***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— like last week’s conversation with MICHAEL BUMPUS. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:
Man, this stinks. You wanna talk about championship mentality? Treating every game like the Super Bowl?? You sure as shit better coach and play like it. The Seahawks did neither, supplicating a 13-point road lead to a division rival like they were paying a feudal tax. Do you understand how many different ways the Seahawks could have won this game? It’s not like the Rams played great. They were as effective as a paraplegic baby for three quarters but Seattle gave every single subsidy the game of football has to offer, and Los Angeles was more than happy to accept Seattle’s fealty. The first game between these two teams was a complete fecal hatching, as Seattle totaled 180 total yards in Week 1 while LA pimp-slapped the Seahawks for the final 30 minutes en route to a 30-13 win. Today, however, was something entirely different. Something worse.
I’m not gonna lie to you— part of the reason I’m so pissed off is because I basically had this article written and now I’m getting rid of all of it. Had some goddamn gems lined up for y’all too; but no one talks about the works of art lost in a carpet bombing. Look, I’ll say this— the Seahawks are probably fine. At 6-4, they’re two games clear of the teams chasing them so they’ll probably make the playoffs but the evidence is mounting that this team is not championship material. You wanna win playoff games? You wanna get taken seriously on a national level the way you were before the league figured out your M.O.?? You better maximize every goddamn opportunity you got because Super Bowl caliber teams are the fucking Hague and they ain’t gonna let you off the hook for carelessness.
I’m so mad. The Muse visited me for today’s game flow and when the final horn sounded, I told that perfectly divine being to fuck off. Gone is the drive-by-drive recap I relish every week— win or lose. No, tonight is about accounting, and the auditors are banging on the door.
I’ll get the good stuff out of the way, because it’s not like the Seahawks were without merit today. If there’s been one bugaboo for the Seahawks this season, it’s been their efficacy on third downs, but they looked excellent in this regard early. On the first drive— hang on— it was the Rams that started the game with the ball and their initial drive was undone by a Devon Witherspoon sack.
Okay, back to the offense. Seattle converted three straight 3rd downs, and culminated the opening possession with a paint-by-numbers, perfect-throw-to-perfect-reception touchdown to DK Metcalf on a slant route that saw Geno Smith deliver a pass that only his receiver had a shot at. And for all of the legitimate criticism about Metcalf’s hand skills, he came through on this one, diving to the turf but cradling his fingers between the grass and the ball.
That touchdown put the Seahawks up 7-0, but Los Angeles responded with a 73-yard drive that featured all of eight scrimmage yards, because the officials decided today was all about them. Oh, you think I’m being salty? How’s 21 total accepted penalties for 222 yards sound? Is that why you tuned in? To watch one out of every three plays have a flag?
Fortunately, the Rams ate dick inside the five— a credit to Seattle’s front seven swallowing up three straight run plays and Tre Brown breaking up a 4th down pass in the endzone.
Both Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were out on the next possession, and Ken Walker suffered an oblique injury, but that didn’t stop Geno from leading another scoring drive, even if it was just a field goal. 15 plays and 62 yards— pretty good! 10-0!
They got an additional field goal after yet another defensive stop, and just like that the Seahawks were up 13-0 with less than five minutes left in the first half. The Rams would score a touchdown on their next possession but this is the (brief) part of this column where I’m focusing on the positive. Seattle went to the half up 13-7 and the defense continued to look good in the third quarter. Riq Woolen got a pick on a goofy reverse flea-flicker but all the Seahawks could do with three drives in the third quarter is come up with three points. Still, the defense is playing great and a nine-point lead should be plenty! Should be!
But then Smith got hurt late in the third quarter when he got the shit rocked out of him. He’d miss the the next three drives while Drew Lock single-handedly put the absurd QB controversy discussion to rest, going 2-6 for 3 yards and missing receivers by a comical margin. Sorry, good stuff. Uhhhhhhh... the Seahawks got those three points in the second half. Smith forced his way back into the game for the final drive and, for the most part, did what was necessary to give his team a chance, namely by leaning on Lockett and Metcalf to position this team to win for the second straight week. All of that should add up to a victory. So why am I so irritated?
Well, I told you I was starting with the good stuff. We’re done with that now. If you’re upset, please direct all complaints to the Seattle Seahawks. You wanna talk about the bad shit? How much time you got?
After the defense played their asses off for the first three quarters, they ran out of gas for the second straight week. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Now it’s time to talk about the shit that cost them this game.
Down 13-0, the Rams embarked on a nine-play, 75-yard TD drive that featured the following (without Cooper Kupp, who left the game with an ankle injury):
-A 15-yard run on 2nd & long
-A 14-yard catch on the very next play
-Consecutive completions for 29 yards down to the 8
-Pete Carroll using his second timeout with a minute left after a goal line stop but then not using his third after stuffing the run on the next play
-Instead, Carroll kept his final TO in his pocket as Matthew Stafford found Puka Nacua for a touchdown with nine seconds left.*
-So instead of getting the ball back with a two-for-one opportunity with 50 seconds left, Seattle downed out the next possession with one unused timeout
*Listen to me when I tell you I was hollering about this at the time. I told everyone who would listen that the chance to score one more time before the half would mean everything in this game but instead the Seahawks somehow felt okay nursing a six-point lead heading into a road halftime. I was so pissed.
The second half started with the Seahawks going three and out— an underrated opportunity to undo the awful vibes that the first half ended with. After the defense bowed up, a bad LA punt and a Rams penalty put Seattle in scoring range, but they didn’t do ass with it settled for another field goal. 16-7. I mean, things were probably okay, given that there were just 20 minutes left in the game at that point. All you gotta do is not spend the final third of the game gargling donkey balls. Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks went to the farm and unhinged their jaws.
After that it was four straight punts which, whatever. Sadly, Geno got blown up and hurt his elbow. That brought in Drew Lock— the most popular guy in town until it’s time for him to play NFL football— and he went 2-6 for a grand total of three yards while Smith got examined on the sideline. Is this what you wanted? You cretins.
The Seahawks defense continued to do their job, even notching an interception when Riq Woolen stayed assignment-correct on a reverse flea-flicker for a jump-ball interception. But it didn’t matter, because the gap between Geno Smith and Drew Lock is the gap between the Winds of Winter and the Game of Thrones fan-fic you find on Reddit. Seattle was done scoring and everyone in the stadium knew it.
The Rams got the ball back and went 68 yards on nine plays to score a touchdown, making it 16-14. A screen pass TD to Darrell Henderson was undone by a ticky-tack OPI call against Tyler Higbee but made up for with an absolute horseshit DPI call against Witherspoon when the receiver got his feet tangled up in the endzone. A preposterous overall effort from the officials in this one. That set up a doorstep TD for the Rams to make it 16-14 and Lock answered the bell by lobbing an interception on the next possession with less than seven minutes left. Give me a fucking break, bro.
When the Rams took over, they had six minutes and 43 seconds left, with 75 yards to go. Here’s the thing— Sean McVay is one of the best offensive minds on the planet and Stafford has top-five arm talent. This is why the fuck you don’t waste opportunities when it doesn’t feel like a big deal. Gah! There were so many ways to avoid losing this game. And I’m not even to the most irritating parts of it.
Los Angeles used up 80% of the remaining clock to kick a chip-shot field goal with a minute and a half left. On that drive, Stafford found Nacua for 32 yards over the top of Bobby Wagner. But after a false start and two incompletions, the Rams had 3rd & 15 and Stafford’s next throw was off the mark. But wait— a flag! If you can believe it!!
On the opposite side of the field, Woolen was lined up against some scrub third string receiver. On 3rd & 15. With the game on the line. But instead of forcing a punt and being one first down away from 7-3, Woolen’s right hand found the facemask of a player who had nothing to do with the outcome of the game’s most important snap and his (legitimate) “illegal hands to the face” penalty gave LA new life. I can’t.
After that, it was just a matter of Stafford & Co bleeding as much clock as possible before kicking the go-ahead field goal, and exhausting Seattle’s timeouts in the process. If the Rams made one major mistake today, it was throwing an incomplete pass under two minutes left and despite them ultimately making the game-winning field goal, they gave Seattle a minute and a half to salvage things.
While Drew Lock was reminding everyone why Geno beat him out for leader of the post-Russ rehabilitation era, Smith was working his shit out on the sideline. Now, with one drive left, he convinced the coaches and sideline docs that he was good enough to try and win this shit— like he has three other times this season. I’m not sure what argument he made, but it was good enough and he responded by hitting Tyler Lockett for 13.
After an incompletion and a desperation dump-off to Zach Charbonnet, Smith hit Metcalf over the middle for 21 yards and into field goal range— just like last week. DK was tackled with 33 seconds left at the Rams’ 39 but instead of spiking it, Seattle decided to run a draw play and Charbbonnet was stuffed after two yards. Nothing like playing for a 55-yard field goal. Damnit.
Geno finally spiked the ball with eight seconds left but that meant Jason Myers had to hit a kick from damn near midfield. Had Seattle spiked it after the Metcalf catch, they would have had at least two chances to advance the ball with passes, but common sense was apparently checked at the door. Myers came out and, with a chance to stay tied for first in the NFC West, pushed his game-winning kick wide right and the Rams celebrated a sweep of the Seahawks. I’m not even mad at Myers. I’m mad at the dozen avoidable mistakes that put Seattle in that position. An unconscionable loss.
~This loss is on Pete Carroll. I was— and I’m raising my hand in shame— guilty of wanting to keep Russell Wilson over Carroll two years ago when it became clear the two could no longer co-exist. Pete has spent the 21 months since that trade proving me wrong but he shit his Depends today. His refusal to preserve clock at the end of the first half was derelict and him not insisting on spiking the ball after Metcalf’s last catch borders on criminal. Then you run it? When you’re facing a 57-yard field goal?? With no timeouts??? Are you fucking kidding me???? If I was an objective observer I would jeer the shameful clock management but as a subjective viewer, I was apoplectic.
Pete Carroll is the King of Culture. This team has been punching above their weight class in large part because of how Carroll coaches. Monday-Saturday, I’m not sure I’d take anyone else in the league. But on Sunday— especially this Sunday— against a coach that 100% has your number; it was the type of performance that would get a lesser resume burned at the stake. He fucked up the ends of both halves and that, along with a ridiculous amount of penalties (that also reflects coaching), cost this team a win they need to have heading into the toughest four-game stretch any NFL team has to face this season. Unforgivable, if he wasn’t so goddamn lovable.
~We can go ahead and put the QB-controversy to rest. Geno Smith went 22-34 for 233 yards, a TD, and no turnovers while returning from injury to put the team in position to win. Drew Lock, meanwhile, totaled three yards on six passes with an interception and did all he could to gift-wrap a win for a team that frankly, was better served by losing. I’ve been so irritated by the calls to bench Geno and I’m even madder after the reality ended up costing Seattle an important game. This is Geno’s team and there’s a reason everybody who’s on it, coaches it, or covers it is in lock-step regarding Smith’s leadership. That dude did all he could to win this game with a bum wing and if Myers made the kick, we’d finally put this goofy discourse to bed.
~Ken Walker carried the ball four times for 18 yards then tapped out with an oblique injury that felled him early in the second quarter. A lot of Seahawks fans have clamored for more Zach Charbonnet touches— and for good reason— and that injury presented the platform. The rookie claimed 15 carries and six catches, but was only able to translate those 21 touches into 69 scoreless yards. I truly believe Charbonnet is a good NFL RB, and he had a couple of big-time short-yardage conversions, but never really got going in a game that was begging for someone to steal a big play.
~There was one Seahawk who delivered explosives today, and that man was DK Metcalf. His fee simple ownership of the Los Angeles Rams continued in this one, as he caught five balls for 94 yards and a TD, including the longest gain of the contest. For the second straight game he was the man who put the Seahawks in position to win with a huge catch with less than a minute left.
His score (#38 in his young career) set a franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a player’s first five years, and he still has seven games to go in Year 5. A fully healthy Metcalf is the best player on this offense and he was the biggest reason this team even had a chance of winning. If any of y’all were trying to dogpile on the best Seahawks receiver in 40 years earlier in the season when he was playing through injuries— keep that same energy now and see how it feels.
~Tyler Lockett was clearly on a pitch count after missing practice all week but that didn’t stop him from passing Brian Blades for second all-time for Seahawks receiving yards. He caught five of his seven targets for 51 yards, including two big third down conversions. He’ll be in the Ring of Honor someday.
~Jaxon Smith-Njigba just keeps filling the gaps. We have yet to see the true breakout but at least once a game, we see the reason he was the first wide receiver drafted. Today it was the 32-yard grab in the second quarter that saw him turn two veteran defenders inside-out before elevating to make the catch. A slow evolution, but he’ll be painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel before long.
~The defense played really well, but the multi-faceted lapses in discipline captures a photo that does a disservice to their overall effort. They held the Rams to 267 total yards on 59 plays— an objectively elite performance, but penalties and general malfeasance cost them a win they could hang their hats on.
~Bobby Wagner’s 10 tackles gave him his 12th straight season with 100+ tackles, only the third player in NFL history to pull that off. He didn’t record any explosive plays but again, he was at the epicenter of a defensive performance that was good enough to win. A first-ballot Hall of Famer.
~The secondary was really good today, aside from the penalties. They’re the last unit I’d pin this loss on. Devon Witherspoon continues to make his Defensive Rookie of the Year case with a sack, a pass breakup, eight tackles, and a suplex. Unfortunately, that pro-wrestling takedown turned into a crucial 15-yard foul but like so many other mistakes in this game, it wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t for, you know, all the other mistakes in this game.
~Quandre Diggs led the way with 13 tackles. The thing about Diggs is he’s always going to be rock solid in his assignments but we haven’t seen the big plays from him much this year. He’s making all the tackles he’s supposed to but he’s making them on his heels and I want to see him make them on his toes. It’s often the difference between the opposing offense staying on the field or not.
~Julian Love was everywhere. 10 takedowns, and they happened at every level of the field: the secondary, the intermediate level, the line of scrimmage, and on special teams. He made sure his presence was felt in the vacuum created by Jamal Adams’ absence.
~Jason Myers... mannnnnn. He’s been the most consistent player on this team over the last two months, making 15 consecutive field goals and breaking the franchise record for 50+ yard field goals early in the game. He literally won the game last week with a walk-off and I can’t think of a single kicker I’d trust more in today’s game-deciding situation this side of Justin Tucker. His miss with the game on the line is on him, but it’s also on the myriad of missed opportunities that led to it. Full confidence in him moving forward but the fact that he was facing a 55-yarder at the end is reflective of a multitude of failures that led to it. A shame not to be celebrating him today.
~Third downs have been Seattle’s biggest bugaboo for a long time now and today, it looked like maybe they had finally shrugged off that cloak of death. They converted their first four third downs but water found its level after that, as they went just 1-11 the rest of the way. Sacks and penalties will do that to you, and this team ain’t going anywhere unless they get better in the sport’s highest-leverage situations.
~Speaking of penalties... good god. The thing about the Pete Carroll Seahawks is you’re gonna have to be okay with more fouls than the average team. And when things are going well, the juice is worth the squeeze. But when you lose to a 3-6 team right before entering a four-game stretch against three of the five best teams in the NFL, it’s frankly unforgivable. We can quibble all night about the refs, who absolutely were WAY too whistle-happy, but that went both ways.
I don’t care who is wearing the stripes, when you commit 12 penalties for 130 yards in a one-point loss, that shit is on coaching. Get it together, fellas. You wanna talk about winning the division and making a playoff run? Then you better sharpen up your edges. I’m so irritated by the sheer tonnage of mistakes in this one and for all the (deserved) praise I’ve heaped on Pete Carroll over the last two years, he has to wear this one.
I’m upset. I wanted to throw my laptop across the room after this game— and not because the Seahawks lost. It’s because of how they lost. They lost this game in the margins, they lost it in the details. Vibes are great, and they’ll carry you a long ways, but if you can’t nail down those particulars, you’ve got no chance against the teams that are more talented than you. And news flash: the next four games are against teams more talented than you.
The Seahawks needed this game the way a caught salmon needs to be thrown back into the water. Coaching failed the players and the players failed coaching. But you know what’s crazy? The Seahawks are still the 6th seed in the NFC and are two games clear of the non-playoff teams. In four days they host the 49ers with a chance to hold a solo lead in the NFC West. Despite today’s frustrations, everything they want to accomplish is right in front of their faces.
But if they play San Francisco— or Dallas or Philadelphia— the way they played the Rams today, these fellas are gonna find themselves 6-8 and chasing a playoff spot. Welcome to the Agoge; the next month will determine everything. Here’s to the Seahawks being a hell of a lot better from their crown to their toes moving forward. In the meantime, onward and upward.
At least I got to smoke a sick cigar today. I unwrapped the Allegiant Confidant from EP Carillo— a company that’s on a major hot streak right now. Last year they came out with some of the highest-rated cigars in the world and it’s easy to see why. Well-built, lots of flavor, and an easy, straightforward smoking experience. I’m on a huge Westland whiskey kick right now and am proud to have paired such an excellent cigar with a drink (their American Single Malt) that can hang with elite smoke. The good news is that you can probably find Westland whiskey at your favorite watering hole.
And if you didn’t know, we also have our own cigars now, which you can order below:
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