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Washington 17, Seahawks 14 Quick Thoughts: Duane Brown’s debut and Dwight Freeney’s fountain of youth

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Washington Redskins vÊSeattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In what was a bizarre and sloppy game, the Seattle Seahawks dropped their first game since Sept. 24, losing 17-14 to Washington. The Seahawks’ go-ahead touchdown with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough, as Kirk Cousins and Washington’s offense worked their way to Seattle’s goal line thanks to a huge catch by Josh Doctson and re-took the lead just 35 seconds later. A desperation hail mary bounced out of the back of the end zone and the Seahawks concluded a two-game home-stand with a loss.

Missed kicks and far too many flags ended up costing Seattle, and as it (rarely) happens, Russell Wilson didn’t have one final trick to pull out and save the Seahawks a final time. Despite the inconsistent play in two phases of the game, Seattle has to feel good about being 5-3 at the halfway point, and there were still some positive takeaways from Sunday’s loss.

Dwight Freeney, ageless and devastating

With Washington missing four-of-five starting offensive linemen, Sunday figured to be the game for the Seahawks’ pass rush to get going. It did, eventually, but not without a slow start. In the first half, Seattle registered just one sack - on Bobby Wagner’s safety - and Dwight Freeney was the only Seahawk to register multiple pressures. The 37-year old had three first-half pressures on just eight pass rushes, and then came alive in the second-half.

Freeney ended the game with two sacks, giving him three in two games with Seattle. On his first sack, Freeney dipped his inside shoulder to fake the spin move, only to bend around the corner. On the second sack, the famous spin move came out and devastated T.J. Clemmings. By the game’s end, Freeney was beating Clemmings on nearly every snap - including being a tad late on the deep pass to Doctson - and appeared to be the Seahawks’ best pass rusher. When he signed with Seattle, I thought he would have one major moment that won the Seahawks a game. After Sunday, it’s apparent he will play a bigger role than just one shining moment.

Eddie Lacy’s injury and Thomas Rawls’ emergence

The plan to get Eddie Lacy going on Sunday went out the window when, after Seattle’s fourth drive, he was lost for the game with a groin injury. In came Thomas Rawls, and luckily for the Seahawks he played the best he has all season. Although he finished with just 39 yards on the ground, there was a couple encouraging signs from his play on Sunday.

  • Game-breaking suddenness was a staple of Rawls’ explosive play in his rookie season, and it was something that had been missing all season long while he’s looked like a shell of himself. Against Washington it seemed to be back, with Rawls avoiding several would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage to gain positive yardage.
  • Rather than looking trepidatious when approaching the line, as he has for most of the season, he was back to hunting contact on Sunday. In 2015 and late in 2016, Rawls would regularly do bad, bad things to defenders. He began doing similar things to defenders against Washington.

Seattle’s determination to remain a running team when they’re not has been frustrating, but the idea behind getting one of their ‘backs going makes sense. Although it didn’t end up working for Lacy on Sunday, Rawls’ comfort level was apparent as the game wore on. On a short week, expect him to get a full workload on Thursday in Arizona.

Bobby Wagner

The best linebacker in the NFL and a perennial All-Pro, Bobby Wagner isn’t even the best defensive player on his own team. But whoa boy, was he ever on Sunday. Ending the game with 10 tackles, a sack, a safety and a PBU, Wagner was all over the field against Washington, and was close to adding an interception late in the game. His combination of speed, size and physicality is unmatched at linebacker, and in a game full of sloppy tackling, Wagner was as consistent as ever.

Often lost amongst the other big names on the Seahawks’ roster, Wagner is having the kind of season all Hall of Fame linebackers have. With a depleted field, he has a terrific shot at winning Defensive Player of the Year this season, and games like this are a huge reason why. He’s positioning himself to be one of the two inside linebackers on the All-Decade team come 2020, and that probably still won’t do his play justice during this run of dominance from Seattle’s defense.

Duane Brown’s debut

Without being able to see the All-22 of Sunday’s game, it’s hard to give a proper evaluation of Duane Brown’s debut. However, there were a couple things that stood out to me immediately.

His finishing is fantastic and a ton of fun to watch. I encourage everyone to watch the Seahawks’ pass-heavy drives from Sunday and focus on Brown. There were multiple plays where he would drive Preston Smith past the pocket and out of the play, but then still bury him despite already having negated Smith on the play. It’s the sort of tenacity and play offensive line coaches, and quarterbacks, love.

Secondly, the way he’s able to recover is really impressive. There were two instances of Smith beating Brown off the line of scrimmage, but thanks to superior footwork and long arms (34 ¼”), he was able to get back into the play. Rees Odhiambo has been beaten time and time again this season by taking a terrible first-step, and would fail to recover. With Brown’s arm length and foot quickness, that should rarely be an issue.

An offensive line to look forward to

Flags were a massive issue on Sunday, with Seattle getting called for 14 penalties in total. Right guard Oday Aboushi was guilty for two of them, both holds. While Luke Joeckel is still several weeks away, I don’t think it’s too early to get excited about what the Seahawks’ offensive line might look like come playoff time. Brown has left tackle locked down; Joeckel was playing well before the injury and should step back in at left guard; Justin Britt is continuing his steady play; and Germain Ifedi, despite the penalty issues, has become a serviceable right tackle.

This leaves right guard open to improvement, and sliding Ethan Pocic over could do just that. His first couple NFL starts at left guard were his first starts at left guard, ever, and he’s been solid. At LSU, he started 27 games at center, nine at right guard and one at right tackle. When Joeckel is back, Pocic can move over to his more natural side, and shore up the right side of Seattle’s line. An offensive line consisting of Brown-Joeckel-Britt-Pocic-Ifedi is one with pedigree and potential, and it’s worth getting excited about as the Seahawks remain a contender in a wide open conference.

Kicker woes

With just one missed kick heading into week nine, it almost seemed too good to be true for Seattle and Blair Walsh. He had come in for cheap, and gotten over whatever it was that deteriorated his play last season in Minnesota. That came crumbling down on Sunday, as he missed all three kicks in unconvincing fashion.

This might be an unpopular opinion, but it’s best for the Seahawks to find a replacement, either this week or next, during the extended break between weeks 10 and 11. It would be unfair to peg this week’s loss squarely on him, but he did leave nine points out there. If Walsh is about to get back inside his own head, it would be smart to find a replacement now, before he loses a game when it matters.

Neiko Thorpe is an All-Pro

For years Seattle was treated to some fantastic and thrilling special teams play from Ricardo Lockette. He was never rewarded with a trip to Hawaii, or an All-Pro spot. This can’t be the case with Neiko Thorpe this season. Every single game he’s made a play that flipped the field in the Seahawks’ favor.

Inside the first half of Sunday’s loss to Washington, Thorpe partially blocked a punt, decleated a returner for no gain, and sealed the edge on Tyler Lockett’s lone productive return of the game. He’s the best player in the phase of the game Pete Carroll values as much as any coach, and there isn’t a better player on special teams in the NFL right now.

Odds and Ends

  • Tyler Lockett continued his abysmal season as a returner on Sunday, doing what he does best: taking kicks out of the end zone and costing Seattle field position, and running really fast directly into tacklers on punt returns. Whether it’s a lack of explosiveness after his broken leg or something else, I’m in favor of giving J.D. McKissic the returning job -- as long as he promises to take a knee.
  • Nazair Jones might end up being the Seahawks’ most valuable draft pick from this year’s class. He added a sack to his already impressive rookie season, and continues to be a major part of the rotation. His versatility and production has been a huge boost, and it represents yet another find by John Schneider.
  • For all the good Kam Chancellor has brought Seattle’s run defense this year, he struggled against Washington. Vernon Davis got a little revenge, but he still hasn’t re-claimed the soul that left his body years ago. Washington’s best drives came with them working intermediate routes over the middle of the field, and Davis was separating at will against Chancellor.

It’s a quick turnaround for the Seahawks, who will head to Arizona to take on the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football this week, before getting a miniature-bye, not playing again until Nov. 20.