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Cigar Thoughts, Game 12: Seahawks win wild primetime game. Again. Seriously. Except this one puts them in 1st place.

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The Seattle Seahawks turned a 7-point halftime deficit into a 17-point 4th quarter lead before clinging to a narrow 10th victory of the year

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

I married Polish. Like, born and raised in Poznan, Polish. This week, my wife’s old country cousin and aunt came to visit; a momentous occasion we’ve been planning for for months. Extended family on my side is all pretty nearby so I personally do not have a parallel for a something like this, and their visit has been the highlight of my in-laws’ year. One thing they wanted to do during this trip to the PNW is go to Seattle, and Paulina suggested that the city is never better than in the lead-up to a Seahawks primetime game. And she’s right, like objectively speaking. So we scheduled a trip and coordinating a shopping day with getting at least somewhere near the stadium for the game. They LOVED it. Y’all do gameday right in this town.

The traffic alone showed them what a big deal tonight was, as a 1.5-mile Lyft from the hotel took more than 20 minutes. We ended up carving out a corner of the Crab Pot to watch the game and prepping our visitors, who were eager to experience our unique fandom, that “this team has a knack for unnecessarily close games.” And hoo boy. I mean, c’mon.

The thing about great games between good teams is that they inevitably come down to a handful or fewer high-leverage plays and this game was a perfect example. The Vikings and Seahawks are bona fide #good teams and this had all the makings of a great game.

Seattle received the opening kick and came out determined to win the 1946 championship. They ended up running on every play of their first drive, though one of them was a designed pass that Russell Wilson scrambled on. After two Chris Carson runs garnered a first down, the Wilson run and a 5-yarder from Rashaad Penny put Seattle at 3rd & 1 barely on their own side of the 50. They chose a pitch to Carson and he got shucked to the ground short of the chains near the left sideline. Instead of forcing the issue, Pete Carroll elected to punt, and the visiting Vikings would make them pay for their trepidation.

Y’all know I’m a huge fan of going for it on 4th & short in almost any game situation, especially if you have a good QB. That, to my chagrin, is just not the current version of the ‘Hawks*. The Seahawks booted it away and the Vikings immediately went to work.

*which is odd, given how revolutionarily aggressive early-Seattle-Pete was.

After a successful dump-off to Dalvin Cook netted Minnesota a quick 9 yards on first down, they ran a play-action rollout to the right. On the play, fullback CJ Ham was isolated against KJ Wright in the flat. Kirk Cousin flipped it out to Ham and he turned to meet Wright like two Ibex competing for a mate. CJ stunned KJ to the turf, and galavanted through synthetic fields of green for 36 yards. That set up a slick reverse to Stephon Diggs, who bounced and twisted his way down to the 1-yard line. From there, it was only a matter of seconds before Cook trotted unfettered into the endzone for a 7-0 lead. So glad Seattle played for field position.

As disappointing of a start as that was, if there’s a one word I could pick to describe the 2019 Seahawks, it would be “resilient.” The game’s first 6 minutes saw a disheartening series of events but it didn’t seem to phase these guys at all. With the air in the stadium on the verge of being sucked out, Seattle stitched together one of their best drives of the season. It took them 14 plays to go 75 yards, with highlights including the third straight week with Josh Gordon converting a 3rd down on a slant, DK Metcalf creating tremendous space on a 25-yard slant route to the 1, and Chris Carson banging it home two carries later. 7-7.

After that the game settled down a bit, with the teams exchanging punts on the next three drives. That gave Seattle the ball back with just over six minutes left in the half. A handoff to Carson went nowhere on 1st down and Seattle called a pass on the next snap. Wilson dropped back then stepped up in the pocket, unleashing a dart over the middle. Only problem was that a Vikings D-lineman got his hand on the pass and deflected it straight upward. Undaunted, Wilson leaped into the melee to knock the pass down. As he did, he was hit and his spike turned into a lob. Russ knocked his own pass forward in an effort to force an incompletion but the ball stayed in the air too long. Anthony Harris swooped underneath it for the easy pick and sauntered home for the score on one of the weirdest interceptions you’ll ever see. In a blink, the Vikes were up 14-10.

Again, the Seahawks are a resilient bunch. The MNF crew had Wilson mic’d up during this game and I’m telling you, for as much of a goober as that guy can be publicly, I can’t imagine a better sideline leader. His optimism and encouragement were relentless, and the team responded with another long scoring drive. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t of the touchdown variety, despite a 20-yard completion to DK Metcalf and a buttery lob from Wilson to Hollister for 16 on 3rd & 1. Instead, Seattle would settle for a field goal, as Jason Myers knocked home a 29-yarder following two incomplete targets to David Moore.

The second miss was bizarre, as Moore established great position in the endzone along the right sideline. Wilson was forced that direction by the rush and threw what appeared to be a perfect pass a few inches towards the sideline from where Moore was leaning. Even on replay, it’s hard to imagine what a better throw would look like, yet Moore never got his hands on it. He jabbed for the ball with both paws but missed the ball completely. No sun, no wobble on the ball, just a pure whiff. Like he was blindfolded. I guess there are just more NFL-caliber athletes than there are NFL-caliber football players.

The Vikings responded by using the first half’s final 58 seconds superbly. A long completion to Cook was improbably improved when Jadeveon Clowney chased him down from behind to strip the ball, only to have a Viking teammate recover it another 6 yards downfield. That was followed by an 11-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph and a 10-yarder to Diggs to set up a Dan Bailey three-pointer as the clock expired. 17-10 at the half.

What followed was the best quarter of the Seahawks’ season. Minnesota received the second half kick and went three-and-out, narrowly avoiding an even worse fate. On 3rd & 6, the Seahawks ran a stunt with their DL, and Shaquem Griffin curved all the way from the left end up and through the gap to the right of the center. That forced Cousins off his mark, and he rushed a throw over the middle. As he did, Jarran Reed lunged past his beaten man to knock Cousins’ elbow mid-throw. The ball came loose and Griffin swatted it into the backfield where it was recovered by a Vikings OL for a 15-yard loss. Replay dubiously showed that Kirk’s arm was moving forward before losing control, but the drive ended all the same.

On the next Seahawks possession, they found themselves facing an early 3rd & 1. That’s when Wilson dialed up Metcalf on an 8-yard stick route and the rookie corralled it effortlessly for the first down. Carson was wrapped up for a loss on the next play but Xavier Rhodes’ curious decision to throw him to the ground two steps out of bounds gave Seattle another first down. Then Carson exploded off the left side, careening through the Vikings defense and pinballing down to the 5 after a 25-yard gain. That’s when he tapped his helmet to the coaches, letting his backfield-mate to come in and mop up the glory. It took Penny two tries from 5 yards to tie this game up, and just like that it was 17-17. On that TD run, Metcalf was matched up with uber-linebacker Anthony Barr and absolutely erased him from existence with a block. My god. The Carson-Penny relationship seems super cool too, btw.

On the Vikings’ very next play, Rasheem Green broke through his block to hit Cook on a draw play. His well-placed swipe struck Dalvin right in the solar plexus, jarring the ball loose and knocking Cook out of the game. As the ball bounced free, Bradley McDougald pounced on it for an enormous turnover. A Penny first down and a few nowhere plays later, Myers was kicking his second 29-yarder of the evening to make it 20-17.

As the commentary made sure everyone knew throughout the broadcast, Kirk Cousins came into this game 0-7 on Monday night. And, while I think stats like that are mostly random, at some point they kind of become self-fulfilling prophecies. I felt that in this one. I really did. Honestly, even after the pick-6 in the first half, I was never legitimately worried.

That confidence was buoyed by the Vikings having to punt on their ensuing drive. After two Carson runs got a first down, Wilson faked a handoff to him and pivoted back into his sweet spot. With both Metcalf and Tyler Lockett sprinting deep, the play was blown dead because Seattle had called a timeout moments before the snap. Russell Wilson is in the unphaseable hall of fame but even his face was saying “aw man coach, we had a score there”. Two plays later, however, Wilson dropped back and fired a bullet up the seam to an open Moore for a breakaway 60-yard TD. Like I always say, throw to David Moore whenever possible. 27-17.

On Minnesota’s next drive, things got even worse for them. After an incomplete pass to Rudolph, Cousins searched for his main man Diggs on an out route near the sticks. He was blanketed to the point of illegality by Tre Flowers, who harrassed the talented WR into a deflection as the pass arrived. The players tumbled to the turf as the ball fluttered to the ground. Flowers, incredibly, was able to locate the ball in the maelstrom and cradled it to his breast for a back-breaking interception. Honestly, the amount of contact should probably have garnered a defensive PI flag under the modern rules but whether I’m right or not, no laundry flew and Seattle was in position to blow the doors off this thing early in the 4th.

It didn’t take Seattle long to capitalize. Penny runs for 10 and 2 yards respectively set up a screen pass to the same for 13 yards and a TD to make it 34-17. Now, any normal 9-2 team would take this huge 4th quarter lead and salt away a comfortable victory. But ho, oh no, not this stupid team. This dumb, stupid, lovable team just had to go and spike our blood pressure. Again.

Minnestoa’s next drive was quick and potent. After an incompletion and a 17-yard screen pass to Alexander Mattison, the Seahawks secondary suffered their biggest breakdown of the year. As Cousins dropped back, Shaquill Griffin passed off Laquon Treadwell to a safety that didn’t exist. Both Bradley McDougald and Qandry Diggs were otherwise detained, and Treadwell ran free as a saint’s spirit for the easiest TD pass of Cousins’ career. 34-24. No worries though. No, I mean it. I still felt really calm.

Well, maybe a couple worries. At this point, there were just under 13 minutes left and the hometown lead was now only 10. To make matters more stressful, Seattle’s next three plays netted just 7 yards and the team came out to punt for the first time since the early 2nd quarter. Now, the Seahawks have become a dangerously safe team on 4th down. In fact, they’ve become the most conservative 4th down team in the league this year, which sucks. A season’s worth of protecting the downside had me totally unprepared for what came next. Instead of booting it away on 3rd & 3 in their own territory, the ‘Hawks hiked it directly to upman Travis Homer who sprinted through a surprised return team for 29 yards and a monster first down.

Okay, now, the lead was safe. Right? Haha, you fool. You absolute moron. Have you ever even watched this team? Three plays later, Wilson dialed up Metcalf on yet another 3rd down. It was a stop route that Metcalf handled perfectly and turned upfield for a big first down. Except as he struggled through the tackle, the ball was jarred free and recovered by Minnesota because of course it was. Can’t have nice things, after all.

The Vikings countered Seattle’s folly with a devastating counterpunch. An 8-play, 72-yard TD drive was highlighted by a 30-yard PI call against Flowers and punctuated with a sick one-handed TD grab from Rudolph to make it 34-31. Oops; well, not quite. Bailey yanked the extra point wide to the left to keep it a 4-point game and preserve your humble author’s Seahawks -3 bet.

Seattle would get a first down before punting it back with less than 4 minutes left but the Vikings were unable to capitalize. Cousins’ 4th down toss towards Irv Smith Jr was off-target and Seattle took over just a first down shy of glory. Carson whacked his way for 6, then pounded it inside for 3 more. On 3rd & 1, he darted through Minnesota’s formidable front seven for 11 yards. Three runs later, Myers knocked yet another kick through the uprights to make it 37-30 with 21 seconds left.

At this point, it would take something approaching a miracle for Minnesota to win, but the NFL has a strange proclivity towards almost-miracles. If anything was gonna happen, it would start with the kick return. Myers hit it short and Ham fielded the kick. As he barreled up the middle, Malik Turner put a shoulder on the ball and dislodged it from Ham’s grasp. With the ball whirring around in a human blender, Homer fell on it to guarantee Seattle’s 10th win and their first appearance atop the NFC West standings.

SMOKE RINGS

~Russell Wilson was good when he had to be. He didn’t play like an MVP tonight but he made plays when he needed to and mostly avoided mistakes. He missed Tyler Lockett on an endzone route in the first half, and he did throw his third pick-six of the season, but I don’t hold the interception against him. It wasn’t a bad read or a bad throw; it was a perfectly timed jab from a D-lineman followed by a series of comical bounces. Wilson’s final line was a respectable 21/31 (67.7%) for 240 yards (7.7 Y/A), 2 TDs, and the pick for a rating of 98.9. He’s still having a historically great season but we’re approaching a month since he’s taken over a game. He’s due.

~The running game was clearly a massive part of the team’s approach to this matchup and my goodness did they commit to it. 43(!) carries translated to 218(!!) ground yards against one of the best rush defenses in the NFL. Remarkable, really. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny split snaps almost evenly, with Penny snagging a slight 51%/49% advantage. Their production was similarly destructive to their opponents, as Carson turned 24 touches into 109 yards and a TD while Penny converted 19 touches of his own into 109 yards and two TDs. Just phenomenal production.

Carson didn’t look hesitant at all despite his recent ball-security issues and Penny continued the best play of his life. Both backs were slippery and powerful, rarely (if ever) going down on first contact. To get 216 yards from your backfield on 43 touches is bonkers. Kudos to Brain Schottenheimer and the whole OL.

~DK Metcalf’s speed is really real. And while we only seem to appreciate it on those glorious occasions when he beats the secondary deep, it has a more real-world application. That kind of alien speed is scary if you’re tasked with covering him, and the result is a cushion not usually granted to 1st year WRs. His footwork has gotten so much cleaner over the last month it’s actually kinda crazy. He runs his routes like there’s a forcefield around him now; like defenders aren’t allowed to get close. In reality, he’s just learning how to combine his prolific speed with the suddenness that Carroll-era Seahawks receivers have become known for. The fumble was a bummer but nevertheless, he has established himself as a WR that Wilson has implicit faith in. He led the team in catches (6) and yards (75) on 7 targets and was Russ’ go-to in high-leverage situations. There is no ceiling on this guy.

Lockett, meanwhile, is clearly not himself. Held reception-less for just the second time in his career, he never really got open outside of the one redone route where Wilson was too late to identify him. A lot of replays showed Minnesota shadowing him over the top but they’re hardly the first to try that against Tyler and it hasn’t exactly stopped him before. He is clearly not the same player since his lower leg injury against the 49ers, as that and the flu have helped keep him to just 1 catch for 38 yards on 5 targets in the two games since.

Jacob Hollister has become a strangely important figure on this team. It’s wild how often Wilson looks to him, as he led the team in targets with 8 and caught 6 of them for 44 yards. He’s been fantastic for sure, just caught me off guard how TE-friendly Brain Schottenheimer’s offense has become this year. Kinda cool.

~It’s just bonkers how much better the Seahawks defense is since Qandry Diggs showed up. No one is Earl Thomas but got damn does Diggs move like him sometimes. In the first quarter there was one play where Cousins hit Olabisi Johnson in the flat. Johnson had Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright in front of him and spent some time juking in hopes of creating safe passage. As he jived, Diggs honed in on him like a weapon of modern warfare.

He cut through the bullshit and exploded into Johnson for a massive hit. The sheer commitment to his instincts is so rare and I’m seeing why so many of his Lions teammates were heartbroken to find out he’d been traded. What a baller. The combination of him and Bradley McDougald has this team on the precipice of being a really good defense again. They had their struggles today with some early missed tackles and a few missed assignments, but they largely held one of the league’s most efficient offenses intact.

Bobby Wagner led the team with another 10 tackles. I’ll fully admit I just take this dude for granted at this point. I’ve even got friends asking me “what’s wrong with Wagner?” like he’s not 2nd in the NFL with 115 tackles in 12 games. It’s kinda like how LeBron James has been the best basketball player in the world for 15 years straight but they keep giving MVP to other dudes because the homeostasis for performance has been set so high that it’s virtually impossible to supersede it. Bobby Wagner is a fucking incredible football player and nothing has changed in that regard.

KJ Wright recovered from his early humiliation against Ham to turn in a tremendous game. He registered 9 tackles and broke up two passes as he helped create and preserve his team’s lead.

Seattle’s pass rush never made it home today, failing to record a single sack, but they harassed the NFL’s 2nd highest rated passer into one of his worst games of the season nevertheless. Cousins finished with a pedestrian line of 23/38 for 276 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT for a rating of 87.6. Not terrible, but not good enough to win.

~The Seahawks were very good on 3rd down tonight, going 7-15 on offense plus the 4th down conversion on the punt fake. They made things harder on themselves by allowing the Vikings to convert 50% of their 10 3rd downs, but this was a game that saw both teams get consistent positive yardage on 1st down so it makes sense that their 3rd down rates would be higher.

~This was, far and away, the cleanest game of Pete Carroll’s entire tenure in Seattle. The Seahawks not only converted nearly half their 3rd downs, they only committed one penalty. The Vikings were slick too, as they were only flagged thrice. Ahh, how beautiful the NFL game is when you don’t throw flags all the time.

~In 36 seasons before Russell Wilson arrived, the Seahawks won 10+ games 5 times. In the 8 seasons since, they’ve now won 10+ games 7 times. The most important athlete in Seattle history.

Look, there is no longer any lid on this team’s potential. In game after game, they find a way to be at least 1% better than their opponent and, at the core of it, what else could you want? At this very moment, the Seahawks are 10-2, in 1st place in their division, and a tie-break away from the #1 overall seed. I don't know how they’ve done it, because a .833 win% seems insane for this team, but here we are. We’re no longer looking for a playoff win to validate a season— this is a squad with real, legitimate Super Bowl potential. At this point, why not them?

I can’t imagine rooting for a team more dynamic, entertaining, and exciting than these guys continue to be. We are blessed to watch them on a weekly basis, no matter how frustrating they may be. Most NFL fans in this country would kill to be in our position, and I’ve officially shifted my sights for 2019/2020 to the Lombardi trophy. This team is that good. Onward, upward, go ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

———

As mentioned, I watched and essentially wrote this game at the Crab Pot on Alaskan Way so I wasn’t able to smoke a cigar. That said, the best one I had this week was the 10th Anniversary Limited Edition from My Father. Y’all know that My Father is one of my all-time favorites and you can tell they put an extra lil something into this one. Since I was across the street from the distillery tonight, I stuck with a Copperworks bourbon, one rock, splash of dark cherry bitters.

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.