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Cigar Thoughts, Game 12: Seahawks devour 49ers, pick grisly remains from their teeth

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The Seattle Seahawks eviscerated the San Francisco 49ers, moving into playoff position in the process.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Apologies for the late post, but a couple of buddies flew up from San Francisco to watch their 49ers play and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to witness this in person with them. We snagged some tickets, caught a buzz, and spent four hours watching the Seahawks ruin their trip.

Going to the game with Niners fans was a lesson in gratitude. It wasn’t 5 years ago when Seattle vs San Fran was an event you scheduled your year around. For three fantastic years it was the best rivalry in the NFL and the most nervous you felt all season. It was never gonna last forever, but the speed with which the Niners crumbled was tragic, frankly. And for all our bellyaching since SB49, we still get to cheer for a team that wins more games than it loses every season, and where a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs is considered a disappointing year. The Seahawks are always competitive, have had zero turnover at the most important position in sports, and still pack out the stadium at every opportunity.

Watching my friends watch their directionless franchise flail about was almost sickening. It felt bad to crow and cheer and overtly thrust my pelvis while they sat there cold and forlorn, but I’m nothing if not committed. The stalwart team that once posed the biggest threat to Seattle’s dominance is now but a cracked shell of their former selves, outclassed and outmatched by almost everyone almost everywhere. The Seahawks may no longer be Super Bowl favorites, but thank God we’re not Niners fans.

As far as the game goes, well...

After all the bad blood between these two teams over the last several years, the Seahawks invited the 49ers over for a cordial lunch, presumably to bury the hatchet. But as soon as the Niners walked through the door, handed Russell Wilson a lovely bottle of port, and exchanged pleasantries, Bobby Wagner body slammed them through the dining room table.

There was a semblance of equivalency between the teams for a few minutes, as the two politely exchanged punts before Seattle got down to the business at hand. On their second drive, Seattle gained 4 yards with a Wilson scramble then immediately went play-action on the following snap. Wilson stood calmly in the pocket and delivered a long strike to a suddenly wide open Jaron Brown down the left side of the field that got the whole crowd on their feet. And that wasn’t even the fun part. A few plays later, Wilson bought himself a little time on a 3rd & goal from the 5, allowing Brown to wiggle free near the front left pylon for the short TD pass. And that wasn’t even the fun part either.

This was:

As you know, I’m an enormous fan of celebrations and one of the best things the NFL has done recently is to re-institute them. And boy oh boy, have the Seahawks leaned in. They’ve had some amazing group dalliances this season but for me, re-enacting arguably the most iconic moment in Seattle sports history, with perfect execution, in the correct corner of the correct end zone, is probably my all-time favorite.

From there, the route was officially on. -8 yards later, the Niners were punting it back to their sadistic hosts and two plays after that, the Seahawks were dancing in the end zone again. This time, it was Tyler Lockett accelerating out of the slot on a deep corner route and coasting under a perfect Wilson pass while the poor linebacker tasked with covering him vanished in his wake. Just as pretty a play as you could ask for.

To their credit, the Niners actually put together a pretty good drive as they desperately tried to make the game competitive, using 7 plays to move the ball inside Seattle’s 15 yard line. Problem was, Bobby Wagner was having none of it. With a sack already to his credit, Wagner closed on the 49ers RB as he attempted to gain the left corner. With a combination of power and dexterity typically reserved for grizzly bears, Wagner pawed the running back to the ground, knocking the ball out in the process, then pounced on it for the game-ending turnover 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter.

Seattle would get one more score before the half when Doug Baldwin shook the self-respect out of the dude tasked with covering him at the 1-yard line. Wilson quickly fired a short strike to his all-time leading receiver for the score and a 20-0 lead. The Seahawks were kind enough to allow the Niners a field goal before the half, but it was just semantics from there. Wilson only threw 6 passes in the first two quarters, and literally half of them were touchdowns

Now maybe a good team, or at least one with a quarterback, could have talked themselves into a second-half comeback, but the 49ers are neither and I don’t think the ‘Hawks were gonna let it happen even if they were. Not the way they were playing yesterday. And if there was any doubt about that, it was erased immediately.

Lockett caught the 3rd quarter kickoff near his own goal line then screamed upfield. He weaved his way through the first couple of would-be tacklers then bent the kicker in half with a juke move near midfield. For a moment it looked like he was gonna take it to the house but one guy was able to get an angle and track him down at the SF 20. No matter. On the first play from scrimmage, Wilson tossed the ball to Rashaad Penny who caught the pitch and turned up the left side with glory on his mind. Seattle made every damn block on the field and Penny hit the resulting gaps with the type of explosive speed that convinced the ‘Hawks to draft him, sprinting unencumbered into the end zone to give Seattle a 24-point lead.

With the outcome long since secured, the only drama that remained was seeing just how bad the beatdown would get. Pretty bad, turns out. Despite two dazzling scores from Dante Pettis (seriously, how mesmerizing is that dude gonna be once he hits his stride?), the Seahawks onslaught remained relentless. Wilson crammed excellence into just about every single one of his limited passes against his former rivals, including a 21-yard slant to Baldwin the one time he targeted Richard Sherman*. On that play, Baldwin cut inside, created a half-step of celebration, then deked inside while he caught Russ’ dime. As he secured the pass, he leaned back outside, shedding a misdirected Sherman and galloping upfield for a first down. The close relationship between the two former college and pro teammates is no secret, and there’s zero doubt in my mind Doug is gonna bring that up every time he talks to Richard.

*Richard Sherman is a got damn legend in this city and it was weird to see him get booed by the same crowd that used to defend him to the death. I’m not gonna tell anyone how to be a fan, and if jeering one of the most important athletes in this beleaguered sports city’s history is your thing, then that’s between you and God. I know Sherman soured at the end of his time here, and he’s done just about everything he can to flame the franchise since his departure so like, I get it. But for me, I’m choosing to remember the myriad of incredible moments, Hall of Fame play, and lauding him for the same irreverent brashness that gets under our skin the way it used to to everyone else. God bless him.

That drive ended when Wilson dialed Brown up again, this time from 18 yards out. It was so easy looking as to be almost completely nondescript. It was awesome to watch Wilson’s performance in person. The camera angles never really give you a good sense of the spacing and angles that exist on any given play, so it was very cool to see how Russ’ deftness in and out of the pocket opened up the field for all of his receivers. On all but one of his TD passes, I could see immediately where he was gonna go with the ball, not because I’m some kind of savant but because guys just got so damn open, and he made every throw he needed to.

For hours, the Seahawks tortured their beaten foe, inflicting pain on a helpless opponent until the fight faded from their swollen eyes. It was like the penultimate scene in Braveheart, with a bloodthirsty crowd cheering each new horror visited upon their prisoner. My poor buddies were like William Wallace’s friends, crestfallen but unable to turn away while everyone around them reveled in the gruesome death of their beloved. Finally, as the sun faded and there was no anguish left to extract, the coup de grace arrived in the hulking form of Bobby Wagner.

With the Niners down near Seattle’s goal line, and the clock bleeding out, Nick Mullens feebly attempted a short pass for a face-saving score. That’s when Wagner swooped in like an angel of death and turned the lights out on the 49ers’ miserable experience. Cutting in front of the intended receiver, Wagner snagged the throw and sprinted around the right end of a stunned OL. With nothing but the QB between Bobby and the longest interception return in Clink history, Wagner found a gear typically reserved for track stars (seriously, Wagner’s top speed exceeded 20 mph, making him one of the fastest ballcarriers in the NFL this weekend. He easily outran Mullens for the 98-yard pick-six and collapsed in the end zone while his jubilant teammates piled on top of him. It was the final stroke in what may have been the linebacking maestro’s finest performance yet.

The only thing left to happen from there was the Niners hilariously not scoring on a 16-play drive, a fitting end to one of the most lopsided Seahawks wins we’ve seen in the last few years.

SMOKE RINGS

~With 4 TDs on 17 throws, Russell Wilson is now one of only two QBs in the last 40 years to have a career TD rate of 6% or better (Aaron Rodgers being the other). He was so in control of this one it almost seemed like practice. His final line included 185 yards on just 11 completions, without a turnover and a phenomenal passer rating of 140.9. His 95.9 QBR has to be among the best of his career, and both numbers accurately reflect the mastery with which Russ controlled the game.

After his terrifically slow start to the season, Wilson now finds himself with a career-best rating of 115.5. Much of the credit is due to Brian Schottenheimer, who has helped create an offense that allows Wilson to take advantage of his underrated accuracy, as well as the O-line who have created enough space for him to take advantage of his underrated pocket throwing. If he keeps playing like this, the Seahawks can hang with absolutely anybody.

~The running backs did most of the lifting yesterday, as Seattle ran the ball 29 times. Chris Carson was the lead back again, turning 13 carries and 3 catches into 108 yards. There were no superhuman flips this week, just a solid, powerful performance against a defense that was on its heels all day. Behind him, Rashaad Penny seems to have taken hold of the #2 spot on the depth chart. Seattle’s first round pick only got 7 rushes in the blowout but he turned them into 65 yards and a score. At some point during the season he turned a corner, and he’s moving with a swiftness and fluidity that’s unique to the former San Diego State standout. Mike Davis got 10 yards on 4 carries.

Now, I know a lot of y’all would like to see Seattle commit to one lead running back but I think there are a few reasons why this is better. For one, all three RBs have proven capable, so you don’t have to worry about some big letdown in performance. Secondly, the approach all but guarantees fresh legs on each snap. And thirdly, splitting the NFL’s heaviest workload between three guys keeps all of them in the flow of the game. Finally, ain’t none of these guys gonna have enough volume stats to command a big contract on the open market. There’s a ton of benefit to keeping the RB position cheap.

On the season, the rushing breakdown has looked like this:

Carson: 157 carries for 704 yards (4.5 YPC)
Davis: 90 carries for 396 (4.4 YPC)
Penny: 73 for 369 (5.1 YPC)

~Tyler Lockett has become a touchdown god. They showed a pretty stunning stat on the big screen yesterday, saying that Doug Baldwin ranks third in receiving TDs since the beginning of 2015. That is remarkable, given Baldwin’s size and the offense in which he’s been playing, but highlights A) the suddenness with which he moves and B) the tremendous opportunism of Russell Wilson. This year, however, Lockett has absolutely taken over that role.

He was only targeted twice but he caught one of them for a 51-yard score. He now has 9 receiving TDs on the season despite garnering just 56 targets. Ready to hear something wild? The average pass attempt to Lockett this season has averaged 12.7 yards and has a 16% chance of scoring. And that’s not even counting all the pass interference yards!


~What’s left to say about Bobby Wagner that hasn’t already been said? His box score was so full it creased the stat sheet: 12 tackles, 2 for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, an interception, and a touchdown. It was the picture of dominance, and just about the best game you can imagine a middle linebacker playing.

You know how when you’re watching a movie with a really great actor and the screen just seems to shrink around them? That’s what Wagner did to CenturyLink Field, drawing everything to him then erasing it from existence like a 6’ black hole. Best middle linebacker on the planet.

~As a whole, the Seahawks defense gave up a shit ton of yards (452) and first downs (24!), but none of that really mattered. They forced 3 turnovers and dictated the terms of engagement until long after the outcome had been decided. This is not a dominant defense, but they’ve been good on third down and great at turning the ball over this season and if the offense keeps playing like it has for the last six quarters, that’ll be enough.

~Sebastian Janikowski missed two extra points. I pray our season doesn’t come down to his foot.

~I try to make sure I get to at least one game every year, and every time I do I’m reminded how intoxicating the tribal energy is when it’s multiplied by 70,000. My pals couldn’t stop talking about it, saying how it was louder in the nosebleeds than it is at field level back home. The roars after some of the plays were so loud it felt like somebody hit you in the chest with a pillow. I don’t know how anybody wins here.

The victory scoots the Seahawks into the 5th spot in the NFC and at 7-5, whether they make the playoffs or not is now fully up to them. This team is experiencing their annual late-season peak and is back to being front of mind as a candidate to make a postseason run. Most importantly, their latest win lets us all enjoy the latest from the most divine account on the internet:

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.

It was Oban’s 14-Year and a Diesel Unlimited Maduro tonight. As indulgent as the game’s outcome. I regret nothing.