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Cigar Thoughts, Game 15: Seahawks rise to occasion, keep rising, dunk on it, then post the picture to IG

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The Seattle Seahawks played their best game of the season, beating the Kansas City Chiefs 38-31 and securing their 6th playoff berth in the last 7 seasons.

Kansas City Chiefs v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

This was such an awesome game.

Much of the talk regarding this matchup surrounded the two marvelous quarterbacks within. Those of you who have been following this article for a while know how strongly I believe in production-per-opportunity over simple volume stats, and this game featured two of the three most efficient, best QBs in 2018. Patrick Mahomes came in riding a sensational MVP campaign, combining Hall of Fame efficiency with video game production. Russell Wilson came in Russell Wilsoning his way to his 7th straight elite season, and today he blew the top off of his already insane potential.

On top of that, I can’t remember the last NFL season that had this much playoff intrigue heading into Week 16, and tonight’s combatants were no exception. Following a loss to the Chargers last week, the Kansas City Chiefs suddenly found themselves clawing to hang onto the #1 overall seed in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks needed a win to A) clinch a playoff spot and B) rinse the bile from their vomit sesh in Santa Clara last week. So how’d it go down? Well bub, let me tell you...

The Seahawks won the coin toss and deferred, daring the high-powered Chiefs arsenal to set the tone for the night. Instead of that, however, Kansas City went three and out on their opening drive, with Mahomes missing twice on & short opportunities. Once they got the ball back, Seattle responded with a true beauty of a possession. In authentic Seahawks fashion, Seattle ran on their first two plays. Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs were unsurprised, and held Seattle to exactly two yards on those attempts, followed by a false start. No worries though folks, cuz the Seahawks still employ Russell motherfucking Wilson, who took the snap on 3rd & 13, scanned the defense, then hopped on his gallant steed and galloped for 19 yards. Wilson has shown incredible maturation as a pocket passer this season, but he elevates from very good to Canton-level when he lets his legs get in the game.

After that, he found Doug Baldwin for a big completion on a broken play then let Mike Davis and Chris Carson bust out the sledgehammers, with the latter’s final swing reducing Kansas City’s goal line defense to rubble. With Seattle on KC’s 1, Wilson handed the ball to Carson, who shrugged off a would-be tackler in the backfield, then shouldered his way through a second defender to open the scoring with the RB version of a giant middle finger to the road favorites.

On KC’s next drive, Seattle suffered what would be a rare breakdown in the secondary. Travis Kelce threw a double move on the perimeter and ran unfollowed down the left sideline. It was the easiest 36 yard TD in league history, except Mahomes overthrew him; by a lot. Make no mistake, Mahomes has been sensational this season, and has the potential to deliver a Steph Curry-esque revolution to the quarterback position. He’s a remarkable talent in a perfect situation, but the dude just misses some throws. I’m sure that will get buttoned down as the seasons go on, but I’m glad he blew that one. In fact, Mahomes would only complete 1 of his first 7 throws in this one, including all 4 on KC’s next drive, as Seattle’s secondary was sensational all night, that particular blunder be damned.

Seattle’s following possession covered 57 yards on 10 plays, including a pass interference on a deep ball to (who else?) Tyler Lockett*. A bunch of short passes and runs later, the possession finally sputtered out just inside KC’s 20. That brought out Sebastian Janikowski, who drunkenly clanged a 36-yard field goal off the right upright. My confidence level in SeaBass is currently hovering around a 3, and I can only hope Seattle doesn’t have a playoff game come down to his leg. My heart can’t take it. It was a gimme opportunity to push the early lead out to two scores, but he blew it.

*Despite ranking just 82nd in targets, Lockett has generated more pass interference yards than any player in the NFL. There is so much hidden value in his game.

After that, the Chiefs found their vibe. With Seattle dedicating themselves to taking away the big play over the top, KC turned to Kareem Hunt Spencer Ware Damien Williams, gashing the ‘Hawks with chunk yardage on a dizzying series of handoffs, pitches, and draws. Then a slick little circle route to Kelce put them on Seattle’s 2, setting up Williams for a short TD catch on a beautiful bit of scheming from Andy Reid.

The Seahawks would do nothing on their next drive, and for a brief moment it felt like KC had weathered Seattle’s best shot and were settling into their groove. But then Dion Jordan tracked Williams down on a perimeter handoff and punched the ball loose. The Seahawks recovered on KC’s 21, and used the next 6 plays to cover the remaining distance. This time, they faked the handoff to Carson at the 2 then ran a goofy little slip route to goofy little Nick Vannett who trumbled into the endzone for the go-ahead score.

The Chiefs would get a couple more first downs on their next try before punting back to Seattle, and the Seahawks used another DPI on a pass to Lockett, plus a 19-yard completion to the same, to get the ball across midfield, draining the majority of the first half clock in the process*. The drive would sputter on KC’s 40, a secret blessing that let the world witness the transcendent ability of Michael Dickson, who pinned the ensuing punt deep in KC territory. With less than a minute left in the 2nd quarter, Kansas City got a big run on their first play, and used that to try and push the ball down the field for a score. And for a brief moment that looked like the right move, as Mahomes then found an open Chris Conley across midfield. As Conley turned upfield, Justin Coleman closed the gap and punched the ball out from behind. Delano Hill tracked it down, fell on it, and the home team took a 4-point lead into the half.

*no, YOU use too many commas

Coming out of the locker room and receiving the kick, Seattle put together a drawn out 12-play drive that was put on life support after another Janikowski miss was negated by a roughing the kicker penalty that hobbled the Seahawks’ team fridge. For a few minutes, it looked the glorious dawn of the Michael Dickson Field Goal Era was upon us, but after the drive stalled, Janikowksi limped back out to bang home a short FG to make it 17-10. Sigh.

The Chiefs came right back with a long drive of their own, albeit after an awesome dropkickoff from Dickson stuck KC inside their own 20. It didn’t end up mattering, because Mahomes is inhuman, but it was fun anyway. The Chiefs used a bunch of screens and short passes over the middle to get to Seattle’s 25 and into field goal range. Except there would be no field goal. On the next snap, Mahomes took the ball and looked right. With nothing there, he rolled the other direction before flinging the ball back across the field, somehow, to a wide open Charcandrick West for the game-tying score. It was such a bizarre throw; Mahomes was legit running to his left and he slung the ball sidearm from the left hashmark to the middle of the field, hitting his 19th string RB in stride. The pass was so perfect, so unexpected, that West had to bobble it a couple times in surprise before gathering it and walking in for the six.

Seattle’s next drive looked hopeless at first, as a couple of negative plays put the ‘Hawks at 3rd & 15. On that play, the Chiefs elected to only rush three men (huge mistake), giving Wilson a ton of time to survey the field. Finding nothing deep, he whipped it short to Ed Dickson, who broke a tackle and lumbered for 18 manly yards to keep the possession alive. Then it was Baldwin for 16 on a diving crossing route before Wilson dialed him up deep down the left sideline. With the ball, and the game, up for grabs, Baldwin leaped, contorted his body, snagged the pass, and crashed to the turf, landing on the pylon for the go-ahead TD. Just a magical play to give Seattle the lead once more.

This was such an awesome game.

The Chiefs would go three and out on the next drive, but so would Seattle. After that, Kansas City bounced back again, working the ball right back down the field using their trademark deception and Tyreek Hill’s otherworldly athleticism. Hill would turn his unique combination of Olympic footspeed and All Pro quickness into 48 yards on two catches on that drive alone. Seattle’s defense has been plexiglass all season, bending to the point that it seems nearly impossible that it stays intact, but rarely do they break. Despite insane talent at nearly every playmaking position, and a cutting edge offensive scheme, the Chiefs were unable to cross the threshold and had to settle for 3 measly points despite a terrific possession. It would be the first of 5 consecutive scoring drives from then on out.

On Seattle’s next turn, Wilson looked Lockett’s way and connected with his diminutive dynamo for a big 25-yard completion. On the following play, Wilson stood stoically in the pocket as it crumbled around him. KC’s DL pawed at him like so many bears around a honeycomb-laden beehive, but Russ remained undeterred. Having exhausted every read, he turtled up, shimmied forward and, realizing that every remaining defender had their back turned to him, scooted up the field for 40 surreal yards. A few plays later, on the back of a defensive holding call on a 3rd & goal that kept the drive alive, he rolled right from the 2. With nothing materializing, Wilson held on until the last possible second. Darkness closed entropically around him, but Wilson whipped a submarine pass to a suddenly free Dickson at the last possible second. Dickson, best known for his blocking, lunged back against his momentum to secure the TD. The way Wilson threw it was like a shortstop turning two while gliding over second base; just an effortless delivery from an avant grade position. 31-20.

Not that the Chiefs cared. Their next drive was gorgeous, covering 72 yards on 9 plays and culminating in a sweet toe-tapping 11-yard TD catch by Demarcus Robinson on an absurdly accurate throw from Mahomes. Shaquille Griffin, who was sensational tonight, had tremendous coverage but there’s no defense for a perfect throw and a perfect catch. Every NFL game there are a few plays that underscore just how incredible these athletes are, and this was one of those plays. The Chiefs would go for two and Mahomes, finding no one open, scampered freely into the endzone to make it 31-28. Perfect.

Look, I’m biased, but I think a lot of teams fold here. And if not outright fold, lose out of a sense of overt conservatism. If anything, you’d think Seattle would fall into that trap, seeing as they run the ball at a higher frequency than any team in the league. NOT SO.

Instead of stubbornly slamming the ball into the heart of a defense that’s expecting it, Seattle put the ball squarely in the hands of the best player in franchise history. You can say a lot of things about Russell Wilson, but dude absolutely lets his nuts hang in big moments. After Carson got 4 on a plunge, Wilson went up top to Baldwin down the right sideline. Baldwin got his hands on it in tight coverage but, for the first time all season, was unable to secure it as the defender slapped it out of his grip at the last second. 3rd & 6.

So what do you do? Run it in hopes of catching them by surprise, and drain some clock or force a KC timeout? Or, do you say fuck all that and trust your dudes to be dudes? That one. Wilson calmly took the high-leverage snap and fired the ball out to his left where it was caught by David Moore a yard shy of the first down. Moore pulled the ball into his chest just as he was wrapped up by the defender, but he muscled his way across the sticks for a gigantic late-game first down with less than 4 minutes left. The next play was a predictable handoff to Carson that went for negative yardage. Still, the clock was running and I think a lot of teams would be happy to let the clock tick. Not these boys.

On the next play, Russell Wilson apparently decided it was time to uncork the prettiest throw of his career. Taking a five-step drop, Russ looked left then pivoted right and let the ball fly. His pass left his hand at an impossible angle, disappearing out of the top of the stadium, through the clouds, and into the ether. The throw had the unwavering spiral of the Inception top as it pierced the heavens, letting God’s light break through into our crass human existence and illuminate a sprinting Tyler Lockett down the right sideline. The ball dropped with deific intention and Lockett’s beautiful soul was ready to receive. He jumped mid-stride high into the air, caught the ball, and collided with the turf just inside the white paint for a 45-yard catch that broke Kansas City on a deep, psychological level. Seriously, go back and watch the replay. The spiral doesn’t even wiggle. Hell, look at Wilson’s eyes; he’s staring straight up into the black night sky when he lets that thing go. The physics of it don’t really make sense, but they don’t really need to. 2018 Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett is literally (158.3) the most perfect QB-WR combo in history and this play was a sublime example.

Of course, Wilson would be sacked for a 9-yard loss on the next play, but even that wasn’t enough to deter Seattle from their ordained mission. Wilson’s response was simply to go deep again, this time down the left sideline, where he appeared to overthrow Baldwin. Except Doug wasn’t having it. Reaching out with one dextrous hand, Baldwin eschewed the defender swiping at him and tipped the ball up to himself as he dove. He controlled the pass as he hit the ground, corralling it at the 1 for a true back-breaker. After that, it was simply a matter of handing it to Carson and letting him send another goal line defender to hell with a righteous power run. When it was over, Carson was celebrating his second TD of the night while police officers outlined the would-be tackler’s body in chalk seven yards deep in the paint.

That essentially sealed Seattle’s biggest win of the season, but KC wouldn’t go down without one last fight. A huge kick return put them immediately in business, but again the Seahawks defense would hold and force KC to take 3 points instead of 7. The ensuing onside kick was as successful as every other onside kick in 2018, which is to say not at all. The ball bounded out of bounds and Seattle had but to kneel out their biggest, most impressive win of the season.

SMOKE RINGS

~Cut the damn check. Russell Wilson was everything every team dreams about from their quarterback. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 271 yards, 3 TDs, no turnovers, and added 61 non-kneeling rushing yards on 4 attempts. His passer rating soared at 127 and his QBR was a sterling 92. Sure, he missed a few throws, but the Seahawks scored points on 6 of 10 non-kneeling drives and one of those non-scores was Janikowski’s short-range miss. He was incredible on 3rd down, moved the chains all night, and helped Seattle produce with remarkable efficiency against a team that necessitates near-offensive perfection in order to win. There's nothing you can realistically ask a QB to do that Russ hasn’t done and tonight was as good an example of his value as any. An MVP-like performance.

~The running backs were sensational again tonight, racking up 153 yards on 35 carries. Carson led the way with 116 on 27 carries, but it was his two 1-yard totes that had as much impact as anything. You see, by and large, running backs don't matter— until they do. There is no one in the NFL I’d rather give the ball to from the 1 than Chris Carson. In those situations, he runs as if his mother’s very life depends on him scoring a TD and frankly, defenders don’t stand a chance. Seattle has, for all of their run-game bravado over the years, largely struggled in short-yardage situations but all of that has changed this season and Carson is a huge reason why. Just a terrific job by him.

Mike Davis was a clear second fiddle with Rashaad Penny out again, but he made good use of his opportunities, turning 7 carries into 31 yards while JD McKissic added 1 carry for 6. Combine that with Russ’ numbers and you end up with a stunning 210 yards on the ground overall.

~Doug Baldwin, man. This offense is just so much better with him on the field. I’m a firm believer that the order of operations goes System > QB > Everything Else; but sometimes you just need guys to win. And Doug Baldwin wins. He shook defenders all night, translating a game-high 12 targets into a game-high 7 catches for a game-high 126 receiving yards plus the Cirque du Soleil touchdown. If he stays healthy, this team is a got damn playoff nightmare.

~Tyler Lockett continues to define the upper reach of WR efficiency. Coming into this game, he carried a perfect passer rating when targeted, and he continued that tonight. Counting DPIs, he was targeted 7 times for a staggering 149 yards. The box score says 4 catches on 5 targets for 99 yards (impressive enough in its own right), but his impact on this game was even bigger. Tremendous effort from Tyler.

~The defense was pretty awesome tonight in the face of an offense that has been lighting everyone on fire. the raw stats (31 points, 419 yards) don’t look overly impressive on their own but sometimes when matters more than what. They were huge when they had to be, forcing timely turnovers and getting multiple red zone stops.

~Bobby Wagner was incredible tonight, as he is every week, but what he did in this one was a different facet of excellence than what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. He spent the majority of his night in coverage, matching up primarily with all-world TE Travis Kelce. I think Kelce only had one catch when covered by Bobby, and that was a ridiculous reception in traffic. As a result, Kelce finished with just 5 catches for 54 yards, and was an utter non-factor in the red zone where he typically does the bulk of his damage. Wagner was taken out of most plays simply due to the fact that he was trailing Kelce in coverage all night, and he still turned in a game-high 12 tackles. We’re out of superlatives to describe Bobby Wagner.

~This defense is so much better with Bradley McDougald in it. He ranked second on the team with 7 tackles, but his impact was bigger than that. Without him last week, the defense couldn’t keep a lid on anything. Tonight, they kept the lid on everything. McDougald has a wonderful ability to impact the game at all three levels of the defense and his anticipation is borderline Kam-Like. He is the Doug Baldwin of the defense; not the highest-paid or most talked about, but a lynchpin that gives his unit the ability to go from good-enough to greater-than.

~Dion Jordan had a sack and a forced fumble among his 5 tackles. Griffin and Tre Flowers were awesome in coverage, and the rest of the defense was sound enough to hold up when it mattered.

~The Seahawks offense converted their first 4 3rd downs tonight, en route to a lovely 7-14 overall. Defensively, they allowed an adequate 5-12, but it was their relentless ability to keep drives alive throughout the game that made an enormous difference on the outcome.

~After committing 14 penalties for a franchise record 148 yards last week, Seattle behaved themselves to the tune of just 3 for 20. Great discipline in a game that demanded it.

The win clinched yet another playoff berth for the Seahawks, and takes the bulk of the pressure off of next week’s potential trap game against the annoying-ass Cardinals. I still expect Seattle to play to win in that one, because that is their ethos, but it’s nice to know they’re protected from catastrophe. It also guarantees that Russell Wilson’s bonkers streak of never losing three games in a row will continue until at least next season.

The Seattle Seahawks are a bunch of ass kickers and are nobody’s idea of a good time in the playoffs. It’s looking increasingly like they’ll end up going to Dallas, but we’ll let the tea leaves sort themselves out next Sunday. Until then, revel in this, because the Seahawks are #good and when they play like this, they can beat anybody. Onward, upward, go muhfuggin’ ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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The 2018 season of Cigar Thoughts is proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.

Makers 46 and a Montecristo White Label #3 Connecticut is what got me through this game / article. Tons of flavor on both fronts.