***As many of you know, Cigar Thoughts is now a podcast in addition to an article. And, as part of the package, you can now listen to this column on the go. This article can be found in audio form wherever you get your podcasts, and you can listen to it right here:
Next week, Seahawks beat reporter Michael Shawn-Dugar of The Athletic joins us, so be on the lookout for that!
Any time the Seahawks and Packers play, the bulk of the conversation is going to revolve around their two Hall of Fame quarterbacks; but perhaps never more so than going into this matchup. With Russell Wilson miraculously recovering from his finger injury in half the proposed time, and Aaron Rodgers coming back after a self-imposed free-thinking hiatus, the two highest rated passers in NFL history were set for another showdown.
But instead of re-establishing their presences via high-flying attacks, their teams slogged around the middle of the field for the first three quarters, with neither seeming inclined to score. Seattle came in off a win with their backup QB, hoping it signaled a change in direction after a miserable start to their season. Green Bay came in off a loss with their backup QB, hoping it didn’t signal a change in direction after a sublime start to their season.
Both defenses played phenomenally in the first half, efforts that were aided by some cowardly coaching decisions on Seattle’s part and penalties and a missed kick on Green Bay’s. The first drive was an adventurous one for DJ Reed, who damn near had a pick-six on the second snap only to slip and fall on a 41-yard completion to Marquez Valdez-Scantling on the very next play. He’d break up another pass a few plays later, helping stop the Packers drive and force a field goal that Mason Crosby would push right.
On Wilson’s first series in a month, he appeared to convert a 3rd & 8 with an impressive diving scramble but, as the team got ready to run their next play, the refs— in their everlasting wisdom— decided to re-spot the ball an inch short. Facing 4th & minuscule from their own 41, Pete Carroll tucked his head back into his turtle shell and, with the sounds of his gum chewing echoing around him, sent out the punt team. So god damn frustrating.
The process was bad but the defense did their job again, forcing the Packers to punt the ball back after one first down. Not that the Seahawks would do anything with it. After a little slip route to Gerald Everett gained 12, and a pass interference on a deep ball to Tyler Lockett, the offense stalled out again and booted it away. Green Bay would do the same on their next drive, then Seattle would return the favor as the two teams spent the majority of the first half gently sending the ball back to each other like a couple of badminton players. The one highlight was Wilson hitting Will Dissly, who the Packers defense had treated like a leper. With no one in his zip code, Dissly started up like an old gas lawn mower and trundled up the sideline, running like he had just started pooping for a 28-yard gain.
The Packers would carve out one more sustained drive in the first half and knock a short field goal through the uprights for a 3-0 lead. It’s all the scoring we’d see for a while. On Green Bay’s final first half drive, they’d get to the edge of field goal range only to see AJ Dillon get stoned at the line of scrimmage by Bobby Wagner to force a 4th & short. Rodgers and crew stayed on the field, and would fling a quick stop route to Allen Lazard who looked like he had the easy catch for a first down but Tre Brown crashed down on him and hit him like Bill Goldberg coming off the ropes. The collision jarred the ball loose and gave it back to Seattle with a minute left in the second quarter.
With one last chance to score before the break, Wilson finally found his rhythm. He hit DK Metcalf for the first time to get a yard, then scrambled for four before hitting Everett for nine more. Then it was an out route to Metcalf who made an insane toe-dragging catch on the sideline to get his team in field goal range. On the next play, however, Damien Lewis got called for a phantom hold, knocking them out of range and forcing them to settle for an unsuccessful Hail Mary attempt. 3-0 at the break.
The third quarter was scoreless, but it didn’t look like it would be. Wilson looked sharp on the first drive of the second half, utilizing no huddle to get in rhythm and whip the ball around the field, getting as far as the Packers’ 12. That’s as close as they’d get all game, sadly, as Wilson, on 3rd down, forced a ball towards Metcalf in the end zone that hit Kevin King right between the numbers for an interception.
Green Bay responded with a long drive of their own, pushing it all the way down to Seattle’s 15 before Rodgers made the same mistake Wilson did. On 3rd down, Rodgers rolled right and lobbed one towards the back of the end zone. Waiting for it was Jamal Adams, who proved he does indeed have hands by out-jumping the receiver and coming down with his first interception as a Seahawk. It was the last bright spot we’d see.
The 4th quarter consisted entirely of the Packers shoving the football down Seattle’s throat, using two long drives that culminated in short Dillon TDs to make it 17-0. All the ‘Hawks did in response was look entirely out of sorts on offense and completely gassed on defense. By the time the final gun sounded, the Seahawks had been shut out for the first time in the Wilson era, holding the ball for just one-third of the game in the process.
They’ll head back to Seattle to face the Cardinals next week, miraculously still just one game out of the playoffs in the loss column, but with a pretty bleak outlook.
*Russell Wilson was lousy today. Some of that is to be expected after the first long layoff of his career, but it was still tough to watch. He was jittery in the pocket and looked like he had trouble processing the defense, at one point not seeing a wide-open DK Metcalf deep down the seam. He completed just four passes for 26 yards in the game’s first 29 minutes while losing 12 on a couple of 3rd down sacks. He’d finish 20/40 for 161 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions while taking three 3rd down sacks. It was one of the worst games of his career, if not the worst and while much of it can be attributed to his recovering finger, it was still awful to watch.
In a season that feels like a referendum on his future in Seattle, this was about the worst outcome imaginable short of another injury. Tough to find a bright spot either in this game or looking forward. I’ll begrudgingly give him a pass today but more than his hand, it was his decision-making that killed me.
*The running game didn’t do much either, getting just 43 yards on 11 handoffs. The bottom line was boosted by Russ’ 33 yards on the ground but aside from a 10-yard Alex Collins run, there wasn’t much to speak of in this regard.
*The receivers stunk today. Granted, Wilson missed them on a number of throws but DK dropped a couple balls and Tyler Lockett was completely invisible. Seattle’s two Pro Bowl pass catchers combined for five catches and 49 yards on 16 targets. Yuck.
Gerald Everett was the one bright spot, hauling in all eight targets for 63 yards. Great to see him featured today and I hope there’s more of that in the future.
Dee Eskridge came back for one predictable jet sweep for -4 yards. Just no creativity. Again.
*The defense is simply much better with DJ Reed, Tre Brown, and Ryan Neal on the field. Each of them had big pass break-ups in the first half, with Reed knocking one away in the end zone and nearly snagging a pick-six. Ryan Neal batted away a deep ball and Tre Brown exploded through a receiver to ruin a 4th down pass. Between that, and the usual excellence from Quandre Diggs, they held Aaron Rodgers to zero TDs and a pedestrian passer rating of 75.5. I got no issues with the defense today.
Jamal Adams had his best game of the season. In addition to his pick, he flew around at every level of the field, recording 11 tackles and harassing Rodgers throughout. They finally started moving him all over the place, forcing the opposing offense to guess a little for the first time all season.
*I thought Jordyn Brooks was excellent today, recording a game-high 13 tackles and providing some excellent coverage. He had some rough games back when the whole defense was struggling but he’s been really good over the last month. Bobby Wagner had eight tackles as well, including two impressive short-yardage stops. Ultimately, however, spending 40 minutes on the field against a great offense proved too much to handle.
*I’ve given this team a lot of grief for their penchant for dropping defensive linemen into coverage— and for good reason, cuz they’ve been burned on it so many times. Today, however, they did it exquisitely, taking away a number of the quick passes that Aaron Rodgers has feasted on over the years. More than anything, though, the defense tackled exquisitely. They were amazing in short yardage situations and excellent in the open field. Really encouraging to see.
*Michael Dickson was a shining light in this one, averaging 46 yards per punt and pinning four of his six kicks inside the 10 yard line.
*The refs sucked— a lot— but that’s not why Seattle lost. We can bitch about it in the comments, and justifiably so, but this was just a bad offensive performance and I can’t really see how Seattle wins even without the questionable calls.
*It’s time for Pete Carroll to go. It’s not just the timid decision-making, it’s the clock / timeout mismanagement, lack of creativity, and the overwhelming feeling that his messaging is falling flat in the locker room.
It sucks that so much of this season has been framed in the light of “Pete or Russ” but with the franchise at a crossroads, it’s becoming clearer that they are no longer a fit for each other. And that’s okay— a decade run with the same QB-HC combo is rare and these relationships don’t last forever. You all know how I feel about which side of the 32 year-old QB vs the 70 year-old head coach I fall on, and my position continues to strengthen. If these two can’t co-exist beyond this season, it’s a pretty easy call for me. What remains to be seen is how Jody Allen feels about it. That said, Russ was really bad today— it’s just that a bad performance from him is far more of an outlier these days than a bad performance from Pete is.
Remarkably, the Seahawks are only a game and a half out of the playoffs despite being 3-6 but with a game against the Cardinals coming up, it’s getting harder to tell the story of how the Seahawks scrape their way into the playoffs. It’s one thing when it’s just not your year, but it’s another thing entirely when the way forward is as murky as it is for Seattle.
It’s my ever-living goal when writing these articles to not be a prisoner of the moment, and I wish I had some more optimism to offer, but I just don’t see it. I guess it’s encouraging to have the defense playing so well but I’m tired of playing for short-game, low-scoring contests that the Seahawks somehow pull out of the fire. In a way, this is the kind of team Pete Carroll wants— it’s just not the kind I want.
Maybe I’ll feel differently after sitting on this one for a bit but I’m not holding my breath. It’s gonna be a brutal week at the VMAC and honestly, it should be. Onward, I suppose.
I’ll be spending all of next week on a long-awaited family trip so there won’t be an article after the Cardinals game. I’ll miss writing for y’all but will be back to the regularly scheduled programming the following week. Cheers.
Got a chance to smoke one of my favorite cigars in the world today— a Winston Churchill Late Hour by Davidoff. I don’t typically reach for darker cigars but this one is so smooth and so flavorful that it felt much lighter. The best part about it was how long it lasts, burning slowly and evenly throughout the entire experience. I’m doing a little detox so no whiskey pairing this week but this would’ve been a perfect compliment to a nice single malt Scotch.
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