There’s something different about primetime games for the Seahawks, especially when they’re in Seattle. I’m sure that’s true to one degree or another for every team but it is especially true for the ‘Hawks, as evidenced by their 16-3 night/home record in the Russell Wilson era. Part of that, however, is the substantial effect that Seattle’s legendary fans have added to games like this. On this particular evening that historical factor was removed from the equation, putting the result of this game more squarely on the talent and performance of the players on the field. Adding to the novelty and excitement was the fact that tonight’s opponent was the new-look New England Patriots, featuring Cam Newton.
And what a game it was.
The Seahawks, clearly believing they were the superior team and wanting to make the game more competitive, received the opening kick and immediately spotted the Patriots seven points. After hitting Will Dissly for 9 yards and handing it off to Chris Carson for 4, Wilson put his next pass right on the hands of Greg Olsen in the left flat. It was a nice looking lil first down play except that instead of catching the ball, Olsen deflected it up in the air where Devin McCourty easily intercepted it with nothing but turf between him and the endzone. 7-0 in a blink.
Undeterred, Russ and Co. came right back out and drove the ball down the field with aplomb. It started with two Carson drives netting 12 yards, and was followed by a 6-yard swing pass to Carlos Hyde. On the next play, Wilson squirted out of a collapsing pocket to pick up 6 more on a scramble. After Hyde got 2 on the next run, Tyler Lockett caught a crossing route and added two ankles to his trophy wall as he skittered up the field for a first down. More than just a spritely scamp, Lockett followed that up with a big hit to spring a nice Carson run, but the block was flagged for being too awesome and it cost Seattle 15 yards instead. No matter, Lockett came right back and found the soft spot in the defense for 16 on the next play. After facing zone coverage on nearly every play up until now, Wilson finally drew the man assignments he needed to showcase his feet. Dropping back and seeing the pocket open before him, Wilson froze the spy with a pump fake then darted around him like a hydroplane would a buoy and sped downfield for 21. A quick hitter to David Moore and three whatever runs by Carson later, Wilson took a snap and drifted right until a womp rat-sized window opened up in the endzone. Russ didn’t hesitate and whipped the ball through the crease to a sliding Lockett for the score. 7-7, and we were officially off.
Like last week, Seattle came out in rhythm and operated with speed and momentum. The Patriots’ first offensive drive, however, was slow, measured, and methodical. It lasted 10 tedious plays and culminated in a short Newton TD keeper from the 1. 14-7.
Seattle would pick up just one first down on their next possession before punting, a favor New England would quickly return. The following ‘Hawks drive was far more consequential, with Wilson finding Lockett and D.K. Metcalf on back-to-back plays for a combined 19 yards. Two plays later, Wilson took the top off the defense like a teenager going for second base.
Dropping deep behind his line, Russ tilted his shoulders and sent all the blood in my body straight to my nethers. Out of the screen, Metcalf was stacking All-Pro Stephon Gilmore down the seam, working past him and getting on his back hip. Wilson launched a spiral tight enough to split molecules into the Northwest air while D.K. sprinted under it. The ball landed softy in Metcalf’s strong, sexy hands as Gilmore dove helplessly after him. Metcalf brought the pass into his body like a seasoned vet and hustled into the endzone to tie the game at 14. It was the first TD Gilmore had allowed in his last 100 coverage targets. 14-14.
New England missed a field goal and Seattle undid 30 yards of scoring position with penalties on their respective final (real) drives of the first half, so the teams trundled to the locker room still tied. Now I’ll admit, perhaps naively, that I was feeling very, very, good about the Seahawks’ chances even though each team’s score was the same. Yes, the Patriots had the one good drive, but the first score was a complete fluke and Wilson had completed his other 13 passes on the day. The one downside was that late in the first quarter, Quandre Diggs was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit and Marquis Blair instantly hurt his knee after replacing him. The loss of those two would become very apparent as the game wore on.
Now as we all know, one of the most maddening things about the Patriots with Tom Brady was how fucking looooong their drives would take. Just chipping away with intermediate plays and third down conversions like Chinese water torture. The Patriots with Newton? Just as maddening. Their opening drive of the third quarter would take 13 painstaking plays, covering 68 frustrating yards before Jamal Adams finally saved the day with a chasedown sack of Newton on 3rd & goal. The method to the Cam version is different, but it has been effective nonetheless. I can’t tell you how many times Seattle came close to sacking Newton throughout the game but he always wiggled free and/or got rid of the ball a moment sooner. Dinks, dunks, and short chain-moving scrambles kept Seattle’s increasingly gassed defense on the field in the second half, and the ‘Hawks were fortunate to escape this particular drive having only allowed 3 points. 17-14.
Last week I lauded this team for leaning on the passing game and while I stand by that as the preferred modus operandi, Seattle was much more balanced this week. Which is fine! Because they ran the ball really well! This drive was all about the RBs, starting with a 9-yard dump-off to Carson followed by four straight runs down to the New England 38. That’s when Wilson realized it had been like 45 minutes since he’d done something awesome so he decided to show off again. This time, Moore was the target of his affection, as he hucked a bomb towards the front left pylon while his tall, speedy WR sprinted down the sideline. The coverage by McCourty was actually superb, as he stayed in Moore’s hip pocket the whole way. The thing about perfect passes is that sometimes, great coverage just doesn’t matter— especially when the receiver pulls off an act of superhuman proprioception like David Moore did.
As the ball hurtled back towards Earth, Moore pivoted until his back was to the end zone and basket-caught the ball inches above the tiny orange pillar. Dragging one foot in bounds, his other clipped the pylon and somehow — to be completely honest I’m still not sure how— he swung the second foot back into play and tapped his toes for an objectively remarkable touchdown. The officials reviewed the play, presumably to marvel at how cool it was, before confirming the score. 21-17.
The Patriots are nothing if not resilient, and they picked up two quick first downs on their next possession. It looked like it was gonna be the latest counterpunch from a great fighter, until Newton tried to find Damiere Byrd on the far sideline. As the pass sailed towards him, Quinton Dunbar jumped in front and robbed him* point blank.
The diving interception set the Seahawks up in great position and Wilson didn’t take long to capitalize. On the fifth play of the ensuing possession, Seattle dialed up a wild 5-wide play with receivers running all over the place like mice on cocaine. The confusion allowed 7th-round rookie Freddie Swain to slip beneath the defense on a wide open cross. Wilson, conductor of chaos, calmly cast the ball his way and Swain corralled it before coasting in for his first career TD. 28-17.
Okay, I thought, stupidly, the rout is on now. I even texted that to some friends. Like I was born yesterday. Like I hadn’t watched a single Seahawks football game for ten years. Like a dumb freaking idiot. It took Newton just six plays to lead his boys 77 yards for New England’s next score, stringing together completions of 49 and 16 yards before ending the march with a slick lil 3-yarder on a fake QB plunge to whoever Jakob Johnson is. 28-23 after Jamal Adams blew up the two-point conversion.
At this point I think both teams realized everyone needed a breather (Lord knows I did), so they spent the next five minutes trading punts before resuming their battle in earnest. Up four with just nine minutes left in the game, Wilson trotted back out to continue his mastery of the sport. Lockett for 9 then Hyde for 3 set up Metcalf on a stick route down the left sideline. We’ll talk forever about him burning Gilmore for the long TD but this was the play that displayed his dominance even more, in my opinion. Metcalf exploded off the line like it was a go route, not stopping until Gilmore turned his hips to run with him. In the nanosecond that it took Gilmore to pivot, Metcalf hitched as the all-world CB continued to fly up the sideline. After securing the catch, Metcalf turned around ready to lock horns. He charged straight into Gilmore’s sternum as the defender tried to recover and shoved him another 10 yards downfield like a bouncer removing a drunk from the bar. Had another defender not come over to push Metcalf out of bounds, D.K. might have pushed Gilmore the entire 53 yards to the end zone.
A few snaps later, Seattle found themselves facing a 2nd & 5 at NE’s 18. On this snap, Wilson dropped back and looked left. With nothing there and the pass rush closing in, he whipped his feet back to the right and, knowing he was about to get hammered, lobbed the ball down the right seam towards the back of the end zone. There was only one human being in the vicinity, a gleeful Chris Carson, who drifted under it to become the fifth Seahawk to catch a TD pass from Russ tonight. 35-23 with less than five minutes to play.
All right, I told myself, even more stupidly than before, now we’re in the clear. I swear someone should just take my brain away from me during Seahawks games. I was aware that Cam was playing well to this point, but it hadn’t registered yet that he was playing one of the best games of his entire career. Down two scores with basically not enough time left, Newton scrambled for 13 yards then hit Julian Edelman for 12 more. Then it was Byrd for 16 and Edelman again, this time over the top of Jamal Adams of all people for 33 more down to Seattle’s 1. From there, Cam would do the honors himself, waltzing in for his league-leading 4th rushing touchdown of this young season. 35-30.
That put the ball back in Seattle’s hands with a touch over two minutes left and needing one, maybe two first downs to ice it. On the first play, Carson took a handoff around the right side and after picking up 6 yards, inexplicably slid to the ground. He almost assuredly did that to avoid getting pushed out of bounds, which would have been the heady play if it weren’t for the two-minute warning stopping things regardless. He gave up a minimum of two yards in doing so, setting up a 2nd & 4 that became a 3rd & 1 after he gained 3 more on the next play. New England called a timeout, putting Seattle to a decision.
Had the Seahawks lost this one, a lot of folks would regard what happened next as one of the major reasons why. To this point, Seattle had 154 yards on 30 rushes, and every molecule in Pete Carroll’s body must’ve been screaming for an old school handoff. But, and I say this with great respect and admiration, he and/or Brian Schottenheimer decided it was best to keep the ball in Russ’ hands with the game on the line. Instead of running it, Wilson took a shotgun snap that was more than a little off-target. Taking an extra beat to get control of the ball, he was unable to go through his progressions and instead had to fire it towards the first receiver he saw. The good news is that that receiver was Tyler Lockett. The better news is that he was open. But with the bekiltered snap begetting an early pass rush, Wilson’s heave landed half a yard beyond Lockett’s funny little mole hands, bringing up 4th down and a punt.
Here. We. Go.
Cam sauntered back onto the field and got right to work. This man was 100 percent in his bag tonight and was beating up a beleaguered Seattle defense with relentless persistence. He hit N’Keal Harry for 13 yards on the first play, then some guy named Ryan Izzo for 3 more. Then it was Harry again on a 98 mph fastball for another 17 to Seattle’s 48 followed by a 12-yard Newton run. 1st & 10 from the 36 with :39 to go. With everyone on both sides of the ball breathing heavy, Carroll elected to use a timeout to reset.
On the next snap, a deep ball intended for Edelman fell incomplete but Ugo Amadi, who otherwise played a whale of a game in Blair’s absence, was flagged for illegal contact. 1st & 10 from the 31, just 32 seconds left. The ensuing play saw Newton find Edelman yet again, this time for 18 yards, bringing them down to the 14 with 12 seconds left. His next pass was incomplete, setting the stage for two last attempts at glory.
On the first one, Newton dropped back and fired a laser to Harry at the 1, where he was miraculously tackled by Dunbar with 3 seconds left. New England called their final timeout. Seattle then called theirs, as both teams sent in the biggest guys they could find, creating a giant goulash of rippling flesh down the whole length of the line of scrimmage. Cam stood behind all of it, surveying the scene from the shotgun. Now the new Patriots QB is without a doubt the best short yardage player of my lifetime. He is statistically the most effective goal line rusher in NFL history and the threat to pass makes him an almost automatic TD from less than 3 yards out. On top of all that, Seattle hadn’t gotten close to stopping him all night.
There was no doubt what the Patriots were going to try and do on the final play of one of the best games we’ll see all year and, as Cam received the snap, Delano Hill crashed down from the left side while the fullback stepped up to meet him. Michelle Obama once said “when they go low, we go high.” Well, when the blocker went low, Hill went even lower. Delano collapsed the FB with the force of a train hitting a cow, knocking him back towards his own QB. While this was happening, L.J. Collier(!) was beating his man to the inside and arriving in the backfield at the same time. The two oft-maligned Seattle defenders converged on Newton as he prepared to take flight, knocking him out at the knees and sending him flipping to the ground at the 2. The Seahawks had won, and I had just woken up every poor sap who decided to go to bad early within a square mile of my house.
35-30. 2-0. Hell yeah.
~Russell Wilson is finally going to win his MVP this year, and he’s going to do it on the back of what will go down as one of the all-time great seasons in NFL history. He was magnificent again today, completing 21 of 28 passes for 288 yards, 5 touchdowns, and the single bullshit interception. He was sublime in every aspect of the game, from his passing (132.2 rating) to his running (39 yards on 5 carries), to his leadership (answering with a score time after time when called upon).
Russell Wilson is as fierce as he is corny, an alpha predator disguised as the host of Reading Rainbow. He is the perfect quarterback — likely the best on-field performer the position has to offer and the ideal CEO/face of the franchise off of it. We have seen greatness from this man before, but we’ve never witnessed this level of mastery on such a consistent play-to-play basis. You combine that with the longest leash the coaches have ever given him, and you have a recipe for a historic season.
Through two games, Wilson now has:
*Completed 52 of 63 passes (82.5%)
*Passed for 609 yards (9.7 Y/A)
*Thrown 9 TDs (with one “INT”)
*Rushed for 68 yards (8.5 YPC)
*Gone 2-0 (with a ridiculous passer rating of 140)
He says he can still get better, which is hard to believe, but he’s been saying that forever now and somehow he keeps being right. If that stays true, watch the hell out.
~Russell Wilson is so good that I think we take the precision and professionalism of these receivers for granted. We’ve grown accustomed to watching Seahawks receivers sort of run around while Wilson extends plays, an approach that has led to some remarkable highlights but also results in avoidable mishaps. So far this year, however, we are seeing timing and exactitude that is frankly different from seasons past, and it’s part of the reason Wilson’s efficiency is so otherworldly. They were all phenomenal tonight, and I want to make sure they each get their flowers:
I love DeKaylin Metcalf with an intensity that makes even my immediate family members uncomfortable, and he walked the reigning Defensive Player of the Year like a dog tonight. Spending the whole night in the shadow of arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, all D.K. did was perform like a true #1 WR. Despite the promise of last year’s performance, there were games where elite CBs took him completely out of the game; and that’s okay, because that’s what those guys are paid to do. It takes a special level of talent to excel when an all-world DB like Stephon Gilmore spends the game mirroring your every move and if Metcalf has truly reached that level, the way it appeared he has in this one, his ceiling is on Jupiter.
And for all of his calm demeanor, Metcalf got off the bus and immediately took the fight straight to the Patriots’ chest. He not only blasted on all four of his receptions, he blocked like each and every defender had insulted his mama. The second it became clear he wasn’t going to get the ball, he put shackles on the nearest defender. At one point, he wrangled Gilmore towards the sidelines and when the DB tried to shove him out of bounds, Metcalf flung him to the ground in front of his teammates. Gilmore, to his credit, stood up and faced down the entire Seahawks bench, but it was Metcalf that pawed over the shoulders of the guys trying to keep him from getting ejected, grabbing Gilmore’s facemask and letting him know who the man of the house really was. Just an incredible display of toughest-dog-in-the-fight, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Kam Chancellor.
His line tonight was almost identical to last week’s: 4 catches on 6 targets for 92 yards, and one long TD. And something tells me there’s lots more where that came from.
While Metcalf is a spectacular demigod, Lockett is still the guy I’m watching on every gotta-have-it snap. He is one of the best route runners in the NFL at every level of the field, an unusual skillset for any player but especially for one his size. And he never drops anything. It’s like giving Russell Wilson his own personal Antonio Brown, minus the staggering volume and personal volatility.
Whenever the Seahawks need a first down, he’s the guy. He gets open with remarkable quickness (the most important skill a receiver can have), and his numbers back that up. He caught 7 of his 8 targets tonight, netting 67 yards in the process plus the TD. On 16 targets this year, he now has 15 catches for 159 yards and a score. Devastating effectiveness once again from the WR that has spent the last three seasons rewriting the record books for WR efficiency.
David Moore. Man. What a game he had tonight. The box score is good (3 catches on 3 targets for 48 yards and a TD) but it was how and when he made those plays that really made a difference. His deep touchdown was certainly gush-worthy but his other two receptions were big time too: a contested slant over the middle for a first down early and a sensational fingertip catch on a pivotal late third down on an uncharacteristically low pass from Wilson. Without that otherwise innocuous reception, I don’t think Seattle wins this game. Plus he added a 20-yard punt return that helped set up one of their touchdown drives.
~Say what you want about the run / pass split (and I will) or the value of a running back (ditto), but Chris Carson runs like his position’s entire reputation depends on it. The dude is ferocious, and he amassed 72 yards on 17 carries, reclaiming his lead-back status after just 6 carries a week ago.
Like in the first game, though, his highest value has been as a receiver. After catching two scores last week, he added another today. It was one of 3 catches for 26 yards this evening, giving him an impressive 9 for 81 on the season. He now has 32 total touches on the season for 179 yards and the trio of scores— applaudable production to be sure.
Carlos Hyde was Carlos Hyde-y again today, which is totally fine. You can’t keep Carson out there for every play and while Hyde’s numbers are rarely spectacular, watching him play makes it easy to understand why football coaches love him so much. He is solid as stone in all three phases of the position and he plays freaking hard. Just five carries and two catches today but the 37 total yards he had were chain movers. Very happy to have him.
~Jamal Adams is a juggernaut. The combination of child-like enthusiasm and full-grown savagery is an absolute delight to behold and the never-ending energy he brings has been obviously contagious. He led the team with 10 tackles, including Seattle’s only sack, and that still somehow doesn’t tell the whole story. He had a bunch of tackles in open space, including a crucial one on New England’s failed two-point conversion and again on a pitch to Rex Burkhead on a 4th quarter third down. I would make that trade for him 100x over.
Other than Adams, however, the defense really struggled. Part of that was Cam playing out of his mind, but most of it stemmed from A) an ineffective pass rush, B) Quandre Diggs’ ejection, and C) Marquise Blair’s injury. They gave up 397 passing yards on 45 drop backs which is... not ideal. They’re not getting torched but they’re consistently a step away from where they need to be, when they need to be there. It’s the type of glitch that allows a surgical route runner like Edelman to thrive, and he did so with a career-high 179 yards tonight.
The good news is that they’ve been really good against designed runs so far this year. Cam is gonna get his because that’s what he’s built for, but outside of Newton’s 47 yards, the Seahawks allowed just 20 on 14 other designed runs. They were great against Gurley and company in that regard last week too, which is helpful. Hopefully when Rasheem Green and Darrell Taylor are back, it will all coalesce a little better.
Quinton Dunbar struggled early, and Newton seemed to seek him out as a result. I know a lot of CBs have a tough time initially when they come to Seattle as they try to learn Carroll’s patented kick-step technique, but he rebounded nicely to have a pretty good game overall. His interception was an enormous play in this game and he very nearly had another. He also saved the game with his goal line tackle of Harry on the final drive. At some point I do think it’s really gonna click for him and that gives me a lot of hope for this secondary overall.
~There was a much more even distribution between runs and passes this week, which is fine when the rushes are working. Which they were! The Seahawks threw it 30 times and rushed it 30 times, but the runs were dynamic and the throws were, well, Russell Wilsons’, so both ended up working out great. Seattle’s 30 pass plays (including sacks) resulted in 275 yards (9.2 yards per) while their 30 runs gained 154 (5.1). If you’re gonna do that well in both facets, then hell yeah, even that shit up! The frustration in the past has simply stemmed from the fact that for the last four seasons, Seattle’s passes have been monumentally more effective than their runs. How they divvy up the play selection moving forward will be a fascinating subplot.
~Penalties were, in my opinion, the main reason this game was close. Like in any game, there were a few you could point to as potentially bad calls but that doesn’t change the fact that Seattle was significantly less disciplined in this regard than their opponent. The Seahawks racked up 9 penalties for 68 yards while the Patriots only had 2 for 12. If this game were level on that front, I think the Seahawks coast.
The most important thing is that the Seahawks played a wildly entertaining game against a very very good team and won. They made a bunch of phenomenal plays, including the one they absolutely had to have at the end, and are 2-0 as a result. We can chop up football games a million ways in hindsight but most NFL contests (and I’m pretty sure every one involving the Seahawks) comes down to who will step up in the big moments and Seattle did tonight. 2-0. It may not seem like much but it’s a really big deal and I’m leaning all the way in.
I’ve spent the last few months telling everyone who will listen and most who won’t that this season feels special. Like, special special. It’s taken a while but this team has developed a new personality with new DNA, and the early returns are very, very good. Onward, upward, and go ‘Hawks.
A game as major as this one deserved a cigar to match, so I unsheathed the Illusione from Epernay Le Taure. This stogie was an absolute fireworks show, exploding with flavor from the very first spark. A lighter profile than most, it smoked smoothly with a rotating series of tastes as the stick progressed. I piggybacked the cigar with, well, Piggyback bourbon from Whistlepig. It added some serious punch to the overall experience.
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