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When the schedule came out, this game looked like absolute dog food— instead, it was the only Week 8 matchup between winning teams. From the outside looking in, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants were rudderless franchises heading into transition years with question marks all over the roster. Now they’re two of the best teams in the NFC, with the Giants putting their 6-1 record up against the Seahawks’ 4-3 on a cool fall day in the Pacific Northwest.
One of the hallmarks of Seattle’s surprising season has been their early-game offensive prowess, having scored on the opening drive of nearly every game this season. And, after receiving the opening kickoff, it looked like they were gonna do it again. Ken Walker III had a short run on 1st down, followed by a quick out to DK Metcalf for six yards. Then, as Geno Smith stepped out of shotgun to walk down the line barking out dummy signals, center Austin Blythe snapped it directly to Walker III, who took advantage of a flat-footed defense for a first down.
The drive stalled after that, however, as consecutive passes to Metcalf fell incomplete. The first of those was a well-challenged slant route that got batted away but at least part of that is because Metcalf let the ball travel to his body instead of going out and getting it with his hands. The second one was a pretty deep ball and Metcalf had a step, but the defender expertly pinned his trail arm to his body and Metcalf was unable to make the one-handed snag. I mention this because last week, Metcalf was carted off the field and yet there he was, getting the first three targets of the game. And even though two of them came up empty, it was a hugely positive statement for Seattle’s hulking weapon.
The Giants, for their part, have won their six games by hook and by crook, often squeaking out the victory with a combination of a relentless run game and a diverse, feisty defense. I expected New York to try and shorten this game, leaning on the legs of their mobile quarterback Daniel Jones and all-world running back Saquon Barkley. Instead, they came out and threw it into the teeth of Seattle’s re-energized defense on their first six plays. That resulted in consecutive three-and-outs, sandwiched around another Seahawks punt, before they switched gears and tried running it on their third possession.
The thing is, something woke up deep in the mines beneath the VMAC a few weeks ago and that dark, fiery energy has possessed the members of the Seahawks defense ever since. Over the last three games, they’ve transformed from the worst unit in the NFL to one of the fiercest. And despite New York turning the offense over to Barkley on their third possession, the results were the same. Seattle’s D-line set the tone, winning the push up front and making everything difficult for the Giants. Behind them, the linebackers were disciplined in their gaps and drops, while the corners haunted the Giants receivers like malevolent ghosts. By the time NY booted away their third punt, they had covered all of 10 yards with nary a first down to show for it.
It was clear early that, unlike so many other Seahawks games where both teams traded haymakers all day, this fight would be won in the clinch. First downs were difficult to come by so when Seattle finally broke through on their fourth drive, it felt bigger than your usual score. See, while Seattle had also punted on their first two possessions, they were at least moving the ball, gaining 32 yards and two first downs with Smith looking as comfortable as ever— they just hadn’t been able to string enough together yet.
That all ended with one of my favorite drives of the season thus far— and not just because it ended with a DK Metcalf touchdown. If anything, that was just a reward for how they got into position to make that happen. With it becoming apparent that points would be at a premium, Seattle pulled off a remarkable 15-play possession covering 69 yards and taking nearly six minutes off the clock.
It started with a quick-hitter to Marquis Goodwin, who scooted up the field for 16 though it was followed by a short completion to Noah Fant and a sack to force 3rd & 14. Undaunted, Smith calmly dropped back and fired a head-high pass over the middle to Metcalf, who caught it between two defenders for 15 yards and a first down. Just a my-best-vs-your-best play that kept the chains moving. Walker III would get stopped at the line on the next play but a facemark penalty gave Seattle 15 more, moving them into scoring range.
For years, it’s felt like as soon as the Seahawks have gotten close enough to kick, they’ve been content to just protect the points. That’s why it was so invigorating to see what happened next. A Walker III run and a short Goodwin catch gave Seattle a 3rd & 1 from the Giants’ 18 but instead of just slamming the ball up the middle and then kicking if that was unsuccessful, Geno hauled off and took an endzone shot to Goodwin. That pass was broken up but Seattle’s resolve never wavered. Keeping the offense on the field, they called a little pop pass to Tyler Lockett on 4th for four yards and first down.
Three plays later, they found themselves in the same position, only this time they needed two yards from the NY 6. That’s when Shane Waldron flipped to the back of the playbook and borrowed a call from Andy Reid. Geno took the snap and faked a toss to Walker III but, instead of flipping it out to his RB, he pitched it inside to a pulling Will Dissly who found a slot and fell through it for a first down. Two plays later, Smith stood in a clean pocket as all four of his receivers ran endzone crossers, mixing up the Giants secondary and leaving Metcalf standing all alone beneath the crossbar for an easy three-yard score. 7-0.
Despite being on the sidelines for more than 20 minutes of real time, Seattle’s defense didn't lapse one bit. They’d force yet another punt, highlighted by a sensational one-on-one tackle by Jordyn Brooks when he found himself isolated on a Saquon cutback. Brooks held his ground and bear-hugged Barkley to the turf and even though they didn’t score there, the Giants would get their first positive play shortly thereafter, as punter Jamie Gillian expertly pinned his fourth kick on the Seahawks’ 2.
Now, it’s been nothing but unmitigated disaster for Seattle the last number of times they’ve been backed up to their own goal line and this time was no different. Resisting the urge to run a predictable up-the-gut play, Geno confidently whipped the ball out to Lockett in the right flat, where he was tightly covered by Adoree Jackson. Jackson attacked Lockett, wrapping him up and swinging our precious little angel to the turf. As he did, the ball slipped loose and Jackson fell on it, setting the Giants up on the doorstep. With the New York defense earning something their offense couldn’t, Barkley plunged in for a gimme TD to tie the game at seven.
Smith was able to find Metcalf for another first down on the following drive but two sacks killed any momentum they might’ve recovered and Seattle would punt it away. However! When Richie James fielded the kick, he worked his way sideways before turning upfield. As he did, Will Dissly, who runs like he’s one half of a three-legged race, finally reached him and politely forced a fumble with a well-placed shoulder check. Joey Blount, who is apparently a real person, dove into the scrum and burrowed his way to the bottom to claim the football.
Seattle wouldn’t be able to do anything with their gift, but the field position set Jason Myers up for a short 35-yard field goal attempt. The snap and hold were clean, but Myers’ kick came out a little low and Dexter Lawrence, who is built like a walrus, nipped it with the tip of his flipper. The ball knuckled through the air, barely nicking the stanchion holding up the goal posts. The kick was good, and Seattle took a narrow 10-7 advantage.
The Giants had one last chance to tie or take the lead before the end of the half but those hopes were snuffed out by an athletic sack from Boye Mafe. When the gun sounded, the Seahawks defense sent the Giants to the locker room with just 45 yards of total offense and seven cheap points to show for themselves.
That said, the Giants did get the ball to start the second half and they responded with their best drive of the day. It started with a great run from Barkley, who shrugged off tacklers as he picked his way through the defense for 17. Uchenna Nwosu knifed through the line a couple plays later to down Barkley in the backfield and, after a delay of game, Daniel Jones found himself facing a heretofore impossible 3rd & 12. But Jones was up to the task this time, hitting Darius Slayton for 16 against tight coverage from Tariq Woolen then went right back to Slayton for 14 more. The drive finally ended when Woolen read a 3rd down in-route to Wan’Dale Robinson, breaking up the pass and forcing a field goal attempt that Graham Geno converted to tie it at 10.
Seattle’s next drive was a good one, with Walker III running twice for 13 yards and Travis Homer catching a dump-off for 21. After a Colby Parkinson catch got five and Homer run netted three, Geno feigned a hand-off and went up top to Lockett, who had wiggled free on a double move up the right sideline. Smith’s 3rd down pass was pristine, dropping perfectly into Lockett’s hands, but something glitched and Tyler let his facemark get in the way, bobbling the ball for his first drop of the season. Myers’ second kick was much cleaner than his first, and Seattle took a 13-10 lead while Lockett looked disconsolate on the sideline. Even so, both Smith and Pete Carroll pierced his ears with encouragement, with Geno undoubtedly telling him he’d be coming his way again.
At this point, the Giants had found their rhythm on offense. They put together a 12-play possession that just kept moving the sticks and wouldn’t derail until Bruce Irvin finally said “enough.” With the ball on Seattle’s 29, Irvin schooled his man to the inside and nearly beat Barkley to the handoff. Irvin hit Jones as he gave the ball away and knocked the QB into his own running back. Both players tumbled to the turf and the Giants were unable to make up the eight-yard loss with the ensuing plays, instead settling for three points and the third tie of the game. It would be the last time they scored.
Not so for the ‘Hawks, however. No, they were just getting started. Remember when Lockett dropped that touchdown on the last drive? Well, redemption is a beautiful thing and when the vibes are right, it can come quickly. Smith would zip one to Metcalf at the chains for 11 yards to start things off before finding Goodwin for six and Lockett for 12 more. Smith was groovin’ at this point and hit Metcalf along the left sideline for another 13 before blessing Lockett with a chance to make everything right. Seattle would run the same concept on this play as they did on the one they just missed the possession prior. Once again Lockett got loose on a stop-and-go route up the right sideline and once again, Geno spun a spiral so tight it briefly created a quantum rift as it cut through the air. The ball arrived at the exact same spot as the drop but there was no way Lockett was gonna let it happen again. Instead, he cradled the ball to his chest like a newborn and carried to gently into the endzone for the go-ahead score. 20-13.
If the Giants were gonna score enough points to win this game, they needed to do it on their two long field goal drives because by this point, the well was empty. They’d go three-and-out when Shelby Harris improbably tracked down a scrambling Jones in the open field, launching his big beautiful body through the air, reaching for Jones’ shoe like Da Vinci’s Adam stretching for the divine. His massive paw snagged the QB’s foot, tripping him short of the line and forcing yet another punt.
Seattle was unable to recreate the magic of their previous drive and punted it back, but their coverage team would come up big again. James caught the kick and started upfield, shuffling through tacklers until Homer decked him to the ground with a mighty shoulder. The impact jarred the ball loose again and Dissly trundled in about three minutes later to scoop it up.
That put the Seahawks on the Giants’ 32 with six minutes left and they wasted no time writing their fifth win in cement. On 1st down, Smith faked a draw and rolled right with a synchronized Fant, who caught the easy pass and ran ahead for 16 yards. All day I kept wondering when Ken Walker III’s trademark late-game score was gonna materialize, as he’d been bottled up for the majority of the game to this point. My patience would be rewarded on the next play, as Walker took a handoff going right and, when there was nothing there but a wall of defenders, planted his right foot so hard it rippled the turf and cut back to the left.
Walker III’s ability to get back to full speed after changing direction is amazing and he easily out-sprinted the recovering defense to the left pylon to make it 27-13. From there, it was just a matter of stamping out the Giants like so many used cigarettes, and when the clock hit 0:00, the Seahawks were triumphant for the third straight game.
~Geno Smith hasn’t had one of those crazy week-winning fantasy performances in a while but the cool thing is, he hasn’t needed to. Instead, he has been an absolute maestro, expertly guiding his melodic offense through low points and nailing the high notes— and hitting the crescendos with power and verve. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 212 yards, two TDs, and no turnovers while adding another 26 on the ground. Most importantly, he has solidified himself as a leader on this team— and not just because he’s the quarterback. His captaincy is evident every week, whether it’s calmly checking to a new play pre-snap, working through his reads, hollering after a big play, or picking up his teammates when they struggle. Geno Smith is unquestionably the right man for this team, right now. Beyond that remains to be seen but I’m not sure it’s possible to expect more from Geno than what he’s giving us.
~Ken Walker III never got going the way we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but he finished forward on every carry and came a shoelace away from two really big runs. Still, it seems like he never tires out and the youthfulness of his powerful legs was evident on his game-clinching touchdown run. Just 51 yards on 18 carries against a very good run defense, but the score was huge.
It’s really good to have Travis Homer back. Homer has transformed as an athlete since he came into the league and while he may never be a feature back, he’s much more powerful and explosive than he used to be. He’s also an elite blocker and a special teams maven; and both of those qualities were on display in his first game back. Two carries for 10 yards, one catch for 21 more, and a huge forced fumble in punt coverage. The Seahawks are just a little bit better when he’s healthy.
~Seven days ago, we were wondering if DK Metcalf would take another snap this season. And yet there he was today, dominating target share and leading the team in catches with six. His 10 targets resulted in just 55 yards but the fact that he got that many looks— and scored— is a marvelous sign after the scary sight of him on a cart last Sunday.
Tyler Lockett had the weirdest day. He is the most dependable player on this entire team but he had the huge fumble on his own 2 and then dropped a perfect touchdown pass in the third quarter. Still, he didn’t waver and neither did the team’s confidence in him. The go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter might be the warmest moment of this entire cozy season and it’s yet another reminder that this team can handle adversity in a really impressive way. Lockett finished with five catches for 63 yards and the TD on eight targets and, crucially, finished on a very high note.
Every Dee Eskridge touch that doesn’t result in a fumble, penalty, or injury is a win. And there just isn’t enough of the good to outweigh the snowballing mistakes. I’m not sure how he ends up seeing much playing time moving forward.
~The Seahawks defense played outta their got damn minds today. They held the Giants to 36 yards rushing in the first half and only nine yards passing, and kept the clamps on over the final two quarters. They logged five sacks today, giving them a remarkable 14 over the last three games and, outside of a gift-wrapped two-yard TD drive, kept the New York offense out of the end zone.
Once more, it started up front. Exciting rookie Boye Mafe is finding his stride, logging a sack and Shelby Harris is just amazing against the run. Plus, his diving tackle on Jones on 3rd down with eight minutes left in the game was enormous. Poona Ford got in on the action with a sack as well, and Al Woods keeps inhaling interior OL like Kirby on Super Smash Bros.
Uchenna Nwosu continues to be the best player on this defense this season. He snagged two more sacks this afternoon among his six tackles— three of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He is everything everywhere all at once.
Bruce Irvin played a lot after Darrell Taylor was ruled out with a hip injury and came thisclose to three sacks. The first one came when he got both hands on Daniel Jones on a rollout but couldn’t finish, and the second was erased because he Michael Bennetted the snap and was ruled offsides. Then, he had a diving attempt that Jones hopped out of in the 4th. His box score is a lot lighter than his actual impact on this game.
Jordyn Brooks was his usual solid self but I was impressed by Cody Barton, who had a really nice game. Barton had six tackles, including a sack, and almost picked off a 4th down pass.
Michael Jackson can get his feet crossed up at times but man is he strong at the top of the route. He was tested all game long and was more than ready. Wearing cleats bearing the likeness of his namesake, Jackson may have played the best game of his career. He broke up three passes and led the team with seven tackles, sticking his nose in at every opportunity.
Tariq Woolen was beaten on a couple crossing routes by tight ends today. Clearly that’s not a reflection of athleticism— rather it’s a reminder how new he still is at the position and how he still has a lot to learn about recognizing routes. It really is amazing that he’s done what he’s done while admittedly still needing to learn so much.
This intense defensive turnaround has coincided with Ryan Neal’s presence in the starting lineup and he had another really strong effort today. Unfortunately, he got rolled up on late so we’ll wait with bated breath to see how serious it is. It’s tough to overstate what a steadying force he’s been for this team over the last month.
~Only three penalties today, and one of them was Pete Carroll nearly taking out the side judge with an overzealous celebration late. It really is all coming together.
~The crowd had a massive impact on this game and for the first time in a few years, Seattle’s home field advantage feels real again. A major kudos to those of you who were at the game today. Keep that shit up!
5-3. How wild is that? With the 49ers beating the Rams today, the Seahawks are a full game clear of the field in the NFC West and look ready to touch gloves with just about anybody. It’s unlikely that they’ll play this well every game but by looking this good over the last three weeks, they’ve earned themselves some margin for error that most of us never thought they’d have this year.
The offense just keeps on humming, the defense is showing its fangs, and the little stuff is getting tightened up. That is how you win, and win consistently. This is what a good team looks like. Ever onward, my friends, and ever upward.
Got to try my first Las Calaveras cigar today, as I unsheathed the LC 50 Crowned Head for today’s game. Please understand how spoiled I am when I say it’s not my favorite cigar ever, but it was an easy smoke with a consistent draw. It just lacked some of the flavor that I’m generally looking for. Kicked it up with some special Seahawks edition bourbon sent to me as a gift from Maker’s Mark.
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