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Cigar Thoughts, Game 10: Seahawks win game of the year. Again.

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The Seattle Seahawks overcome early deficit, use late-game magic to beat San Francisco 49ers and dramatically increase their chances of a championship run.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Man, it’s been a long time since I was this keyed up for a regular season game and I’ll openly admit that that’s really saying something with this team. Furthermore, if I’m shooting straight with you— I don’t exactly miss it. Wait, yes I do. I sacrificed a solid 10% of my scalps’ real estate to greys by watching tonight’s Seahawks game and Lord, have mercy on me because I was an absolute mess throughout. Maybe these wild weekly swings in win probability are making us tougher and more resilient, or maybe they’re just peeling years off the back halves of our lives. All I know is that in a decade of watching torturously close Seahawks contests, this game ranks up there with the best of them.

This game was hyped all week long as a potential Game of the Year candidate, with the teams boasting a remarkable combined record of 15-2. As you know, the 49ers came into this game as the last remaining undefeated team with a swaggering 8-0 record and hosting their first BIG game at their soulless new stadium in Santa Clara. Now, I’m fortunate to count a number of 49ers fans as friends and whenever we’d talk ball over the last few years, I’d always say some variation of “I hope y’all get good again soon. I miss the rivalry.” Yesterday, I was made aware of just what that meant— the return of day-long heartburn, every third down making me feel like a rubber band that’s been stretched too tight, uncomfortable swings in playoff/seeding probability with every score / turnover. And you know what, I am glad they’re back. This shit is awesome.

Offseason acquisition of the year Geno Smith The Seahawks won the opening coin toss and deferred, kicking the ball away to their erstwhile hosts and their hi-hello-how-are-you-*Paul-Rudd-meme*- rivals . The 49ers’ first drive was dominated up front by Jadeveon Clowney, who spent every play of that possession in San Fran’s backfield. In a season hamstrung by a lack of pressure, Clowney has consistently won against every poor guy teams have put in front of him. His impact on that opening possession didn’t show up in the box score but, like Tom Sawyer rearranging the spoons in his aunt’s drawer every day until she was so discombobulated she couldn’t trust her instinct that one was missing— the disruption was palpable even if it was immeasurable.

Not that it stopped Jimmy Garoppolo and Jamar Taylor Co from converting a few third downs on the drive because, let’s be honest, that’s all they’ve done all season. The first one came on a sharp crossing route where Emmanuel Sanders scorched Jamar Taylor out of the slot for 12 yards. Then, a few plays later, a remarkable interception by Shaquill Griffin was waived off by defensive holding against an overmatched— you guessed it— Jamar Taylor. A couple plays later, a third down stop was overturned when Tre Flowers was flagged for the world’s most tender pass interference on a stop route. I mean honestly, if we’re calling that play a penalty we might as well strap flags to the waists of every player. I’ve played games of patty-cake with my 4-year-old niece that had more contact than this particular play. Still, flags are flags and it kept the Niners’ drive alive for yet another undeserved chance at more points.

Now truthfully the Seahawks defense, which has been inarguably bad this season, was actually sensational tonight. Their overall efficacy was tampered by some, shall we say... questionable officiating, but it didn’t quell their collective vim. That particular call against Flowers directly resulted in 3 points for San Fran as Garoppolo, under pressure from Clowney, handsomely* airmailed his receiver on the next third down, mercifully bringing the drive to an end. That forced the Niners to resign themselves to a field goal attempt from late roster addition and all-time-millenially-named Chase McLaughlin. I was hopingg that perhaps the roster shuffling at the kicker spot would result in some nerves but alas, the undrafted rookie hammered a perfect end-over-end kick directly above the stanchion for a 3-0 lead.

*I mean, it is crazy how handsome he is, yeah? Like, I get that it’s kind of a joke and we make fun of him for it for some reason but he also has won like almost 90% of his NFL starts so far so I guess my question to you is: how much laid is too much laid? Cuz this dude gotta be drowning in it. With the Rams looking like raw ass, Jimmy G’s inimitable dating life might be our best chance at securing division titles over the next few years. I hope.

Facing an immediate deficit, the Seahawks promptly went three-and-out, using a short Chris Carson run and a slightly longer Tyler Lockett catch to set up 3rd & short. On that play, Niners lineman DJ Jones went through Joey Hunt the way I go through frozen grapes when I’m high,* sacking Russell Wilson before he could even get to the top of his three-step drop back. To be frank, It was like watching a bull charge through a sheet of single-pane glass, as Hunt got caught off-balance and was discarded like so much snotty Kleenex. That forced Seattle to punt it away, giving San Francisco a chance to further extend their early lead which, of course, they did.

*Frozen grapes are an undefeated munchie, by the way.

Up 3-0 and performing in front of their first raucous crowd in the better part of a decade, the 49ers straight flexed on the ‘Hawks with their next drive. Garoppolo hit rookie Deebo Samuel, who was phenomenal tonight, for 30 yards to start the possession. Then, after an offsides against Seattle, Kyle Shanahan’s favorite RB Tevin Coleman followed a gorgeous trap block for 22 more. Four nondescript plays later, Garoppolo hit some guy named Kendrick Bourne over the middle for a touchdown and a 10-point lead. Bourne, who I’m still not convinced is anything more than a Madden create-a-player, torched (guess who) Jamar Taylor for the TD.

The Seahawks’ response to giving up consecutive scores was to go run-run-pass against the best defense in the NFL with all the results you’d expect from such a plan. After two handoffs went nowhere, Russell Wilson slightly under-threw a deep a deep ball to DK Metcalf which was broken up by Jimmy Ward. That led to another punt and all of a sudden, the 1-in-10 chance of a Niners blowout was very suddenly very much in play. On San Fran’s drive #3, the Seahawks would finally get a stop and force a punt, giving the entire team their first chance to actually catch their breath.

Sometimes, and I still don't know why this is because they’ve had an MVP-caliber QB on the roster since forever, the Seahawks have leaned on vanilla run plays early in games to establish an identity or deliver body blows or some other shit that appeals to dudes who grew up watching the unimaginative slog that was pre-1980s NFL football. As a result, Seattle’s second possession was their second straight three-and-out and gave the ball back to the Niners with a very real threat off making it a three possession game with three quarters to go. Had SF scored on this possession, I think we're spending the rest of this article talking about how smoothly asphalted San Fran’s road to home-field advantage is.

On this drive, however, the officials did the game a favor by resisting the urge to throw flags on every other play, instead opting to let the 49ers punt it away in peace. Not that it mattered. For all the commentary surrounding the Seahawks this year, good and bad, they’re still one of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL and it was only a matter of time before that manifested itself on the scoreboard— it just wasn’t going to be on this drive. To their credit, they stopped running it up the gut behind an overmatched OL and let (gasp!) their all-world QB roll out and find his exceptional WRs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett for first downs. It was a positive development, but any momentum those completions (plus one to Jacob Hollister) garnered was undone by Mike Iupati completely missing a pass rusher up the middle on Seattle’s next 3rd down play. The unavoidable sack snuffed out the Seahawks’ first promising possession and forced yet another punt, putting them in jeopardy of being shut out for the entire first half*.

*I fully admit that until this point, there wasn't even a hint of game-of-the-year potential, but just like the “secret sauce” elevated the Big Mac from garbage burger to cultural icon, the underwhelming base product was destined to improve once the Seahawks magic was added. Just turns out the first squeeze-bottle was empty.

The Niners’ 10-point lead must’ve awakened something in the Seattle defense that has been dormant all year. All of a sudden, a squad that has spent the first two months of the season hibernating awoke with a roar. On the second play of the following possession, Jarran Reed and Jadeveon Clowney ran a simple stunt that caught the SF OL either off-guard or over-matched.

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Jimmy G dropped back comfortably and stood in the pocket with all the confidence you’’d expect from a QB that’s been in full control all season long. I mean, it was only a matter of time before someone got open, right? While the play developed, Reed and Clowney dissolved the poor brutes assigned to blocking them and squeezed free into the backfield. Garoppolo hung in assuming the best because, if you’re Jimmy Garoppolo, why wouldn’t you? Unfortunately for him, and all the long-suffering Niner fans, Reed closed the gap before James G could throw the ball. Reed’s bear paw swatted the 49ers QB, knocking him to the ground and the ball loose all in one ferocious motion. Clowney, who had also beaten his man, scooped up the orphaned football and sprinted into the endzone for a game-saving TD to make it 10-7.

Make no mistake, at this juncture— even though it was only a 3-point game— there was very little to indicate a Seahawks win. With just a few minutes left in the second quarter, it appeared a fluke turnover was the only thing keeping the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team from running the ‘Hawks out of the building.

Still, the defensive TD energized this bunch and they played the rest of the game as though they had made a blood-pact stating that their very lives relied on not allowing another touchdown. They got another stop on the next drive, forcing the Niners backwards 4 yards before punting again, and a great return from Lockett gave the Seahawks the ball back with great field position and just under two minutes to play in the second quarter. On the first play of the last drive of the first half, Chris Carson banged up the middle for 4 yards. Then, he followed it up with a slashing run for 8 more to the Niners’ 27. With just about a minute left, Wilson took the snap and looked to his right as his OL fanned out to the left. After holding the ball long enough to let the defense follow his eyes, he pivoted and flipped it back to Metcalf with a whole rack of beef in front of him. The insanely athletic rookie caught the pass and sprinted the first 10 or so yards unencumbered. He was hit by one, then, two, then three guys at the 15, shrugging them off like so many coats after coming in from the cold.

Metcalf’s freakish strength, and the ability to break three tackles at once, along the sideline, without stepping out of bounds is nothing short of amazing. It was also his undoing. It should have been 1st & 10 from just outside the 10 but when you’re built like Wolverine it’s hard not to act like Wolverine. After discarding the defenders, Metcalf ran upfield for what looked like the go-ahead TD right before the half. Incredibly, Jaquisky Tartt wrapped him up at the 5 and rode him down near the goal line. As he did so, he expertly wrenched the football away from DK and tumbled into the endzone for a touchback that was ultimately confirmed after the world’s longest replay. It was a remarkable burglary and one that you can only tip your hat to. DK was a victim of his own power on that one, as nearly every other WR on the planet would have been tackled, or at least pushed out, long before Tartt could even get involved. The wildest play of an increasingly wild game went the 49ers’ way and sent them to the locker room up by 3, saved by one of the truly great individual defensive efforts of the year.

That turnover was devastating, as it robbed Seattle of a sure tie and a potential lead heading into the break and I couldn’t help wondering what the fallout would be if they lost because of it. It happened at the end of Seattle’s best drive of the night, against arguably the best defense in the league. To come away with nothing before the break was like tearing a hole in the mainsail of a boat and the Seahawks crashed into the shores of a deserted island— technically alive but far from their destination. Still this game was much closer than it could’ve been, with Seattle very much within striking range and set to receive the second half kick.

Upon doing so, the ‘Hawks immediately began piecing together an effective drive. After three Carson carries netted 15 yards and a first down, Wilson hit Metcalf on a short gainer that moved them into scoring position. That’s when Seattle finally subbed Carson out, replacing him with Rashaad Penny. Penny took the subsequent handoff up the middle for a couple yards before getting absolutely buried. On 2nd & 8, the play call was, curiously, another run up the middle with Penny. Now, say what you want about Rashaad— one thing we’ve never had to worry about with him is ball security. Except this time.

As Penny fought for extra yardage in a scrum just beyond the line of scrimmage, a Niner hacked the ball free and it bounced into the waiting arms of DeForest Buckner for a another stomach-turning turnover. Every time Seattle’s offense seemed to get things going, the Niners defense would come top with a huge play. Even though Seattle’s defense held yet again, the game was 23 over by the time Seattle got the ball back and the Seahawks offense hadn't generated a single point. We were fast approaching panic time, finding the ‘Hawks dependent on their to-date subpar defense to continue playing magnificently against an effective SF offense.

Seattle would have to punt again after picking up a solitary first down and just like that, the shades on the window of opportunity began to draw to a close. If there's one thing we’ve learned from watching the Seahawks over the last decade or so, it’s that counting them out is a fool’s errand and this game was, ultimately, no different. On the third play of the Niners’ next drive, a pass intended for Bourne went through his hands, deflecting perfectly to newcomer Quandre Diggs at his own 40. Diggs darted and ducked his way through defenders on the run back, squirreling himself all the way down to the San Francisco 16 yard line. All of a sudden, this game had switched from fluke-defensive-TD-is-keeping-the-worse-team-in-the-game to oh-my-god-maybe the Seahawks win this?

After a 4-yard run by Carson, Wilson stepped up through a collapsing pocket and made an executive decision to run. Tucking the ball under his $140M right arm, he sized up a safety in space and juked around him for 14 yards and a first down at the SF 3. On the next play, he rolled right with no one open — no worries. Wilson waited until the last possible second and only when the tea kettle of defensive pressure was screaming did he finally size up a well-covered Jacob Hollister. It’s hard to defend someone better than the way the Niners did Hollister but Wilson caught the safety with his back turned and lobbed it right over his shoulder pad. His window for that throw was the size of a womprat but Wilson fit it in there anyway. Hollister, who has been an absolute revelation in the wake of the Will Dissly injury, lunged for the ball and gathered it with one hand for the go-ahead TD. 14-10 Seattle.

With the pressure now switched firmly to San Fran, Garroppolo took the field again in the unfamiliar position of trailing late. It uh, did not go well for him. Jimmy took a sack on the first play of the ensuing drive but that got erased by a BS helmet-to-helmet call. His next pass was a skittish incompletion that he followed up with a 10-yard dime to a diving Deebo Samuel.

On the next play, however, Clowney finally got home after an entire evening of near misses. He hit Garoppolo full force, knocking the ball loose. It bounced around until Poona Ford belly-flopped on it, securing the pigskin for another turnover. That put Seattle on the Niners’ 24-yard-line and, after a short Carson run and a slick outlet pass to Hollister, the Seahawks found themselves facing 1st & goal from the 10. On the next play, Carson would somehow slip free of a couple tackles, lunging towards the endzone and coming upon an inch short of glory with a a dive at the goal line. No matter, on the very next play Carson would hammer it home and just like that, a 10-0 first quarter deficit became a 21-10 lead after three.

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Of course, this outcome wasn’t determined yet. Wouldn’t be a Seahawks game if it was. After another defensive stop, the Seahawks got the ball back with the opportunity to put the game away. After all, they have arguably the best QB in earth controlling things and really starting to find his groove. It should have been academic at that point but what should happen is rarely what does happen in these games. Just as it looked like Seattle might be able to salt the game away, Wilson got swarmed on an otherwise harmless drop-back. As he tried to squirm away, the ball was knocked loose and somehow corralled by Germain Ifedi. Now, the smart play would’ve been to just fall down and take the loss but you try telling that to 300 lbs of I’ve-been-waiting-my-whole-life-for-this-moment. Ifedi tried to turn the fumble into something of a jet sweep but his delusions of grandeur were never manifested. Instead, a Niners defender aptly punched the ball free from Germain’s clumsy hands and right to where DeForest Buckner was. Buckner scooped up his second fumble and scooted into the endzone for a much-needed score. Garoppolo, despite reeling from two-and-a-half quarters of pure malfeasance, was able to find the open man on the two-point try and successfully moved the 49ers within 3. 21-18 and palpitation-inducing anxiety was suddenly back on the menu.

The Seahawks would go three-and-out on their next drive, ultimately kicking it back to the Niners and clinging to a field-goal-sized lead in the 4th. This time, the Niners got right on offense, using 8 crisp plays to set up a field goal attempt for McLaughlin. This one was only 39 yards and Chase put it directly over the very center of the crossbar, again, to tie it up. At this point, there were just 6 minutes left in regulation and the ‘Hawks got right to work. With the game tied and the clock winning down, here’s what Seattle did:

-Bubble screen to Lockett for 8 yards.
-Carson for 1.
-Carson, wriggling free of a tackle in the backfield for 2. First down.
-Dump-off to Hollister for 11.
-Wilson scramble on a broken play for 5.
-Wilson for a loss of one, setting up 3rd & 6.
-On this play, I figured that whoever won the down would win the game. It was the type of situation that good teams execute in, and we were about to find out who was what. On this particular high-leverage play, Wilson put it in the hands of Josh muhfuggin’ Gordon, who I still can’t believe is a Seahawk for 13 yards and another first down.
-Then it was Carson off right guard for 4.
-Carson to the right again for 5.
-With less than two minutes remaining, another handoff to Carson, who got bound and captured in the backfield, creating 4th &2.

Instead of going for it with about 90 seconds left, Pete Carroll elected to put his faith in a struggling Jason Myers. Myers, for his part, rewarded that trust by banging home the go-ahead field goal from 46 yards out. It was such an encouraging kick from Myers, tumbling end over end and sailing through the middle third of the uprights. Just beautiful execution with everything on the line from the player whose confidence was most in need of a boost Just a monster kick.

That boot made it 24-21, but we were just getting warmed up. Phew. After Seattle’s impressive 11-play drive, the Niners answered right back with a 10-play possession of their own. It culminated in a last-second field goal attempt because of course it did, and now the baby-faced rookie kicker found himself lining one up with an undefeated season on the line. With the outcome of the game and a potentially huge swing in the chances of winning the division hanging in the balance, McLaughlin hammered it home like he’d been doing it for years. 24-24.

In hindsight, another overtime game just seemed inevitable. After 60 minutes of shenanigans, all the huge goofy turnovers that had win probability swinging back and forth like a pendulum on a grandfather clock, there was still no resolution. It’s worth taking a moment to discuss exactly what the result of this game would mean. The Niners’ path to the playoffs was pretty well set regardless of the final score of this one, but the outcome of this game would obviously have a huge impact on Seattle’s championship prospects. Despite a crazy good NFC conference, Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs would still be pretty solid win or lose. However, for the last many Super Bowls, every team playing for the Lombardi has benefitted from a first round bye, capitalizing on the extra rest and discounted ride to the ‘ship. It’s just so hard to make it to the Bowl as a Wild Card these days and a loss would all but guarantee that that’s the best Seattle could hope for.

A Niners win here would all but guarantee them a shot at the #1 seed, with the Seahawks trailing 3 full games behind and scrambling for 5th or 6th. Hell, even a Niners tie helps secure things for the new kids on the block, as a draw would preserve the multi-game lead SF had created over Seattle and all but extinguish the Seahawks’ hopes of winning the division.

The ‘Hawks, desperate for a win that would keep home field advantage within reach, sent their champion, Geno Smith, out to call the coin flip. He expertly melded the words “heads” and “tails” together like “laurel” and “Yanni” when the official flipped the coin, ensuring he could slap a grin on his face and reclaim victory regardless of the result. Just a veteran maneuver. The toss came up heads which Smith casually pawned off as his call and for the second straight week he trotted back to the sideline as an absolute hero. I don’t know why we’re waiting to elevate Geno into the Ring of Honor but rest assured— his day is coming.

On the first play of OT, Wilson deliberately and effectively marched the Seahawks down the field towards yet another game-winning drive. It took just 7 plays, a delightful mix of runs and passes, to get into scoring range, setting Russ up at the Niners’ 14. At this point, all we needed was a TD to send us home happy and secure the biggest win of the entire NFL season. At the very least they should have a chip-shot go-ahead field goal. I mean, it’s not like Russ is gonna turn the ball over or anything...

Shit. With the offense cooking, Wilson got a little ahead of himself. He sent his TE Hollister on a little wheel route up the right seam, trying to feed him his second consecutive walk-off TD. Unfortunately, his pass was uncharacteristically soft and Dre Greenlaw, who is also apparently a real person, was ready for it. Dropping underneath Hollister, he snagged what was only Wilson’s second pick of the year, then disregarded tacklers up the sideline for nearly 50 yards. At this point, I simply couldn’t believe that the Seahawks were about to lose. After all, they were the ones up 11 with the ball and only half a quarter to play and had a great chance to end it on their terms in OT. I mean, I was just stunned as Greenlaw eventually went down in Seattle territory just moments after a win seemed inevitable.

With the ball in excellent field position, the Niners found themselves just a few plays away from glory and a 9-0 start. It would take the Niners 7 plays to grind out 20 yards, ultimately facing a 3rd & 2 on Seattle’s 30. Instead of putting the ball in their QB’s hands, however, San Fran decided instead to hand it to Rasheem Mostert, who was quickly gobbled up by big Al Woods. On the play, Woods got rid of his blocker like a candy wrapper and swallowed up the ball carrier to force 4th down and create a high tension kick for the hosts. Until now, McLaughlin had been as perfect as a kicker can be, pummeling every kick right down the middle. Surely this would be no different...

Until it was. The kick from the undrafted rookie was no better than mine would have been, as he hideously hooked it to the left, missing the uprights by like 80 yards and giving the ball back to Seattle. The Seahawks would get 7 yards on the next play from Carson, then just one more on the run after that. That created 3rd & 2 near midfield and a quick slant route to Metcalf was expertly broken up by some guy named Richard Sherman that you may have heard of.

Instead of going for it like I was pleading for them to do, Seattle brought Michael Dickson out to punt it away in hopes of pinning the Niners deep. At the time I was pretty baffled and upset by the call, as a tie is, ultimately, almost as devastating as a loss. Just freaking go for it Pete! You used to! All the time!

Thankfully, the Niners came out swinging, providing Garoppolo a perfect opportunity to overthrow three receivers in a row on three consecutive plays. In doing so, he only took about 20 seconds off the clock, meaning the Niners would be punting it back to Seattle with plenty of time remaining. Crazy.

Somehow, this game was not over yet, and the Seahawks took the field one final time with less than two minutes remaining. Could Russ shake off that horrific OT pick he had just thrown? Could he lead yet another game-winning drive, this time against the leagues best defense??

Turns out the answer is yes. A check-down to Carson over the top of the pass rush for 3 yards on first down got things moving. That was followed up by a quick-hitter to Hollister for 4 more. Then, on 3rd & short, Russ artfully dodged pressure in the pocket and took off running. Needing just 3 yards, Russ eschewed the pass and galloped for 18 yards through the vacated center of the defense. After that it was a rapid flare to Metcalf who bullied his way forward for 8 more. Then it was Carson again for 7 yards to San Francisco’s 24, going down in bounds to let the clock drip down to the game’s final play— win, lose, or draw.

On came Jason Myers, who has lived a harrowing life during his first two months as a Seahawk. After a disastrous performance last week, and plenty of shaky moments besides, it would all come down to him. This was the highest-leverage play of the entire NFL season — a 42-yard attempt to help shape the entire NFC. The snap was good, the hold was solid, and Myers calmly blasted the ball down Main St for the win. Or so I thought! Turns out the Niners called timeout right before the snap in hopes of icing Myers. He’d have to do it again.

Once more the snap was good, as was the hold. Myers swung his leg through, struck the ball, and sent it straight at the right upright. The three seconds it took the ball to travel through the air felt like three hours but it finally squeaked inside the goal post and sent the Seattle Seahawks into an absolute on-field tizzy at 8-2.

SMOKE RINGS

~Russell Wilson was a bit of a mixed bag in this one. He’s been so unparalleled this season— both in terms of production and efficiency— that it’s almost stunning when he doesn’t just carve up the opposing defense. This was, to his credit, probably the best defense in the NFL, which make his otherwise okay-is numbers feel a little better. Still, he turned the ball over twice, including the monumental interception in OT. All in all, he finished with a pretty good line, but it wasn’t the video-game numbers we’ve gotten used to. 24/34 (71%) for 232 yards (6.8 Y/A), 1 TD, 1INT, and a fumble lost for an uninspiring passer rating of 86.7. Still, it was enough to win, and he was able to overcome some shoddy blocking and two not-him fumbles to secure a win.

In a way, this game may have actually helped his MVP candidacy. To lead another game-winning drive against such a good team, in primetime, may overcome the luster his box score lacked. Every MVP needs his moment and Wilson just helped deliver the biggest win of the year.

~The running game was all about Chris Carson today and man, he ran hard. Carson came into this game leading the NFL both in broken tackles and in yards after contact, and he needed all of that in this one. They hammered at that staunch DL with him 25 times for 89 yards, adding 3 catches for 12 to push his total yardage over 100 on the night. He wasn’t spectacular but he moved the chains a bunch and that’s exactly what this game needed. The Seahawks didn’t mess around with Penny much, giving him just the two carries, as this one was all about their workhorse.

~The Seahawks receivers, who have been putting up some remarkable numbers this year, were held almost entirely in check but the Niners. That’s not a huge surprise, given how good that defense is, but it was still nice to see a few big plays from them when they were needed most. Tyler Lockett was unable to get in sync with Wilson, recording just 3 catches for 26 yards before a lower leg injury kept him out of the 4th quarter and overtime. Early reports are making it sound serious. If that’s there case, it significantly alters the trajectory of the Seahawks season and will put enormous pressure on...

DK Metcalf, who stepped into the void and became read #1 for Wilson down the stretch. He came up short on a couple of well-covered jump balls but he was able to wiggle free enough underneath to secure 6 catches for 70 yards. Honestly, even with the fumble and no downfield catches, this was a pretty encouraging performance against a great secondary. He had multiple catches in coverage and is showing the ability to win on horizontal routes instead of just off the vertical stem. He garnered a career-high 10 targets in this one and everything I saw from him warrants more. If Lockett is indeed out for a significant period of time, Metcalf is going to need to become a true #1 WR waaaay earlier than anticipated. It’s an extremely tall order for a first-year receiver but it has the chance to elevate his development well ahead of schedule.

You know who else got 10 targets? Jacob freaking Hollister, who turned them into 8 catches for 62 yards and a TD. It’s crazy how instrumental the Patriots cast-off has become over the last two weeks, as he has now scored 3 TDs in 8 days and has become one of Wilson’s first reads on a number of pass plays. He also appears to be pretty adept at blocking which, if he’s the real deal, goes a long way for this offense. I gotta say, I did not see this coming at all.

Speaking of Patriots cast-offs, Josh Gordon made his Seahawks debut in this one and came up with a couple of really timely catches. He didn’t see a ton of snaps, which is to be expected, and got just two targets but he caught both of them for 27 yards and two enormous first downs late. He’ll have a bye week to get caught up on the playbook and in the groove with Russ, but he’s another guy that’s gonna have to be huge for Seattle if Lockett is out. Still, absolutely great to see him out there and contributing.

~This was, hands down, the best defensive performance of the year for the Seahawks. Despite some early penalties and Jamar Taylor getting totally picked on during the first two drives, Seattle didn’t allow a single offensive touchdown for the final 60 minutes of the game. It was a team effort to be sure but make no mistake, Jadeveon Clowney was the best player on the field tonight. An absolute switchblade, there was just no way the Niners could neutralize him— and they tried everything. The league’s most consistently double-teamed player spent so much time in San Francisco’s backfield he may as well have called the plays in their huddle. His stat line was gorgeous: 5 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a touchdown and 5 QB hits. Just an overwhelming performance from a guy that is worth every single penny he’ll get paid next year. I just hope it’s Seattle who cuts that check. Clowney, who boasts the NFL’s highest pass-rush win-rate, now has more touchdowns than Odell Beckham Jr. Pay the man.

Shaquill Griffin bounced back from an uneven performance last week, sticking much tighter on his man and making a handful of great plays. His nullified interception was awesome, as he closed a two-yard gap on a crossing route in the blink of an eye, undercutting the receiver and plucking the ball away. Later, his diving pass break-up in overtime probably saved the game for Seattle. He finished with 6 tackles and 2 passes broken up plus a full evening of great coverage. His terrific year continues.

Bobby Wagner was everywhere again, sticking his nose into every pile and chasing down every play. His team-high 11 tackles will keep him in the NFL’s top 3 in the category and well on his way to another All pro distinction, I’d imagine. Not much else to say about a guy who is already establishing himself as one of the all-time greats.

This was the first look we’ve gotten at Quandre Diggs and I gotta say, I like! Safety is one of those positions where you can just kinda tell if a guy has got it, and Diggs really seems to have it. We’ve seen just how obvious that instinct is over the last 10 years, going from Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor to the many iterations in the few seasons since. Between him and Bradley McDougald, who had a great night as well with 6 tackles and a monstrous hit to break up a pass to Dante Pettis, Seattle may have finally found its safety combo. Personally, I’d like to see Diggs play some slot corner and put Marquise Blair back there; not because I think Blair is better, necessarily, but because we know Diggs can play nickel and that’s been the weakest link in this defense so far. I know I, and the Niners, picked on Taylor a lot tonight but after his awful start, he ended up making some really nice plays. Still, I don’t think he’s the guy there.

Overall, this was a tremendous defensive effort. Seattle forced three turnovers and could easily have had a couple more if Griffin’s INT stood and KJ Wright hadn’t dropped a gimme in OT. They created the most pressure they have since Week 1, generating 5 sacks and keeping Garoppolo uncomfortable for most of the night. The passes he was able to complete were all underneath, as Seattle never let any receivers get over the top of them. Make no mistake, no George Kittle made a huge difference but all you can do is play the cards you’re dealt and Seattle made the most of San Fran missing their ace.

~Jason Myers, man. How good does that feel? He made every kick, including the game-winner twice. Honestly, his spot on the team was probably hanging in the balance of this game and he totally delivered. I’ll never be at ease with any Seahawks kicker but I’m feeling a trillion times better about it now than I did at this point last week.

The Seattle Seahawks are 8-2. Read that again. Mmmm, feels nice. They’re just half game back of the division and the #1 overall seed in the NFC. The path to a Super Bowl got a lot brighter with this one and there’s no denying that Seattle is on the short list of serious contenders for the Lombardi this very season. For all of the frustrations that have vexed us during the season’s first half, we’ve always known that Pete Carroll’s ‘Hawks are a November / December team. If what we saw against the Niners is what we’ll see from here on out, there is no ceiling on what this team can do this year.

Seattle’s heroic win carries them into a belated and much-needed bye week. Much will hinge on the health of Lockett’s leg, but reinforcements have arrived if needed. This team is nothing if not resilient, and the final six games of the year are gonna be a hell of a ride. Onward, upward... go ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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A game of this magnitude deserves a cigar to match, so I finally unsheathed the Davidoff Winston Churchill Limited Edition. That stick was, in turn, an excuse to finally uncork the one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever gotten. One of our readers, David Namba, blessed me with some 27-year-old Port Ellen cask strength whiskey. It’s incredibly rare and insanely good and David just, wow— thank you so much man. I don’t know that any game could do this drink justice but I think this one came about as close as one can. Cheers, bro.

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