I had to smoke a whole extra cigar between the time this game ended and when I started writing. What a game. Everything the Seahawks did, good or bad, acted as a precursor to one of the wildest finishes in the history of a franchise that has been chock full of wild finishes over the last decade. From a football fan’s perspective, this game was pure “yeah, that’s my kink” pornography. From a Seahawks fan’s perspective, it was another three years removed from our life spans.
If you had told me before the season that the Seahawks would be 6-2 halfway through, I would’ve been surprised. If you had just shown me tape of the Seahawks through 8 games and then told me they were 6-2, I would’ve been shocked. Fortunately for Seattle, the first 9 games of the season have featured 6 teams that have ranged from not good to flat out terrible, and they’ve taken precarious care of all of them, plus a bonkers win against the Rams.
Today’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, represented more of a challenge than their 2-5 record would indicate as they’ve been highly competitive all season and were led by a head coach / inflamed goiter in Bruce Arians that had won 4 of his last 5 games at Century Link Field. Gun to my head, I would’ve picked the Seahawks to win of course, but I would’ve felt like I was playing Russian roulette with three bullets in the chamber. Given that Tampa boasted the best run defense in the NFL and a weak secondary, I was hoping that the Seahawks would turn their superstar signal caller loose. And oh boy, did they ever.
The Bucs won the coin toss and curiously chose to receive the opening kick. Maybe it’s a philosophical decision or perhaps they felt so good about their scripted plays that they just couldn’t wait to use them. I’m guessing it was the latter, cuz it took Tampa Bay no time at all to carve the Seahawks up like rotten pumpkins. Two easy completions to Mike Evans and a couple of chunk runs by Ronald Jones got the Buccaneers into scoring range before most fans even found their seats. After a couple of stops (eventually), the Bucs faced 3rd down and the ‘Hawks finally got some pressure on Jameis Winston, forcing him to throw it away for a much-needed stop. Unfortunately, that coincided with a rare lapse in judgment from Bobby Wagner, who shoved the QB late for a drive-saving personal foul. A play later, Jones was barreling in from 7 yards out for the 7-0 lead.
Now to Seattle’s credit, they came right back at ‘em, unleashing Russell Wilson on their first drive. He hit DK Metcalf for an 11-yard gain before a short Chris Carson run, then peppered Tyler Lockett with two slick throws for 30 more. Then Russ found Carson for 13 on a swing pass to the left before dropping back and launching one down the right sideline towards the endzone. We’ve all seen this movie before, which is why none of us were surprised when Lockett glided under it in the corner for the game-tying score. I could spend the next 200 words fellating Lockett’s play this year but believe me, there will be plenty more time for that.
After the two quick scores, the teams would take a quick break from banging each other to smoke a cigarette, exchanging threes-and-out while making polite small talk. Then it was back to the bedroom, where the Bucs took complete control. Another long drive was filled with big completions to Evans and Godwin, accented by pass interference calls against Seattle on the rare throws where Winston wasn’t able to complete it.
The drive would end in the most frustrating way, with Winston being flushed out of the pocket to his left from the Seattle 15. It looked for a moment like the mercurial QB would run but at the last minute, he whipped an ill-advised pass towards a group of dudes at the front pylon. Rookie Marquise Blair out-leaped the gaggle of players lunging for the ball but it ricocheted off his shoulder pad. As the group tumbled to the turf, Breshad Perriman swooped in to grab the rebound for a rinky-dinky-doo-ass TD that gave Tampa Bay the lead.
Seattle, to their credit, marched right back down the field with heavy doses of Lockett and Carson before fizzling out at the Buccaneers’ 29. That brought Myers out to try a 47-yard kick. Myers, who was to that point just 3-6 from 40+ on the year, calmly stepped off his approach, swung his $4 million right leg through the ball, and hooked it wide left to keep the score 14-7. From there, it almost seemed a matter of course that it would be all Mike Evans on the next drive, as the monumental receiver drug his offense back down the field and inside the 10. A couple plays later, Winston buttered his bread again with a simple toss to Evans for the score. Just like that, any hope of a grind-it-out game was snuffed out (thank God).
That TD made 21-7, meaning the Seahawks had been outscored 41-10 dating back to halftime against the Falcons. Seattle couldn’t do anything on their next drive, with Wilson eating a couple of ugly sacks. Fortunately, the ‘Hawks were able to conjure up a stop of their own, giving Wilson and Co about two minutes to do something about it. And do something about it they did do. Lockett for 10, then Carson for 5, then a quick-hitter to David Moore for 6. That was followed up by a deep seam route bomb towards Jacob Hollister, who was forced into the Will Dissly role by an injury to Luke Willson. The pass fell incomplete but that was largely due to a blatant pass interference against TB. The flag put Seattle at the 1, and Wilson ran a pretty little waggle to the right before pitching it Hollister for a much-needed score. It should have made it 21-14 but Myers, clearly rattled by his first miss, doinked the extra point off the right upright to keep the deficit at 8.
He followed that up with a low, short kickoff that set up a big return. Have a day, Jason. A couple of completions later, the Bucs found themselves staring at a 50-yard field goal attempt to extend the lead to 11 at the end of the second quarter. Fortunately, the good vibes created by the last ‘Hawks TD drive were preserved when Matt Gay pushed the kick wide, sending the teams to the locker room at 21-13.
To this point, the game had enough bomb-making ingredients to get its search history flagged by the FBI; and the second half put them all together. Seattle would receive the kick to open the third quarter and proceed to go -9 yards before punting it back. Fortunately, Michael Dickson unloaded on a 63-yard boot, and the Seahawks defense held.
*takes deep breath*
*takes another one*
*basically doing lamaze now*
Okay. What happened from here on out was like taking the game of football, giving it 4 lines of coke, spinning it in a circle for a minute, forcing it to chug a fifth of tequila, and putting it on a roller coaster. On the first play of the next drive, Wilson handed it to Carson going to his right. When Carson was one step from the line of scrimmage, he planted his right foot in the ground so hard that for a brief moment the earth stopped spinning. All his linemen hit their blocks and he cut back against the grain and into the open field. He vaporized the safety with a cut to his left and sprinted into the sunny, open meadows. Chris Carson is nothing short of elite in the area between taking a handoff and 15 yards downfield and that’s like 90% of being a great running back. One thing he is not is an Olympic sprinter and while faster, although almost assuredly less talented, backs might’ve taken it to the house, it was almost a matter of time before he got caught from behind. In this case, the guy chasing him was wunderkind rookie linebacker Devin White, who closed the distance between them with alarming quickness. I remember watching it and leaning over to my buddy to say “he’s gonna lose the ball” and sure enough, White hit him with a savage punch-out that sent the football flying from Carson’s grasp. That said, one great thing about eluding an entire defense is that no one os around to recover your fumble, and the ball bounced harmlessly out of bounds. 59 yards.
Then, after a short Rashaad Penny run while Carson recovered, Wilson dialed Hollister up again for 22 yards over the middle to the 1. After Carson was stuffed, Wilson tossed a tender throw towards the back left corner of the endzone. And, like so many other wholesome lobs over the last few years, the adorable Tyler Lockett ran beneath it for a score. That was followed by a crossing route zip to Metcalf in the back of the endzone for the two-point conversion and just like that, we were tied at 21.
Now, to the Bucs’ credit, a lot of 2-5 teams would begin to fold. After all, they had taken their best shot and, like Rocky in all 19 movies, their opponent had taken it and come back swinging. They didn’t give in, however, instead retaliating with a 10-play drive that ended in a go-ahead field goal to make it 24-21. Not to be outdone, the Seahawks punched back with a 9-play field goal drive of their own, highlighted by big gains by Penny, Lockett, and Malik Turner before a couple of incompletions put Myers back on the field to attempt a 37-yarder that he barely squeaked inside the uprights.
With the game reset at 24, the Buccaneers went three-and-out, kicking it back to the momentum-laden Seahawks. At this point, it almost felt like the hosts would take the lead and eventually extend it en route to the win everyone expected. Not so; on the third play of the drive, Carson bounced outside to the left and barreled towards the sideline. As he braced for contact, the very same Devin White that took the shine off his long run appeared again and hammered the ball free. It was recovered by Tampa Bay and the pendulum switched back to the guests on Seattle’s 45. Now Jameis Winston is many things, and thousands upon thousands of words have been spilled on screens opining about the guy. One assertion that is beyond reproach is his penchant for turning the ball over- a tendency that had yet to show up in this game.
That all changed when, on the third play of his drive, he attempted to throw out of a collapsing pocket. That’s when, despite his best intentions, Winston’s demons got the best of him. Rushing his throw, the ball squibbed hilariously out of his hand and popped up in the air. After a couple of those funny bounces unique to pigskins, Rasheem Green scooped it up and sprinted towards glory. It was the type of play that sets up a tell-your-grandkids-about-it memory that D-linemen share in their old age, but Mike Evans* chased him down at the 15 yard-line to save the touchdown.
*this game is impossible to describe accurately without pointing out how transcendent Evans was. His numbers (12-180-1) were incredible but his effort in chasing Green down might’ve been the Bucs’ play of the game. He is awesome.
Seattle was unable to punch it in despite the phenomenal field position and Myers snuck a chip shot field goal barely inside the right upright. I can’t remember the last time I saw a kicker look so unconfident in their kicks since the last four Seahawks kickers. 27-24 and we were just getting started.
After another big completion to Evans and a couple big runs from Jones (notice a theme?), Seattle was able to force a couple incompletions and the Bucs settled for another field goal and another tie game. 27-27. We’re only in third gear here folks, so buckle in. Next possession, Seattle begins with a nondescript rush up the middle for 3 yards. Then it was a dump-off to Lockett that he somehow turned into 19 yards. Keep in mind, at this point there was only four and a half minutes left in this tie game, and we were just now beginning to approach peak velocity. With a new set of downs, and the opposing defense reeling, Wilson went for the kill.
Dropping back and enjoying a rare clean pocket, Russ eschewed the safe routes underneath dialed up God’s phone number. Standing on the left hashmarks, he heaved the ball into the clouds back towards the right where only DK Metcalf’s alien DNA had a chance of getting it. The impossible rookie sprinted away from the hapless defender tasked with covering him and scooped the ball out of the air, turning up the right sideline and coasting into the endzone for the go-ahead score. Myers’ extra point snuck through the uprights and Seattle found themselves up 34-27. What a game!
Still, four minutes is an eternity when you can’t play defense and Winston took advantage. After a couple more completions to Evans and Perriman got them into the plus side of the field, Seattle’s D bowed up and created a 4th & 5. On that play, Winston dropped back and found no one open. With Jadavaeon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah closing in on him, he escaped to the left and ran for a game-saving first down. He followed it up with a 12-yard completion to Jones and a quick pitch to Evans who took advantage of a defensive miscommunication for 17 more. Now Seattle’s defense was scrambling and they never quite got set. Tampa Bay took advantage and hammered it up the middle for the score with Dare Ogunbowale, making it 34-33 Seattle with just 40 seconds left.
Now, if I were Bruce Arians (and thank God I’m not), I would’ve gone for two against the Seahawks’ battered defense and tried to steal a road win then and there. Instead, he chose to take the extra point, tying the game and leaving Russell Wilson just under a minute to try and win it.
To his credit, Wilson did exactly that. Well, as much as he could’ve without actually kicking a field goal himself. Metcalf for 18 on short catch with a fuck-you broken tackle followed by a Wilson keeper for 21 more. Then Metcalf for 6 more and out of bounds at the Tampa 25 with 22 seconds left and one timeout in the pocket. Easy money for most teams but not for Seattle, who can’t sign a reliable kicker if Starbucks depended on it. On the next play, Carson took the handoff and careened to the left, getting to the second level and having a clear avenue to the sideline. Instead of 1) getting the first down and 2) getting out of bounds, Carson incredibly slid to a stop short of both goals. His curious decision cost Seattle one or two final plays but it did set up a 40-yard field goal that would be all but a sure thing for most teams.
Look I’ll admit that even I, who is/am the most anti-kick writer you may ever read, still felt pretty good about Myers’ chances. Despite the harrowing afternoon so far, this was a relatively easy kick with the opportunity to be a hero and erase the earlier misses. Instead of delivering, however, he pushed the kick wide right and sent the game to OT. Never, ever, play for the field goal, kids.
Okay. Overtime. Because off course. Seattle sent Geno Smith out to witness the coin toss, while Tampa sent their Achilles, Mike Evans, to call it. Evans called tails, the coin came up heads, and Smith trotted back to the sidelines a hero. One drive to win it all. Let’s go.
Wilson took the field looking as confident as he always does in these situations. It was almost like he knew what was going to happen, and the following 10-play sequence was nothing short of sublime. After an incompletion to Lockett, it was:
*A short pass to David Moore on the left side for 12.
*Carson banging up the middle for 4.
*A dump off to Carson for 15 more.
*Deep shot towards Lockett that fell incomplete (basically a throwaway).
*Pass interference against TB on a double-move from Metcalf that roasted the cornerback
*Short completion to Lockett for 4.
*A lob down the left sideline to Metcalf who was absolutely molested by the guy in coverage. NOT THAT IT MATTERED. Despite being grabbed, pushed, and having his facemask ripped so hard that his binkie was snatched out of his mouth, DK fell on his back and still made the catch at the Tampa 6. He’s already had a number of big-time plays this year but this catch might have been the biggest. Nothing short of spectacular, and I can’t imagine how demoralizing that must’ve been for the defense.
*Carson bottled up for a loss.
That set up the game’s final play, a sharp crossing route to Jacob Hollister, who caught Wilson’s bullet at the 2 and turned upfield while getting hit. Refusing to be denied, Hollister powered into the endzone for the walk-off touchdown before getting dogpiled upon by his joyous teammates. 40-34, Seahawks win. Mercy.
~Russell Wilson was turned loose in this one which, as loyal readers can attest, made this author very happy. He responded to his newfound freedom by going 5/5 for 73 yards and a score on the opening drive and never looking back. He was so poised, so aggressive, and so damn passionate in this game. He made perfect throw after perfect throw, always delivering when his team needed him to. He never bowed to the pressure, not that he ever does, and executed as freely as if he was in a Friday walkthrough. His final numbers were nothing short of insane, carding an outrageous line of 29/43 (67.4%) for 378 yards (8.8 Y/A), 5 TDs(!), and 0 turnovers for a passer rating of 133.7. He has been the MVP of the NFL this year and there just isn’t a compelling argument to the contrary. He is playing the best possible football at the game’s most important position and has an otherwise fairly ordinary team at 7-2.
~A huge kudos goes to Brian Schottenheimer and the Seahawks gameplan today. I was worried they would stubbornly try to #establishtherun against a team exceptionally equipped to stop exactly that. Instead, they came out firing, letting Wilson whip the ball all over the field and using Chris Carson as an effective counter-punch. All told, the Seahawks averaged 7.5 yards per pass play and 6.6 yards per rush for an overall rate of 7.2 yards per play. Just an outstanding performance from the offense as a whole.
~Chris Carson had a big yardage day against an elite run defense, but two fumbles left a hideous scar on what should’ve been a great performance. If Seattle had lost, we’d be talking a lot more about his lack of ball security than we will be now that they’ve won. Still, 133 yards on 18 touches against this defense is pretty remarkable, and highlights just how good he really is. If we can remove the fumble concerns, we’re talking about a top 10, maybe top 5, running back in the world.
~Seattle’s top two receivers played put of their minds today, as both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf logged the best games of their careers. Lockett was nothing short of spectacular, turning a career high 18 targets into a career high 13 catches for a career high 152 yards and a career high 2 touchdowns. he was always open, and created a ton of yards after the catch as he wiggled his way through the Tampa defense. It’s tired to talk about Lockett as being a great receiver for his size, he is simply a great receiver. He now has a stunning 59 catches on 72 targets (81.9%) for 767 yards (13 yards/catch), and 6 TDs. Elite by any and all measures.
This was the DK breakout game we’ve all been waiting for. Despite staying mostly quiet through three quarters with just 2 catches for 17 yards, his impact went beyond that with the space he created for Lockett underneath and the penalties he garnered on his double-moves. Once the fourth quarter got started, however, DK took off. From that point on, he notched 4 catches for 106 yards and a TD to add to his two-pointer. All told, he carded a line of 6-123-1 on 9 targets and now ranks first among all rookies in receiving yards and touchdowns while sitting 3rd in catches. Watch the hell out, NFL. DK Metcalf is the real freaking deal.
~The defense lacked all luster today, playing a milquetoast Cover-2 scheme that made them look like a scout team. Just giant openings underneath the safeties on nearly every pass play. That, combined with zero pass rush, made life very easy on James Winston today, and he made them pay to the tune of 335 yards on 29/44 passing with 2 TDs and no INTs.
Seattle started to mix it up a little in the second half, and had some success doing so, but they never took over the game and, had James not turned the ball over in hilarious fashion, would’ve had very little to show for themselves today. I mean look, Seattle keeps finding a way to beat these bad teams, but they have an absolutely brutal finishing stretch ahead of them and I have a hard time seeing how they don’t keep getting torched by some of the offenses they’re gonna be facing.
Pressure on the quarterback was almost nonexistent today, as they registered just two sacks (on blitzes by Bobby Wagner and Michael Kendricks). Ziggy Ansah, Jarran Reed, and the rest of the gang have yet to generate any harassment of opposing QBs. Jadaveon Clowney continues to wreak havoc in the backfield but without any supplemental pressure, quarterbacks are free to escape to the opposite side, rending his league-leading pass-rush win-rate nearly obsolete.
Shaquille Griffin was picked on today and gave up a number of catches. He’s been, arguably, the best player on Seattle’s defense this year but the box score won’t be friendly to him in this one. It’s tough to say how much of it was poor play and how much was A) Mike Evans being the size of a skyscraper and/or B) the soft-serve shell coverage scheme that kept him on the outside shoulder with virtually no help inside. Either way, he got everything he could handle today and despite allowing a series of completions, he absolutely bowed up with two big pass breakups in the fourth quarter. Nothing about today concerns me about him moving forward but this was not a game he’ll likely hang his hat on.
It was good to have Bradley McDougald and Tre Flowers back but neither of them made much of an impact. Beneath them, Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright did their parts, combining for 21 tackles, but too many of them were 5+ yards downfield. All in all, they allowed 418 yards and 34 points which was within the margin of error thanks to the Seattle offense, but won’t hold up against the teams the ‘Hawks have coming up. They just seem toothless right now.
~Jason Myers is a problem. I’d say cut him but I don’t know that anyone else out there is any better. Kicking sucks and the Seahawks should do it as little as possible. Someone tell Pete.
I know those last couple of smoke rings were a bit of a downer but what matters most is that the Seahawks won. Gone are the days of Seattle winning with defense and running; they are a lean-on-our-star-QB, outscore-you-if-we-have-to, air-it-out team and they’re 7-2 as a result. It may seem like an ill-fitting suit but this team is growing into it. Today’s game wasn’t about winning on the cards, it was about exchanging haymakers until one of the fighters got knocked out. It’s who they are now and the more they lean into it, the better their prospects for this season are.
Above all, this team is eminently fun. They can score with anyone and keep, somehow, finding ways to win every one of the close games they maddeningly find themselves embroiled in. 7-2 is legit no matter how you slice it up, and it’s a darn good thing too, as their finishing schedule is the single toughest gamut in the NFL*.
*it’s true, Seattle’s remaining opponents have the highest combined win% of any team in the league.
The Seahawks have positioned them beautifully for this final agoge over the last two months of the season, and the gauntlet begins with a monumental showdown against the 8-0 Niners in primetime next week. Until then, relax and enjoy the latest in a long lineage of incredible Seahawks wins. Onward, upward, let’s get it.
For as nervous as I was coming into this game, today felt fun. Extra hour of sleep, the northwest looking resplendent in its autumn glory- feeling good. I decided to lean into Don Pepin Garcia Original TAA Exclusive Limited Edition, a bold but smooth stick that lasts longer than its name. I paired it with a double Makers 46, one rock, splash of bitters. Great 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