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Cigar Thoughts, Game 16: Seahawks Porn

The Seattle Seahawks pulled out all the stops, annihilating the Detroit Lions 51-29 in the last home game before some big offseason decisions.

Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Entering a season with a ton of excitement for your team is not an unusual fan experience, but especially coming off a 12-win division championship. With a new offensive coordinator, a Hall of Fame QB with two elite receivers, and a defense highlighted by three or four players near the tops of their positions added kindling to a smoldering fire of expectation as Seattle entered the year. And after a convincing win over a good Colts team in the opener, the specter of championship potential started to creep into the collective consciousness of the Seahawks faithful.

And look, I don’t need to rehash what happened since but it’s safe to say we haven’t felt this level of disappointment and disillusionment in a very, very long time. And as the team continued struggling, and Russell Wilson got hurt (plus looking mighty bad upon his return), Seattle kept losing low-scoring, uninspired games. With each successive loss, the calls for change— any kind of change— threatened the previously impenetrable wall surrounding the Seahawks’ city.

And so it went, week after week, month after month, as the Seahawks continued tumbling down the NFC mountainside without even a first round pick to cushion their fall. And so, battered and embarrassed, the Seahawks found themselves hosting one of the few teams left with a worse record than them this afternoon. Make no mistake, the Detroit Lions are bad, but they’ve been competitive in a way belied by their 2-12-1 record coming in. Admit it— you wouldn’t have been that surprised if Seattle had a hard time today, which is why it was so encouraging to see them let their balls hang early and never tuck them away.

The ‘Hawks started with the ball and went three-and-out, hallmarked by another miscommunication between Wilson and DK Metcalf on a shot up the right sideline. And when the Lions started ticking off first downs on their first possession, the sour “here we go again” feelings started to curdle in my brain. But that was my mistake, not yours, because I’m sure all of you just knew that the Seahawks would start kicking ass shortly after.

The Lions would work the ball into field goal range on their opening drive before finding themselves with a 4th & 1 and, as is befitting any team— but especially a bad one on the road— they kept the offense on the field. With replacement QB Tim Boyle under center, they opted to hand it off to Jamaal Williams from Seattle’s 29 but Darrell Taylor and Brian Mone beat their blocks to shut him down at the line of scrimmage and turn it over. That’s when Seattle got down to the business of getting down. Unfortunately, this all happened with Bobby Wagner on the sidelines for the first time all season after he got hurt on the very first snap.

After two Rashaad Penny runs gained zero yards, Russell Wilson was forced into a situation in which he’s had a very difficult time: 3rd & long. But today was different for a lot of reasons, and Wilson not only converted, he did so to his weakest part of the field, dotting up Gerald Everett over the middle for 11. That got the offense going and the reduction of friction lubed Penny up for a huge day. He’d follow up a first down run on 3rd & 3 with a 20 yarder, weaving around defenders before following it up with a slaloming 15-yard house call to make it 7-0.

Seattle would chase that score with another defensive stop and follow that up with their second consecutive productive drive, this one highlighted by a 23-yard Penny run and culminating with a no-doubter 51-yard field goal from Jason Myers. 10-0, and the Seahawks’ snowball started rolling downhill for the first time in what seemed like forever.

The Seahawks defense continued to play like a bunch of hornets whose nest got hit by a stick, swarming and stinging their opponents en route to a three-and-out that set the offense up for what would prove to be an insurmountable lead. On the first play of the next drive, Wilson faked a handoff to Penny and looked to his right as Metcalf and Tyler Lockett swung the safeties that way. The O-line, who were amazing this afternoon, stonewalled the rush as Wilson calmly went through his progressions. Pivoting left, Wilson confidently stepped into his throw and hit a wide-open Freddie Swain in stride. Swain caught the pass and turned upfield for 58 yards to Detroit’s 6. From there, it was just a matter of giving it back to Penny and watching him follow his blocks for his second touchdown in as many drives. 17-0.

If there’s one thing that separates this terrible Lions team from all the other terrible Lions teams, it’s their sheer chutzpah, and they fought back like wounded animals. Outgunned at nearly every position, they leaned on their young champion Amon-Ra St Brown for the rest of the game. The progeny of a world-class bodybuilder and named after the Egyptian Sun God, St Brown lined up all over the field today, including in the backfield from Seattle’s 26 on this one. Taking a handoff, he split the D-line, spun off a linebacker, and sprinted to pay dirt to close the gap at 17-7. It’s the closest they’d get the rest of the game.

With their offense displaying rhythm and tempo, Seattle kept moving the ball almost at will and a quick-hitter to Metcalf for 11 was piggybacked by a lovely over-the-shoulder catch by Lockett for 28. Receptions by Penny Hart, Dee Eskridge, and a keeper from Russ advanced the chains again. It all set up a gorgeous, intuitive touchdown to Metcalf reminiscent of the chemistry they had all of DK’s career prior to Wilson’s injury.

Having no success generating pressure from traditional sets, the Lions gambled with a Cover-0 blitz from their own 13. One of the huge benefits of getting out of the huddle early— and why Seattle’s inability / unwillingness to do so for most of Wilson’s career has been so frustrating— is that gives the QB time to diagnose. Sensing the blitz, Wilson motioned Metcalf from wide left into the back of a three-receiver bunch, creating confusion among the DBs tasked with man coverage. As Wilson took the snap, Dee Eskridge flared out to the left, drawing the coverage that way while DK froze his man with his nigh-Olympic speed off the line. As the coverage stumbled back, Wilson lobbed a ball to the back center of the end zone, long before his receiver looked for it. Metcalf blazed past the helpless defender and coasted under the ball for the score. 24-7 and the route was on.

And look, I probably shouldn’t have been as happy as I was to see Russ and DK cheesin’ on the sidelines afterward but given all the trouble that connection has had over the last two months, their smiley embrace warmed the once throbbing cockles of my cold, cold heart.

Another defensive stop by the ‘Hawks set up a masterful final drive of the first half, as Seattle ran the ball on nine of the first ten plays for 81 yards, with Penny easily surpassing the century mark on a 37-yard scamper. The relentless ground attack put the Seahawks on the Lions’ 1, setting up a simple shovel pass to a sweeping Lockett for a 31-7 halftime lead.

Realistically, there was no shot a team like Detroit was going to overcome a deficit like that but given how Seattle’s season has gone, we all had legitimate reason to wonder. Those fears were summarily put to rest however, as DJ Reed started the second half with the first interception by a Seattle CB all season.

After Boyle fumbled that opening snap of the third quarter, he tried to force a throw into a well-covered receiver. Reed crashed on the ball, meeting the receiver at the coach point and deflecting the pass high in the air. As the Lions players searched fruitlessly for the ball, Reed leaped up and corralled the turnover, setting the Seahawks up with a short field. Russell Wilson wasted no time opening the gift from his defense, as he dialed up Metcalf inside the front left pylon despite damn near perfect coverage. The throw was immaculate, and Metcalf sold the ball over the defender’s leading shoulder before reaching back behind the corner’s head to catch it cleanly with his hands and drag his feet in the paint for his second score in the last five minutes of game time. I can’t over-emphasize how encouraging a development that sequence was in an otherwise lost season.

That made it 38-7 and even though the Lions would grind out three more scores, the outcome was firmly decided. St Brown would put up some silly numbers over the game’s final two quarters, but Seattle never took their foot off the gas, matching Detroit score for score. Reed would snag another pick, as would Ugo Amadi, and Wilson kept his fangs firmly lodged in Detroit’s jugular, hitting Metcalf for yet another score on a slick, scrambling throw to his right, tossing it back to his left to find a sliding DK for the hat trick.

It was a fun, fantasy-friendly stretch that saw the two teams score touchdowns on five consecutive drives and it’s a credit to Seattle that they didn’t turtle up and try to shorten the game, choosing instead to keep scoring points. Which is great! You should always try to score more points! Nothing is more important!

When the dust settled, Seattle had 51 and if it wasn’t for a merciful series of kneel-downs at Detroit’s 1, would’ve matched the highest score of the Carroll/Wilson era. Just a complete, dominant performance that saw the Seahawks win every facet of the game for 60 minutes. In a year of previously unseen parity in the NFL, it’s a shame it took Seattle this long to click like that but there are a lot of positives to glean from this afternoon’s performance.

SMOKE RINGS

~Amazing to see the return of kick-your-teeth-in Pete Carroll today; a call back to his first few years, where Carroll would spend the first chunk of the game working his boot into position and the last part pressing down on the exposed neck of his opponent. Everything about today’s game seems repeatable— obviously not to the same degree— but this is exactly the type of merciless aggression that made us all fall in love with this era of Seahawks football 10 years ago.

I don’t know if he has it in him to do this in games that really matter, or if he’ll ever get the chance, but it was so damn good to watch a swaggering Carroll coach like the chip leader at the poker table for the first time in what seems like eons. I don’t know that it means anything in the grand scheme but on our death beds, all we have are memories and I’m grateful for the ones the team gave us today.

~Russell Wilson really and truly looked like the best version of himself this afternoon and his performance gives me a refreshing amount of calm heading into the offseason. Of all the major pieces in flux this season, Wilson is the one I’ve had the most faith in and his recent struggles have complicated an already murky future.

Wilson completed 20 of his 29 passes for 236 yards and 4 TDs without turning the ball over, adding 26 non-kneeling yards on the ground and taking just one four-yard sack. He looked rhythmic, athletic, and dangerous. He looked like a franchise quarterback you build around for another contract. Couldn’t be happier about how he played today.

~Rashaad Penny came into this game ranking 2nd in the NFL in 25+ yard runs (5), trailing only Jonathan Taylor (8), despite carrying the ball just 71 times. And while some people are reticent to sign up for another commitment to him in the backfield, others are still clinging fruitlessly to pre-held notions of his bustworthiness. Make no mistake, a fully healthy Rashaad Penny is one of the most explosive runners in the league. And yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but keep in mind that he had damn near 300 yards from scrimmage in the two games prior to his ACL injury as well.

Over the last four games, Rashaad Penny now has 482 rushing yards and 5 TDs on 69 carries— the most in the NFL and he’s doing so at a 6.8 YPC clip. That is objectively outstanding. Big decision coming up for Seattle with regards to their former first round pick, and I’ll be very curious to see how the Seahawks approach his free agent status— especially with Chris Carson’s neck injury.

~This was the game DK Metcalf needed like oxygen. Six catches for 63 yards and three touchdowns, and all three required a remarkable amount of trust from his QB. There are a lot of relationships that are crucial to Seattle’s future— Pete Carroll / John Schneider, Carroll / Wilson, all of the above / Jody Allen— but the one between Seattle’s quarterback and blossoming superstar WR is right up there.

Metcalf’s year-to-date numbers (70 catches, 909 yards, 12 TDs) are gonna be fine (3rd in TDs, 27th in catches and yards) and are perfectly acceptable on the surface but anyone who has watched every game this season knows how much meat was left on the bone. Nothing about his season changes my stratospheric opinion of his career trajectory but it’s still tough to see his stats sit well below what could’ve been. Still, a monumentally uplifting performance today.

~Tyler Lockett was quiet in this one as he continues to recover from getting hit hard by COVID. He only got three of Wilson’s 29 targets but he caught all of them for 24 yards and a score. Despite missing last week’s game, he’s still at 66-1077-6 on the year which is remarkable in a season that saw so much offensive ineptitude.

~Gerald Everett just keeps on keeping on, catching three passes for 36 yards and, most importantly, three first downs. The 27-year-old uber-athletic (and soon-to-be free agent) TE also poses a difficult question for whoever is making Seattle’s roster decisions this offseason.

~The offensive line blocked their asses off, keeping Wilson clean and opening up a myriad of running lanes for Penny. Their best performance of the season and yet another encouraging sign for this team in an otherwise disappointing campaign.

~The defense gave up their third-most points of the season but they turned the ball over three times and protected their lead throughout. It’s been really hard watching them this year— I applaud their resilience in terms of points allowed but have been endlessly frustrated by their ongoing inability to get off the field. Seeing pressure and interceptions was so refreshing, and a nice reminder that they’re actually allowed to do those things.

~After Bobby Wagner got shaken up on the opening play, he ended up sitting the rest of the game— the only snaps he’s missed all year. That gave us our first glimpse at Jordyn Brooks in the role he was destined for when they drafted him in the first round last year. And man, did he deliver. A team-leading 10 tackles gives him a remarkable 165 on the year so far and, depending on Wagner’s status next week, a chance to lead the NFL in just his second season.

He flew to the ball and was pretty good in coverage— everything about his development portends star-status as a middle linebacker and should give the team some comfort if and when they make the difficult decision to shed Wagner and his huge contract.

~Interceptions! Two from DJ Reed and one from Ugo Amadi was awesome to behold and while they all came off the hand of a QB that doesn't move the needle, games like this have a way of building momentum. This bend-but-don’t-break defensive philosophy is agonizing to watch and while there’s a strong case to be made that it’s been effective, it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been boring as fuck to watch. I hope that, moving forward, this team goes back to prioritizing pressure and turnovers.

~The Seahawks came into this game as the worst 3rd down team in the NFL, converting a disheartening 33.7% of their attempts. That all changed today, as Seattle went 7-12 in those high-leverage situations. Frankly, I think the difference was how often they went no-huddle on 3rd down, freezing the Lions in their defensive personnel and taking advantage. It was the type of relentless aggression we all hoped we’d see under Shane Waldron this season. Better late than never, I guess.

~The Seahawks had seven red zone possession today, scoring touchdowns on the first five of them and kicking a field goal on the sixth. I don’t really count the seventh as a failure because they downed out the clock despite having a 1st & goal from the 1. They took advantage of every opportunity they put themselves in this afternoon and reminded us what this offense is capable of when they’re really clicking.

Look, this win doesn’t change much from a bottom-line perspective. The Seahawks came into this game 13th out of 16 teams in the NFC and left it in the same position. As rad as this outcome was, it doesn’t change the brutal realities facing the team this offseason. It does, however, shine a warm light on some dark places in the house— all the better for evaluation purposes.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve resolved not to make any drastic changes in opinion of Russell Wilson in the aftermath of a traumatic injury to his throwing hand, but seeing him play today was a much-needed reminder of how good this team can be with him at the helm. From a coaching standpoint, I was thrilled to watch Pete Carroll lead downhill. Obviously I’m miffed by his seeming resistance to doing so over the last few years and, to be fair, he didn’t have to make any high-leverage decisions today. But regardless of what happens moving forward, I was happy to see him lead this team in this one.

There’s no doubt that the Seahawks are facing a potentially disruptive few months, but they delivered some feel-goods today and that was downright wonderful. Between the podcast and this column, we’ll be hear to chop up every development as it happens but for now, we can all go to bed feeling great about how our favorite team played. Onwards, upwards, and sweet dreams, my friends.

Unwrapped the delicious Eastern Standard from Caldwell I’d been saving all season and it was 100% worth the wait. You wanna talk smooth smokes, this sucker delivers in a big way, smoking slow and easy down to the knuckle. Emptied the last 3 oz of Lagavullin 16-Year to accompany it— just a phenomenal way to enjoy the team’s best game of the season.

This is the 3rd year of our incredible partnership with Seattle Cigar Concierge. They have the plug on some of the most insane stogies on the market and they’re offering them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are extremely special sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hook-up, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, Opus X, and Padron. You can also hit them up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars. Just be sure to mention that you’re a Cigar Thoughts reader. Many of you have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity and for those who have always wondered what elite cigars are like, this is the best chance you’ll get to step into that world.

The 2021 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.