Week 6’s victory was nothing less than a Carrjacking in plain view.
The Seattle Seahawks overwhelmed a bad team, for the second time in this short — but somehow already 3/8 complete — season. They looked good-to-great in all three phases. They dominated from the start. There were no catastrophic injuries.
Are we sure this is the same team as Week 1?
In a column that relies on identifying minor turning points and under-the-radar occurrences from the previous game, Seahawks-Oakland Raiders turns out to be something of a challenge. The game was as good as decided once Seattle found the end zone for the first time. Russell Wilson was good, the running game worked, the defensive line roamed at will in the backfield and all over an overmatched quarterback.
Hint: It’s the last one that tells the bulk of our story. Anyway, today the swerving points should probably come from quite early in the game, when the game was an actual game.
Frank and Friends come in like a wrecking ball
I mean, what can you say to this? It’s the Raiders’ second drive, 29 seconds remain in the first quarter. They trail by just seven at this point.
End zone view of Frank Clark demolishing Kolton Miller is everything I thought it would be pic.twitter.com/20HXRwW3rL— Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin) October 16, 2018
A fun thing to observe from a different angle: Clark’s successful effort to avoid the penalty officials like to hand out these days for daring to caress the quarterback.
Absurdity from Frank Clark. Sons Kolton Miller, Tom Cable’s newest prodigy, into Week 10. pic.twitter.com/5slqew9wF4— mike (@SeahawkScout) October 15, 2018
But as destructive as Clark was, and as much as he raised his stock with this single game —
frank clark’s agent is cutting a highlight reel from this game as we speak— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) October 14, 2018
— it was how he and his D-line mates affected Jon Gruden’s playcalling that made the real difference. Derek Carr stopped throwing downfield. Once it became a two-possession game, he still didn’t. He finished the game with 23 completions. But...
13 of those 23 were caught at or behind the line of scrimmage. Two of those 23 completions traveled more than five yards downfield. For godsakes, he only threw the ball more than 10 yards forward twice.
y'all— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) October 14, 2018
look at derek carr's day vs seattle pic.twitter.com/zqXM5Mp562
The Raiders gave up on explosive plays. That’s the power of a pass rush overwhelming an offensive line, and makes the Tom Cable-led Seahawks victories over the Rams in 2012-2017 all the more impressive in retrospect.
Carr was sacked six times, and twice more that won’t count because of Seattle penalties. He just didn’t have a chance.
We would be remiss to leave out the role of Poona Ford, Branden Jackson, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones, Jarran Reed, and Shamar Stephen. Clark didn’t wreck the Oakland offense himself. But he led what can only be described as a
raid pillage. Which brings me to the next point...
The DL rotation made a triumphant return
When Dion Jordan got hurt in the preseason, Tom Johnson got let go after Week 1 in a roster crunch gone bad, and Rasheem Green started missing time with an ankle injury, it was officially “Time To Fret About The Pass Rush.”
Who was going to step up? Well, everybody.
No wonder Clark looked fresh all game: he played only 29 snaps. Jackson led the team in snaps on the D-line, with 65 percent. No Seahawk D-lineman besides Jackson appeared in more than 60 percent of snaps — but then again, no lineman played fewer than 35 percent (Ford).
In 2013, when the Seahawks featured front-line talent like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, plus a slew of accomplished veterans behind them like Chris Clemons and Brandon Mebane, a heavy rotation of bodies was Pete Carroll’s default setting. 13 Seahawks played on the D-line that year, and seven (7!) of them played between 481 and 600 snaps. You want to know why in the fourth quarter of the 19th game of the season, Avril was still fresh enough to get to Colin Kaepernick on this play?
Because he hadn’t been run into the ground. It’s entirely possible we’re starting to see the same thing happen with the 2018 Seahawks. Of course it’s too early tell if Ford and Green will be future stars, but it’s certainly possible. It’s too early to tell if Jackson and Stephen will keep it up against better offensive lines, but we’ve seen weirder things happen. It’s dicey to try and predict if Jordan will make a full comeback in a career already full of comebacks.
But if the Seahawks are going to rotate seven men on and off the line each game — to say nothing of Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo coming off the edge — then they’re going to give a lot of offensive linemen fits in the second halves of games.
First drive, first touchdown since... whoa
Seattle scored an opening-drive touchdown in the regular season for the first time since October. October of 2016. Probably you’d heard that they went 35 games in between such touchdowns. Everyone heard.
Sunday’s drive was a leisurely 82-yard stroll, complete with conversions and runs and even a penalty that could’ve been deadly (Brandon Marshall’s false start on the OAK 1) but wasn’t.
A couple of short runs on third and short kept the chains moving. But the key play was a reception by new addition Tyrone Swoopes on 3rd and 8, from the Raiders 25.
Longhorns QB Tyrone Swoopes with a reception. Seahawks. Interesting story with Swoopes May unfold long-term. pic.twitter.com/czbucmz6v6— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 15, 2018
The Seahawks would have still won on Sunday if they’d settled for a field goal here. But they got in the end zone in large part because Wilson found a player who wasn’t even on the active roster earlier that week.
One of the things that made the 2010-2013 Seahawks so much fun to follow was their ability to pluck talent from the outer corners of the football world and make it work. Cast-offs, undersized and oversized players, undrafted dudes, reclamation projects, draft-day reaches — all had a place in Seattle. Pete Carroll knew how to get the most out of them. It was brilliant scouting and brilliant coaching.
Hold that “was.”
With the D-linemen listed above, John Schneider’s astute selections of Tre Flowers in the fifth-round this year and Chris Carson in the seventh last year, plus the very real emergence of David Moore as a receiving threat, the Seahawks are up to their old tricks — the tricks that turned them into medium-term Super Bowl contenders from 2012-16.
When you find Ford, Moore, Swoopes and others in your back pocket like a crumpled 20 that went through the wash, you’re on the way to big things. Even if Seattle misses out on the playoffs this year (and they won’t, they’re on their way to 10 wins), a restocking of cheap young talent is well underway. If the Rams want their reign atop the division to last longer than two years, they should maybe look to the Northwest corner, where Schneider and Carroll are again doing Schneider and Carroll things.