle’s arrhythmic offense for nearly the entirety of the game’s first two quarters, effectively shortening the game and giving his plucky band of replacement-level teammates a shot at pulling off the upset.
In fact, his only major blemish in that first half was the aforementioned Coleman interception. Coleman, if you recall, is a freaky fast-twitcher that the ‘Hawks acquired in a trade with the Patriots. He’d been making a case for increased playing time already, but an early hip injury to Jeremy Lane gave him a chance to shine in the team’s nickel package. His hero moment came when Brissett tried to line up an out route. Coleman broke on it the moment the receiver did, smoothly undercutting the route and intercepting the ball in stride with a nothing but clear path to glory in front of him. It was the type of play that used to feel like it was just around the corner. Now a defensive touchdown feels like some exotic animal or astronomical occurrence that only the blessed few ever witness. I had forgotten how good that feels.
Even with that most valuable of plays, the Seahawks were still facing a halftime deficit to an inferior team at home in primetime. It was looking for all the world like the Seahawks would be struggling to beat a team that, on paper, they should be blowing out. Thank God for the second half.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Seahawks went 84 yards on nine plays, culminating a half-impressive, half-hallelujah-for-the-defensive-penalty possession with a tremendous 23-yard Russell Wilson TD run. It was the type of play Wilson made almost every week back when he was bewildering defenses with his incredible combination of throwing talent, agility, and gridiron acumen during his first four years. The run itself was a show of terrific athleticism but his ability to finish it, absorbing blows from two defenders inside the 5-yard-line only to reach the ball across the goal line anyway, was the sort of effort that reminds you how the Seahawks were able to win 53 games over his first four seasons.
For the second straight game, something clicked inside of Wilson in the second half — a chaotic maelstrom of bodies, angles, and timing reduced to the easily computable ones and zeros his almost-but-not-quite-human android brain thrives upon. Even though his next drive ended with an interception, it’s only because his perfectly engineered spiral seared its way though Jimmy Graham’s hands and into those of a Colts safety. Indianapolis would turn that pick into their only three points of the second half, with both Wilson and Graham unstoppable from that point on.
Their next drive went 75 yards in six plays, ending in seven points after JD McKissic took the handoff on a draw and teleported 30 yards into the endzone. On the very next play from scrimmage, Marcus Smith Jr, who is apparently a person that plays football for the Seahawks, knocked the ball out of Brissett’s hand on a would-be pass attempt. The loose ball, magnetically attracted to Bobby Wagner’s easy charm and overpowering pheromones, scurried into the linebacker’s waiting hands before being safely escorted into the endzone for Seattle’s second defensive TD of the
By this point, the snowball had become an avalanche, and Sattle’s next drive knocked the little remaining fight right out of their opponents. A deep completion to Tyler Lockett was followed up by a bunch of downhill football, with Seattle’s much-maligned offensive line beginning to dominate a worn out Colts front. Chunk runs led to easy completions, the last of which was an easy toss from Wilson to Luke Willson for yet another score. At this point, there was no chance of the Colts winning the fight, it was only a matter of whether they could make it to the final bell while still on their feet. By this point, however, the Seahawks smelled blood and went for the kill. The lethal combination was a cruel, belligerent 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that blackened both eyes and bruised or cracked every rib. By the time it was over, Seattle had completed 81% of their passes and rushed for nearly 200 yards. They scored 36 of the game’s final 39 points, and in so doing, looked like one of the league’s elite teams for the first time all season.
*Russell Wilson had two interceptions, but only one of them was on him — a back-foot underthrow to Jimmy Graham while under pressure. His 25 other pass attempts hit his receiver’s hands 88% of the time, adding up to 295 yards and two TDs, plus 38 yards and a score on the ground. Russell Wilson was shifty, calculated and, perhaps most encouragingly, deathly accurate on his deep ball.
*The run game got off to a slow start but, like their first home game against San Francisco, the sheer volume of rushes gradually wore down their opponents, leading to 194 yards on 33 carries. It was the type of performance that I believe Pete Carroll has always desired from his run game — multiple fresh running backs battering an exhausted defense into submission. It was a hallmark of his days at USC (at one point, Carroll rostered 10 RBs who were 1st team all-state in high school and the year Reggie Bush won the Heisman, he registered only 38% of USC’s carries), and was the first time we really saw multiple ball-carriers have very good games.
Check this out: despite rushing for those 194 yards, no Seahawk had more than 52 (Eddie Lacy, on 11 rushes). Carson, God rest his soul, had 42 on 12 carries before getting air-casted late, Wilson and McKissic each had 38 on four, and Lockett chipped in 24 more on a couple of totes. Speed, power, agility — the Seahawks had it all tonight.
*The passing game was equally socialist, with the three receivers (Lockett, Paul Richardson, and Graham) each having more than 60 but less than 70 yards, and the 21 receptions divvied up between eight guys, with no one recording more than four. On a night where Seattle’s premier receiving threat Baldwin was limited, the ‘Hawks still put on their most efficient passing attack in a long time. Very encouraging.
*The defense, despite being unable to get off the field in the first half, had a tremendous night. The two touchdowns they scored were an incredible hearkening back to a day when this defense was truly feared, and the three sacks they registered belied the near-constant pressure they applied to Brissett. Colts RBs gained just 65 yards on 22 carries, an inspiring effort after giving up two big games in a row to opposing rushers. I still count this defense among the best in the NFL, and their ceiling is higher than literally anyone’s. Today was definitely a step in the right direction and the type of performance that can carry a season to great heights.
*The Seahawks committed just six penalties for 45 yards in this one. That’s not much reason to celebrate for most teams, but it’s a great performance from a team that’s used to being flagged more often than spam.
*Seattle went 10-15 on third downs. This team will never lose when they do that — total domination of down and distance. 46 points don’t happen by accident, and tonight was a wonderful reminder of what this offense can do when it stays on schedule.
For the first time in 2017, the Seattle Seahawks looked like a team that can compete for a Super Bowl. I don’t care who you’re playing, a 36-3 scoring advantage in 30 minutes is a felonious beatdown and the type of football tsunami we’ve known this team is capable of. An effort like that can beat any team in the NFL and if this team can ever figure out how to avoid starting the game in wet cement, look the hell out.
Next up is a game against the 3-1 Rams, who are apparently good(?). The winner of that one will have the lead in the division — an invitation for the Seahawks to re-establish themselves as kings of their four-team mountain. This is the palate-cleansing performance we’ve needed. If it’s sustainable, all the goals are back in play. Onward, my friends, and ever upward.
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