If I told you that in the first half, the Seahawks would run 41 plays to the Giants’ 18, out-gain them 222 to 42, and hold the ball for 21 of the game’s first 30 minutes; what would you guess the score would be? Probably not 7-3 New York, but that’s what we got. So how in the hell does that happen?
How about a 16 play, 89 yard, nine minute drive that results in a 4th down pass hitting Jimmy Graham in the scrotum before falling to the ground? Or three other drops costing a bare minimum of 60 yards and 17 points? Or a Thomas Rawls fumble in your own territory? Maybe it was the eight penalties for 63 yards, or a billion-yard sack on 3rd down, or a rushing attack struggling to poke its head above the 3.0 YPC mark.
You have to play pretty badly to play that well and be losing but where there’s a will, there’s a series of unforced errors in wolf grey. The sad thing about Seattle’s 92nd consecutive slow start on offense is its obstruction of the fact that their defense played sensationally. Sure, you might say, if you are one of those people addicted to unhappiness, but the Giants didn’t have Beckham or Marshall or Shephard of course they dominated, but you’re not that person. No one else likes that person. Besides, this same ragtag combination just went into Denver and hung 20 on what might actually be the best defense in the NFL.
After halftime, the brief sunlight piercing the bleary self-loathing of Giants fandom disappeared. The incredible tension built up by a Giants team desperately holding back the force of a superior team finally broke in the second half. DJ Alexander blocked a punt, Jimmy Graham had two big catches, and Doug Baldwin scored when he scorched Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with a move so pornographic they had to blur it out on the replay.
The defense attacked at every opportunity, stuffing runs, obscuring passing lanes, and harassing Eli Manning on every single dropback. At one point, Jarran Reed beat his blocker and forced a strip-sack that Frank Clark devoured. On the very next snap, and with only one play left in the playbook, Wilson flipped it wide to Tyler Lockett who turned and threw it back to Wilson. Russ, fearing neither man nor spirit, heaved a Hail Mary to Paul Richardson in the endzone. Preach ascended above Landon Collins, tipped the ball and then caught it at the same time as Collins. The pair fell to the ground and wrestled for the ball like two wolf cubs vying for the same bone, with the refs awarding Seattle a touchdown before they killed each other.
The Giants, for their part, missed a field goal, turned the ball over, and had a 70-yard reception overturned for inappropriate touching. Wilson was incredible in the second half, completing 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards, 3 TDs and no picks, for a passer rating of 146.6. They developed something of a run game, wore New York down, and even salted the game away with a 12-play touchdown drive, snuffing out the Giants like so many cigarette butts.
-Russell Wilson was great today. The three first half points are a bit misleading in this regard, as his numbers (15-23, 171 yards) were respectable without even accounting for the four drops. Turn those into catches and it likely would’ve meant three more scores and would’ve had Russ’ stat line exploding. In all, Wilson completed 27 of his 39 attempts for 334 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, and a rating of 121.1. He is really something when he gets in rhythm, and I can’t wait for that to start happening the last drive of the second quarter.
-Doug Baldwin just keeps slaying people. He was open all game long, running routes so sharp they split the turf. He notched catches on just about every different type of route you can run, finishing with 9 grabs on 12 opportunities for 92 yards and the score. I imagine covering Baldwin is what guarding Russell Westbrook must feel like- an opponent whose skill is surpassed only be his ferocity, with the ability and mindset to beat you any way they choose. A healthy groin is an RIP to the rest of the secondaries he faces this year.
-Jimmy Graham had two ruthless drops in this one. The nutshot in the endzone was followed by a careless drop down the left sideline when he was wide open. He catches those and we’re talking about the re-emergence of the monster, not “what is wrong with Jimmy?” Fortunately, and to Russ’ credit, the ball kept coming and he responded. He caught a contested ball down the seam in double coverage to set up a field goal before the half, took a slant pass and hammered his way down the field, and big-brothered a cornerback in the endzone for a TD.
It would’ve been real easy to let Graham fall to the wayside after those drops, but the team kept feeding him and he was able to finish with a lot of positive momentum. Besides, you could see how badly the rest of the guys want to see him succeed, as they surrounded him after the score and wouldn’t stop hype-jumping around him until well after he returned to the sideline.
-The run game still stinks. The backs actually look pretty good, but they’re having to dodge someone in the backfield on nearly every carry. It’s an irrelevant part of this offense until further notice.
-This defense is so damn good. They allowed a grand total of 177 yards on 57 plays for an average of 3.1 per. That’s not per run. Per play. All three levels of the D were stout if unspectacular, opting for slow, forcible suffocation of their opponent over a flashy kill. 2.7 yards per run, 3.3 yards per pass. Unheard of in games not played underwater.
-Jarran Reed was dominant in this one. Seven tackles from an interior lineman is a great game in and of itself, but adding a sack, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble is extraordinary. KJ Wright had 11 tackles, Bobby Wagner added 8, and Kam Chancellor notched 6. Earl Thomas only had 2 because no Giants player would go near him.
-The Seahawks were 6-13 on third downs, mostly because they were almost all of manageable distance. The defense allowed 2-12 on third downs, mostly because they’re a bunch of craven killers whose murderous instincts are only slightly curtailed by the NFL’s rulebook. If this continues, this team can go on a pretty serious roll.
-Seattle committed an absurd 15 penalties for 110 yards and most of them were pretty well-deserved. I think the refs had quick trigger fingers on both sides, but it was a disappointing regression considering that the Seahawks had actually been (gasp) one of the least penalized teams in the league this year. Those penalties were more than made up for by an enormous 35:26-24:34 advantage in time of possession.
Look the first half was bad but outside of the dormant running game, which is nothing new, none of the errors looked systemic. That doesn’t excuse yet another woeful start on offense, but every minute spent complaining about their slow starts needs to be matched, at least, by one praising the way they finish.
The Seahawks have now outscored their opponents 61-9 this season. Put another way, if every quartyer was the 4th one, the Seahawks would be winning by an average score of 40-6. Wilson has been absolutely incredible in the 3rd and 4th quarters this year, the O-line is actually beginning to coalesce, and this defense is playing at a 2012-2014 level, allowing 15.6 points per game, which is the best in the NFL. Again.
If you’ve been following this column for long, you know I don’t think you can tell very much about most teams before November. The correlation of records in the first half of the season and the final standings is surprisingly weak, so the goal is to rack up as many wins as possible during the first two months before everyone settles into who they actually are. The back half of the schedule lends itself to declarative statements much better than the first half does, so for now I say take wins, especially road ones, at face value.
The Seahawks do not look like Super Bowl contenders right now, but they don’t not look like Super Bowl contenders either. And really, when you look across the NFL landscape, how many teams are you confident picking over Seattle right now? Next up is a home game against the Houston Texans and budding superstar Deshaun Watson, and that game may tell us more about the Seahawks than this one does. For now, however, the Seahawks are 4-2 and a game back of the #1 seed in the NFC. Not a bad perch.
Onward, upward, cheers.
This week I was surprised with a little gift from my former podcast co-host Matt Nichols- a giant ice cube tray and, goofy as it sounds, it’s amazing how much an enormous cube improves the overall drinking experience. I put it to use this afternoon with a some Lagavulin 12, paired with a Gurkha Beauty for old time’s sake.