On a 90 degree afternoon in Santa Clara, the Seattle Seahawks took on their familiar divisional rivals in a contest that started out looking like a defensive struggle before turning into what was Shane Waldron’s finest second half offensive performance of the season. The Seattle offense was so anemic early that they surrendered five straight three and outs, they still managed to put together a good looking drive to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first half.
Wilson finished the first two quarters of play 7 of 10 for 76 yards and a TD, though even these relatively paltry stats mask how sluggish they looked in the first thirty minutes of play. They performed more consistently in the second half, although the offense still only finished the day with 234 total yards. But a win is a win, and I want to take a look at two offensive drives that made this win possible. More specifically, I want to focus primarily on the touchdown drive at the end of the first half, as well as their second score of the day on their second possession of the third quarter.
The First Touchdown Drive
The culminating play of this drive may be the biggest highlight, as DK Metcalf collected his third touchdown of the season, but the real star was Alex Collins. Shane Waldron also earned a tip of the hat for getting Collins involved in a well executed and well scripted drive. Starting with the lead off play, Collins picked up a what would be Seattle’s first 1st down of the afternoon.
An important first down lob pass from Russ to Alex Collins pic.twitter.com/hNosrxY906— Seahawks Nation (@12sNationCP) October 3, 2021
The Seahawks line up in 21 personnel, with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett flanking the left and right sides, respectively. Nick Bellore lines up at fullback, and both he and recently-elevated tight end Tyler Mabry stay at home to block. In a move that we have seen the Seahawks make quite frequently this season, they only had two players getting out into routes initially before Alex Collins sneaks out of the backfield off play action. Simple, yet effective, and something that I really want to see continue to be a feature of this offense on a weekly basis. Collins also picked up a couple decent gains as a runner on a day where Carson was consistently shut down by an imposing San Francisco 49ers front seven. As Tyler Alsin wrote earlier this week, Alex has been a consistent contributor in limited action so far this season, and we may likely see more of him going forward.
Moving onto to the passing game, DK Metcalf doesn’t only score touchdowns, he also picks up first downs. On a well drawn up play, Metcalf found some space over the deep middle and got things moving for a passing game that was unrecognizable for most of the first two quarters of play. Love to see the aggressiveness on third and short.
My favorite Shane Waldron call of the game. 3rd & 1 and Waldron goes for the 49ers jugular instead of just trying to move the chains pic.twitter.com/6zIg9XSMhM— Parker (@ParkerLewes) October 4, 2021
And then there was that touchdown. This was just an example of excellent route running by DK Metcalf and further evidence that not only is he doing just fine after a slow start (to the game and the season), but also further evidence of his evolution as a complete wide receiver.
This route by DK Metcalf— PFF (@PFF) October 3, 2021
The Second Touchdown Drive
Seattle came out swinging in the second half. While their first drive of the third quarter ended in a punt, they still managed to get a first down on a Wilson scramble and took a deep shot to DK Metcalf that very nearly resulted in a big gain.
E-MAN said not today to DK Metcalf #49ers pic.twitter.com/G0saxUPgjQ— (@TheSFNiners_) October 3, 2021
It is just a matter of time before Russ and DK re-discover some of their deep ball magic from 2020. But this is about the next drive. Tyler Lockett had been having a quiet afternoon, as he had up to this point caught two passes for 3 yards. But in what was a very vintage No-E moment, he sat down on a deep comeback and beat his man for a big 19-yard gain and a first down to open the drive.
Tyler Lockett had a quiet afternoon, but this play on the deep comeback to start their second touchdown drive felt like a turning point for the offense. pic.twitter.com/bbjk6dyPwc— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) October 4, 2021
Following this, Waldron utilized some up-tempo offense, going no huddle and getting a couple quick runs to Carson to pick up another conversion and keep the defense reeling. This utilization of rhythm as a controllable component of the offense is a great adjustment to get over the third quarter hump that had plagued Seattle through their first two games. Reportedly, per Gregg Bell of the News Tribune, Wilson precipitated this shift, saying “I told Shane, ‘Let’s go for it. Let me be a part of calling the game,’”.
What followed was a quick screen to Metcalf that was nearly blown up — but thanks to DK’s otherworldly acceleration and speed combo along with some excellent blocking by Damien Lewis — somehow became a decent gain on first down.
Damien Lewis makes this happen. Good initial check on Maurice Hurst, then he gets out in front and jams up Al-Shaair and Warner. Of course, Metcalf's combo of speed and acceleration help a ton, which is why he should be the only receiver Seattle ever targets on these screens. pic.twitter.com/FAY3L4uuHl— Stan 'the boy' Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) October 4, 2021
I’m not nuts about these wide receiver screen plays, but if Seattle has to run them, I am glad to see DK getting the call. Tyler Lockett was the recipient of a similar play moments later that was shut down almost immediately.
And when Wilson wasn’t finding open receivers, he was finding open running lanes. Seeing Wilson scramble for this touchdown was such a welcome sight on an afternoon that had started off pretty brutally. Russ’s quick decision making and his still threatening capabilities as a runner are still a sight to behold. This is yet another good reminder that no matter who is calling the plays, Russell Wilson is still going to Russell Wilson. In what turned out to be a gritty game where the offense had to take what they could get against a San Francisco defense, this ended up being the difference.
Side Notes, Stats, and Other Highlights
- Yes, Russell Wilson is putting together yet another statistically impressive season...
#Seahawks QB Russell Wilson leads the NFL in Y/A (9.6), INT percentage (0.0) and passer rating (129.9) through four games.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 5, 2021
He is on pace to have his fourth-straight season with a passer rating over 105.
- ...but at the same time, he is looking far from consistent over the course of the first four games. Per Football Outsiders, Wilson finished the day with a negative passing score in Defensive Adjusted Yards Over Replacement (DYAR), though his rushing DYAR was enough to bring him into the positive for the day. Still, he finished 22nd of 34 qualifying QBs. This is the first game this season where Wilson landed outside of the Top 10 in DYAR, and he looked much improved as the game went on. Similarly, while Wilson is leading the NFL is passer rating, he is sitting at tenth in ESPN’s QBR metric.
- Regardless of the above, this sequence is pure vintage Russell Wilson highlight reel stock.
Another angle of Russell Wilson’s ridiculous spin move TD to Freddie Swain pic.twitter.com/UPloE3gmWX— Parker (@ParkerLewes) October 4, 2021
- Alex Collins was the team’s most productive rusher of the day, out-gaining Chris Carson on the ground in three fewer touches. In addition to this, he was the team’s second most productive receiver on what was a quiet day for Seahawks receivers, overall. He ended the game with 78 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Carson is still the clear and obvious starter, but it is good to see some energy behind him. Alex Collins may not be the Rashaad Penny that Pete Carroll wanted, but he is the Rashaad Penny the Seahawks need.
.@Budda03 flips in to the end zone for SIX!— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 3, 2021
: #SEAvsSF on FOX pic.twitter.com/DdHKJFLxut
The touchdown run by Alex Collins was on midzone weak to the right side. Collins saw penetration off the c-gap and b-gap so he started working back inside. Great downfield blocks by the TEs and WRs to seal the cut lanes. Great run. #Seahawks— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) October 3, 2021
- Through Week 4, Seattle is 6th overall in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, while posting a below average success rate as an offense. More on this to come later, but if I may speculate, I believe that this speaks to Seattle’s explosive yet thus far inconsistent performance. Similarly, the Hawks are 10th in points per game, while being 19th in yards gained. The first stat is obviously much more important, as yards don’t win games.
- Through four games, the Hawks have yet to win the time of possession battle in any matchup yet this season. This game was the closest yet, as the Niners only held the ball ~ 3 minutes longer. Similar to yards, TOP doesn’t win games, but the boom/bust nature of the offense will need to level out if the Hawks want to get their season back on track. Interestingly enough, the Rams have similarly held the ball for cumulatively less time than their opponents — only out-possessing the Bucanners by 20 seconds — while also fielding a high scoring offense (6th overall).
Bring on the Los Angeles Rams.