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Cigar Thoughts, Game 7: Seahawks storm Los Angeles, strike Chargers down

The Seattle Seahawks moved into first place in the NFC West with a 37-23 win over the Los Angeles Chargers

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

***As most of you know, Cigar Thoughts is now a podcast. One of the perks of the pod is getting these articles in audio form, in addition to our sit-downs with our amazing guests. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:

The fun thing about a season like this is that the narrative can keep shifting— especially this early on. A month ago, it was looking like this team would be barreling full steam toward an early draft selection. Now they’re alone in first place in the NFC West and it still looks like they’ll get an early pick.

So how’d we get here?

The Seahawks started with the ball and looked to continue their elite early-game offensive production. They got off to a great start, with Geno Smith finding Will Dissly in the left flat for 16 and Ken Walker III slipping his way through the defense for 15 two snaps later. Unfortunately, Smith would follow that up by trying to thread a pass into a tightly-covered Tyler Lockett and Asante Samuel tipped the ball up in the air where it was corralled by Kenneth Murray Jr for an interception.

Murray Jr’s 16-yard return put the Chargers in great position at Seattle’s 41 but the Seahawks defense carried all their momentum from last week into this one. Austin Ekeler ran for two on first down then caught a swing pass for another two on 2nd down, but Jordyn Brooks punched the ball loose. The pigskin piddled its way upfield prior to being pounced on by Tre McKitty five yards ahead. Despite it being less than three minutes into the game, Pete Carroll challenged whether the pass was really caught in the first place and, in keeping with tradition. his bid was swiftly denied. Seattle needs to hire a coach whose only job is to hide the red flags from Carroll; he can use them, but he’s gotta find them first.

That brought up 3rd & 2 and Los Angeles went right back to their superstar running back— but the Seahawks were ready. They stuffed Ekeler on 3rd down and then did it again on 4th down. The spot was really close and the NFL, a $100 billion league, trotted out two old guys with a chain on a stick to determine whether he got a first down. The measurement came up a link short, and the Seahawks took it over again having dodged an early bullet like Neo.

The next drive was pockmarked by a bunch of penalties, with DK Metcalf drawing a pass interference on 1st down and then returning the favor with a push-off on the next one. After an incompletion and a seven-yard connection with Tyler Lockett, the drive was extended by another PI call against LAC. Walker III got seven on each of the next two plays but the second one was nullified by a holding penalty on Noah Fant. On 2nd & 13, Smith hit a diving Metcalf up the left seam for 12 then found Marquis Goodwin for 21 on a quick out. Three plays after that, Geno went back to Goodwin in the endzone for a pretty touchdown and an early 7-0 lead. It was like the interception never happened.

Justin Herbert led his boys back onto the field in an attempt to answer the score but Ryan Neal had other ideas. After another dump-off to Ekeler, a run that went nowhere, and a one-yard pass to Keenan Allen, Herbert tried for a chunk gain by firing one over the middle to Deandre Carter. To his chagrin, however, Ryan Neal smelled it immediately like a fart under the covers. Neal jumped the route and snagged the pick, returning it 13 yards to the Chargers 43, and it wouldn’t take long for the Seahawks to make it hurt.

Deejay Dallas got nine on first down then hammered his way forward for 11. An incomplete toss towards Tyler was salvaged by a roughing the passer call and Walker III did the rest. Taking a handoff and reading his blocks, Walker III baited the safety to the left of the scrum before darting the other way and losing the only free tackler in the melee. Walker III saw his opening and darted through it, breaking an arm tackle and finding paydirt for a quick 14-0 lead.

By the time Darrell Taylor got the sack-strip-recovery hat trick on the next drive, the vibes on the Seattle sideline were out of control. With the Seahawks up by two teeders and looking for more, Geno went for the kill shot. On 2nd down, he dropped back and looked left, lobbing the ball high to the front pylon, where it descended softly towards a sprinting Metcalf. With coverage tight, DK leapt in the air and clamped his massive hands around the ball. As he came to the ground, the ball shifted in his grip and slipped free. My first thought was “you gotta catch that if you want to be considered among the best WRs in the game” but when news broke minutes later that he was out with a knee injury on the play, the take seemed pretty crass. And to be honest, I had a tough time focusing after he was carted off. The drive stalled when Smith ate a sack on a 3rd down blitz but Jason Myers came out to nail the kick and Seattle was up 17-0.

The Chargers finally got their shit together on the next possession, going 75 yards on eight plays, and capping it off with a seven-yard touchdown rush from Ekeler. That seemed to settle things down at 17-7 and Los Angeles really found their footing after that.

Seattle has been phenomenal at protecting the ball so far this year but that would get away from them as they tried to answer back. Smith hit Fant on a little slip route off play-action for seven but disaster struck on the next snap. The Seahawks got cute on 2nd down, lining Dee Eskridge up at tailback and pitching him the ball on a toss sweep that never got going. Eskridge appeared to take his eyes off the ball as it reached him and dropped it. LA fell on it at the Seattle 33 and went right back to work. After an Al Woods sack and a short Ekeler run, Herbert found Mike Williams over the middle for a first down. Three plays later, he zipped one back to Williams between two defenders and Williams wiggled across the goal line to make it 17-14.

There were a bunch of punts after that, the drudgery broken by just one scoring drive before the half— one authored by the Seahawks. With Metcalf out, the role of deep threat fell to Marquis Goodwin and he seized the opportunity with Olympian speed. He’d catch both the first and last pass of the possession, the initial one going for three yards and final one for 23. In between, Walker III had a couple more nice runs and Geno hit his TE-quota with completions to Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. But when it came time to score, Smith took the top off. Taking the snap from the 23, Smith uncorked a high-arcing shot down the left sideline. Cornerback JC Jackson appeared to be step-for-step with Goodwin but you’re never really step-for-step with Goodwin. Showing the type of speed reserved for elite track athletes, Goodwin accelerated away in the final five yards, sprinting under the pass while Jackson blew out his knee trying to keep up. Goodwin hauled in the pass for the score but it was a somber scene as the entire Chargers team went out to kneel around their fallen defender. Still, 24-14 Seahawks.

The Chargers started the second half with the ball and wasted no time moving it across midfield with completions to Ekeler, Williams, and Carter. Seahawks games have a pernicious habit of getting close, regardless of how they start, and it looked like that’s what was gonna happen again here. The defense, though, thought otherwise. After an offensive pass interference, Seattle bowed up and forced a punt for the third straight possession.

With a two-score lead, the Seahawks delivered their longest drive of the season. Seventeen plays turned into 77 yards and while I’m not gonna tell you about all of ‘em, I do wanna talk about a messy situation on 3rd & 5. It happened around midfield when the officials called a weird (erroneous?) false start call on Austin Blythe that had Geno so hot the sideline official started chirping back at him. Carroll stepped in and reminded Smith to center himself for the 3rd & 10. The kerfuffle lasted throughout the ensuing play-clock and forced Seattle to burn a timeout. And even though he was simmering to a boil, Smith responded with one of his best throws of the day, whistling a high-speed spiral to Lockett over the middle for 12-yards and a first down. On the next set of downs, he’d hit Lockett again on a 3rd & 4 inside the 10 but they were unable to punch it in from there. Myers knocked another one through and Seattle led 27-14 with a minute left in the third quarter.

The Seahawks defense was fully feeling themselves at this point and forced yet another punt, their defensive possession highlighted by consistent pressure that forced hurried incompletions from Herbert, and perfect coverage from exciting ingenue Tariq Woolen on a deep ball to Williams. The Chargers punter had plenty of practice by this point, however, and he pinned his next kick masterfully inside the one, leading to a safety when the O-line collapsed and Walker III was gobbled up in his own endzone.

If that stop was supposed to light a spark for LA’s beleaguered offense, no one told the Seahawks defense. Herbert found himself under siege once again, scrambling away from pressure for four yards and then getting his next pass batted right back to him. Herbert would instinctively catch the ricochet before getting tossed down by Uchenna Nwosu for a loss of eight. His third down pass fell incomplete and the Chargers punted for the fifth straight time.

Seattle continued their scoring ways after that, stringing together a seven-play field goal drive that included another impressive Walker III run, this one accounting for 12 yards, and setting the table for his final act on the following drive. With Seattle up 30-16, the ‘Hawks used a Quinton Jefferson sack to force a 3rd & forever that came up short when Mike Williams caught a pass over the middle and got wrenched down by Michael Jackson. The twisting tackle claimed Williams’ ankle and all the gusto that the home team might have had left.

All that remained was for Walker III to stamp the victory, and he did just that on the first play of the next drive. Walker III took the handoff and charged inside the right tackle. Abe Lucas obliterated his man on the play, opening a huge hole for his running back and Walker III did the rest. The first eight yards or so can be credited to perfect blocking but everything else was pure nitro from the explosive rookie. Walker III absolutely vaporized Murray Jr’s attack angle, leaving the would-be tackler reeling from the aftershock as he hit Mach speed. Walker III sprinted 74 yards on this play, winning the race to the endzone the way Katie Ledecky wins her swims. The deathblow made it 37-16 and even though the Chargers would add a garbage-time TD from Ekeler with two minutes left, the damage had been done. Seattle headed to the locker room with a 37-23 victory and, with the 49ers getting housed by the Chiefs, sole possession of first place in the division.


~Geno Smith lost his alpha WR early in this one and it was like it didn’t even matter. Smith balanced his usual calm-in-the-storm demeanor with a little bit of belly-fire, keeping an iron grip on the helm of this suddenly marauding warship. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and the early interception. The stats won’t pop any eyes but it’s the clear-headed composure that keeps his performances so impressive.

He still underthrows some deep passes and lacks the ceiling of a prime Russell Wilson but he does so many other things better that this offense is looking as good as it ever has. Whether it’s getting out of the huddle early, making checks at the line, working through his progressions under pressure, or hammering the middle of the field— Smith is opening up parts of the playbook that we just haven’t seen over the last few years. Confidence in him remains extremely high.

~The first guy to reach Ken Walker III never tackles him. He came in blowing the rest of the NFL away in missed tackles forced per touch and that incredible combination of speed, agility, and contact balance was on full display today. Walker III carried the ball 23 times for 168 yards and two TDs for a remarkable 7.3 YPC average.

Since Rashaad Penny went down, Walker III leads the NFL with 353 yards and 4 TDs on 52 carries in 2.5 games and, on his long touchdown run, he hit a top speed of 22.09 mph, which is the fastest any ballcarrier has run all season. I get not wanting to take a running back in the 2nd round but if you’re still upset about the pick after what we’ve seen so far, I don’t know what to tell ya other than maybe just enjoy a good thing?? Idk.

~Marquis Goodwin broke out today. If you don’t know his story, I highly suggest you take a moment and read this. It’s a triumphant tale of perseverance and it reached its crescendo this afternoon in the form of four catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He filled in for DK Metcalf after the injury and the offense didn’t miss a single beat. I don’t know how long Metcalf will be out for but Seattle has to feel pretty good about weathering his absence after Goodwin’s performance today.

Tyler Lockett wasn’t a game-breaker this afternoon but he was instrumental in keeping a lot of Seattle’s six scoring drives moving. He led the team in targets (8) and catches (7), turning them into 45 yards but a bunch of first downs. Just a solid, helpful outing.

Dee Eskridge is actively hurting this team. I’m rooting for the little guy so hard but between the unforced fumble and offensive pass interference, he did more damage than his one carry for four yards could atone for. I’m not writing him off yet but it’s getting harder to see where he fits. Hope I’m wrong.

~The O-line continues to block the fuck out of run plays and, aside with some struggles against blitzes, are doing a great job of keeping their quarterback clean. As a result, the Seahawks gained 404 yards on 63 plays while allowing two sacks. More starts than fits lately— great to see.

~Boy, it sure looks like this defense has turned a corner. A week after keeping the Cardinals offense to just three points, they bottled up a potent Chargers attack in much the same way. They sacked Justin Herbert three times, forced two turnovers, and stopped two fourth down attempts. After holding Arizona to 4-15 on third downs, they kept Los Angeles to just 5-15 this week.

Al Woods got a sack, as did Quinton Jefferson and Darrell Taylor. We’re starting to hear the names of these guys called with increased regularity— a credit to the simplified approach Seattle has taken with their defensive front the last two weeks. That’s nine sacks in the last eight days and the reverberations of their constant pressure has been felt in the game-changing plays the secondary is now making.

Tariq Woolen continues to look remarkable in coverage, entering this game with elite peripherals in every category to go with his league-leading six takeaways, and today was no different. His best play came when he basically ran Mike Williams’ go route for him, completely blanketing the deep-ball maven during a frantic comeback attempt. Coby Bryant was equally sticky in coverage and almost had his first interception if it weren’t for a neutral zone infraction from Uchenna Nwosu.

Ryan Neal and Quandre Diggs are finding their stride as well, with Neal picking off a pass in the first quarter and breaking up an insane four passes on the day. In front of them, Nwosu continues to cause havoc, racking up five tackles and narrowly missing two sacks against his former team. Next to him, Jordyn Brooks snagged eight takedowns and a forced fumble while Cody Barton chipped in five tackles of his own. It’s coming together.

Also, welcome back Bruce Irvin. One of my favorite Seahawks, he tackled Austin Ekeler at the line of scrimmage on his first snap back with the team. Awesome to see.

~Jason Myers played his slice all day, starting every kick at the left upright and fading each of them over the middle of the crossbar. He’s now 15 for 16 on field goals and 18 of 19 on extra points. That’s a lot of kicks in seven games, which means a lot of points. In fact, the Seahawks have scored more points than any team in the NFC so far this season. He hasn’t had to try a late game-winner yet but the way he’s performing gives me lots of confidence for when that time eventually comes.

~It’s time for me to reevaluate some of my takes about Pete Carroll. I’m on record as saying I think he’s well-equipped to lead the turnaround but I had my doubts that he would get these guys playing sustained football at this level. He’s a firm Coach of the Year candidate now and I’m thrilled to have him leading these fellas.

This team is playing way better than I anticipated they would and if you saw this coming, I tip my hat to you. They are clicking in every aspect of the sport right now and the fact that they’re leading the division doesn’t really seem fluky. Next week they host the even-more-surprising 6-1 New York Giants, and the winner of that one is going to be feeling VERY good about the second half of the season.

There is much left to be written about the 2022 Seattle Seahawks but I am so excited to see how their story ends. Regardless of what happens from here on out, their early development has dramatically increased the pace of their turnaround. I’ll see y’all back here next week but until then, onward and upward.

I get giddy any time I can light up a 1964 Anniversary from Padron and today was one of those blessed days. It is a damn near perfect smoke, pulling cool and evenly down to the knuckle. Paired it with some Highland Park 12-Year for a fantastic game day experience.

This is the 4th 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 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 2022 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.