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Cigar Thoughts, Game 4: Seahawks play with their food before eating it

The Seattle Seahawks used two late touchdowns to pull away from the Miami Dolphins, moving to 4-0 in the process.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I love cereal games. We only get maybe one or two a year, and I cherish them like holidays. Waking up for a morning ‘Hawks contest against a decidedly inferior opponent, with no time or reason for the usual day-long crescendo of anxiety that accompanies most Sundays, is a blessing. Instead of feeling the normal shortening of vibrations in my body as the afternoon wears on, I instead grabbed some coffee, mowed my lawn, and then poured a giant bowl of Lucky Charms as I settled into my couch. Time to watch the Seahawks win.

I know nothing is inevitable in the NFL, but Seattle winning this one kinda was. The Miami Dolphins received the opening kick and picked up a quick first down, as Seattle’s opponents have been wont to do, but that was about it. A couple plays later, Benson Mayowa crashed hard from the right and collapsed Miami’s right tackle. Driving through the block, he reached out and hit Ryan Fitzpatrick as he delivered his pass. That forced the ball low over the middle, where Cody Barton fielded it like a volleyball player receiving a spike. He set the ball high into the air where it was plucked by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Ryan Neal, who soared in from the right. It was Neal’s second interception in the last four passes thrown against Seattle, and it set Brian Schottenheimer’s glitzy new offense up beautifully near midfield.

Russell Wilson needed no time to put Skybox Schotty’s newly acquired wizardry to work, hitting Greg Olsen in the flat for 5 yards then going over the top down the sideline to a coasting DK Metcalf for 37 more. With the defense backpedaling, they turned it over to Chris Carson, who had miraculously recovered from Trysten Hill’s malicious post-tackle shenanigans last week, to finish the job. Carson hammered the ball off right tackle for 7 yards, then caught a floater for 5 more. He finally wrapped up the drive on the following play, pounding it in from 3 yards to make it 7-0 Seattle. It was a fiery burst of activity that showed the rare combination of power, balance, and skill that Carson possesses.

With their latest opening TD in the books, it looked for all the world that the Seahawks would be right back to their high-scoring ways, dumping another truckload of points on yet another hapless defense. These Dolphins, however, had a little more hap than anticipated, and that was the last time the ‘Hawks would sniff the endzone for a while.

While this game portended to be an offensive prizefight, what with Seattle’s historically efficient offense and historically permissive defense, the next 20 minutes or so devolved into a special-teams-oriented tickling contest. Miami went three-and-out on their second drive and Seattle courteously punted it back after a nifty 23-yard catch and run from Freddie Swain gave them some breathing room.

The next Miami drive showed some promise, as it lasted 9 plays and covered 54 yards, with 8 of those plays being designed runs; and why wouldn’t they be? Seattle’s run defense has actually been pretty good this year, but their pass coverage has been polite at best. The Dolphins pushed the ball down inside the red zone with a smattering of short throws but the Seahawks defense stiffened up to force a field goal, making it 7-3.

Seattle used their next drive to get a field goal of their own, but only because of a sighting rarer than Halley’s Comet: a Tyler Lockett drop. The possession lasted 7 plays and included a clean 19-yard crosser to Metcalf, but stalled after that stunning development. On that play, Lockett ran a simple crossing route and settled cozily into a soft spot in the Miami zone like a newborn Joey in his mother’s pouch. Wilson’s expertly timed throw hit him right in his supple little baby hands but Lockett bobbled it to the ground, and after Wilson threw the next one away, Seattle’s offense trundled off the field.

That brought out Jason Myers for a long 55-yard attempt. The fact that we haven’t had to think about Myers all season is a credit not only to Seattle’s offense but to Myers himself, as he has answered the call every time he’s been needed so far— even if it’s mostly just been to kick extra points. This occasion, while certainly his most challenging, was no different and he banged the sea-level kick home from the logo to make it 10-3.

Miami picked up where they left off on the last drive, again leaning on intermediate passes to chunk their way down the field en route to a field goal, closing the gap at 10-6. The next Seahawks drive was actually pretty impressive, as they used an effective mix of runs and passes to go 71 yards on 12 plays— highlighted by an 18-yard throw to Metcalf and an 11-yarder to Olsen. Everything about it looked good, except one play in particular. On it, Carson took a pitch and raced around the right end. As defenders closed in, he hurtled his body forward, only to get hit simultaneously from two Dolphins moving in opposite directions. The tackler who hit him from the front found Carson’s chin with his helmet and damn near snapped his head off. The hit jarred the ball loose and, while it was recovered by Seattle, it left Carson laying prone on the field with trainers checking to make sure his skull was still attached. Very scary stuff, and the fact that Carson was able to return to this game is insane to me.

With Carson being attended to in the concussion tent, the Seahawks continued their march and made it all the way down to Miami’s 18, where they faced a 4th & 3. I have many favorite things about this season so far, and one of them is definitely Pete Carroll’s rediscovered proclivity for going for it on 4th. I wouldn’t have blamed them one iota if they had brought Myers out there, but they left the offense on the field to see if Wilson could pull it off like he had on Seattle’s first three 4th down attempts this year. Sadly, nothing materialized on the available routes and the Miami blitz got home, wrapping Russ up and dropping him for a turnover on downs.

The following Dolphins possession followed the same script as the previous two, with a string of first downs advancing the ball into scoring range before the Seahawks defense bowed up. The ‘Phins would settle for another field goal but only because KJ Wright dropped an interception at the goal line on third down. Nevertheless, you don’t lose when you don’t allow touchdowns, and Miami was forced to settle for their third three in their last three drives. 10-9.

The headache-inducing length of the home team’s drives left the visitors with just 25 seconds left in the second quarter to try and extend the lead. For almost any other team, or even this team in any other year, that would be a recipe for a couple of short runs before halftime. This, however, is the year of Russ trust, and he has consistently rewarded that faith with magnificence. This drive would be no exception, as he quickly hit Olsen for a first down and a timeout. That was followed by him buying enough time in the pocket for the defense to forget about David Moore, and Wilson calmly lobbed a deep ball to Moore down the left sideline. The play would pick up 57 quick yards and ensure a field goal attempt at the very least, but Seattle wanted more.

After another quick-hitter to Olsen that moved the ball from the 7 to the 3 with :06 remaining, Seattle used their final timeout. Now, these situations are more delicate than they may seem at first blush. While six seconds seems like plenty of time to gain three yards, choosing to run one more play before kicking, with no timeouts, introduces the risk of a sack or penalty draining the clock with no score at all. Nevertheless, Wilson and Co stayed out there, confident in their ability to execute. Wilson took the shotgun snap and surveyed the field. His first two reads weren’t there and, with time running out, he re-centered and delivered a strike over the middle to Travis Homer, who had hunkered down in the endzone. The score made it 17-6 at the break, and any tension invited by the close score was relieved— at least temporarily.

The second half started with Seattle’s offense back on the field, and they put together another great drive. Wilson completed four passes including a 21-yarder to David Moore and deftly scrambled for a first down on a 3rd & long. They would push the ball all the way inside the Dolphins 10, and it appeared like they would easily extend their lead to 24-9, summarily taking any remaining drama out of the game. Instead, Wilson chose that time to throw his first truly bad pass of the year.

On that particular snap, Wilson received the hike and looked across the defense. Drifting right, a defender began to close in on him and, instead of stepping into his pass, Wilson attempted something of a fadeaway jumper. It’s the type of throw that can work on a swing route or a short corner, but definitely not on a slant— not even one to DK Metcalf. Cornerback Xavier Howard made the most of the rare Wilson error and dove across his man to pick off the pass and preserve the one score lead. After scoring touchdowns on their first 10 redzone possessions this season, this made two out of three where the ‘Hawks came away with nada.

The rest of the third quarter was boring as hell, with the teams divvying up a small handful of yards. Miami kicked another field goal.

The final quarter began with the Dolphins executing another long drive, this one extended by some serious bullshit. On a 3rd down barely across midfield, Fitzpatrick fired a low pass towards a diving receiver. Quandre Diggs closed in from above and timed his lunge perfectly, meeting the receiver and the ball at the exact same time as both players dove towards the turf. The moment of impact was pristine and the ball fell incomplete. Somehow, and I’m still not quite certain why, the official deemed that play by Diggs illegal and, since the Dolphins committed a hold on the line, Miami got another chance. So of course they converted.

The consistency of the Dolphins is worth admiring, however, because this drive would end with yet another field goal. It was the fifth consecutive possession that culminated with three points for Miami but, because of Seattle’s inability to finish two redzone drives, the undefeated Seahawks found themselves up just two points with eight and a half minutes left. It was also completely infuriating, as the Dolphins converted three consecutive third downs and used up over seven minutes of valuable clock. It also made the score 17-15— perilously close considering the perceived talent gap between the two teams.

That’s when the best offense in the NFL stopped fooling around and started punching with purpose. This Seattle drive started with a 9-yard catch by Lockett, somehow his first of the entire game. That was followed by an 8-yard Carson run and then back to Lockett for 30 more. After Dallas got 11 yards on the next to plays with a run and a reception, Wilson went for it all. Standing in a clean pocket, Russ swung his head and shoulders to the right and zipped a low-arcing pass to the back corner of the endzone.

Right as the ball was about to soar past the end line, Moore sprinted through to grab it and drag his feet inside the paint with a defender all over him for a much-needed TD. That play, combined with Myers kick, pushed the lead back out to 9 and let Seahawks fans exhale a bit. It also forced Miami to begin pressing, and that was ultimately their undoing. On the fourth play of the drive Fitzpatrick stepped up under pressure and tried to force a pass down the right seam. Shaquill Griffin, who has a rough start to his season, was all over it and leaped in front of the receiver for the monumental interception.

The Seahawks got the ball back with about four minutes left and, after putting two in the body on their last drive, it was time for one to the head. Enter DK Metcalf.

On the first play of the possession, Wilson whipped a pass out to Metcalf at the line of scrimmage, where he was hit by the corner. The would-be tackler wrapped DK’s legs up but it was like trying to catch a grizzly bear with an aluminum foil trap. Metcalf easily hopped out of the defender’s grasp and began charging down the sideline. Other defenders approached but no one wanted the smoke. A couple of them tried pushing him out of bounds but DK was having none of that, waving them off with his bionic arm while tiptoeing closer to the endzone. It was only when the fourth defender hit him that he finally, barely, stepped out of bounds one yard shy of the kill shot. No worries, Carson took care of that one play later. 31-15, ballgame.

The Dolphins would eventually get a TD and a two-point conversion on their final drive, but only because the Seahawks are contractually obligated to play one-score games. The road to 4-0 hasn’t always been pretty, but the destination is gorgeous.

SMOKE RINGS

~It feels like Russell Wilson was less than great in this game but I think that has as much to do with the unmatched purity of his first three performances as it did with this one. And while we may have grown accustomed, unrealistically, to 4+ TDs in every game, his numbers today are pretty sterling in their own right.

Wilson completed 24 of 34 passes (70.6%) for 360 yards (10.6 Y/A), 2 TDs, and 1 INT. His passer rating was 112.4, and that only seems meh because he’s been cruising at a 137 clip all September. And while the numbers were good, it was the continuing faith in him that stands out the most.

The drive at the end of the first half was maybe the truest representation of this team’s unfettered trust in Wilson, letting him air it down the field instead of running out the clock with a one-point lead. That he was able to deliver 75 yards and 7 points in 21 seconds is amazing but it almost would have been more surprising if he didn’t. Such are the expectations when the best quarterback in the world is playing his best football.

Wilson’s numbers on the year are remarkable. His 16 TDs through 4 games ties Peyton Manning’s NFL record and they’re offset by just 2 INTs. He’s passed for 1,285 yards on only 137 throws, meaning he’s averaging 9.4 yards every time he attempts a pass, and he’s completing those passes at a ridiculous 75.2% clip. He remains the front-runner for MVP a quarter of the way through the season and so far nothing indicates that changing.

~The Seahawks playbook these days is basically just the second screen from NFL Blitz, and the receivers are absolutely soaking it up. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf came into this game among the league leaders in productivity, with lots of fun left over for the likes of David Moore, Freddie Swain, and Greg Olsen.

After setting the NFL on fire in the first three weeks, Lockett was actually something of a non-factor in this one. His second quarter drop was his only first half target, and he wouldn’t record a catch until midway through the fourth. In all, he saw just 4 passes, turning them into 2 catches for 39 yards. The fact that those two catches were lynchpins in a very important TD drive helps salvage an otherwise forgettable performance.

DK Metcalf, on the other hand, continues his absurd statistical consistency. For the fourth straight game, Metcalf caught 4 passes and for the fourth straight game, he finished within 8 yards of 100, give or take. The only thing missing was his fourth straight game with a score, and he was just a single yard away from that on his final catch.

DK Metcalf has now been targeted 28 times, catching 22 of them (78.6%) for 403 yards (25.2 YPC), and 3 TDs. Wilson’s passer rating when targeting Metcalf is a robust 140, and only because of that backpedalling interception today. Just monstrous productivity.

David Moore is good for one or two amazing plays every game and we saw more of it today. He is officially credited with 3 catches for 95 yards today, although a bunch of them came on what was essentially a jet sweep that appeared to be sniffed out by the D. Shortly after taking that one, a linebacker closed off his route upfield. No matter, because Moore put that pour chap’s feet in cement with a stutter-step then sprinted upfield for the huge gain. His touchdown was another thing of beauty, and he added a third long catch in the second half for good measure. I gotta imagine he’s playing as well or better than any #3 WR in the league right now.

Greg Olsen is so damn good at being Greg Olsen. Happy to block, he nevertheless always seems to be right where he needs to be when Wilson requires a safety valve. With Miami working hard to take away the deep routes, Wilson ended up looking Olsen’s way a team-leading 7 times, completing 5 of them for 35 yards. Was also cool to see Freddie Swain stay involved, as he caught 2 of his 3 targets for 32 useful yards.

~The rushing game continued to roll today, thanks largely to good blocking and hellacious running. Chris Carson’s remarkable ability to start this game after the grossly malicious gator roll from the Cowboys’ Trysten Hill last week was surpassed only by his ability to play after taking the equivalent of an uppercut from a helmet in the second quarter. Carson was limited most of the week in practice, leading to a game-time decision on his availability this morning, but if there was any weakness in that twisted knee, it didn’t show today. He ran with the turbo button smashed fully into the controller, delivering a tremendous amount of punishment and exhibiting a handful of full-speed jukes to boot.

He carried the ball 16 times for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, delivering far more punishment than even the tonnage of it he received. He runs the ball like a wounded rhino, goring everyone in his getaway path and converted all four of the short yardage runs he was called upon for. If Russell Wilson is the scalpel, Chris Carson is the bone hammer, because sometimes pure blunt force is what a situation requires. With the 3 catches for 20 yards he added today, Carson had 100 total yards from scrimmage and now has 350 on the season to go with 5 TDs. Beast.

When Carson was resting or recovering, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homes filled in the gaps. I thought Dallas looked really sharp, showing good vision and great balance on his few touches. He ran twice for 9 yards and caught both of his targets for 15 more— the first four opportunities of his pro career. I don’t know how much time he’ll see when Carlos Hyde returns, but I gotta think he earned some trust today. Homer, for his part, only gained 8 yards on his 5 touches, but his 3-yard TD catch was a big one right before the half.

~How about this offensive line? These guys have not been getting nearly the love from me that they deserve this season, having come into this game ranked near the top in time-to-throw, pass-rush win-rate, and a handful of other blocking metrics. The OL has also been great moving forward, as the Seahawks are averaging a fantastic 4.7 yards per carry on the season.

After a near-decade of putting soup strainers in front of their franchise quarterback, the Seahawks have found a combo that has kept Wilson clean— a massive contributor to the historically efficient and productive start to his season. We’ve always talked about what Russ could do if he had a good line and, well, we’re finally seeing it. If this keeps up, look the hell out.

~I thought the oft-maligned Seahawks defense was actually pretty good today. No Jamal Adams, Bruce Irvin, Jordyn Brooks, or Marquise Blair, but the group stepped up anyway, allowing the one non-essential TD with a minute left but otherwise snuffing out every Miami threat. Future Ring of Honor member Ryan Neal made his presence felt throughout, picking off the early pass and laying some serious thumps on various Dolphins en route to 6 tackles. He plays like he’s always been here, and I’m starting to think he might be one of those unforeseen heroes that every championship team inevitably discovers.

The whole secondary, which has been something of a punchline so far this year, bounced back in a big way. After allowing 400 yards per game through the air, they stiffened up in this one, holding the Dolphins to 312 yards passing and 0 TDs. And while that yardage total may not seem too impressive on the surface, consider that it took Miami 47 pass plays to even get that many. Toss in a couple of picks and you’ve got yourself a nice all-around performance. Ugo Amadi continued his impressive play and Shaquill Griffin broke up 3 passes including the big interception in the 4th

Bobby Wagner was up to his usual tricks, magnetically attracted to the ball as he compiled a team-high 12 tackles. Meanwhile, his battery mate KJ Wright racked up a John Wick level of kills this morning, hitting dudes so hard the authorities had to check dental records to identify the bodies. He also broke up 3 passes, which is really amazing when you consider how KJ WRighty he is.

The pass rush was okay. they got one sack but they harassed Fitzpatrick into two interceptions and the front seven held Miami RBs to just 56 yards on 16 carries. Nothing spectacular, but good enough today.

~Time to give Jason Myers his roses. We’ve taken him for granted this year because he’s given us the luxury of doing so. Extra points are no longer a given in this league, but he’s made all 19 of his this year including both field goals. Today’s 55-yarder was obviously the most impressive kick to date, but he hasn’t even been making us sweat these boots. I know kicker confidence is as ephemeral as a fever dream but I haven’t felt this good about a Seattle kicker since idk... Norm Johnson? Here’s hoping it continues, because the dude has been automatic.

~Officially zero penalties committed by the Seahawks today, which is maybe the craziest part of an already insane season. I don’t even know what to say about something so far outside of normal reality. Uh, keep it up I guess.

4-0 is no small thing, friends. It automatically launches a team into the short list of true contenders, and buys you some serious margin for error. Consider this: at 4-0, the Seahawks could play .500 ball the rest of the season and still finish with double-digit wins. And they’ve got some absolute jabronies ahead of them on their schedule. The arrow is pointed straight up this year, and I’m strapping in for a hell of a ride. Onward, upward, and go ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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Anticipating a slightly less wild game, I wanted to smoke a cigar that I could focus on a little more than usual. It was with that in mind that I plucked Diamond Crown’s Black Diamond from the humidor; it’s a darker smoke than I’m used to but is rich in flavor, tasting almost of molasses. Totally indulgent, and a great partner to the post-cereal Auchentoshan American Oak scotch I poured.

For the second straight year, I am STOKED about our partnership with Seattle Cigar Concierge. They have the plug on some of the most insane stogies on the market and they’re has offering 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 2020 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.