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Cigar Thoughts, Game 11: Seahawks win ugly, which is fine! Sometimes you have to do that!

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The Seahawks played sloppy, the Eagles played sloppier, and Seattle moves to 9-2, ending Philadelphia’s season in the process.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not gonna mince words, this was an ugly football game. As the NFL moves more and more towards the singularity of perfect efficiency, we tend to judge games like this pretty negatively. The fact is, no great team, no matter how good they are from a historical perspective, goes a whole season without having to grind out brutal wins along the way. Even the 2013 Seahawks, whose greatness was amplified by a Super Bowl blowout, army-crawled their way to a handful of regular season wins when things weren’t clicking. This was one of those days.

With an early kickoff, cold, rainy weather, and whipping winds; the recipe was there for the type of game that makes all our dads say “now THAT’s football”. Throw in a trillion injury scratches on both sides including, among others, Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholar, Lane Johnson, and Jadeveon Clowney, and this game had all the markings of a defensive struggle. And, if that’s the type of football you’re drawn to, this one had you covered.

There were 26 possessions in this game and only 4 resulted in points. There were 11 punts, 7 (!) turnovers, 2 turnovers on downs, and 2 kneel-outs. We’ve all been there— you’re out with your friends, kids are covered, no obligations in the morning, and you’ve decided to to just turn it loose.

That’s been the Seahawks season so far, just mood-lifting shot after mood-lifting shot; the bartender is comping drinks and the jukebox is spitting out a wavelength-elevating string of jams. Then, around 11:40, the next round hits the bottom of your gut like a trampoline and comes right back up. You beeline it to the restroom, bruise your knees flipping the toilet seat up, and spray your shame all over the public porcelain. It’s the worst part of your night; except no one sees it.

That was today’s game against the Eagles. You wipe your face clean, rinse with some water, and re-enter the fray feeling refreshed. As far as everyone else is concerned, you’re still killing it tonight. You saddle back up to the bar, buy your people another set, and move forward free and easy. You know that wasn’t your finest moment but you handled it like a boss. 9-2. Shit man, yes.

Look, this game sucked— aesthetically. Russell Wilson sucked, Chris Carson sucked, the receivers sucked, the O-line sucked. Defense kicked ass though. They were that voice in your head when you feel three hours of over-indulgence searing your throat in reverse, telling you “Hey, I got you. Just get through this and you’ll be back out there turning your buddies inside out with your hilarious political commentary.”

I’m not going to dry your sclera out with a blow-by-blow account of each team’s offensive ineptitude. Even though 80% of the game was spent with Seattle’s lead inside of one score, it never felt in doubt. Which is weird, but maybe the vibrations were just too good for the visitors.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some highlights in this game. You know what? Fuck it— here they are*:

*Guaranteed I’m missing some of them, so feel free to let me have it in the comments.

~The first-ever-that-I-can-remember-toss-sweep-throwback-bomb from Russell Wilson to Chris Carson to Russell Wilson to Malik Turner for a TD. Just a perfectly sold deke that would’ve made Gordon Bombay proud. So many things had to go right on this play; from the toss, to the throw-back, to Turner over-selling the block before sprinting deep, to Wilson’s best throw of the day into a God-forsaken rust-belt wind, to Turner’s immaculate over-the-helmet catch. One of their best plays of the season, to be honest.

~Rashaad Penny fat-sprinting through the entire defense for a 58-yard TD. Also looking like a true RB1 on a day where the rest of the offense generally sucked. I can’t emphasize enough how good he looked today.

~Wilson hitting Josh Gordon for a textbook beat-your-guy-off-the-snap slant route on 3rd down to move the chains.

~Rasheem Green punching the ball out of Carson Wentz’s hand, from his knees, to force a fumble that Al Woods recovered.

~Bradley McDougald undercutting Dallas Goedert on a deep route for a pick.

~Shaquill Griffin and Bobby Wagner teaming up to rip the ball free from Goedert on a first down completion, recovered by Quandre Diggs

~Tre Flowers basically running Jordan Matthews’ route for him to pick off Wentz late in the 3rd quarter.

~Wilson’s (baffling) only target to Tyler Lockett for 38-yards on another 3rd down to all but seal the game.

~Shaquem Griffin terrorizing everyone who tried to block him. Also, his brother breaking up practically every throw his way.

~Diggs continuing his transformation of the entire defense.

~Bobby Wagner ripping the aux cord out of each ball-carrier in his path, rendering them completely silent in a way no other tackler in the league does.

~KJ Wright and Ziggy Ansah having their best games of the year.

~Mychal Kendricks playing like the length of his jail sentence relied on his performance.

~Russ being not-great but also hamstrung by some DK drops but ALSO not forcing the issue in a game that demanded he not force the issue.

There were a lot of downsides too. It’s amazing that the outcome of this game was never really in doubt because A) Mike Iupati looked positively geriatric today and probably got beat on 50% of the snaps*, B) ditto for Joey Hunt, C) DK Metcalf dropped 80 yards and a TD worth of passes, D) Tyler Lockett couldn’t get open against one of the NFL’s worst secondaries, E) Chris Carson carried the football like he was allergic to it, F) Russell Wilson straight up missed on at least 4 passes worth at least 100 yards, and a TD G) the Seahawks committed pre-snap penalties like they were the Bengals.

*It’s Jemarco Jones time I don’t care what you say.

Thank God Carson Wentz regressed to Mitchell-Trubisky-level performance today because he missed no fewer than 5 throws that would’ve changed the storyline. Even without Jadeveon Clowneyng Philly’s makeshift O-line, Wentz looked more rattled than an aerosol can prior to a tag. He rushed throws all day, missing open receivers with a jittery pocket presence. Seattle’s constant pressure made him make the wrong decisions more often than not. He threw too early on the rare occasions when pressure didn't get home and made bad decisions when it did. He was so bad that when he briefly visited the locker room in the 3rd quarter I was actively rooting for him to come back in because there was no way the backup could be worse. God help him if he didn’t have Zach Ertz, who saved respectability with 12 catches for 91 yards and a meaningless TD on 14 targets.

Outside of Ertz, Wentz was 21-31 for 145 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs on top of his two fumbles. Every QB has rough days but this one was exacerbated by a Seattle pass rush that far exceeded my expectations coming into this one.

Seattle’s insistence on staying in base defense allowed Ertz to wiggle free underneath but it never resulted in any plays that affected Seattle’s win percentage. The lone Philly TD came late in the 4th when the game was out of reach so whatever. While the game was in the balance, Seattle’s D balled the hell out.

SMOKE RINGS

~Russell Wilson was generally efficient in the wind but but not impervious. His TD to Malik Turner was immaculate but the endzone miss to Hollister was one of the five worst throws of his career. He got sacked a bunch and Fox’s resistance to showing more plays from Skycam make it tough to say how much of that was his hesitancy and how much was his receivers’ inability to get separation against a bottom-10 secondary. There are 7, maybe 8 games you can hang an MVP case on this year but this ain’t one of them.

Yes, there were a couple of drops that would’ve dramatically affected his box score but if we’re judging this objectively, he missed a bunch too. The wind was brutal but if you’re gonna make a case for a guy being the most valuable of 1700+ players in the league, you have to be better than he was today. That said, he was good enough to stay within the envelope and that was enough to win but this was the second straight game that the Seahawks won in spite of Russell Wilson instead of because of him. Is he still an MVP candidate? Absolutely. Did this game help his cause? Absolutely not.

~I love Chris Carson. I think he’s one of the 5 best RBs in the league inside of 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Today he sucked dingo chode. 8 carries and 4 catches resulted in a grand total of 59 yards but it was the two fumbles, though one of which was credited to Wilson due to CC’s inability to handle the handoff, that defined his performance in this one. That makes 10 functional fumbles in 11 games. His fumbles came on back-to-back plays, making him, statistically speaking, the least reliable ball-carrier in the NFL.

Thank God for Rashaad Penny. With Carson struggling to hang onto the ball, Seattle's misappropriated 1st round pick was the best player on an offense that was desperate for a game-breaker. Usually limited to ~4 touches a game, he turned 14 carries into 129 yards and a long, pin balling TD to seal the deal. In today’s NFL, it is rare that a running back is the difference in the game and infinitely more rare that a backup pulls it off but if ever a 1st round RB was to justify his draft position in a single game, it was Penny today. 9 yards per carry keeps him as one of fewer than 10 RBs in history to average 5+ yards per carry for a career and it’s honestly time to start considering him as the main dude in this backfield. I am so curious to see what the touch-share is moving forward.

~The receivers blew ass today. DK Metcalf dropped two balls that would’ve turned this 8-point win into a blowout. He has all the physical gifts in the world but at the core of a wide receiver’s job description is the ability to catch the football. His final line was 3 catches for 35 yards but it should’ve been 5 for 115 and a TD. Today was his worst as a pro and it will be one measure of his rookie year to see how he bounces back.

Tyler Lockett, coming off a lower leg injury, was practically invisible today. He was targeted once, and believe me— he made it count with a 38-yard over-the-shoulder-grab on a late 3rd down, but this is a guy that the team counts on getting open 10x a game. On a number of snaps, he was covered by either a LB or a nickelback making it all the more frustrating that he couldn’t shake free. Here’s hoping it’s a one-off.

~The pass rush absolutely smashed today. Up until this week, Jadeveon Clowney was the only guy providing consistent pressure but without him, the rest of the DL roster faced their stiffest test of the season. They responded with their best performance of the year, hassling a jittery Carson Wentz into 4 turnovers and logging 3 sacks among 9 QB hits. Rasheem Green spent all afternoon in the backfield, and Shaquem Griffin had his best day period, spending all morning nipping at the heels of Wentz.

~The secondary was fantastic and I can’t emphasize enough how big of an impact Quandre Diggs has been since his arrival. For the second straight game, I felt no ill-ease at the prospect of a deep throw by the opponent and the final box justifies the feeling. *9* passes were broken up, a season-high for this team, and they added two interceptions to the three fumbles forced by pressure.

Overall, Seattle’s defense forced 5 turnovers, 3 sacks, and allowed just 9 points en route to a measly 4.8 yards per play from their opponents. It was their top performance of the season and gives me a world of hope as to what this D can be over the last 5 games off the year, especially once Clowney returns.

The Seattle Seahawks are 9-2. That puts them in the NFL’s top 4 and this win marks two straight victories in which their MVP candidate has underperformed. The coaching staff is legendary for their willingness to slow-play opponents early in the year, leaving certain cards up their sleeve for November and December. I don’t know how they do it, but every year they begin to play their best ball during the season’s second half. This appears to be no different, as they’ve logged their third straight W to establish themselves on the short list of contenders.

I don’t care how you get to 9-2— every team that’s ever reached this mark has had a legit shot at the Lombardi and this team is no different. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see a season like this coming but I’m willing to amend my expectations to include Wilson hoisting the most valuable trophy in sports above his head for the second time.

This is a special team and, despite their aesthetically-unappealing performance today, my hope in them has actually been strengthened. When I say onward and upward, I truly mean it. The sky is officially the limit for these guys. Go muhfuggin’ ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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Gross game buoyed by a great cigar, as I unsheathed an Arturo Fuente Unnamed Reserve 2014. Don’t get me wrong— this was a great cigar, but as far as great cigars go, this was a utilitarian smoke. It gets you there, and each puff is satisfying in the way that turning out an assembly-line widget is, but it almost perfectly matched the just-good-enough feel that the Seahawks displayed today. Pairing it with the Glenlivet 12-Year matched it perfectly— an above-average experience but nothing that will make you preach the gospel.

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