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The Seattle sports scene has been completely untamed over the last few weeks, and today’s Seahawks game was no different. After a lawless victory against the Lions in Detroit seven days ago, the ‘Hawks continued the lunacy in New Orleans. The Saints came into this one on a three-game losing streak and were without their starting QB and top two wide receivers. Even so, they were nearly a touchdown favorite against Seattle, and the two teams spent all 60 minutes exchanging haymakers in what would become another wild matchup. It was an opportunity for the Seahawks to move to 3-2 before returning home, but with their colander-esque defense, they’d need every ounce of their offensive prowess to keep up.
The Saints received the opening kick and immediately began matriculating up the field, using chunk runs from Alvin Kamara and some crisp passing from Andy Dalton to get across midfield in no time. New Orleans would get as far as Seattle’s 37 before pressure forced an incompletion, sending Will Lutz out to knock a 56-yard field goal through the uprights. 3-0 Saints.
One of the hallmarks of this particular Seahawks team is their effectiveness on offense early in games. It stands in stark contrast to years past, where they’ve typically had to score late to overcome sluggish beginnings. Today, that trend continued, as they leaned on Rashaad Penny for runs on three of the first four plays, mixing in a slick 15-yard completion to Noah Fant. Seattle has also been pretty damn good on 3rd down this season, and it was no different on the opening drive.
Facing 3rd & 5 from the 50, the Seahawks came out with three receivers bunched to the right and, as the ball was snapped, sent all of them slanting over the middle. It was a play that required stout pass protection, and that’s exactly what the line delivered. As Geno worked his way up the pocket, the Saints secondary collapsed on the bundle of pass-catchers while DK Metcalf leaked out behind them. Geno Smith identified it on time and lobbed the ball over the top of the defense. Metcalf coasted under the pass, caught it, and turned towards the endzone. Two Saints had an angle on him at the 15 yard line but they tried to tackle DK with the timidity of unarmed zookeepers approaching an escaped lion. Metcalf roared through the flailing defensive backs and into the painted turf to put Seattle up 7-3.
The defense responded to the big play by forcing a punt and Seattle got right back to it on offense. After an incompletion on first down, Penny broke through the line and got the edge, bounding for 32 yards before getting pushed out of bounds. DK Metcalf would get flagged for a push-off on 1st down and Seattle was unable to get the yards back, settling for a 56-yard field goal attempt of their own. Fortunately, Jason Myers delivered, knocking his kick through the uprights and giving Seattle a seven-point lead at 10-3.
Down Jameis Winston, Michael Thomas, and Jarvis Landry, New Orleans turned to their mighty Mormon, and Taysom Hill spent the rest of the game carrying the Saints under the banner of heaven. After Kamara and Dalton picked up a couple of first downs, Hill took a direct snap and darted up the middle for a 15. A few plays later, he charged in from six yards out to tie it up at 10.
Seattle’s next drive was a quick one, despite gaining eight yards on the first two plays. That’s because on third down Cam Jordan, who is one of the most creative and resourceful pass-rushers in the league, schooled Abe Lucas for a drive-killing sack, leading Michael Dickson to kick it away. Seattle’s defense stood tall again, however, using a first down sack from Al Woods to put the Saints behind the chains, forcing a punt of their own. The Seahawks would go three-and-out again, however, and Dickson came back out for the second time in as many drives.
You know how we’ve become really dependent on technology? You also know how the instant convenience it offers can turn to maddening frustration if there’s a glitch. Well, that’s what happened on this punt. Dickson fielded a perfectly good snap and, as he stepped up to kick it, completely short-circuited. Instead of booting the ball away, he tucked it and ran straight into two defenders who were crashing down from his left. There was no reason for him not to punt it there, as he had plenty of time, but apparently his CPU froze and he was taken down for a loss. Not that it matters, but the ball was also knocked free from his hands where it was inexplicably pounced on by Taysom Hill at the Seattle 13. Two plays later, Hill was in the endzone again on a nine-yard keeper. 17-10, New Orleans.
Given just a short respite, Geno brought his guys back onto the field and immediately dialed up his tight ends. After short-hopping a throw to Fant in the flat, he hit Will Dissly for 15 then went back to Fant for 32 yards down the left side. Following another incompletion, Smith kept it for 13 yards, giving Seattle a first down on New Orleans’ 15. two plays and two yards later, Smith took a shotgun snap and zipped a pass up the left hash. On the receiving end of that throw was Metcalf, who got inside the defender and sprawled for the ball in the middle of the endzone. DK got both paws on the football but was unable to haul it in, the ball bouncing to the ground at the same time he did. It wouldn’t have been the easiest catch in the world but it was absolutely one that an NFL receiver should make and Metcalf knew it. Instead of tying it up, Seattle had to settle for a short Myers field goal and a four-point deficit at 17-13.
The Saints got their offense going again on the next possession, getting to the edge of field goal range before dumping the ball off to Kamara on a screen pass. As New Orleans’ dynamic running back got near the sticks, he was thumped hard by Ryan Neal and Coby Bryant, the combined force of their hits jolting the ball loose where it was scooped up by Tariq Woolen and returned up to midfield with just about a minute left in the second quarter.
The Seahawks would capitalize on the turnover, as Smith hit Tyler Lockett for 11 yards and then again two plays later, when Smith identified a small window over the deep middle. Geno’s pass was perfect, sailing over the dropping safety and between two corners at the goal line. Lockett sprinted in at navel-height and secured the spiral as he slid into the endzone for the go-ahead score with seven seconds left on the clock. It was a massive turn of events in Seattle’s favor, though it was dampened by a rare extra-point miss from Myers— one that would have a domino effect on post-touchdown decisions the rest of the way. Still, the Seahawks took a 19-17 lead into the locker room after another excellent first half of offense.
Seattle got the ball to start the third quarter looking to build off the late score and extend their lead. To their chagrin, that mission was aborted on the first play when Smith hit Metcalf on a slant. The ball was poked free a millisecond before DK’s arm hit the turf and the Saints won the battle at the bottom of the ensuing pile. That set New Orleans up with terrific field position and they wasted no time making it hurt.
Kamara and Hill combined for 12 yards on a couple of carries, moving the ball inside the red zone. Dalton’s next pass was broken up at the goal line by Neal, but Dalton went back to the endzone after a Kamara run was strung out by the defense, this time targeting red-hot rookie Chris Olave. As the ball reached the young receiver’s hands, Coby Bryant committed one of the most violent pass breakups you’ll ever see.
Olave made the contested catch but Bryant wrapped him up, lifted his slight body in the air, and pile-drove him into the turf. The ball popped out and Olave stayed down in a heap. It was a legal, albeit vicious, hit and it kept the Saints out of the endzone in a crucial moment— or so it appeared. Saints coach Dennis Allen appealed the call and the refs overturned it, saying Olave secured the ball long enough before going to the ground. That gave New Orleans a huge go-ahead score and sent a woozy Olave off with a touchdown for his efforts.
The next drive went terribly for the Seahawks, and not just because it ended with another punt. On that series, Rashaad Penny went down after a short carry and stayed down. The fifth-year running back has infamously struggled with a series of serious injuries in his career and it appears that this is yet another one. It potentially truncates a promising season— in a contract year— for Penny, who has led the NFL in rushing yards over the last nine games. It’s a devastating development, though it did clear the stage for Seattle’s exciting rookie RB. More on that later.
The Seahawks defense stepped up in the wake of the injury, forcing another punt, but the offense was unable to do much of anything with it— the drive stalling on three plays in large part due to an ultra-rare drop from Dissly. Still, it looked like the defense had finally found its groove, as they delivered the ball right back to their offense when Woolen jumped a route and corralled his second interception in as many games.
With the youngin’s turnover, the Seahawks looked juiced and they seemed to make the most of it shortly thereafter. Smith hit Metcalf along the right sideline for 14 then, after an incompletion and a false start, found DK again for eight more. That brought up 3rd & 7 from the Saints’ 32 and Smith rolled to his right to escape pressure after taking the next snap. As he did, Metcalf got loose behind the defense again and Smith threw him a strike for a massive touchdown late in the third. It was a beautiful play and it highlighted the growing chemistry between Seattle’s QB and WR, but the celebration was cut short by a penalty flag. The official ruled it a hold against Charles Cross but the replay showed nothing of the sort. The ghost call not only took the touchdown off the board, it knocked Seattle out of field goal position and the resulting punt felt like a heavy kick to the nuts.
Having been stopped on their previous two drives, the Saints went back to their nuclear option. Putting Hill back behind center, the “tight end” dropped back and planted his feet like he was going to run again. The defense sensed this and began to crash but instead of keeping it, Hill pulled back and hit Adam Trautman over the middle for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 31-19. That score, combined with the deflating conclusion to Seattle’s last drive, was a brutal sequence for the Seahawks.
Seattle, however, refused to give in. After Dee Eskridge drew a 27-yard pass interference penalty, Tyler Lockett snagged a 10-yard pass at the New Orleans 40. With rhythm being re-established, Smith went right back to his little buddy, this time hitting Lockett over the top of the defense for his second long touchdown of the game. Tyler’s ability to get a step on his defender and then extend the gap between them hasn’t seemed to slip one iota as his career has progressed, and he remains one of the most lethal deep threats in the NFL. The score made it 31-25 and Seattle’s offense stayed out for a two-point attempt that was broken up in front of Metcalf by Marcus Lattimore.
New Orleans responded with a long drive, helped by a phantom holding call against Woolen that erased a third down stop. They kept alternating short passes with runs by Kamara and Hill, and we started to see the fatigue set in on Seattle’s defense. Still, they bent one last time before they ultimately broke, getting their second third down stop of the drive when Uchenna Nwosu gobbled up Mark Ingram on 3rd & 3. The Saints offense stayed on the field to try and draw the Seahawks offsides with a series of hard counts and for a moment, it looked like they were successful. As Dalton screamed one last time before the play clock expired, there was movement along Seattle’s defensive line— but that movement didn’t encroach and the resulting flinch from the Saints right tackle drew a false start instead. That meant a punt, and Seattle would get the ball back with a chance to regain the lead.
With Rashaad Penny getting his ankle looked at, that meant it was time for Ken Walker III to stake his claim to the backfield. Last week I wrote about how, despite the lack of a true breakout play, the glimpses of a Walker explosion were there— and that it was only a matter of time before the rookie showcased the talent that earned him a second-round pick. Apparently, that time has arrived.
Smith linked up with Metcalf for nine on first down, leaving Seattle with a 2nd & 1. On this play, Walker III announced his arrival. Taking a handoff and plunging off left guard, Walker III sensed an opening to his right. He planted his left foot and sprung back toward the middle of the field, leaving a linebacker hugging air. Walker III shot back toward the right hash before deflecting upfield and vaporizing the Saints secondary. Despite taking the ball at the 31, he was somehow behind everyone by the time he hit the 40. From there, it was a simply a matter of winning a sprint, and the dynamic rookie did so with ease.
Pete Carroll wants running backs who can hit the home run and he’s willing to spend the necessary capital to get them. It’s why he and John Schneider shocked everyone by taking Penny in the first round and it’s why he used the 41st overall pick on Walker III. The score tied the game at 31 and Myers’ extra point put them ahead by one with less than seven minutes to play.
New Orleans saw what Walker III did and decided to return the favor. After consecutive Kamara runs gained a total of nine yards, the Saints went back to the well one more time. On 3rd & 1, Taysom freaking Hill took the direct snap and sprinted off left tackle. The Saints hit every one of their blocks and Hill did the rest. The Seahawks have a lot of speed on their defense but what they don’t have is a lot of good pursuit angles. The second Hill saw daylight, it was over. He beat Woolen to the left pylon for his third rushing score of the game and the successful two-point conversion put New Orleans up for good at 39-32.
The Seahawks had one last chance to tie it, and their final drive got off to a good start with Walker III gaining six and two on first and second downs. Sadly, the lights went out on third down when Jordan got free off the left edge and wrapped up a scrambling Smith for a 14-yard sack. Seattle had to punt and hope for a stop that never came.
New Orleans used a 10-yard completion to Tre’Quan Smith and a 10-yard run from Kamara to get the clinching first downs before kneeling out the final 1:50. When the clock expired, both the Saints and Seahawks found themselves at 2-3, but only the home team was celebrating.
~Geno Smith continues to play well and while it wasn’t quite enough today, this loss does not fall at his feet. He only threw the ball 25 times but that’s because that’s really all he had to. The Seahawks scored quickly for the second straight game, as Smith averaged a stunning 16.7 yards per completion. Smith entered this season with a reputation for simply taking what the defense allowed but over the last two weeks, he’s blown that perception to pieces. The NFL’s most accurate passer this season completed 16 of those 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. And, barring a drop and a bad call, he could have had five TDs. My confidence in Geno grows with each passing game.
~The loss today hurts, but not as badly as hearing that Rashaad Penny’s season might be over. Again. Coming off his monstrous performance in Detroit, Penny looked great again today, running with the decisiveness that comes from unbowed confidence. He didn’t break free the way he has in some other games, but he racked up 54 yards on just eight carries prior to the injury. I really, really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Rashaad in a Seahawks uniform.
If it is, however, Ken Walker III looks ready to take the mantle. Walker III only got eight carries himself, but turned them into 88 yards and his first NFL touchdown. I’ve been saying it every chance I’ve gotten since he was drafted but this guy has everything you need to be an elite runner in this league. The combination of acceleration, shiftiness, and power is evident every time he has room to operate and today he finally delivered on the game-breaking promise he’d been flirting with this season. While it remains to be seen if he can handle the workload that comes with being a starting running back in the NFL, we know that he’s no stranger to volume, having compiled an insane 263 carries during his final year at Michigan State en route to winning the Doak Walker award as the nation’s best running back. I, for one, can’t wait to see it.
~Tyler Lockett is the longest-tenured Seahawk and his leadership is invaluable to this young team. And while leadership is one thing, on-field performance is another entirely. Lockett was exceptional again today, catching five of six targets for 108 yards and two touchdowns. There are just so many ways he can beat you and they all remain in his arsenal, even as he his career ages, and he finds himself 5th in the NFL in receiving yards through five games.
DK Metcalf was thisclose to having an absolutely monstrous day. After catching a 50-yard score on the opening drive, he dropped the diving catch in the endzone, and had another touchdown called back on a penalty. Still, he caught five of eight targets for 88 yards and a TD. Metcalf is beginning to fulfill his destiny as one of the best wide receivers in the league, sharpening his route running and looking so much more consistent than he ever has before. His drop today was just his second of the year— and first if you don’t count him getting hit by a crosser before he looked for it last week. Metcalf, for his part, is 11th in the league in receiving yards and I won’t be surprised one bit if he finishes the year even higher than that.
Noah Fant had his biggest impact as a Seahawk today. I’ve been waiting for him to take command of his position group and start demanding targets as a bona fide #3 receiver on this offense. He received a season-high five targets this afternoon, snagging three of them for a season-high 49 yards. Nice to see.
~The offensive line continues to gel and today was maybe their best effort of the season. The penalties are still popping up and Cam Jordan beat Abe Lucas twice, but the only active player with more career sacks than Jordan is Von Miller so I think we can extend the rookie RT some grace. Other than that, they gave Smith plenty of time to operate and paved the way for 151 rushing yards at a 7.2 YPC clip against one of the best run defenses on the planet. I like the direction they’re headed.
~The defense still stinks. They did force four punts, which shouldn’t be cause to celebrate, but it’s the best they’ve done in that regard since Week 1. Besides that though, it was more of the same. They allowed a staggering 235 rushing yards to the Saints and rarely looked in position to shut much of anything down. The Saints averaged 8.4 yards per pass with Andy =Dalton and Taysom Hill, but they rushed it twice as often as they threw it, which tells you everything you need to know about this team’s run defense.
Al Woods got a sack and continues to flash in the middle of that defensive line but he’s not getting any help up there. Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks led the way again with 12 and 11 tackles respectively, but it was mostly empty calories, roping ballcarriers to the turf after they picked up meaningful yards. Still waiting to see a real impact play from either of them.
Tariq Woolen is slowly becoming a star. He got another interception today and recovered a fumble. He’s getting more comfortable at the pro level and is starting to attack more than react. Very excited about him. Coby Bryant and Ryan Neal each had some nice plays in the passing game today but I’ve still yet to hear Quandre Diggs’ name mentioned in concurance with a big play. 39 points and 432 yards allowed today, meaning they’ve given up 84 points and 957 yards in the last eight days. Sheesh.
~Special teams is normally a strength for this team but Jason Myers missed a kick for the second straight week and Michael Dickson had that huge gaffe in the second quarter. Myers has been largely good this season but Dickson isn’t flipping the field the way we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
~Penalties were brutal for Seattle once more today. Yes, there were some bad calls against them in big moments but there were a lot more properly called ones as well. 12 penalties again, accounting for 85 yards. It’s hard enough to win in the NFL already, and the Seahawks just aren’t good enough to overcome that many setbacks.
This season is, as I’ve said all along, about diagnosis and design. The Seahawks are going to have a massive shopping budget next offseason— both in terms of picks and salary cap— so the next three months are about figuring out which groceries they need and which ones are already in the fridge. So far, it’s looking like the defensive cupboards are close to empty but the offense is way ahead of schedule with their development. There will be times this season when the Seahawks look like playoff contenders and others where they’ll look like contenders for the first overall pick. I’m cheering for more of the former than the latter but either way, this is a developmental year for Seattle and I’m okay with that.
There was a lot to like about today’s game and a lot that needs to be improved. The sun rises, the sun sets. A new day. Onward and upward.
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