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Through the first two games of the season, the Seattle Seahawks have experienced an amazing high and a dreadful low. After beating the Denver Broncos in a Week 1 thriller, they got absolutely hammered by the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday. Entering their third game, the ‘Hawks found themselves back at home facing a young, winless Atlanta Falcons team. It was a chance for a reset to the season, an opportunity to get back above .500 and re-establish some positive vibes for the year. And for a while, it looked like that’s exactly what was gonna happen.
Seattle began the game with the ball and, coming off of an incredible 13 consecutive scoreless drives, looked really sharp. Leaning heavily on Rashaad Penny during the opening possession, the Seahawks moved the ball with deliberation and intention. Penny’s first three carries went for 10, 11, and 14 yards respectively as the fifth-year runner looked every bit like the guy who led the NFL in rushing down the stretch last year. Those carries were sprinkled with completions to Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf, and Ken Walker III. The pass to Metcalf was especially cool, as it required a pinpoint throw to the right sideline on 3rd & 9 that Metcalf speared for 13 yards. Seattle would get as far as the Atlanta 14 but a jump ball to Metcalf in the endzone was batted away by AJ Terrell and the Seahawks had to settle for a field goal. 3-0.
The Falcons came into this game 0-2 but they were feisty in both losses, having taken both the Saints and the Rams down to the final play. The big criticism facing Atlanta has been their inability to get budding superstar tight end Kyle Pitts involved, and they put those concerns to rest in a big way in the first half this afternoon. They made a point of using their young weapon, force-feeding Pitts three targets on the opening drive, completing two of them for 35 yards and just missing on a deep ball that Pitts may have taken to the house. Nonetheless, the Falcons were still able to capitalize on a way-too-easy drive when Marcus Mariota squeaked into the endzone on a QB keeper from a couple yards out. 7-3, Falcons.
Undaunted, Geno and Co came right back with more Penny and Metcalf, sprinkling in some Walker III and Lockett to get the ball up near midfield. With Atlanta focusing on Seattle’s two great receivers, Smith went back to what worked when Denver did the same in the opener and started hammering his tight ends up the seams. It started with a quick shot to Colby Parkinson down the right hash for 36, and Smith followed that up with a beautiful ball over the middle to an open Will Dissly for an 18-yard touchdown and the lead. 10-7 Seahawks and the offense was rolling.
It didn’t take long to realize that this would not be the type of slow, low-scoring game we’ve come to expect from this iteration of the Seahawks. A sluggish offense was cruising and a heretofore stout defense was getting shredded. Mariota continued his onslaught on Atlanta’s third drive, hitting Olamide Zaccheus for 23, then going back to Pitts for 28 to get all the way to Seattle’s 7. Their drive would falter, however, when Coby Bryant came free on a perfect corner blitz and exploded through Mariota for a momentum-killing sack. Young-Hoe Koo would knock a 40-yard kick through the uprights to tie the game at 10 and, with points on each of the first four drives, it looked like we were in for a speedboat race.
The scoring paused briefly, as Seattle went three-and-out despite an eight-yard completion to Lockett on first down, and the Falcons took advantage. Mariota stayed in his groove, this time getting his other young stud Drake London involved with a fantastic deep ball on a double move against Michael Jackson down the right sideline. Three snaps later, he was hitting Zaccheus on a crosser for 26, setting the defense up for a gashing 17-yard TD run from Cordarrelle Patterson. The nine-play, 89-yard scoring drive put the visitors up 17-10 and added to the pressure on Seattle’s hit-and-miss offense.
Fortunately, the next drive was a lot more hit than miss, as Smith found Lockett to convert a 3rd & 7 to open the possession. He followed that up with a 16-yard slant to Noah Fant and a quick-hitter to Lockett for five. After two runs were stuffed at the Atlanta 42, Pete Carroll bravely kept the offense on the field, trusting his veteran QB to deliver in a big spot. And deliver Geno did, hanging strong in the pocket before going over the top to Marquise Goodwin for 23 massive yards.
That crucial completion set the stage for Seattle’s best player. On the next play, Smith dropped back, planted his feet, and whipped a ball in toward a streaking Metcalf in the back left corner of the endzone. Unlike his first would-be scoring shot, Smith threw this one high, which is exactly what you should do when targeting the next stage of human evolution. See, DK Metcalf is one of those rare athletes that can jump at the same time as an opponent and then somehow just keep elevating after the defender starts descending, and on this play, he did just that. Leaping way above the defenders, DK sky-walked his hulking frame over the corner and the safety, snagging the pass and crashing down on top of them for the game-tying score.
With the game locked up at 17, the Seahawks defense finally held their ground, forcing their (get this) first three-and-out of the season. That put the ball back in Smith’s hands with three minutes left and a chance to take the lead before the break. The offense answered the bell once again, using up all but the last nine seconds of the half on a 12-play drive that covered 67 yards. It was highlighted by completions to Parkinson, Lockett, Metcalf, and a slick 16-yard run from Deejay Dallas. The Seahawks almost snuck out of there with a touchdown but back-to-back throws to Metcalf were broken up and Jason Myers banged a short kick home to put the ‘Hawks up 20-17.
The Falcons tried to get one big completion to set up a long field goal attempt of their own but rookie Tariq Woolen swooped in to pick Mariota off and send his team to the locker room with a three-point lead.
This game felt a lot more like the Broncos matchup than it did the 49ers, with Smith looking scalpel-sharp en route to an 18-25 line for 218 yards and two touchdowns through two quarters. But, like that game against Denver, the lion’s share of the offense was reserved for the first half, leaving just scraps for the final two quarters. Atlanta started the third quarter with the ball and should have come up empty but their drive was resuscitated by a questionable late-hit call against Quandre Diggs on a 3rd down incompletion. A few plays later, Koo smashed a 54-yard kick through the uprights to tie the game for the third time.
With seemingly everything clicking, Seattle worked their rookie running back into the fold. Penny carried the load in the first half, but Shane Waldron finally unleashed Walker III on the next drive, giving him a series of touches highlighted by a jet sweep that saw the exciting youngster spin out of a tackle near the right sideline, reverse field, and zig-zag his way upfield for 21 yards. Completions to Lockett, Goodwin, and Dissly got the Seahawks close to a third touchdown but another 3rd down endzone shot to Metcalf was busted by a quick pass rush that threw off Smith’s toss.
With the clock stopped and facing a 4th & 2 from the 7, Carroll let his offense stay out there, presumably to try and get the TD that they had just missed on the previous play. Instead of doing that, however, Seattle let the play clock run all the way down before burning a timeout and kicking a field goal. Now, it’s possible that the coaches just didn’t like what they saw when they lined up for that snap but it just seems like Pete is surprised by every 4th down, scrambling for a decision when he should have known exactly what he would be doing on 4th down when it was still 3rd & 3. I’d just love to feel like he had a plan, and a backup plan, in these situations. Seattle took the easy three and retook the lead at 23-20. They were the first points the Seattle offense had scored in the second half all season and the last points they’d score on the day.
Atlanta wasted no time in capitalizing, going 75 yards in five plays like it was an offseason practice. After slicing the Seahawks secondary up all game, the Falcons took the fight to the ground. Patterson started it off with a well-blocked 40-yard scamper off left tackle then came right back with 18 off the right guard’s outside ass cheek. Then it was a couple runs from rookie Tyler Allgeier before Mariota finally went back to the air. Taking the snap from the Seattle 14, Mariota slung it out to London, who had broken Sidney Jones Jr off with a sharp stick route. London, caught the ball, turned upfield, and dragged Diggs into the endzone for the lead.
The Seahawks offense was unable to answer on their next drive, despite converting two huge third downs. The first came with six yards to go, as Seattle ran four go routes to clear things out and then dumped it off to Dallas with plenty of room to move the chains. Then, on 3rd & 8, Smith hit Lockett on a nine-yard out to keep things rolling. Sadly, the drive fizzled when Damien Lewis was flagged for holding and Smith underthrew Goodwin on a deep ball that was nearly intercepted. I love Geno’s short and midrange accuracy but I need him to put a little air under those deep balls. That could have, and perhaps should have, been a touchdown but instead, it became another punt.
Atlanta responded with a long, eye-gouging drive, eating up 53 yards over nine plays and moving the ball into field goal range. But the Seahawks were granted a glimmer of hope when the Falcons offense did what the Seattle defense couldn’t and stopped themselves. On 2nd & 7 from the Seahawks 34, Mariota attempted to run a read-option but coughed up the football when he tried to pull it out of his running back’s grasp. The ball clattered to the turf where it was pounced on by Uchenna Nwosu, putting the home team in position to take a late lead.
The turnover gave Seattle one last chance to go win this game but they started by giving up a nine-yard sack. No matter, a quick completion to Lockett and another one to Fant left the Seahawks with a 4th & inches that they converted easily with a six-yard Penny run. Smith hit Lockett again for 18 on the next play and, after a six-yarder to Metcalf, followed it up with a pretty throw-back to Penny for 14 more. It looked like Seattle was primed to take advantage late but the play got called back on Lewis’ second holding penalty and then, on 3rd down, Smith took another sack to force a 4th & 18 that may as well have been 4th & 48. Smith’s desperation heave was picked off by Richie Grant and the Falcons would escape with their first win of the year.
~Geno Smith entered this game completing over 80% of his passes, which was good for #1 in the NFL. Unfortunately, his yards per completion was dead last, so it was nice to see him look downfield more today. The accuracy didn’t suffer from doing so, either. Smith’s leash was a lot longer today than I’ve ever seen it, and he responded by completing 32 of 44 passes (72.7%) for 325 yards, two TDs, and an INT for a passer rating of 99.2.
When taken as a whole, it’s a pretty good performance from Geno and one that should earn him more leeway moving forward. A closer examination, however, reveals yet another second half shortcoming. And while Smith went 14 for 19 in the final two quarters, he did so for a paltry 107 yards with just the field goal and the turnover to show for it. I’m just not sure he’s capable of putting a complete game together and if he is, we simply haven’t seen it yet.
~The run game looked pretty strong today, as the Seahawks gained 112 yards on 23 carries, good for 4.9 yards per carry. Rashaad Penny led the way with 66 on 14, which is nice, but considering that he had 35 on his first three rushes, it’s unfortunate he was unable to do a whole lot after that.
Ken Walker III gave everyone a glimpse why he was such a highly touted prospect coming out of Michigan State, and why Seattle used a 2nd round pick on him, but his opportunities are still sparing. His 21-yard scamper showcased everything you saw on his college tape, breaking tackles, changing directions at full speed, and getting up field with haste. But given just three carries and three targets, it wasn’t enough to make a huge impact. He finished with 33 total yards on six touches but the bright side is that he’s earning meaningful snaps. It’s likely his backfield after this year.
~Smith did a good job of spreading the love through the air today, hitting 10 different receivers. However, 23 of his 44 targets were funneled to his two excellent wide receivers. DK Metcalf earned 12 of those looks but tight coverage, a few underthrows, and a drop limited his production to five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Lockett garnered 11 targets and was a bit more efficient, catching nine of them for 76 yards to lead the team in both categories. There’s no question that Metcalf is the most dangerous weapon this team has but Lockett might still be the most effective. He is just so damn good at getting open and as long as that’s the case, he’s going to remain a big part of the plan. Just gotta figure out how to get him into the endzone.
The tight ends enjoyed a few nice moments in this one today. Colby Parkinson caught both of his opportunities for 44 yards, while Noah Fant went four for four for 27, and Will Dissly snagged all three of his for 34 yards and a score. All told, Smith was 9-9 for 105 yards and a touchdown when targeting that position group. The tight ends are more safety valves than focal points in this offense but it’s great to seem them do such an excellent job when called upon.
~The offensive line continues to operate in fits and starts, alternating really strong reps with blown assignments and drive-crippling penalties. That’s just kinda how it’s gonna be for most of the year, methinks.
~The defense was terrible today. They allowed the Falcons to gain 7.1 yards per play, including 5.8 per rush and 9.0 per pass. Atlanta has some exciting players to be sure but their receivers were wide open more often than not and the front seven allowed Cordarrelle Patterson to gain a career-high 141 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
This is normally the part of the story where I point out the defensive standouts but there’s just not a lot to highlight here. Seattle was able to pick off a pass, the first of Tariq Woolen’s promising career and they recovered a fumble, though that was more good fortune than anything else. Jordyn Brooks led the team in tackles as he has in all five of his post-Bobby Wagner starts, but he’s yet to make a real game-altering play. Normally we can count on Quandre Diggs to shore things up but the only times I really noticed him were on the late-hit and when Drake London ran through him into the endzone.
Some serious regrouping is necessary, as the team has only forced one three-and-out all year and allowed the Falcons to average nearly nine plays per drive, not counting the two truncated ones at the end of each half. Just an atrocious performance.
~Seattle was really, really good on 3rd down today and I actually think this is one area where Smith is a little better than Russell Wilson. Smith was decisive in those situations and the Seahawks went 9-17 as a result (plus two of three on 4th down). Nice to see.
~Penalties played a big roll today again, as Seattle was flagged six times for 54 yards but the timing of some of them was devastating. Both of Damien Lewis’ holds made things very tough on the offense and Diggs’ foul, while borderline, extended what would become a scoring drive for the Falcons. Atlanta, for their part, only committed two.
~Once again, I gotta hand it to the crowd. It was extremely loud at Lumen this afternoon and the effects on the Falcons were obvious at times. I really hope that keeps up, even if the season continues along its recent trend.
Look, this result sucked, and there might be a lot of this this year. I’ve been pretty open about not living and dying with each individual result this season but I do need to see progress, and I need to see a little consistency. Seattle has had two impressive first halves on offense and the defense has been decent overall, but three total offensive points in three second halves is inexcusable. It puts so much pressure on a defense that just isn’t dominant enough to win with such a small margin for error.
I really believed there were six to eight winnable games on the schedule and this was definitely one of them. As you know, I don’t believe in tanking because losing leaves psychological scars— especially with a young team— and it’s too early to be talking about that even if I was. But it is looking more and more likely that Seattle will be picking near the top of the draft next year, so I’m very curious to see which positions demand the most capital when the time comes.
There’s still a ton of football between now and then, however, and a shit ton of growth that’s necessary. Here’s to us seeing that happen over the next four months. Onward and upward.
Was really excited about today’s cigar, the 1918 Anastasia Opera— a hefty, well-balanced smoke from Caldwell. I absolutely adore Caldwell cigars for their nearly unparalleled smoothness and easy draw. This is a great stogie to treat yourself to if you get the chance.
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