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Cigar Thoughts, Game 7: Ravens ride Lamar Jackson’s legs and a series of Seahawks mistakes to 30-16 win

The Baltimore Ravens dominated the second half in Seattle, beating the Seahawks 30-16 in Earl Thomas’ return game.

Baltimore Ravens v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I get really excited about every Seahawks game but this one was extra special to me. Anyone who’s been reading this article over the years knows that my favorite football player in the world is Earl Thomas and, regardless of how his relationship with the Seahawks ended, I will forever love him and the impact he had on this franchise. That’s why I was stoked to see him back in Seattle, even though it was bizarre seeing him in purple after nearly a decade of dominance in blue. His return, which occurs so soon after he left this team, was a delightful quirk in the NFL schedule and a compelling storyline for me as a fan.

The atmosphere for his return was wet, dreary, and portended the grinding type of game you’d expect from these two teams. The air seemed to hang heavy and I had the feeling that this would be one of those matchups where only one or two big plays make the difference instead of the wild swings in fortune we’ve been sing this season.

The Ravens received the opening kick and immediately covered 77 yards on 8 plays with the majority of them coming on an electric 50-yard hook-up from the futuristic combo of Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. That was followed by a 7-yard Mark Ingram run to set up 2nd & 3 on Seattle’s 7. Then Quinton Jefferson and Marquise Blair, who was making his first career start in the absence of Bradley McDougald, combined to stop Jackson for one. On 3rd & 2, Jadaveon Clowney got loose around the left end and sprinted down the line to lasso Gus Edwards from behind in the backfield. It was an enormous stand and the resulting chip shot field goal felt more like a glancing blow than a direct hit.

Seattle responded with a three-and-out before the Ravens punted it back, which set up the Seahawks’ only touchdown drive of the game. After a 1-yard run from Chris Carson, they went right back to him for 8. On 3rd & 1, Carson smashed his way through the line and into the second level of the defense for 9 yards. After runs from Carson and Russell Wilson went for a total of -1 yards, the Seahawks took their shot.

Instead of running a white-flag draw or underneath route, Wilson dropped back while DK Metcalf ran a double move up the left sideline. Russ uncorked a high-arcing through while Metcalf fought his way through the defender hanging all over him to make an impressive 37-yard catch. That poor corner. After giving up position on DK’s jab step, he had no choice but to just try and stop the route any way he could. He jammed his hands into Metcalf’s chest but he might as well have tried to do the same thing to a rhinoceros. Metcalf powered his way through the light irritation and still got enough space to make a fairly easy catch.

After that it was a slick little outlet pass to Jacob Hollister for 9, Carson for 5, and Wilson on a scramble for 7. Then, after Jaron Brown dropped a touchdown on an impressive cross-field throw, Wilson went to his main guy. Dropping back and moving right, Wilson whipped a pass to Tyler Lockett who had just juked his man in the endzone. The lunging catch gave Seattle a 7-3 lead and it looked like the Seahawks offense was going to have another sharp game.

The Ravens answered back with a long field goal drive, then the Seahawks did the same. Both offenses seemed to be clicking right along, with both quarterbacks compensating for low completion rates with swift feet and decisive action. After a Ravens three-and-out, the Seahawks got the ball back and proceeded to pick up a couple more first downs before the unthinkable happened.

Standing in a closing pocket and not finding anyone open, Wilson pivoted to his right to see Jaron Brown standing seemingly by himself near the sideline. Wilson threw a flat-footed fling out his way but there was just too much room between him and his target for a pass like that. The throw was picked off in stride by new Raven Marcus Peters who housed it for a devastating pick-six. I’ve gotten so used to how good Russell Wilson is, how steady yet thrilling he is, that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to see a QB make a really crippling mistake.

It was a huge play, but it isn’t why the Seahawks lost. At least, it certainly wasn’t the main reason. In fact, on the very next drive, Seattle went 79 yards on an impressive 14-play journey back down the field that took the remaining five minutes off the first half clock. Unfortunately, Pete Carroll had already used his weekly pass interference challenge and it went the way 97% of the other ones have gone in the NFL this year. That, combined with the other two timeouts Seattle used, meant that as the Seahawks moved into scoring range, they were unable to count on a clock stoppage.

Seattle got as far as the Ravens’ 13 and faced a 1st & 10 with 18 seconds left. On the surface, that seems like plenty of time but when you can’t count on a timeout, it takes away almost every option underneath and over the middle. That lets the defense cheat to the sidelines and the endzone, adding an extra squeeze to Wilson’s options. No one got open on first down and Wilson threw it away - 12 seconds left. Then no one got open on the next one either and Wilson threw it away again. 6 seconds left. All of a sudden running another play from scrimmage becomes a very risky operation, so Seattle settled for a field goal despite it only being 3rd down. A tremendous (though penalty-aided) drive finished with a relative whimper, but it tied the game as the teams headed to the locker rooms for popsicles.

In the second half, the Ravens just went out and kicked Seattle’s ass. After the teams traded punts to start the third quarter, the Seahawks put together another pretty good drive. After Carson and Wilson each ran for first downs, a series of short gains left the Seahawks facing 4th & 3 on Baltimore’s 35. In that situation, “the book” says to go for it, all of our hearts said to go for it, and a promise you Ravens fans were begging us not to go for it. So of course, instead of keeping the leading MVP candidate in the league on the field, Pete Carroll sent Jason Myers out to try a slippery 53-yard field goal in the rain and it went exactly how we all thought it would the moment we saw Russell Wilson jogging off the field.

The Jason Myers miss gifted the Ravens their best field position of the day by a mile and a terrible series of events was set in motion. Finally finding their running game, the Ravens marched right down the field, getting deep into Seattle territory until a 3rd down Jackson scramble came up a couple yards short. Initially, it looked like Baltimore would kick but John Harbaugh took a timeout to re-think it before making the call to keep his ultra dynamic quarterback on the field. The result was an 8-yard keeper for a TD and a 20-13 Ravens lead.

The juxtaposition between Carroll’s 4th down decision and Harbaugh’s was absolutely maddening and it was that five-minute stretch between the two that was, in my mind, the biggest determining factor in how the rest of the game would go. It’s weird, I feel like Carroll used to be much more aggressive on 4th down but he has become super conservative in those situations of late. And it’s odd timing, because Wilson has never been better. he did the same thing against the Rams with the same result and seemed to acknowledge that it was a mistake after that game but it apparently didn’t stick.

Objectively speaking, a 20-13 deficit is hardly insurmountable for this team but that sequence seemed to completely deflate the stadium and the Seahawks never got going again. From that point on, it was just a collection of sharp run plays and incredible scrambling from Jackson as the Ravens locked their stranglehold in and squeezed until the Seahawks eventually went limp. The Ravens’ 11-play TD drive was followed up a 13-play FG drive while Seattle mustered just 20 yards and a turnover on 8 plays on their next two possessions.

The turnover was so weird, too. Now down 10, Wilson hit Metcalf on a short stop route that was likely gonna go for about 5-8 yards. Except, as DK turned up field and tried to juke, the ball slid right out of his hands and just kinda sat there on the field. Metcalf tried to pick it up but couldn’t and the ball squibbed up the sideline. That’s when Marlon Humphries came flying in and scooped it for the knockout score. To recap, after Carroll chose a long, wet, dicy field goal attempt instead of trusting an offense that was 9/13 on third downs, the next two possessions for each team were as follows:

Baltimore: 24 plays, 164 yards, 10 points
Seattle: 8 plays, 20 yards, -7 points

Ball game.

A late, meaningless Myers field goal nudged the losing margin down to 14 and the Ravens left Seattle with a very impressive win while Seattle fell to 2-2 at home.

SMOKE RINGS

~The offense, which has been excellent this season, had a tough time getting going today. A lot of that was really good defense from the Ravens and a lot of it was electing for high-leverage, low-efficiency plays in the pass game. I don’t know if it was part of the game plan, or if Russell Wilson was coming off a heater at the blackjack table, but he was very aggressive today. Eschewing the high-efficiency throws underneath, Wilson spent much of the day cocking his shoulders back towards the heavens and letting it fly.

The results were a mixed bag, with a couple of long completions to Metcalf and Lockett garnished by a handful of defensive penalties. The rest of the deep throws, however, were well-covered incompletions. Despite entering this game completing nearly 3 out of every 4 throws this season, Earl Thomas and the Ravens defense held him to just under half.

41 pass attempts resulted in just 20 completions for 241 yards, a TD, an INT, and a very un-Russ-like passer rating of 65.2. He also added 27 yards on the ground. I didn’t feel like Wilson looked off or anything but I do think I’ve grown so accustomed to him completing everything that I forgot it’s normal to have games where you’re not superhuman. Also, it looked like everyone was covered all day long.

~Chris Carson ran really well today, which was great to see because the ‘Hawks just couldn’t get it going through the air with any sustained success. Problem is, there was nowhere to go and the majority of his 65 yards came after contact. The stat sheet will show a 3.1 yards/carry but he really did about as well as you could hope for with the quality of touches he got. Plus, no fumbles in bad conditions is encouraging. Ultimately though, this just isn’t a team that runs well unless they’re also passing well.

~Kind of a weird game for DK Metcalf. His 37-yard grab was awesome and he had a couple of other useful grabs to keep the chains moving but that fumble was an absolute back-breaker. Maybe it was the slickness of the ball, maybe it was a lack of concentration, or maybe it was a freak accident but he just, like, dropped the ball. 4 catches on 9 targets for 53 yards and the fumble. Not great.

Tyler Lockett was able to get open a few times today, including a really impressive move on his touchdown. On that play, he found himself covered in the endzone with his man guarding him face to face. When he saw Wilson escape to the right, he jabbed left than switched directions in a blink to move back to the right. It was all the defender could do to grab Lockett but Tyler slipped through that too and dove for Seattle’s only TD. 5 catches for 61 yards and a TD on 7 targets on a day where yards were really hard to come by.

~I thought the offensive line was pretty good again today, even without Duane Brown. Wilson generally had time to go through his reads and even when the pressure did get to him, there were usually clear escape routes up and through the pocket. They were, however, absolutely unable to create any space for the running game. No forward push and were generally incapable of sealing off any of their blocks long enough to let Carson run through.

~Honestly, I felt like the defense was pretty good today. The scoreboard says 30-16 but subtract the pick-six and the fumble recovery and you’ve got a Seattle D that gave up just 16 points. Those two long scoring drives late were hard to watch but I chalk most of that up to Lamar Jackson finding his footing and just slice them up on the ground in a way that no other QB on the planet could. They only allowed 9 completions on 20 attempts, although the Ravens did have like 4 drops. Again, Seattle's defense wasn’t dominant but they played well enough to give the offense a great chance to win. They only gave up 340 yards on 56 plays but couldn’t get the big sack or turnover when they needed one.

Big day for Marquise Blair, as he made his first NFL start in place of McDougald. With Tedric Thompson, Shaquille Griffin, and Tre Flowers rounding out the group, Seattle’s secondary had very little experience on the field. I don’t remember seeing any big blown assignments, the coverage was generally great, and the tackling was fantastic unless Jackson was the ball carrier. Blair was second on the team with 8 tackles, had a particularly deft pass break-up on a third down, and I’ve gotta say, he just seems to move a little differently. Assertive and fast. I like it.

Tre Flowers was awesome. Fantastic coverage and a series of fine tackles including absolutely stoning tight end Mark Andrews after a grab. He plays fierce and carries some serious swagger. Its been a hot and cold season for Flowers but I think he is absolutely trending up. Griffin was awesome too and it appeared that Thompson also played well. I thought the defensive backs were gonna be more of a liability this year than they’ve been and that’s one of the most encouraging developments of the season. I’ve given Pete Carroll grief in these articles for some of his in-game mismanagement but there’s never been anyone better at building secondaries than him. A true strength and we’re starting to see the effect of it with this new group.

~Bobby Wagner worked hard in this one. He made 13 tackles and was the player most responsible for trying to corral Lamar Jackson. Obviously it would be nice to have seen one or two more stops but it’s hard to ask more from Seattle’s defensive captain than what we got from him today. Still waiting on a trademark takeover game, but he’s been as excellent as ever.

~The Seahawks converted 8 of 12 third downs in the first half, with both Wilson and Carson looking really sharp in those high-leverage situations. After the missed field goal, however, they went just 1 for 4 on third down and never quite got moving again. The play-calling had some new wrinkles to it but Baltimore looked pretty ready for all of it. Still, I love deception and it was nice to see multi-level routes, pre-snap motion, and some misdirection in the running game. Still, 16 points ain’t gonna cut it most weeks so we’ll need to see a lot more from them moving forward.

I mean look, the Seahawks are still 5-2 and that is objectively good. Losing today sucks and I think this was a game they absolutely could’ve won, but this season still looks great from 20,000 feet. Seattle’s next game is against the dreadful Falcons and if they take care of business there, they hit the halfway mark as a serious contender. All we can do is hope that there’s an honest assessment of today’s performance and the mistakes can be cleaned up.

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I’m really into Davidoff right now and went back to their Colorado Claro Special ‘R’ line for this game. Those sticks are just so easy to smoke but they don’t burn nearly as fast as you’d think, considering how effortless the draw is. Paired it up with a Bulleit Rye old fashioned for a delightfully pretentious combo.

Once again, I am STOKED about our cigar partnership this year. One of our readers has the plug on some insane stogies has offered them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are high-end sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hookup, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, OpusX, and Padron. You can also hit him up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars

The 2019 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.