The Seattle Seahawks’ home away from home is Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. If not for Kyle Shanahan’s insistence on saving face, Sunday’s 24-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers would’ve been the third time over the last four home games that the Niners failed to reach the end zone.
Seattle got the win they needed to keep pace in the NFC West race, as well as the wild card hunt. Now comes the daunting December schedule, in which the “easiest” game is probably an Arizona Cardinals team that just upset the Jacksonville Jaguars, and has gotten decent QB play from Blaine Gabbert (!). Either the Seahawks make another second-half surge to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight season, or we’re left to mull over the bitter disappointment of not participating in January football.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s triumph in the Bay Area.
Calais Campbell is probably going to win Defensive Player of the Year, something that’s long overdue given how great he’s been, but Bobby Wagner has just been an absolute force. His interception of C.J. Beathard was otherworldly, as he casually just enveloped the football away from Trent Taylor. If that happened in Madden I would turn it off and continue to wax poetic about how ESPN NFL 2K5 is way better. Wagner not only got the INT, but he led the team in solo tackles, and has had at least 100 tackles in every season he’s played.
Granted, this is a Solomon Thomas-less 49ers defensive line, but the offensive line mostly kept Russell Wilson clean. The zero sacks allowed was a first for Seattle since late 2015, and while that was partially because Wilson is a magician who escapes sacks in absurd ways, Ethan Pocic, Luke Joeckel, and Justin Britt did not allow a single pressure. There were also some good holes being opened up in the run game, it’s just a shame that the running back situation is terrible. One of my favorite o-line plays was JD McKissic’s 14-yard gain on a toss sweep, with Duane Brown out in open space. That’s quality football right there. This o-line has Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and the LA Rams lined up over the next three weeks, so December is “Boss Level” month for this unit.
2nd half Russell Wilson
After a mostly erratic first 30 minutes from #3, Wilson was sharp, composed, and in rhythm in the final two quarters. He completed 12 of 15 passes, threw two touchdowns, and had some timely third-down conversions to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham in the third quarter. As mentioned re the o-line, Wilson had some unreal escapes from pressure in the pocket, and we even saw some “vintage Russ” when he kept on a bootleg for 11 yards. When Wilson is in rhythm, he is a phenomenal quarterback, and he’s now thrown exactly 150 regular season touchdowns in his career.
Other than a couple of blips on the first drive of the third quarter, the run defense was once again very stout. They were gashed by Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida back in week 2, but those two combined for just 59 yards on 17 carries. Seattle’s YPC allowed is now at 3.85, a huge improvement from the September struggles.
Pass rush role players
Branden Jackson picked up a .5 sack (with Frank Clark), and Marcus Smith had a full sack of C.J. Beathard. Nazair Jones had at least one notable pressure and continues to impress in his rookie season. Quinton Jefferson also had some quality moments getting into the backfield. It’s not all about Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and to a lesser extent Clark, so the pass rushing depth appears to be fine.
He caught his first career touchdown, exploiting the open space in San Francisco’s 3-deep coverage, and Seattle has quietly racked up 12 touchdown passes to its tight-ends, including at least one in nine straight games.
The injury tent
...In that it was scarcely needed. Not a single starter suffered an injury requiring serious medical attention. The closest we got to that was Sheldon Richardson’s ankle getting tweaked, but he walked off the field and appears to be fine. The biggest loss was backup TE Luke Willson, who will enter concussion protocol, so we’ll see how his status fares for next week.
Enemy Reaction fans
The wait has been too long. I skipped the Arizona game because it didn’t feel like a win and comments from Cardinals fans were few and far between. Be on the lookout for a brand new Enemy Reaction on Tuesday.
Eddie Lacy, and the coaching staff that insists on using him
We got to see a lot of Eddie Lacy on Sunday. He gained 61 yards on 20 touches, which is woefully inefficient. Lacy doesn’t break tackles, is painfully slow, lacks power, and unlike McKissic, C.J. Prosise, or Chris Carson, he is of no use as a pass-catcher unless he’s used as a dumpoff. WR-type routes cannot be run with him. That’s damn near the definition of a running back who should be obsolete in today’s NFL.
It’s not all Lacy’s fault, as Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, Pete Carroll, etc. are not willing to take the L here. Late in the game they tried a toss with Lacy, which is just mindboggling. Bevell might as well start calling jet sweeps with Jimmy Graham if we’re just going to completely ignore personnel. On the play preceding Graham’s touchdown, Lacy failed to score from the 1-yard line for what seems like the millionth time.
The problem here isn’t that Lacy isn’t getting enough touches to work his way into the game, it’s that he’s getting too many touches despite being demonstrably ineffective on a weekly basis. Mike Davis should be back next week, and the snaps should be going his way, not Lacy’s. Speaking of snaps...
It’s pretty telling that he was a healthy scratch last week and I believe only had one snap against the 49ers. And this is with Lacy moving at a snail’s pace with each failed stretch handoff. Rawls might be getting that Christine Michael treatment, if you catch my drift. By the way, I hear Darren McFadden is available. Why do I bring that up? Oh, no reason. Just uh... just a note.
The conditions weren’t great, but he hooked his 48-yard field goal wide left, and has missed five field goals just this month. At least he made his shorter attempt to effectively ice the game, but there are reasons to be concerned about Walsh and kicking longer FGs.
1st half Russell Wilson
Off of memory, Wilson was 8/19 for 82 yards, a rushing TD, and a baffling interception on the opening play from scrimmage. Even if you factor in the drops throughout the half, there were several dangerous throws from Russell that easily could’ve been picked off. He was eschewing short checkdowns to go for bizarre, bigger-yardage passes into tight coverage, but luckily the 49ers are a trash team so those faux pas went unpunished.
I don’t know why Wilson struggles in the rain so often. This happened for much of the first 49ers game earlier in the season, and for stretches of the loss to Washington. He obviously settled things down in the 2nd half (and I think the rain stopped!), but Seattle can’t afford to have him starting slowly against Philadelphia, or else they’ll once again be playing catch-up football at home, and the Eagles are ruthless when they build up a big lead. If we get Wilson at his best, then I don’t see even the red-hot Philadelphia being able to exit CenturyLink Field with a W.