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Cigar Thoughts, Game 14: Seahawks play like a—, lose to s— team

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The Seattle Seahawks vomited up a game they should have won, throwing unforeseen uncertainty into the final two games of their season.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks came into this game riding the momentum of a 10-game win streak against the San Francisco 49ers, which is the longest of any team vs any other team in the NFL, and a 4-game win streak overall. This game was an afterthought for probably everyone outside of the Niners’ locker room, including me, and the Seahawks played like it.

It didn’t look like that at first, however. Seattle would force a three and out on the game’s opening drive after Nick Mullens overthrew an open George Kittle on 3rd & 2. Then they immediately came back with a whole lot of Chris Carson and Tyler Lockett, using four runs by the former and a pretty 28 yard pass to the latter to move the ball to San Francisco’s 5 in no time. From there, it was just a matter of letting Baldwin put cement shoes on a defender with a juke at the line of scrimmage and lobbing the ball to him in the back left corner of the endzone.

That brought the dancing bear otherwise known as Sebastian Janikowski out for two consecutive plays of absolute buffoonery. Two plays that would, unbeknownst to most of us at the time, have a monumental impact on the outcome of the game. First, Janikowski yanked the extra point wide right, his third missed XP of the season and second in the last 15 days. Then he sent a returnable ball back to the Niners on the ensuing kickoff. San Fran’s Richie James split the coverage and had only Seattle’s slovenly kicker between him and a moment he’d cherish forever. Janikowski, who runs like an elephant on hind legs, put exactly zero effort into keeping up with James’ change of direction and calmly jogged out of bounds while the return man casually juked upfield and sauntered in for the score.

Seattle’s next drive petered out quickly, but Michael Dickson landed his punt at the two yard line and somehow got it to pop straight up in the air, where it was downed at the 1. The Niners immediately started stringing big chunks plays together, moving the ball out near midfield before Justin Wilson Jr ripped up the middle for 15 yards, where he was met by Bradley McDougald. The new leader of this secondary put his facemask right on the football, forcing it loose until it was corralled by Tre Flowers. It was a much-needed turnover, because Seattle’s defense was showing exactly zero ability to stop the Niners without it. Unfortunately, it was also the last we’d see of Bradley, as he left the game with a knee injury and wouldn’t return.

The ‘Hawks would put together a few first downs before having to punt again, and again Dickson bounced the ball straight up in the air at the 2 where it was downed by the coverage team. Good, right? Well, I mean, yeah... but it didn’t matter really. It would take the 49ers 10 plays to go 98 yards on the next drive, and it would have taken them even less if Mullens didn’t miss a wide open Kittle again for an easy touchdown. That errant throw only delayed the inevitable, though. With McDougald out due to a knee injury, the ceiling of the Seahawks defense belonged to Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill. Hoo boy.

Heralded as the potential Earl and Kam of the future, Tedric and Delano played like the Ren and Stimpy of the present. For two consecutive drives, there was a receiver, usually a TE, open between them on every single pass play. This particular possession finally ended when Garrett Celek ran right past Hill at the line of scrimmage and into wide open pasture. Thompson was the closest guy two him, but he slipped like a cartoon character and fell on his face while Celek trudged unencumbered into the endzone to make it 14-6. I’m honestly not sure if Hill and Thompson even speak the same language.

ANYWAY... thank the Lord for Russell Wilson. On Seattle’s last meaningful drive of the first Seattle ran it twice for two yards with JD McKissic. Then, on 3rd & 8, Wilson dialed up Doug Baldwin for 11 yards on a crossing route. That was followed by a 24-yard run by Carson around the left edge, moving the ball to SF’s 35. From there, Wilson dropped back and looked over the field. With the pocket squeezing down on him, Russ worked his way upfield and through the pocket*, finding clear sight lines downfield. That’s when Baldwin caught his eye.

*This has been the biggest development in Wilson’s game this year, and the #1 reason he’s been able to thrive in an offense that restricts his natural movement more than ever.

Wilson fired a high strike over the middle of the field and Baldwin leaped way up to get it. The defender trailing him sailed beneath Doug’s feet while the safety over the top decked him mid-flight. Baldwin somehow spun off the hit and landed on his feet with a trail of sprawling Niners behind him. He then ran the remaining 15 or so yards for his second touchdown of the game and Janikowski’s extra point brought them within one.

The Niners would string a few more completions to various tight ends together until they got inside Seattle’s 20, but the ‘Hawks D bowed up and held San Francisco to a field goal right before the half.

The third quarter was entirely uneventful, save a penalty-fueled Niners drive that fell apart inside the 10 after a questionable personal foul against Wilson Jr forced them to settle for a field goal. What followed was the type of drive that keeps Pete Carroll young:

Carson up the pipe for 21
Carson to the left for 5
Carson off the left edge for 26
Wilson on a keeper for 5
Incomplete pass on a deep throwaway
Short pass in the left flat to Ed Dickson for 8
Option pitch(!) to Lockett for 9

That put Seattle at San Francisco’s 1 on 2nd down. Carson then got blown up in the backfield, making it 3rd and goal. Carson again; and again he was stuffed. 4th & goal. No one would have blamed Carroll or offensive coordinator for choosing to pass at this point. They had tried, twice, to enforce their will with power runs and were now facing an absolute must-have yard to go. They could’ve rolled Wilson out, or tried to create space for a receiver. Hell, I would’ve preferred it. There were a million other potential routes to glory, but instead of trying to out-scheme his opponent, Schotty made like a Greek general and called out his champion. Despite suffering defeats on the previous two plays, Chris Carson streaked his face with war paint, beat his chest, and charged back into battle.

Taking the ball with the fury of a rodeo bull, Carson bucked against the lineman who met him in the backfield. After goring him to the ground, he galloped ahead where he was hit again at the 1. Locking horns, Carson wrestled the would-be tackler to the ground while maintaining his feet then took on yet another defender before finally appearing to lose his wind. Pumping his powerful legs, he was forced to take one begrudging step backwards. But the bloody, savage gauntlet run had inspired his brethren and they rallied around him at the last moment like Jon Snow’s army. His lineman arrived on the scene en masse, putting their meaty shoulders into Carson’s back and infusing him with one last surge of power. Chris miraculously kept his feet moving despite being practically horizontal , shaking off the final tackler and collapsing in the endzone with arguably the most impressive run of the year, yardage be damned.

Janikowski’s extra point made it 21-20-20, and set the stage for what could have been a really excellent finish to a hard-fought game. But instead of great football players making great football plays, we got a national debt’s worth of penalties in the 4th quarter. First, the Niners used a horrible pass interference call against Delano Hill to keep a drive alive that would end in a go-ahead field goal. Then Seattle capitalized on a roughing the passer call to move the ball into scoring range. Then, facing a 2nd & 5, Mike Davis charged up the middle for an impressive 8 yards, shaking off two tacklers in the process. It didn’t matter though, because a holding call knocked them back. By now, a cool but clear afternoon had clouded over and was now shrouded in a miserable west coast rain. That had a huge effect on both teams’ passing games— a development you’d assume would favor the Seahawks.

Instead, Seattle’s 1st & 10 became 2nd & 15 and they settled for two short gains, presumably in light of the weather. That brought Janikowski back out for a tough 48-yarder. It’s almost impossible to atone for a missed extra point in a close game but if it, Sebastian did it. His monstrous kick left no doubt, and just like that the game was tied at 23. Neither team would score again in regulation, as the two teams traded a half-dozen penalties and four punts over the game’s final 5 minutes. Just gross football, not sure what else you want me to say.

That sent the game to overtime, and the Seahawks sent out Brett Hundley(?) to call the coin toss. He hollered tails, the coin came up tails, and the Seahawks should have won the game. They ran it twice to open OT, leaving them with 3rd & 4. That’s when Wilson went to an empty backfield and di9aled up McKissic on a long sideline route. His perfect pass was hauled in by JD for a huge 32 yard gain across midfield, just one first down away from a field goal and putting the home team defense on their heels. Except guess what. That’s right— another flag. This time it was Ethan Pocic, one of three enormous penalties on the reserve lineman, but none bigger than this. A potentially game-winning drive immediately regressed into Dickson’s 8th punt of the game, and that’s all the Niners would need.

Well, not all they’d need. On San Fran’s first and only OT possession, they actually appeared to get stopped on 3rd down. Except Shaquille Griffin was called, rightly, for pass interference and the 49ers would keep possession of the football. From there it was a few more medium-sized plays into field goal range, allowing Robbie Gould to bang home a 36-yard field goal for the win.


~Russell Wilson coming off arguably the worst performance of his career, faced the team against which he had arguably his best just two weeks ago. Today’s performance was, obviously, somewhere in between. It was the type of game where, had Seattle won, we’d laud him for gritting his way through penalties and bad weather to will his team to a win. But because he had multiple big plays called back on flags, and the Niners ended up winning, it looks like a missed opportunity. Overall, he was 23 for 31 for 237 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 turnovers for a rating of 117. A good game. But he had two chances to win this game and ultimately came up empty. Even as I type that, it feels a little cruel, because he did make some really big plays that were negated by penalties.

~With Rashaad Penny out, the heaviest backfield workload in the league was left to be carried by Carson and Mike Davis. Carson weathered 22 carries and 6 catches, turning them into 148 total yards and the beastly TD. Davis shook off an early hand injury to 5 carries and a team-high 8 catches for 84 total yards. All told, the two halfbacks turned 41 touches into 232 yards. San Fran’s insistence on taking away the outside pass meant an unusual reliance on the running backs in the passing game. In fact, 55% of Wilson’s completions went to these two, which is nobody’s idea of a great gameplay. Still, the RBs were the most effective part of the offense, again.

~This offense is a lot different with Doug Baldwin in it. They may have very well been blown out without him. He was only targeted 6 times but he transleted them into 4 catches for 77 yards and 2 TDs. He got open when no one else could, and there’s tremendous value in that.

~The defense played the whole first half like they either A) didn’t know they were allowed to cover tight ends or B) only had 10 men on the field. For the 6th time in 7 games, they got absolutely gashed by an opposing offense, relying almost exclusively on turnovers and red zone stops to keep the opposing offense out of the endzone. A huge part of that had to do with the absence of McDougald, although both Thompson and Hill, along with Shalom Luani, recovered to play MUCH better in the second half. All in all, the defense only gave up 16 points in regulation, but they were unable to answer the bell in OT. Maybe it was asking too much of them, given the way they’d defended during the previous 8 quarters, but the Niners strung together a bunch of (effectively) game-ending first downs on their one OT drive.

~The highlights of Seattle’s defensive effort belonged to three members of the defensive line. With all kinds of dysfunction behind them, the DL showed out— specifically Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, and Poona Ford. Clark registered 4 QB hits and his team-leading 12th sack, while Reed added a career-high 2 sacks of his own, giving him a tremendous 8.5 on the season. Ford, for his measure, turned his most ever playing time into an amazing 6 tackles and a team-leading 3 TFLs.

~Michael Dickson is either an angel or an alien. Either way, I’m glad he landed in Seattle. He punted it 8 times for an average of 53.3 yards, and pinned San Francisco inside the 2 twice. He’s the best punter on the planet, which is cool

~14 penalties for 148 yards. There were a couple of bad calls against them but most of ‘em were earned. Just a sloppy, sloppy performance all around. The Seahawks didn’t deserve to win this game.

The good news is that this loss doesn’t have a huge material effect on Seattle’s playoff chances, or even on their chances at the 5th seed. Such is the benefit of a well-timed 4-game win streak against conference opponents.

I entirely believe that there are such things as beneficial losses, and this may very well be one of them. I’d rather the Seahawks shit the bed in this game than have them do it against Green Bay, Carolina, or Minnesota. They all know they’re better than the team they lost to today, and my hope is that this defeat helps sharpen their approach moving forward. If nothing else, it injects meaning into the final two games that honestly wouldn’t have been there had Seattle won today. Still, winning > losing and this feeling sucks.

Next up is a Sunday night showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. If nothing else, it should be one hell of a game. Time to lick some wounds and hit the film. Seattle is still a playoff-quality team and one that no one will be in a hurry to face. Until then, onward and upward my friends.

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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 accompanied by Ardbeg Corryvreckan and another Rocky Patel Vintage 1999 Connecticut. Probably the best combo of the season.