I came into this game feeling great about Seattle’s chances. At home on a short week, clean bill of health (KJ Wright aside), and extensive defensive injuries for Green Bay. Everything about this matchup said Seattle wins, but then the first quarter happened.
Seattle received the opening kick but apparently doing anything with it would have made things too easy. If there’s one thing we know about the Russell Wilson era Seahawks, it’s that comfortable wins are as welcome as #timetosleep. Chris Carson took the handoff omg the game’s first play and proceeded to cough it up to the Packers. It took Green Bay three plays to go the gift-wrapped 29 yards, with Aaron Jones capping the drive off on a breezy 8-yard TD run 1:14 into the game. Seattle, determined to make things as difficult as possible, went three and out on their next drive, which set up another productive Packers drive. Fortunately, Mason Crosby missed an easy field goal, keeping Seattle closer than they deserved. After years of opposing PKs making literally (no, shut up, I mean literally) every kick, it’s been nice to see them. miss a few this year. Lord knows we need it.
On Seattle next drive, Rashaad Penny took the field and unleashed an insane 30-yard run before getting tackled by his own ankle. He took a handoff and started to the right, which was a huge mistake. Penny was assuredly anticipating his vision being filled with the backs of two Seahawks jerseys but was instead confronted with the fronts of two Packers jerseys. He shook the first defender, then spun out of the grasp of the second, before retreating five yards and resizing up the defense. Runs like this aren’t supposed to work in the NFL, where everyone on the field is a certified Avenger. The thing is, Penny did this all the time in college, we just hadn’t seen it at the pro level yet. He faked back up the ,middle before darting left, putting the next defender on WorldStar, then sprinting up the seam for 20 yards before spinning out of the next tackle. At that point, he juked two more would-be tacklers and was two defenders away from the best play we’ve seen all season. Unfortunately, his right ankle was unprepared for greatness, and as he started forward towards glory, he crumpled to the turf. Three plays later, Seattle was facing a 4th & 1 which they converted on a 10-yard Chris Carson run. That was followed up by Russell Wilson missing a WIDE open Doug Baldwin in the end zone on 2nd & 12 then miscommunication badly with David Moore on 3rd & 12. Fortunately, Sebastian Janikowski hit the field goal to put Seattle on the board, keeping them in the game.
The Packers would answer with a ridiculous 54-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to some Madden create-a-player named Robert Tonyon. On the play, Rodgers hobbled out of a collapsing pocket and gimped to the right. As he neared the sideline, he whipped his arm through like a trebuchet and launched a spiral 60 yards with absurd precision. Tonyon cruised beneath it on the goal line for the score. May as well have been a handoff. Bradley McDougald was the Seahawk tasked with covering Tonyon, which was probably the least intimidating assignment of his career. Problem was, Rodgers had a calendar week to throw the ball and a week is a long time to cover an NFL player, no matter how obscure.
The Seahawks would answer right back... with a toothless three and out. Fortunately, they were able to get a crucial defensive stop to force a punt and get the ball back. That’s when they put together their best drive of the first half, covering 77 yards in 14 painstaking plays. I don’t know how many TD drives Seattle has this year where they’ve averaged less than 5 yards per play but whatever the number is it belongs in the 1940s.
It started the way every drive this season has, with a run. This time, however, it went to Carson for 15 yards and got the Packers backpedalling. From there, it was a false start followed by an impressive touch pass from Wilson to Baldwin for 14. Then a ridiculous one-handed catch by Baldwin for a first down but instead of that he spun around like he was playing dizzy bat and gained zero. Carson would convert on 3rd down then pick up a couple more on the next play. After that it was Lockett on a crossing route for 13, a Penny wiggle for 7, and a flip to Baldwin for 6 more. Then Penny for 8, Penny for 0, Baldwin for 4, Fant for -5, Carson for 1, and an incomplete pass. Sweet release finally came when Wilson found Baldwin in the back right corner of the end zone to make it 14-10.
On that play, Baldwin sprinted straight at CB wunderkind Josh Jackson, immediately vaporizing the distance between them. Baldwin got on top of Jackson’s feet like a bad dancer then broke left with the dexterity of a great one. The second Baldwin changed direction the play was over. Wilson dropped the pass into Doug’s hands and just like that it was 14-10.
Seattle forced yet another punt and got right back to work. This time, Seattle operated like they actually live in the future with the rest of us. They went up top on the first play of the drive, with Tyler Lockett smoking his man on a double move. Wilson waited a tick too long and his ball dropped short of his open receiver, but the great thing about throwing it deep is good things can happen even if you don’t complete it- especially on underthrows.
As Lockett attempted to come back for the dying quail, he got bowled over by a normal-sized human for the huge pass interference penalty. Those 47 yards won’t be reflected in the box score but they’re 100% attributed to Tyler. The best money Seattle spent this offseason was on DJ Fluker but the second best was spent on Lockett and way too many of y’all were pissed about it. Talkin’ ‘bout Paul Richardson instead. You silly idiots.
After Carson got 4, Wilson found Nick Vannett on a sly little sneak out and Seattle’s most forgettable offensive player trucked his way down to the 1. Then the Seahawks did something that warmed my shriveled little heart. Instead of going to a huddle then stubbornly trying to jam an enormous human being into a non-existant gap against an 8-man front, they hurried to the line and quickly gave the ball to Carson for the easiest touchdown of the season.
All of a sudden, the ‘Hawks found themselves in front despite basically spotting the visitors 14 points. Unfortunately, the quick score gave Rodgers and crew time to do damage (I don’t care, I still love Seattle’s offensive urgency). Rodgers hit Davante Adams for the 28th and 29th times of the first half, then unleashed Aaron Jones. Green Bay’s remarkable RB ripped off a big gain on a gashing run then skirted by Austin Calitro on an out-and-up for an impressive TD catch and the Pack took a 21-17 lead into the break.
The third quarter was a whole bunch of stout defense and we entered the 4th with the same score. Seattle struck first, notching another field goal at the ass end of a lengthy drive that was given life support by a well-timed challenge from the suddenly judicious Pete Carroll. On this particular play, a 3rd & long deep in their own territory, Wilson cocked back and fired to David Moore down the right sideline. Moore, being clearly interfered with, snagged the pass with his one free hand and pinned it to his chest for two, maybe three steps before it squirted free. The pass was ruled incomplete but Pete threw the rose petal and the officials swallowed their pride and got the call right. From there, Seattle matriculated the rest of the way until they sputtered out near the 20 and settled for another field goal.
Green Bay returned the favor, netting three points on their next drive thanks largely to a fantastic 57-yard throw-and-catch between Rodgers and Adams. I could spend two more paragraphs talking about the beauty of that play but none of y’all care. Seattle’s defense held from there and Crosby banged home a field goal.
At this point, however, Wilson was fully in his bag and he started flicking the ball around his home field like he was practicing with his buddies. Lockett for 18 then Lockett for 34 on the exact same crossing route only one level deeper. Couple plays later, again in hurry up, Wilson winged it (wung it?) to a forgotten-about Ed Dickson for a score up the left seam and after all that consternation, Seattle found themselves up 27-24 with just over 5 minutes left.
Now, we’ve all seen Rodgers do this more times than we can count, and I’ll admit feeling grateful that Seattle scored early enough that they’d conceivably have a chance after the inevitable Packers scoring drive. Except this time they wouldn’t need it!
Rodgers inexplicably missed two passes on Green Bay’s next drive and instead of going for it on 4th & 2, they foolishly punted it away to the rushing juggernaut from the PNW. Four runs (including Russ’ only rush) and three kneel downs later, Seattle was celebrating their fifth win of the season and headed into the weekend firmly entrenched in the NFC postseason race.
~For a long time now, since Seahawks Stadium / Century Link Field was constructed, really, Seattle has enjoyed the best home field advantage in the NFL. For six straight years, the final month and a half of national analysis has talked about how NFC contenders were hoping to avoid playing in Seattle in the ‘yoffs. But coming into this game, the Seahawks were merely 2-6 at home over the last calendar year and tonight the game was overly salted with Packers fans. Was awesome to see them hold it down tonight but got damn, folks.
~Russell Wilson’s efficiency numbers have been tremendous this year, which is weird cuz he’s been off all season. He came into this game ranked 2nd in the NFL in TD% and 6th in passer rating, which makes you wonder how savage he’d be if he wasn’t missing on 3-5 passes every game. More of the same today, yet he still finished 21-31 for 225 yards, 2 TDs, and no turnovers. His bad games look worse in real time than they do in the box score and frankly I’m okay with that. I think.
I didn’t hear anybody talking about this, which is weird, but tonight’s game featured the two highest rated quarterbacks in NFL history. Rodgers went 21-30 for 332 yards and 2 TDs of his own, but the difference came down to Wilson hitting the passes that mattered late and Rodgers missing ‘em. Still, they both surpassed their career ratings, with Rodgers ledgering a 128.8 and Wilson hitting 110.3
~Much has been made this week about Seattle having three running backs with 100+ yard games this season and they came in on a six-game streak of 150+ rush yards which is era-irrelevantly bonkers. Carson got the start and the yeoman’s work. He ran hard yet unspectacularly, but he always fell forward. Penny, who has at least pulled even at #2 depth chart, got the second most work and mixed two sensational runs in amongst a bunch of getting swallowed up in the backfield. Mike Davis was there too.
Carson: 17 carries for 83 yards
Penny: 8 carries for 46 yards
Davis: 4 carries for 26 and 2 catches for 24
All told, that’s 31 RB touches for 179 yards. Those are numbers that get every NFL coach hard I don’t care how forward thinking they are.
~Doug Baldwin is back, baby. 7 catches on 10 targets for 52 yards and a score and the three misses we're all misfires from Wilson. Baldwin was open all night long and looked 100% for the first time all year. If Wilson updates his iOS for the final six games, watch the fuck out. Tyler Lockett was targeted 6 times this evening and the Seahawks netted 118 yards on those plays. 5 for 5 for 71 yards on the official ledger plus 47 yards on his PI wipe job. He’s been arguably the best offensive player on the team this year, less than two years after snapping his leg like so much balsa wood.
~How good is Bobby Wagner? Wait, don’t answer that. Cuz you can’t. At least not adequately. Not only did he have a team-leading 9 tackles, he was absolutely outstanding in coverage, including breaking up a 50-yard pass against Davante motherfucking Adams. Best middle linebacker on the planet. Come at me.
Austin Calitro is someone that no one cares about besides his mama but he earned himself the turkey leg or sink faucet or whatever they’re giving unsung heroes on Thursday nights these days. He did get beat by Aaron Jones on a pass route but for those who don’t play fantasy football, Jones been serving up linebackers six times a game his whole career. Frank Clark continues to print his own money, registering two more sacks today despite being called upon in pass coverage multiple times. Bradley McDougald also got beat for a score, and that can’t be understated, but he was nails on just about every other snap and honestly I’m good with it.
The defense wasn’t sensational today but they bowed the hell up after the first 14 points and held the most talented quarterback in history to 10 points in the game’s final 50 minutes. Good with it. We’re used to a bunch of All Pro individual defensive performances in Seattle but this year’s team is different. Seattle’s no longer in the conversation for the best defense in the league but they’re absolutely good enough as a total unit to keep an opportunistic offense in the game til the end. That ain’t worked out most times the last couple of years but I don’t give one shit about any off that- they did it tonight.
~The Seahawks went 6-15 on third down today, and I’m guessing that 40% will win you most games in this league. They were shit on third down in the first half but were absolutely nails in the game’s final 30 minutes. The defense sacked Rodgers five times on third down. When’s the last time that happened? Ever? Packers were only 3-11 on third downs, which is nuts against one of the three or four best third down QBs in history
~Golden Tate caught it.
The Seattle Seahawks are 5-5, which is not great, but enough to give them a puncher’s chance in a loaded conference. This team has a lot of deficiencies, but none of them are so great that they can’t be overcome by a team that boasts a top-five QB, the #1 rushing game in the NFL, the best middle linebacker on planet Earth, and one of the best defensive minds in league history.
Up next is a road game against the Panthers that will carry the biggest swing in playoff percentage all season. Fuck ‘em, let’s get it. Onward, upward. Let’s do this.
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The 2018 season of Cigar Thoughts is proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.
This article was fueled by arguably the best puff-for-puff smoke in the game, Oliva’s absurdly potent Mark of the Beast and too many pours of Bulleit.