***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 this one with Seattle’s legendary STEVE RAIBLE. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:
Before we get started, I wanna say Happy Thanksgiving to y’all. It has been so much fun writing this article over the years and I’m super grateful for those of you have read it, responded, and reached out in real life. A very cool community to be a part of.
The hope was, in the days since the 49ers ended the Seahawks’ season in last year’s Wild Card round, that Seattle would meaningfully close the gap between them and San Francisco. And for much of this season, it was looking like that was the case. In fact, despite the brutal loss to the Rams last week, the Seahawks came into tonight’s game just one game behind the Niners for first place in the NFC West.
I don’t think too many rational thinkers would have said Seattle was as good or better than San Fran coming into this one, but maybe the distance between them wasn’t all that far anymore. Maybe, just maybe, the ‘Hawks were ready to compete with the bullies in their own division.
Then the game began.
The Seahawks adorned themselves in their atomic vomit uniforms and proceeded to play like it. The 49ers received the opening kick and immediately made turkeys of the Seahawks, carving through them for 71 yards on nine frictionless plays. Brock Purdy, who has been the most efficient QB in the NFL since taking over as the starter late last season, stayed in the same rhythm he found during his near-perfect performances against the Jaguars and Bucs over the last two weeks.
He completed three of four passes for 33 yards on the drive while Christian McCaffrey led a rushing attack that covered the other 38 on five carries. In the end, it was Deebo Samuel who finally scored, walking in unscathed from a yard out to make it 7-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dee Eskridge gave the crowd a lil pop by squeaking through a gap on the left hash and accelerating up the sideline for 66 yards. The only man with a chance to stop him did, but it put Seattle in position to strike back right away. Instead, they summarily went three and out, with a banged-up Geno Smith nearly throwing two interceptions. Eskridge’s return was enough to get Jason Myers out there to make it 7-3 but you could just feel how much of a missed opportunity that was.
It was the last time this game felt close. After the two teams traded punts, it appeared that Seattle had gotten a stop on the next possession when Bobby Wagner threw Purdy to the turf on 3rd & 7. What the camera couldn’t see was Tre Brown embracing George Kittle in the endzone like he was a brother returning from war. The illegal contact penalty extended the drive and McCaffrey dove in a few plays later to make it 14-3. The only thing more disappointing than the drive-extending penalty itself was how unsurprised I was that it happened.
Right after that, Smith was picked off and McCaffrey scored again, this time wiggling through the pile and reversing field on a toss play that appeared to be completely bottled up. 21-3 and the home team was looking like the punchline to a tasteless dinner table joke.
It seemed that every time the ‘Hawks did something well, like force a three-and-out with two minutes left in the half, they’d fuck it up by doing something ridiculous— like dropping the punt and then trying to pick it up instead of falling on it. Or how about when they finally found some cadence, completing four straight passes to cover 41 yards only to miss the field goal at the end of the half and pick up a 15-yard penalty on a bodyslam for good measure? Somehow, this felt worse than the Ravens game and the 49ers took a 24-3 lead into the locker room.
A promising Seahawks drive to start the second half— highlighted by a 29-yard completion to Will Dissly— was snuffed out by a Nick Bosa sack. But the defense came out punching, and they finally landed a blow. Michael Dickson’s punt pinned the Niners inside their own five and a couple snaps later, Jarran Reed was tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage that fluttered over McCaffrey and into the arms of Jordyn Brooks, who strode into the endzone to make it 24-10.
Seattle’s second defensive touchdown of the season injected some adrenaline back into the stadium and after Seattle forced a punt on the next possession, the crowd was back to full throat. The following drive started with DK Metcalf dropping an easy one but he was bailed out by Jaxon Smith-Njigba making the best catch of the Seahawks season. On that play, the rookie wunderkind got loose on a deep route down the right sideline as Geno lofted a prayer. Smith-Njigba sprinted under the ball as it hurtled back to earth and snaked a singular hand out to snag it in stride before sliding to the turf. The kid is starting to stack highlights, it’s just a shame this one was dressed in action green.
The Seahawks were drowning in the first half, and while this sequence didn’t bring them to the surface, it at least showed them which way was up. Unfortunately, all remaining oxygen would be knocked from their lungs a few plays later, when a clear pass-interference on an endzone shot to JSN went uncalled. That was followed by a 3rd & goal sack wherein there were no realistic options for Smith and he went down beneath a wave of white shirts for one of like, 38 times tonight.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the only thing left in doubt after that was the final score and the only modicum of perverse joy that offered was its palindromic nature. 31-13, moving the total score over the last four 49ers beatdowns to 120-56. Turns out the gap is as wide as ever.
~Just one big smoke ring tonight, and I’m blowing it around the entire team. Between the last two quarters of the Rams game and the first two quarters of this one, you had 60 consecutive minutes of completely unserious football against two divisional opponents. And they came at the highest-leverage point of the season. Look, I get that in total, 49ers players are more talented than Seahawks players, but they are not 31-13 more talented. But the coaching? Now that’s a different story entirely.
Seattle’s coaches have done well at leaning into their talent advantages against inferior teams but they’ve been consistently outmaneuvered by the more forward-thinking coaches in the league. It was true last week, it was true tonight, and it’s been the case for a long time now. I’ve always said Pete Carroll is at the top when it comes to coaching Monday-Saturday and while I don’t think he’s bad on Sundays the play-calling, decision-making, and discipline have been well below those of the really good teams.
Juice can take you a long way in this game, but what happens when it’s getting squeezed out of you? Do you have the scheme, the in-the-moment decision-making, and ability to adjust necessary to compete anyway? Because the 49ers completely out-juiced the Seahawks today, just like they have every time they’ve met over the last two years.
I haven’t decided on Clint Hurtt yet. I think he’s probably fine but Shane Waldron... woof. It’s now been seven quarters and 19 drives without an offensive touchdown for the Seahawks and while there’s no doubt that there have been execution issues, this playbook seems to have fewer options than the original Tecmo Bowl. I don’t understand when the play-calling got so remedial. Maybe the call-sheet got small because Seattle’s pass protection was so bad in the wake of Abe Lucas’ injury and maybe Waldron hasn’t crawled out of that cocoon yet. But for god’s sakes man, spread those fuckin’ wings and let it rip. If you’re gonna lose, do it with a full send. Cuz being bad is forgivable, and being boring is forgivable, but you absolutely cannot be both. And right now, the Seahawks offense is both.
When’s the last time we saw this team counter-punch? Or an option-route? Maybe a hint of misdirection? I’m not asking for Mike McDaniel here— just something that will make a very difficult job a little easier for your quarterback and his teammates.
The defense was decent at adjusting after a terrible first half tonight but the offense was dead from the word “go”. Just like they were last week after the scripted plays. Also how they were after the scripted plays against Cleveland and Cincinnati. And the Giants game, now that I think about it. And the first game against the Rams too. Hmm. You can overcome that against bad teams and Seattle has enough talent to beat average teams, but they are the beginner level of Duck Hunt against the really good ones. They ran out of shotgun on 4th & 1 against the best defensive line in the NFL, for crying out loud!
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend like I have the answers to the curdling milk Seattle is passing off as an offense but I’m not paid to. Waldron and, by extension, Pete Carroll are responsible for evolving and we’re just not seeing it. Lord knows they have the dudes to be really good— we’ve seen it before.
Even so, the players don’t get to skate today either. The offensive line got completely obliterated again, and Geno Smith appears unable to transcend what has been a really shitty situation for a while now. DK Metcalf had nearly 60% of the team’s yards in the first half but that’s only because he had 32 and the rest of the team had 26— and it took seven targets to get there. Then he got shut out in the second half, finishing with those same 32 yards on nine total opportunities. He was outmuscled by Charvarious Ward at every turn, had two balls go off his hands, and was unable to maintain sideline position on a well-thrown deep ball.
The linebackers got sliced up on crossing routes for the 82nd straight game and the defense as a whole approached tackling the way a germaphobe looks at a Burning Man outhouse. The 49ers might be the best team in the NFL so I’m not saying I need Seattle to go out there and whip their asses; but if this team is going to make good on the promise they offer, they have to at least look like they can compete with the elite squads in the league.
There were a few bright spots, like Jordyn Brooks’ pick-six and Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s amazing one-handed catch, but aside from that it was pretty freakin’ bleak. Sadly, it feels like Seattle’s ceiling is well-defined, and it’s a lot lower than it looked in the pictures.
It doesn’t feel like it but the Seahawks still have a winning record. Maybe that’s because the next three games are against teams just as daunting as the one they played tonight, including the one they played tonight. They go to Dallas next week, where the Cowboys have beaten everyone by 20+, then they head to San Francisco to take these 49ers on again. When that’s over, they get to come back home— and face the team with the best record in the NFL— the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
Given how the last month has gone, it’s hard not to imagine this team at 6-8 by the end of that stretch. That’s why I was so keyed up about the loss to the Rams last week. But the NFL is a weird place, and a team like the Seahawks stealing one of those games is something that happens every week in this league. If they do that, they’re 7-7 and head into their much softer finishing stretch with playoff hopes firmly in their own hands.
That’s a very long and rickety bridge to cross, but we know this team is capable of playing really good football. We just need to see it for all four quarters of the same game. Seattle gets a week before playing next Thursday, and they’ve got a lot to get in order before then. In the meantime, onward and upward my friends.
It’s Thanksgiving so I went big with the smoke and libations. No matter what happened on the field, I was gonna enjoy this part. I smoked one of the official Cigar Thoughts cigars tonight, and paired it with the delicious Port Charlotte Islay Single Malt from Bruichladdich. You can’t hurt me when I’m here.
And if you didn’t know, we also have our own cigars now, which you can order below:
We’ve linked up with one of the premier cigar manufacturers in the world to offer a special 13-year-aged blend of Dominican tobacco leaf to Cigar Thoughts readers for less than half of MSRP. These cigars, banded and branded by their creator, sell for $35-$40 per stick but we’re able to offer them to you for just $169 for a bundle of 10. They come with a Mylar bag and Boveda humidification pack so they’ll stay fresh whether you have a humidor or not. Just use the link!
We’re also on YouTube, where you can catch video clips from the podcast, entire video episodes, and the audio recordings of the articles. Go watch our latest edition featuring a special mailbag episode. This is maybe the best way to support Cigar Thoughts, so I appreciate the few seconds it takes to like and subscribe.
This is the 5th year of our incredible partnership with Seattle Cigar Concierge. They have the plug on some of the most insane stogies on the market and they’re offering them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are extremely special sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hook-up, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@GMail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, Opus X, and Padron. You can also hit them up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars. Just be sure to mention that you’re a Cigar Thoughts reader. Many of you have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity and for those who have always wondered what elite cigars are like, this may the best chance you’ll get to step into that world.
We’ve also linked up with Westland Distillery, long the makers of my favorite local whiskeys. I’m thrilled to have them on board and their entire lineup pairs really well with great cigars, which is a benchmark I look for with any whiskey I drink.
The 2023 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors in Bellingham, WA.