Welcome back, y’all. August is over, leaves are turning, and the kids are headed back to school — so you know what that means. That’s right: four months of Sundays spent writhing in the crippling anxiety of unnecessarily close Seattle Seahawks games.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m coming into this season absolutely fascinated by what Seattle’s offense will look like. With new weapons and whispers of a more open philosophy, I was eager to see if they could build upon last year’s success. However, any hopes I had of them clicking along down the field against an inferior opponent were smudged out from the jump. After giving up a couple first downs to the Bengals, Seattle proceeded to go three-and-out. It was a quick and uninspiring series of plays that, at the very least, included NFL catch #1 for matinee idol and future king of my heart DK Metcalf.
The Bengals and their new Zac Taylor-led offense got going a little bit after that. Their second drive included a chunk play to shiny race car John Ross, but Seattle held up long enough to force another punt. Unfortunately, rookie Cody Barton came sprinting through the line like a sugared-up eight-year-old and ran straight into punter Kevin Huber, gifting the Bengals a first down and extending the drive. Cincinnati leveraged that into a couple more first downs, eventually cashing in a short field goal for the first score of the season and 3-0 lead.
At that point, the Bengals had run 19 of the first 22 plays from scrimmage but apparently that wasn’t enough. A huge sack of Russell Wilson was sandwiched between two inconsequential Chris Carson runs and the Seahawks went three and out again. It seemed as though Seattle was gonna end their opening quarter with just five offensive yards. But rookie linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven got his NFL career off to a fantastic start by poking the ball loose during the punt return and and a gaggle of Seahawks wiggled to the bottom of a pig pile to recover it.
That put Seattle on Cincy’s 32, in great position to get on top or, at the very least, even it out. Except in order to do that, you need to actually block people and Wilson spent the next three plays absolutely under siege, taking another sack and two big hits to fall out of field goal range.
Fortunately for the flow of this game, Seattle’s defense stepped up with two stops and a sack from Quinton Jefferson after he bullied two O-linemen on third down. You could sorta start to feel the game shift on its fulcrum and the ensuing punt put the ‘Hawks at midfield. After a nice toss sweep to Rashaad Penny, Wilson went to work. He found Will Dissly for 15, then DK Metcalf for 16. A couple plays later, he threw one up for Metcalf in the back of the endzone and the poor fella tasked with guarding him could only hang on for dear life. The DPI penalty put Seattle right at Cincinnati’s door and Carson kicked that fucker down on the next play, plunging in from a yard out to give Seattle their first lead.
The Bengals, who came into this game as the biggest underdog in Vegas, showed remarkable grit, emptying the playbook to find open receivers down the left sideline. The first one was a dime to CJ Uzomah for 36, which was followed by a 33-yard flea-flicker to Ross, who scooted behind Seattle’s secondary to take the lead back.
Not to be outdone, the Seahawks answered by unenthusiastically running it on both 1st & 10 and 2nd & 10, which set the stage for Wilson to short-arm a throw to Metcalf and our boys went three-and-out for the third time in the half. Cincy would return the favor, which gave the ‘Hawks one more shot before the two-minute warning, and they made it count.
After a sexy lil swing pass to Carson, they went back to the well, except this time CC dropped it. In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing he did because Dre Kirkpatrick came in and popped him after the ball hit the ground, giving the good guys a free 15. Smelling blood, Russ immediately dialed up a 50/50 deep ball to Metcalf, who was streaking down the left sideline, and DK did exactly what Seattle drafted him to do. Hand-fighting like a veteran the whole way, he got his mitts up at the last possible second to snag a perfect pass and slip away from the defender before getting tackled at the 14. Two plays later it was another pass to Carson who won the race to the pylon, making it 14-10 with a minute to go in the opening half.
That should’ve been enough to hit the locker room feeling good but Andy Dalton came right back out and carved Seattle’s inexperienced secondary up in under a minute. After Ross dropped a wide open crosser that he probably would’ve housed, Dalton went right back over the top to him. As Ross sprinted under Andy’s big arcing throw down the middle of the field, Tedric Thompson beat him to the spot for a great chance at an interception. Sadly, Thompson, with more time to set up and deflect the pass than most punt returners get, mistimed his jump, letting the ball float over his hands and into Ross’ for the go-ahead TD just seven seconds before the half. It was a real kick in the groin after Seattle had worked so hard to get a lead before the break.
Seattle got the ball to start the second half and wasted no time handing it back over to the visitors. On the first play of the third quarter, Carson took a short pass and started running upfield before getting hit from the side and coughing it up. Kirkpatrick scooped it up and positioned the Bengals beautifully. I don’t know if the teams were allergic to pigskin or not, but Cincy gave it right back three plays later when the ball slipped out of Dalton’s hands on a relatively unassuming pass attempt. The ball fluttered into big Al Woods’ hands for the coveted fat-guy interception and Seattle was right back in business.
Just kidding, they went three-and-out again.
With the rain starting to fall in earnest, Cincy used a 35-yard screen pass to Gio Bernard to get into scoring position before missing a field goal that added to the third quarter sloppiness. Okay, I thought — now we’re gonna see some shit. Nope. Wilson got sacked on consecutive plays before he even had a chance to go through his first read and, to no one’s surprise, the majority of the pressure today came from Russell’s right side. The Bengals pass rushers used Germain Ifedi’s outside shoulder like a turnstile all day and Wilson didn’t have a chance on half of his drop backs to that point. After another punt, the Bengals moved it back into Seattle territory before letting it ride on a 4th & 1. That’s when Al Woods, who is basically an Ent, locked branches with his blocker and discarded him to the side before swallowing Bernard whole at the line of scrimmage. It was a much-needed momentum play for a Seahawks team that was struggling to get much of anything going.
Incredibly, Seattle was still only down by three at this point and after a couple of runs by Penny brought up 3rd down, Russ finally did a Russ thing. Escaping trouble and tiptoeing to his left, Wilson lobbed an ambitious pass down the seam to a well-covered Metcalf. DK elevated above his man, caught the ball over his shoulder, and absorbed a big hit to pick a huge first down. He is gonna be so damn good.
That play seemed to wake Brian Schottenheimer up and, riding the momentum, he conjured a little misdirection (gasp!) to give Wilson some space. Faking a handoff out out of the shotgun, Wilson rolled right and watched Tyler Lockett turn a poetic corner-post into 10 yards of separation. Wilson fired a missile to him at the 10 and Lockett did the rest, slipping between the only two defenders with a chance and into the paint for the TD. It was the first play of the 4th quarter and the first WR target to someone besides Metcalf all game. It was also a continuation of Lockett’s historic streak of per-target efficiency, as he came into 2019 off the first perfect rating for a WR in NFL history. One for one, 44 yards, and a TD — off we go.
The Bengals and their new Rams-y offense wouldn’t say die, though, and a looooong drive with multiple third down conversions (and a questionable PI call on Tre Flowers) set Cincy up inside Seattle’s 5. That’s when Seattle’s defense went to work: Flowers broke up a pass in the end zone, which was followed by an offensive holding penalty, which was followed by Jadaveon Clowney chasing Dalton down for his first sack as a Seahawk. After a short completion, the Bengals would settle for a field goal to cut it to 21-20 and Seattle got the ball back with a chance to create some distance.
To Schottenheimer’s credit, he went for the throat on the very next play. Wilson dropped back and looked right, uncorking a perfect pass to Lockett who wad wriggled inside his man 30 yards down field. All the ingredients for a huge play were there, except the unthinkable happened: the ball went right through Tyler’s hands. I don’t know if the sun got in his eyes or what — it was the exact spot near the hashmarks where the afternoon shadows cut out — but two plays later the Seahawks were punting again.
Once more the Bengals came out and once more Dalton whipped passes to receivers in good-not-great coverage. They pushed the ball up to midfield, grinding the clock until they found themselves facing a 4th and seven with 3:30 left. Put to his second big decision as a coach, Taylor opted to punt instead of going for it. A dubious choice, from a strategic standpoint but one that I loved as a Seahawks fan. The punt itself was tremendous, pinning Seattle in the shadow of their own goalposts. The Seahawks have been extremely forthright about wanting to run to win and, whether we agree with the approach or not, these are the situations you better be able to do it in. And they did! Two good tries got them to 3rd and 1, and I started to wonder how crazy it would be to try something over the top (very, turns out- but fun to think about). Of course Seattle didn’t do that (probably a good thing), instead opting to run behind their strong left side with their half-horse, half-man, half-truck running back. Carson charged through the gap created by Duane Brown and hammered his way into the second and third levels of the Bengals defense, dragging tacklers behind him like so many cans on a newlyweds’ car. It was the type of play that keeps Pete Carroll young, and it put them one first down away from clinching it.
Of course, they didn’t get that first down. Wouldn’t be a proper Seahawks game if they did. Instead, they ran it straight into the teeth of the D, then botched the clock before a half-hearted Wilson keeper forced them to punt with 28 seconds left (21 by the time the punt landed).
From there the Bengals only needed to get ~25 yards in order to have a chance at a game-winning kick, but that’s when the Seattle pass rush took over. On each of the next two plays, Dalton found himself sprinting for safety as Seattle’s DEs careened around the O-line to chase him down. To his credit, on the first play he was able to get a short completion to Uzomah but seven precious seconds for five puny yards is an exchange I’d take every time in that situation. On the second play, Rasheem Green got loose off the left edge and pawed at Dalton right as he brought the ball up to throw. Green met Red right as the arm was starting to come forward and the ball wobbled downfield. It was a hell of a play and was assuredly an incomplete pass, but the refs erred on the side of the live ball and ruled it a fumble on the field that was recovered by Flowers.
I think everyone, Seahawks included, thought they’d overturn the call upon review; but not only did that not happen, they confirmed the fumble and that was that. Personally I think it was a bad call, but I wasn’t ready to start this season with a home loss to the Bengals so I’m taking that shit and running.
~Russell Wilson was under a lot of pressure today, taking four sacks and avoiding I don’t know how many others. A lot of us came into this season believing this would be the best O-line of the Wilson era and perhaps it still will be, but they got absolutely smoked today. Russ got hit early and hit hard, and was understandably jittery in the pocket for the entirety of the game.
It took way too long, but I was encouraged to see them start to incorporate some deception and moving pockets to help get him into flow, and his numbers took off when they did. I know they love to line up and try and wear you down and there’s some salt-of-the-earth appeal to it, but we live in the future now and Wilson is one of the five best QBs on the planet. It was great to see them do some things that made his life a little easier.
He finished with an efficient but unspectacular line, completing 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards, 2 TDs, and no turnovers. He is very good. Let’s let him be good.
~As far as running it goes, the Seahawks were not great at it today. That said, they got a couple of huge first downs on the ground and if you are gonna insist on “establishing an identity” on the ground, then you gotta deliver. Carson looked good and ran hard, but didn’t have a lot of room. He finished with just 46 yards on 15 carries but he added six catches for 35 yards and had two big teeders. No reason to think he won’t be a plowhorse again this year.
I was pleased to see Penny get some run, too. I think he’s a good back, as far as it matters, and is uniquely suited to run on the edge. Rashaad will never be the between-the-tackles banger that Carson is, but that’s okay. Even so, just 18 yards on six carries this afternoon.
~DK Metcalf is the truth. I know he was a hype-monster because of his insane measurable and impossible physique but it turns out the dude can ball. He did everything we imagined the best version of him doing in this one. He flashed the speed, the hands, the toughness, and perhaps most surprisingly, the guile of a legit NFL wideout. He was the only WR Russell Wilson targeted in the first three quarters and he delivered, turning six targets into four catches for 89 yards as well as garnering a pass interference call that set up Seattle’s first touchdown. Kid’s gonna be great.
~I thought (and still do) that this would be a big-time breakout year for Tyler Lockett. I don’t know if he’s the type of receiver that can justify a 100+ target load but I think it’s worth finding out. He only got two looks today but he ran incredible routes on both of them and was THIS close to having two catches for about 80 yards. Still, 44 yards and a touchdown is helpful in a game like this.
~The Jadeveon Clowney signing is one of the most exciting offseason developments in a long time around here, and I was stoked to see him be a 60-minute headache for the Bengals today. He got his first sack as a ‘Hawk, which was dope, but his impact went well beyond that. He is so tenacious against the run and he was getting doubled for much of the day, which pulls one potential receiver out of every play when they do. He’s gonna be a huge help for a defense that was starving for D-line studs.
Beyond Clowney, I thought the DL was pretty damn good. Quinton Jefferson balled out to the tune of 2 sacks, 6 tackles, 2 passes broken up, and 3 QB hits. I did not see that coming. Beside him, Al Woods and Poona Ford got low, got wide, and got tough. They hogged up a bunch of space and had Cincy’s interior OL on their heels. A handful of big plays between them.
~What’s left to say about Bobby Wagner? He was perfect and handsome and ferocious again today. same as always. The thing that still blows me away about Wagner is how quiet the ballcarriers get when he hits them. No moving around or bouncing off or pushing forward. He hits them and they go down like they’ve been paralyzed.
~Tedric Thompson is not Earl Thomas. No one is, or ever could be. But good grief, the drop-off is vertigo-inducing. I really hope he doesn’t suck, cuz Seattle’s gonna be in trouble if he does. I’m not writing him off yet, but it’s wild how far away from the ball he is on a lot of plays.
~Eight penalties for 55 yards, and one of them was horseshit. Nice to see them exist within the bell curve on flags.
Look, this wasn’t pretty but they can’t all be. Seattle was favored by more points than anyone else in the league this week, but the Bengals were sharp and tough and made Seattle make plays in order to win. The good news is there are no style points in the standings, and wins spend the same no matter how you get them. Now, would a performance like this be enough against a playoff team? Unlikely, but they didn’t need that today and there’s no reason to think they won’t get better as the season rolls on. They almost always do.
The Seattle Seahawks are 1-0 and in first place and I’m fine with whatever they had to do to get there. This win puts the season on track, and there’s a ton of value in being able to win without your best stuff. Onward and upward, my friends.
The cigar du jour was a Colorado Claro Special ‘R’ Geneve and it is freaking delicious. Paired with a little Talisker? Hoo boy, great combo.
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