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Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations. It’s a law of football physics and it was the theme of the day for the Seattle Seahawks. Twice they needed to score late in the fourth quarter and twice their best playmakers delivered. It was remarkable resilience in crunch time of a game that carried with it a massive swing in playoff odds and, if we’re being honest, vibes. The outcome of this one was in doubt for the duration, but Seattle came through in the clutch and now find themselves 6-3 while maintaining a tie for first place in the NFC West. But how’d they get there?
The Washington Commanders, who have been consistent in their ability to play right to the level of their opponents, received the opening kick. Devon Witherspoon started the game by breaking up a pass on first down but the Commanders found a first down anyway and a couple snaps later, Washington QB Sam Howell got freaky. In his first full season as a starter, Howell leads the NFL in attempts, completions, interceptions, sacks, and is second in yards. He is the definition of a high-variance quarterback and on this play, he showed why.
Jamal Adams came free on a well-timed blitz from the QB’s right but Howell slipped away and ran towards the line of scrimmage around the left side. That brought Boye Mafe, who had dropped into coverage, stuck between staying with his man or taking away the scramble. He did neither and Howell lobbed it over the top of him to Brian Robinson. With the defense in disarray, Robinson caught the pass and ran unfettered up the left sideline for a 63-yard touchdown. The saving grace was Washington kicker Joey Sly doinking the extra point but it was still 6-0 in a blink and was a bit of a kick in the nuts just one drive into what was supposed to be a get-right game for this defense.
The Seahawks put together a nice drive of their own, using three completions to Jaxon Smith-Njigba and a targeting penalty on a 3rd down to get into field goal range. On the play that was flagged, a tough throw to Tyler Lockett was broken up with a vicious head-to-head hit from Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes was tossed from the game and Seattle’s drive stayed alive— as did Lockett, an outcome that momentarily looked in doubt immediately after the play. The possession probably should have gone further but a successful 4th & 1 sneak was undone when Seattle, inexcusably, didn’t snap the ball in time. The lack of discipline continues to haunt this team, and it cost them in a high-leverage situation. Still, they’d traversed far enough for Jason Myers to come out and bang home a field goal in the rain, cutting the deficit in half. 6-3.
The teams traded punts on their next two possessions before Howell made use of a series of short completions to get Washington close enough for Sly to hit a field goal, making it 9-3 Commanders. At this point, Seattle had a grand total of 13 points in their previous eight quarters, so it was time to put away childish things and get to work. And that’s exactly what Geno Smith did. The drive started with (gasp) a successful TE screen to Will Dissly for 17 and after a deep shot to DK Metcalf was broken up, Smith whipped a pass into a shrinking window to find a diving Tyler Lockett for 13.
A run by Zach Charbonnet went nowhere but Smith hit Metcalf over the middle and DK muscled his way through like four defenders to get 15. A quick-hitter to Charbonnet gained six and it looked like things were gonna keep clicking for an offense that’s been mired in wheel-deep mud for a month. Sadly, consecutive incompletions stymied the drive. The first toss was batted down but Geno flat out missed the second one, a flare pass to Charbonnet in the flat that would have almost assuredly kept the chains moving. It was a lost opportunity but I was encouraged to see this offense in rhythm again. Still, they have to find a way to turn these drives into touchdowns. Fortunately, Myers was able to make his second straight kick and salvage some points for their effort
Down 9-6, the Seahawks defense came out looking for a stop and that’s precisely what they got. An incompletion was followed by Howell hitting Curtis Samuel for six but Witherspoon made sure it didn’t go any further. That set the table for Seattle’s newest addition, and the Big Cat came to eat. On 3rd & 4, Leonard Williams beat his man with a little stunt and swallowed up the Commanders QB for his first sack in a Seahawks uniform.
Seattle’s offense couldn’t do anything after the stop, going three-and-out, but their defense kept giving them chances by forcing one of their own when Mafe batted away a 3rd down pass. This time, the Seahawks looked more coherent, stringing together a 10-play possession that covered 54 yards.
Smith was off on his first attempt of the drive but Ken Walker got six on 2nd down and Geno slipped out of a sack on 3rd down to scramble for 13. It was a refreshing reminder that Seattle’s QB is capable of plays like that and it was great to see him keep his head under pressure. The next four plays were like watching a boxer deftly land a combination, as Smith hit Lockett for seven followed by Walker slithering off right guard for 13. Then Geno found the Great White Hype Jake Bobo for 11 and another first down before Walker gashed ahead for six to set up 2nd & 4 at the Commanders 14.
Walker got stuffed on the next snap and Smith found Colby Parkinson over the middle for three to set up 4th & 1. It was the second time Pete Carroll faced 4th & short inside field goal range and for the second time, he tried to go for it. This attempt, like the one before it however, was waylaid by a pre-snap penalty as the Ent Jason Peters got called for a false start trying to sell movement from the Washington D-line. Once again it was 4th & 6 and once again, Seattle settled for three— 9-9, and that’s where it would stay until the half, but not without one more hair-pulling display of frustration from the ‘Hawks offense.
After a couple more punts, the Seahawks found themselves with a last chance to take the lead before the break and got off to a great start when Smith hit Metcalf for 16. A few plays later, Seattle took advantage of a running clock and the defense expecting pass to steal 12 yards with a Charbonnet draw. That put Seattle on Washington’s 33 but a holding call knocked them back. Smith recaptured most of the yards with a completion to Metcalf over the middle but after Carroll used his last timeout with 15 seconds left, Smith did what he simply could not do in that moment. With the pocket shrinking around him, Smith hopped around for a bit but neither threw the ball nor escaped. As a defender started to drag him down, he flung a pass to nowhere and was flagged for intentional grounding. That penalty carries with it a 10-second runoff in that situation and that was that for the first half.
The hope was that Seattle could use halftime to clean up the mistakes and, when you take the second half as a whole, that’s pretty much what they did. It took them a little bit to get going in the third quarter, though. Starting with the ball, Seattle went three-and-out and Washington opened the second half almost the exact same way they did the first.
The Commanders would go 41 yards on five plays but 48 of them came on a near-replay of their big early gain. Instead of Adams blitzing this time, it was Witherspoon and as Howell scrambled left, it was Dre’Mont Jones caught in the DMZ instead of Mafe. Howell hit Robinson again for nearly 50 as the coaches were left exasperated. Washington would eventually face 3rd & 10 on Seattle’s 21 but Mafe said “enough”, and extended the franchise record with a sack in his seventh straight game. Sly nailed the kick and Seattle found themselves on the ass-end of the score once again.
It wouldn’t stay that way for long. Smith kicked off the next drive with an 11-yard pass to Metcalf; then, lightning struck. Taking the snap from his own 36, Smith dropped back and let the pressure close in. Waiting until the time was right, Smith flung the ball into the right flat where it was caught by Ken Walker. Now, it’s been a while since we’ve seen K-9 in true open field and he wasted no time reminding us of his home run hitting ability. For the first time in franchise history, none of Seattle’s offensive linemen drifted too far downfield and Walker capitalized. The talented second-year back weaved upfield then exploded through a tackle 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. The contact pushed him towards the boundary but he kept his bow pointed at Polaris and absolutely obliterated the pursuit angles of the remaining defenders up the right sideline. 64 yards later, he was diving into the painted grass to give the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 16-12.
That’s when the water that had been bubbling under this game’s surface hit the boiling point, and things really got fun. Two plays into the Commanders’ next drive, Howell felt pressure around the end and took off up the middle. What he didn’t see was Devon Witherspoon, hunting him like a leopard. The rookie corner caught up with the opposing QB and pounced on his prey, sinking his claws into Howell and riding him to the turf. As he did, he ripped the ball free where it bounded into the waiting arms of Riq Woolen.
All of a sudden, it looked like Seattle might be ready to simply play the remainder of the game downhill and put to rest the growing sense of insecurity many fans were feeling. Alas, the Seahawks would be unable to get a first down and Michael Dickson kicked it back to the visitors. Washington’s next drive showed real promise when they converted consecutive third downs but Jones won the race to Howell on the next 2nd down and Bobby Wagner helped him clean up the wreckage. On the next play, Howell’s deep pass over the middle was broken up by Wagner and the Commanders kicked it back to their hosts.
The Seahawks took their time with their next possession, stretching 55 yards over 11 plays, and starting with a 15-yard throw to Lockett. Charbonnet got 11 more on the next play then an additional 10 on the following one. It put Seattle in scoring range but, like so many drives before it, they bogged down there, going just 19 yards on the next seven plays. That brought Myers out for his fourth field goal attempt and he did what he’s been doing for two months straight now, knocking it through the uprights and extending Seattle’s lead to seven.
With only 12 minutes left in regulation, all the Seahawks needed to do was everything they’d done since the opening drive. Alas, they had run out of gas. Sam Howell went back to the only thing that had really been working against the ‘Hawks D, which is to say he just gave it to his running backs... over and over. First it was Robinson for 15 to the right then Robinson for 12 more to the left as Seattle’s fatigue became evident in their attempts to tackle. Antonio Gibson would gain seven on the next two carries and after Howell moved the sticks with a short one to Logan Thomas, he went back to Robinson over the middle for 16. The march would culminate on the next play, as Howell launched a ball towards the right side of the endzone while under pressure. Gibson, who was wheeling out of the backfield, coasted under it for the 19-yard catch and a game-tying score. 19-19 and our butts settled back into the well-worn edges of our seats.
At this point there were eight minutes left and the weight of the difference between 5-4 and 6-3 settled like a heavy fog over Lumen Field. All game we had seen hints that the offense was starting to come together but almost wasn’t going to keep pace with the 49ers. No, the Seahawks offense needed to be excellent on this drive and they answered the fucking call.
A false start got the journey off to an inauspicious start but Smith paid it no mind. Geno hit Lockett up the right sideline for 11 and Walker reset the downs with a five-yard run. That’s when Smith uncorked his best throw of the game, navigating a moving pocket before feathering a gorgeous spiral over the top of a dropping linebacker, beneath a crashing safety, and into the child-like hands of Lockett for 20. Walker then wiggled his way forward for seven yards to make it 2nd & 3 at the edge of field goal range. He’d get bottled up on the next play and third down went poorly, when pressure forced a desperate dump-off to Noah Fant that lost two yards.
That made it 4th & 5 at Washington’s 40, creating a truly difficult decision with less than five minutes left. A field goal would be 58 yards— technically in Myers’ range but a miss puts the Commanders at midfield. A punt would make it tough for Washington but it would also give them the chance to go win it in a tie game. The third option in this triumvirate of choices was to sac up and go for it. Even though Carroll had elected to go for it all game, the stakes were higher this time, and the distance was longer. But Pete surprised us all by keeping the offense on the field and not just to run some hard count bullshit.
His faith in the offense was rewarded when Smith dialed up Metcalf on a slant route. The pass was high— maybe even uncatchable— but contact came early and the flags flew. The pass interference call kept the ball in Seattle’s hands and they wouldn’t waste the chance that they were given. After Washington was caught with 12 men in the huddle, Smith went back to Lockett for 16 yards and a facemask at the end put Seattle on the doorstep. Two plays later, Smith was rolling right, pulling the string back to maximum tension, and firing an arrow to a diving Lockett in the front right corner of the endzone. On one of the biggest drives of the season Geno looked Lockett’s way four times and four times they connected. That symbiosis put the Seahawks up seven and four minutes away from a huge win.
Just get one stop. Please.
The Seahawks defense was too tired, and the Commanders had remembered what was most effective. A handful of short completions took advantage of scissoring routes that crossed up Seattle’s linebackers and it got them down to the 35— including one to Terry McLaurin on 4th & 1. Howell missed on his next two throws, the second one so far behind his intended receiver that it surprised a crashing Quandre Diggs, who might’ve been able to pick it if the thought of the ball reaching him was even a remote possibility. Still, what could have been a game-clinching interception created a 3rd & 10 and on this one, Howell went back to his roots. Dropping back, Howell surveyed the field and threw a beautiful pass over the middle to his college teammate Dyami Brown. Brown elevated, caught it, and won the race to the paint to tie the game at 26 with less than a minute to play.
We saw it against Detroit. We saw it against Cleveland. They came close in Cincinnati but overall, when the game has been in the balance, this offense has come through. Today was no different, and Geno Smith and DK Metcalf heard y’all calling for their jobs. The chance to seal the victory started with a swing pass to Charbonnet but instead of scampering out of bounds, the rookie deferred to his baser instincts and ran through the face of the nearest defender. Unfortunately, that kept the clock running and the Seahawks had to burn a valuable timeout. Thirty-eight seconds left.
With no one open on the next dropback, Smith found Charbonnet again but this time Zach wasted no time scurrying to the sideline. Then, bang. DK Metcalf on the left seam for 17 and a first down. Two plays later, bang again. Metcalf over the middle for about 15 but that wasn’t good enough for Seattle’s gargantuan receiver. Metcalf caught the ball, planted one powerful foot, and cut back to his left and up the field. Defenders piled on him like so many hyenas trying to take down a lion but they weren’t successful until Metcalf had dragged them close enough for Myers to win it. That put the ball on the Commanders 25 and all that remained was for Smith to spike it with a couple seconds left.
Out trotted Seattle’s reliable kicker, who has lowkey been one of the most valuable Seahawks of the last couple of seasons. Myers had been perfect on his kicks up until that point, but none of those kicks carried the twin burdens of responsibility and glory like this one did. It didn’t matter. Myers drilled the kick as calmly as if he were hitting it into a net on the sideline, sending it end over end between the uprights and into Valhalla.
~Geno Smith responded to the critics by setting a career-high in passing yards and leading two consecutive go-ahead drives in the final eight minutes. In the first half, he displayed some of the hesitation that’s alarmed us recently and was clearly not on the same page as his receivers at times. Still, he made the necessary adjustments and got back to being the Geno Smith that won this region over just one year ago.
On the final two possessions, Geno went 9-10 for 100 yards and a game-tying touchdown. He was calm when things were most chaotic and reminded all of us— perhaps himself included— that he is built for this. The thing is, good players adjust and we saw that happen in real time with Smith this afternoon. His final line sparkles: 31-46, 367 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, and only one sack for one yard. Geno is still the guy.
~A huge aspect of the offense’s struggles of late has been the run game’s inability to get going and today we saw hints of that getting back on track. Ken Walker had a few nice runs but was still getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage far too often. He toted it 19 times for 63 yards— a rather uninspiring line until you remember he housed a 64-yard screen pass. All told, that’s 127 yards and a score on 20 touches. I’ll take that every day.
~Behind him, Zach Charbonnet made the most of his opportunities. He had just six carries, most of which came against light boxes, but he maximized those chances to the tune of 44 yards. He also caught four balls for 18 more, giving him 62 total yards— many of them in the crucial final quarter. Between the two of them, Seattle’s RBs had 189 yards on 30 touches and you know that makes Pete Carroll happy.
~We’ve all been waiting for the DK Metcalf Game and for a while, it looked like that would be on hold for at least another week. He was shut out in the first quarter but got real busy after that. He caught four passes in the second quarter, one in the third, and two for 44 yards on the game’s final possession. His final line was seven catches for 98 yards but most importantly, when it was winning time, Metcalf was the guy Smith looked for— and he delivered.
Y’all know I love DK but it’s not like I’m watching him with scales over my eyes. He’s an inconsistent hands catcher and isn’t the contested-catch guy we’d all love for him to be. But it’s also easy to let focus on those imperfections distract us from the massive ability he does have. He was everything the Seahawks needed him to be today and I’m hoping this gets him and Geno back in sync for the second half of the season.
~Tyler Lockett’s cuteness is surpassed only by his consistency, and that reliability was on full display during Seattle’s penultimate drive. Smith targeted him 10 times today, linking up on eight of those for 92 yards and the team’s final touchdown. He is sooo good at finding the soft spots in a defense and snuggling into them like a little bunny rabbit. Some of Smith’s best throws went Lockett’s way today and he justified those decisions time and again.
~Jaxon Smith-Njigba is arriving, but he’s not quite here yet. He caught three of Smith’s first four passes in this game but was pretty quiet after that, as Seattle’s QB funneled his targets to the two veterans. Still, he caught four of his five targets for 53 yards and most importantly, he’s earned the trust of not just Geno, but Shane Waldron as well. Excited to see what his role looks like by season’s end.
~The offensive line looked better today. Of course, that’s gonna happen when you go from playing the two best defenses in the NFL to one that just shipped off their two best players. Even so, they gave up just the one sack and helped pave the road to 120 rushing yards. Jason Peters added some stability to the right side, despite getting flagged twice, but it feels like we might finally have a bridge to Abe Lucas’ return.
~At some point we’re gonna have to start talking about Boye Mafe as one of the great edge defenders in this league. Mafe had five tackles, recorded his seventh sack in as many games, and broke up a key third down pass. He harassed Sam Howell all game long and is starting to become the type of player opposing offenses have to game plan for. It’s the one thing this defense has been lacking— the one thing I get most jealous of when I watch teams that have a true disrupter. The Seahawks may have found theirs, and he’s just 24 years old.
~Outside of Mafe, I wouldn’t call this a great performance by the defense. It wasn’t bad, per se, it just didn’t have what it took to close it out at the end of the game. Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks got sliced up with crossing routes and pass plays to Washington’s running backs. Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson racked up a remarkable 161 receiving yards and once Washington realized it, they hammered the second level of the defense with them. Until that point, however, those two linebackers had played pretty well. Wagner especially, who led the team with 10 tackles, shared a sack, and broke up a big 3rd down pass.
~Leonard Williams made his first real impact in Seattle, getting a sack in the first half and providing the stout run defense that was a huge part of his appeal. Dre’Mont Jones rounded out the sack party in this one but was somewhat quiet otherwise. Honestly, that’s a little to be expected because most of the Commanders offensive plays targeted the edges, and he’s playing on the interior.
~There was some shaky secondary play, highlighted by a couple of poor coverage angles and more than a sprinkling of missed tackles. Jamal Adams made a couple of splash plays and Julian Love recorded seven takedowns but there were just too many big plays for my liking and at the end of the day, it’s the safeties’ job to keep those from happening.
The cornerbacks continue to impress as Devon Witherspoon, Tre Brown, and Riq Woolen locked down the edges of the field for the most part. Washington’s wide receivers only had nine of Howell’s 29 completions as the RBs and TEs did most of the damage. Even the big 35-yard touchdown came over the middle in front of the safeties. It’s so nice to have a trio of corners like these guys.
~3rd downs continue to be a struggle for the Seahawks— on both sides of the ball. They only converted four of 14 on offense and allowed seven of 15 on defense. We’ve been talking about this issue for so long I’m kind of done with proposing solutions. It’s not like I’m thinking of anything the team isn’t. Just gotta execute. Still, kudos to Pete Carroll for going for it on 4th down all three times he was supposed to— even if two of them were undone by penalties.
~We gotta give Jason Myers his flowers. Despite a rough start to the season, Myers has locked in and has now made 25 of 29 field goals on the season as well as all 20 of his extra points. Seattle won in large part because Myers was completely unflappable today and I am so grateful to have him kicking for my favorite team. Bravo, Jason.
The discourse around the Seahawks has been pretty morose this week and like, I get it. A 37-3 loss is pretty bad but 5-3 is still a pretty good record and it’s important to keep the full picture in mind when talking about this team. A weaker squad would let a beatdown like the one Seattle received carry over to the following week but not these guys. And they were tested in this one, too. But good teams overcome adversity and they rely on their best players to deliver when the leverage is at its highest. That’s precisely what happened this afternoon, as the Seahawks got great performances from Geno Smith, Ken Walker, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Devon Witherspoon, and Boye Mafe.
It might not feel like it, but the Seahawks have won twice as many games as they’ve lost this season. And it might feel just as surprising to remember that they’re tied for first in the division. Their playoff odds are over 80% and they’ve got a great chance to go 7-3 with a win over the Rams next week. I said it earlier this season but it bears repeating: this team isn’t perfect but perfect shouldn’t be the expectation. NFL wins are hard, and they shouldn’t be discounted. Seattle was pressed all game long by a team that repeatedly gave them their best shot. The Seahawks answered, and that is what matters most.
I can’t wait to see where this team sits after next weekend but until then, onward and upwards.
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