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What a weekend for Seattle sports. I was fortunate to be at the Mariners game on Friday, witnessing Cal Raleigh send the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th.
It was as if a joy-bomb had detonated in that stadium, and the shockwaves of pure elation reverberated for hours afterward. It was an electric, visceral reminder of what Seattle sports can be, and how ready for greatness the fans here are. It hearkened back to the Seahawks playoff runs of 2012-2014, when on-field performance elevated the collective spirits of the entire region, and of fans of the team across the world.
Seattle’s football franchise has tumbled into a swale, and find themselves in the midst of attempting to rebuild a team that can deliver moments like that once again. After a disheartening loss to the Falcons last week, the next step in that journey included a road game against a very feisty pack of Lions in Detroit. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the Seahawks found themselves as a touchdown underdog as they sought to right their once fearsome ship.
Seattle began their quest for .500 with the ball, and Geno Smith came out hot like he has in most of his Seahawks appearances. The first play was an innocent dump-off to Will Dissly for nine, and Rashaad Penny converted the first down on the following carry. Smith would find Tyler Lockett for six on the next play and then again for seven more a couple of snaps later. Then it was Dissly for eight before Smith called his own number on a 17-yard scramble. A slip route to Colby Parkinson picked up 12 more, setting up Uncle Will for his third catch of the opening drive. On the possession’s final play, Smith calmly found Dissly up the seam for a 15-yard touchdown to give Seattle a quick 7-0 lead.
The Lions entered this game missing arguably their two best players on offense, with Amon-Ra St Brown and D’Andre Swift watching from the sideline while nursing injuries. And early on, that looked like a big deal, as Detroit quickly went three-and-out— just the second one Seattle has forced this season.
It looked for all the world like the ‘Hawks would have the chance to take an early-two score lead but instead, the impossible happened. Lockett went back to receive the punt as he has all year, and he fielded it cleanly. But as he tried to squeak between two tacklers, the ball was wrested from his tiny little baby hands and pounced upon by the home team. I can’t remember the last time Lockett coughed up the football but it set Jared Goff and Co up beautifully. And it didn’t take off-brand Ryan Gosling long to take advantage, as Goff found TJ Hockenson on a wheel route up the left side for a 32-yard score on the very next snap. On the play, Hockenson got a step on Jordyn Brooks and left him behind, making the TD look easy and delivering a harbinger of things to come. There were innumerable instances of weirdness today and among them were the misadventures of fill-in kicker Dominik Eberle, who shanked the extra point to keep Seattle ahead 7-6.
If that turn of events was supposed to diminish Seattle’s enthusiasm, no one told Geno Smith. All he did is complete passes on the next three plays, hitting Lockett for 13 then DK Metcalf for 21 and 23 on consecutive throws. A roughing penalty and an eight-yard Penny run set Smith up to capitalize, and he did exactly that, keeping the ball after a quick drop back and darting up the middle for an untouched eight-yard touchdown. I wish they’d build the whole plane out of 1st quarter Geno Smith*. 14-7.
*and today they did!
Detroit, for all their faults, certainly doesn’t lack firepower and they bounced right back with a scoring drive of their own. It was almost truncated twice, however. The first was when the Seahawks actually forced another three-and-out but gamblin’ Dan Campbell called for a fake punt that Detroit converted with a cleanly-caught pass. Pete Carroll threw his red flag for some reason but the impulsive challenge was laughed away and the drive continued. The second near-stop came when Uchenna Nwosu jumped an out route for what would have been a long interception return but the fastball clanged off his hands and kept the Lions in business. Detroit would end up getting close enough for Eberle to sneak a 49-yard field goal through the uprights to make it 14-9 but the discombobulated kicker hooked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving Seattle the ball up at the 40.
The Seahawks got back to their roots on the next drive, running it four straight times with Ken Walker III getting three yards, then Dee Eskridge gaining six on a jet sweep, followed by a two-yard Smith keeper and and a 13-yard scamper from Walker III. A couple incompletions and a sniffed-out screen pass later, Jason Myers was banging a 56-yarder through the uprights to make it 17-9.
The Lions would pick up a couple of first downs on their next possession but the second one was fool’s gold as Khalif Raymond caught a crossing route before getting leveled by Coby Bryant. The hit jarred the ball loose and Brooks was there to fall on it. With the lead and the ball, Smith dialed up his most fearsome soldier. After a hold and a short run left him with 2nd & long, Smith dropped back and looked left. As he did, Metcalf dismissed cornerback Jeff Okudah with a forearm shiver off the line before cutting inside and up the field. Smith’s pass was perfect, allowing Metcalf to catch it mid-stride and gallop down to the Detroit 2 before getting pushed out of bounds for 51 yards. With he Lions caught in pass-prevention personnel, Geno shrewdly hustled everyone to the line. Calling a read-option, Smith kept the ball and drifted right. With no defenders in the area code, he could have sauntered in for his second rushing touchdown but, as the leader of this team, he pulled up and lobbed it to wide-open teammate Noah Fant for Fant’s first touchdown as a Seahawk. 24-9, and we were just getting started.
The Lions started their next drive by committing consecutive holding penalties, creating a million yards to go for a first down. Unfortunately, they were bailed out by an extremely iffy hands-to-the-face call against Bryan Mone and Detroit made it count. Goff hit completions to Hockenson, Quintez Cephus, and Josh Reynolds to get the ball all the way to Seattle’s 1. With time running down in the second quarter, the Seahawks defense did their damndest to preserve the 15-point lead, stuffing Williams on first down then forcing a too-high throw towards Hockenson in the back of the end zone. They shut Williams down again on 3rd down, creating a huge 4th down decision on the half’s final play. Campbell did the right thing, however, keeping the offense on the field and going right back to Williams who punched through the breach for a touchdown. Eberle would miss another extra point though, sending the teams to the locker room with Seattle leading 24-15.
It was an excellent first half for the Seahawks, but we’ve seen this movie before. The question remained whether they could parlay that momentum into a complete second half, too. And well, they couldn’t ask for a much better start. On the first play of the third quarter, Goff faked a handoff and rolled right under pressure. Looking towards Hockenson, he fired the ball towards his athletic tight end. It looked like Hockenson had a step on the play but Tariq Woolen was stalking him the whole way. The thing about having 4.26 speed is you can make up a lot of ground really fucking quick, and Woolen swooped in front of the play for his second interception of the season, pivoting upfield without breaking stride and winning a footrace to glory. The rookie’s pick-six put the Seahawks up 31-15 and the good vibes continued.
Detroit got another first down on their next drive but any hopes of closing the gap was snuffed out by a ferocious sack from Nwosu, who continues to be their best defender this season. After the punt, Seattle had the ball on their own 22 but took no time in getting it out to midfield. They did it with another huge completion to Metcalf, who is starting to display the type of veteran awareness that lets good receivers transition to great ones.
On this particular play, DK stuttered off the line then angled his gorgeous body to the inside of the defender who managed to stay step-for-step with him. Smith set his feet and threw, trusting his rippling ubermensch to make a play. That faith was rewarded, as Metcalf waited until the last possible moment to flash his hands, reaching low before the corner could react and plucking the ball inches above the turf for a 26-yard gain. That was followed up by a gashing 26-yard run from Penny, an appetizer for what would become a second half feast. The drive would stall just outside the redzone, and Myers trotted out for an easy field goal.
Myers, who has knocked every kick of the season straight down the middle, made up for all of it by yanking this one straight sideways. I literally don’t think it’s possible to miss a field goal by more than Myers did on this one. To be honest, I’m surprised it stayed in the stadium.
The Lions seized the opportunity and, after a nice completion to Raymond over the middle, Jamaal Williams brought the hammer down. Taking the handoff on a well-blocked trap play, Williams beat Nwosu to the point of attack, and then stiff-armed Josh Jones to the ground before accelerating away from the rest of the defense for a 51-yard touchdown. The Lions offense stayed out there to go for two and appeared to be stopped by another Nwosu sack but a defensive holding call gave them a second chance. This time, Goff kept it himself and plunged in to cut the lead in half. 31-23, and we were barely halfway done with the scoring.
The insanity got dialed up a couple notches on the next possession, as Seattle’s offense retook the field, looking for their first second-half touchdown of the year. Walker III was bottled up in the backfield on 1st down but Smith found Metcalf at the sticks on the next play. DK was ruled down just shy of the first but Walker converted with a powerful run up the middle. Dissly used a quick out to gain five on first down then Penny came in for a slippery 15-yard run. A pretty 17-yard pass to Fant was called back on a hold and after Penny gained four, Smith was called for intentional grounding while trying to avoid a sack.
That brought up 3rd & 16 and Smith got his wires crossed with Lockett, throwing it behind him and it appeared like they’d have to punt. But then the officials talked for what seemed like an hour before determining that one of them had blown the play dead for some reason. With an irritated crowd cranking up the decibels, Geno stepped to the line early in the play clock and watched as the Lions defense shifted to an overloaded blitz look on his left. Despite the down and distance, Geno calmly checked to a run, handing it off to Penny on the right side. Abe Lucas stuck a seal block, opening a gap big enough for Penny to squirt through. Beyond the line of scrimmage, there was nothing in Penny’s vision except Metcalf erasing some poor DB with a block. Penny coasted into the end zone from 36 yards out, making it 38-23 just before the end of the third.
With 61 points on the board, you had to wonder if things would start to settle down, but there was still an entire game’s worth of scoring awaiting us in the fourth quarter. The final period kicked off with a massive 81-yard catch-and-run from Hockenson that saw the tight end catch a shallow crosser then turn up field and elude a Jones tackle. As he pivoted up the left sideline, Cody Barton tried to push him out of bounds but instead just sort of bounced off of him. Hockenson kept his feet in play and hustled down the sideline, getting all the way to the Seattle 2 before Woolen chased him down from the other side of the field. That set up an athletic tumbling TD catch from Josh Reynolds and a two-point catch on an in-route by Hockenson. 38-31.
That score kept the pressure on Seattle’s offense but they were rolling downhill with too much speed to be stopped now. After a 10-yard Walker III run was wiped out by another hold, Lockett got it back with a sliding 10-yard catch. A Geno scramble got 11 more, Walker III picked up three and Parkinson got 13 on a little pitch-and-catch. An incompletion to Metcalf was chased by a 34-yard dart to Lockett over the middle, setting Seattle up at the Lions’ 14. Two Walker III runs gained seven yards but Smith underthrew a corner route to Lockett and Seattle had to make peace with three points. Still, it pushed the lead back out to 10 at 41-31.
The ball went back to the Lions and, before long, back to the end zone. Goff alternated completions to Reynolds and Hockenson, keeping a beleaguered Seattle defense on the field with his no-huddle cadence. In just over two minutes, Detroit found themselves inside the Seattle 5 and finished it off with yet another touchdown pass to Hockenson. 41-38, and we still weren’t even close to being done.
The Seahawks got the ball back with a little over five minutes left and despite putting up 41 points, it felt like they had to score another touchdown if they were going to win. The mission began with a 10-yard completion to Eskridge and after two Penny runs gained eight, Smith hit Lockett for a chain-moving 11-yard pickup. Penny would get five more on the next play, setting up his coup de grace. On 2nd & 5 from the Detroit 41, Penny took another handoff and, with a reserve burst that no one on the defense could match, zoomed through an exhausted Detroit front and into the end zone for what would prove to be the clincher.
At 48-38 with just over two minutes to go, the result should have been academic. Should have. Instead, Goff led a lightning-quick scoring drive without even using a timeout, capping it off with a short TD pass to Justin Jackson. Eberle grazed the upright on the extra point but the kick was good and the Lions were within a field goal once again.
With a minute left in the wildest game of the year, Detroit was forced to attempt an onside kick. Eberle squibbed a dribbler to the left, where it wiggled its way to Nick Bellore’s foot, inexplicably planted just nine yards downfield. The contact with his toe made it a live ball and the Lions piled on top of it. Fortunately, the ball wasn’t done squibbing and it slipped out of the pile. Deejay Dallas fell on it, meaning the Seahawks needed just one first down to use up Detroit’s timeouts and seal the deal. The first two Penny runs only gained four yards, setting up a tempting opportunity to pass. Instead, Seattle stuck to their guns and put it right back in Rashaad’s belly. The tireless running back found one more reserve of energy, and powered through the line for seven yards and the win. Whew.
~Geno Smith’s numbers were phenomenal today but thing that impressed me the most was how well he diagnosed defenses at the line of scrimmage and, when necessary, audibled to the right play. It’s something we rarely, if ever, saw with Russell Wilson, as we’ve spent the last decade watching the team have to scramble to get plays off with no chance for on-ball adjustments. That hasn’t been the case this season and there was no better example of that than Penny’s off-script touchdown run on 3rd & 16 late in the third.
This afternoon saw the best performance of Smith’s career, as he tirelessly attacked a Lions defense, answering every single one of their scores with one of his own. On the day, he completed 23 of 30 passes for 320 yards and 2 TDs without turning it over. He also ran for 49 yards and another score while playing mistake-free football. His 77% completion rate matched his league-leading season pace and his 10.7 yards per attempt was elite. He’s also been absolutely unflappable against blitzes, confidently standing in under pressure and making decisive throws with defenders bearing down. Most importantly, he kept the offense aggressive and looked in complete control out there.
The assumption all offseason— and I include myself in this— is that Smith is simply a placeholder for a season until the Seahawks can find their next QB of the Future. You get the sense that Geno doesn’t see it that way at all, and he’s staking his claim to a longer tenure. At the very least, assuming he plays similarly the rest of the way, he’s making a case to start next year, which would give the next QB a season to learn and acclimate to the NFL game. There is lots of time to figure all that stuff out but for now, I think we can all feel pretty good about the dude under center.
~Rashaad Penny was incredible today. He’s had a tough time getting going this season but if Geno was the main reason Seattle won the first half, Penny was the biggest reason they won the second. Penny handled a big workload in this one, turning 17 carries into a remarkable 151 yards and two long TDs when the team needed them most. When he gets going, he’s literally as effective as anyone in the NFL and I absolutely loved what I saw from him today.
Penny is not Barry Sanders, LeSean McCoy, or Christian McCaffrey. He’s not gonna make you miss in an elevator but he is one of the purest and most opportunistic runners on the planet. Few running backs can capitalize on a small gap the way that he can, hurtling his huge frame through small holes and then vaporizing defensive backs with burst and power. Love love love what he brought to the table this afternoon.
Ken Walker III is finding his footing in the NFL, and the team is ever-so-slightly increasing his snaps and carries with each passing week. He’s also showing himself to be a very capable receiver which is great, because that was the one knock on him coming out of college. He received eight carries and a caught a pass today, totaling 29 yards on the ground— though that doesn’t show the 23 yards he had called back on penalties. He hasn’t shook loose just yet but you get the feeling it’s coming.
~One of the great subplots of this game was the matchup between DK Metcalf and Jeff Okudah, who came into this one having shut down Devonta Smith, Michael Pittman Jr, and Justin Jefferson in Detroit’s first three contests. Okudah spent a lot of time shadowing Metcalf in this one and DK treated him like a petulant child. Metcalf was dominant today, breaking out in a big way to the tune of seven catches for 149 yards, including four catches of 20+ yards. He won in every facet of the game, winning off the line, beating coverage deep, and capitalizing at the catch-point. His route-running and awareness have come a long way over the last three years and if Smith keeps playing like he did today, Metcalf’s end-of-season numbers will look as good as they always have. In fact, the only thing that slowed him down this afternoon were his bowels, as he scared the shit out of all of us when he was carted off the field to, well, take a shit.
Tyler Lockett played a complimentary roll in this one but still had a nice impact on the game. Despite losing an early fumble, Lockett caught six of eight targets for 91 yards, giving him and Metcalf an impressive 240 combined on the day. When these two are rolling, they’re as good as any combo in the game.
This offense loves its tight ends and its tight ends love it right back. After going 9-9 for 104 yards and 2 TDs last week, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, and Noah Fant got back to it against Detroit. They were targeted eight times collectively today, catching seven of them for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Smith has always been a TE-friendly quarterback and they continue to earn close to a quarter of the total targets each week. Great to see.
~The offensive line struggled with penalties but were otherwise solid, as they helped pave the way for a preposterous 555 yards of total offense. Seattle ran for 235 yards on 33 carries while passing for 320 on 30 attempts. That’s 6.8 yards per carry and nearly 11 yards per pass. Most importantly, they kept Smith clean, allowing zero sacks on the day. Should be a great confidence-booster for a young O-line in need of some good tape to build off of.
~The defense is probably just really bad. For the second consecutive week, there’s not a lot of bright spots to focus on but one guy continues to stand out above the rest. Uchenna Nwosu recorded the game’s only sack and nearly had a pick-six. He’s the only guy consistently making impact plays each week for a team in desperate need of them.
Tariq Woolen is gonna be really good. He had some misses in coverage to be sure, but his interception return for a touchdown was probably the most important play of the entire game. He’s just a different kind of athlete, even by NFL standards, and he’s only going to get better.
Other than that, it was pretty gross. The Lions racked up 45 points and 520 yards against this group, and there’s simply nothing you can say to hedge how horrible that is. Quandre Diggs has been invisible all season and it seems like there’s at least one guy open in the secondary on every play, no matter what combination of defensive backs they put around him. Coby Bryant is flashing enough to give us some hope but Sidney Jones Jr, Josh Jones, Michael Jackson, and just about everybody else they throw back there has looked consistently overmatched. Say what you will about Jamal Adams, his absence is being felt in a major way.
The linebackers were basically invisible. Jordyn Brooks is struggling to beat runners to the attack point and Cody Barton has been real bad after a fine first two weeks. I’m not sure what Clint Hurtt’s remedy is but here’s hoping he has one. Seattle’s not gonna score 48 every week.
~The penalty situation was rough again, as the Seahawks were found guilty a dozen more times in this one. Honestly, I think it has less to do with a lack of discipline and more to do with youth and inexperience. Both the offensive linemen and the defensive backs get grabby the second they’re slightly out of position and that just doesn’t work at this level.
~One of the most entertaining games in recent Seahawks memory went entirely without one of their most entertaining players. Michael Dickson’s playful coif stayed untouched, his helmet remaining off the whole time, as Seattle logged their first puntless game in franchise history. In fact, the only drives Seattle didn’t score on were the one they kneeled out at the end of the 4th quarter and the short missed FG.
This game was wildly entertaining and honestly, that’s what I want more than anything. We’ve watched way too many slogs lately so it was fun to sit back and enjoy three hours of Calvinball resulting in the highest-scoring contest of the NFL season. That Seattle came out on top shows that this team is capable of winning this way if the game script calls for it and unless the defense gets its shit together in a big way, we may need to see more of it. I’ve often said you can be bad or you can be boring, but you can’t be both. Today, the Seahawks were mostly neither. 2-2 and right in the thick of things. I’ll take it. Onward and upward.
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