***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 Seahawks legend STEVE RAIBLE. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:
It happens sometimes— you run into a good team playing their best football on a day where you don’t. Every team deals with it, and the good ones can shake it off and get back to business. But to get your whole ass kicked the way the Seahawks did today? Well, that’s another thing entirely.
Look, you don’t need-the blow-blow from this one. Y’all saw it and there’s not much to be gained from reliving every excruciating detail. In fact, everything you need to know about this game could be boiled to one sequence late in the second quarter.
The Ravens had just ripped off consecutive 80+ yard touchdown drives to take a 14-0 lead, but the Seahawks have been in that position before. And, historically, they’ve managed to wake up and, at the very least, make a game of it. It looked like that would be case again, when Geno Smith doubled the team’s yardage to that point with a perfect 50-yard pass to DK Metcalf on a deep crosser. On the play, Smith navigated a chaotic pocket, buying time while Metcalf worked his way to a soft spot in the defense. Smith’s pass was on the money and the Seahawks were suddenly in scoring range with a chance to cut the lead in half with less than two minutes to go in the first half.
But after a quick pass to Tyler Lockett and a run from Zach Charbonnet got the ball to the 14, Smith short-hopped a throw to Metcalf in the endzone. Then Seattle inexplicably called a draw play that lost a yard and Smith’s next pass never had a chance. Jason Myers came out to make it 14-3 but it marked a missed opportunity on a day where Seattle had no margin for error.
That gave the ball back to Baltimore with 59 seconds left and instead of running out the clock, they looked to play add-on. Lamar Jackson, who in my mind has been the MVP of the league so far, hit birthday boy Odell Beckham Jr for 15 yards. On the play, Tre Brown wrapped OBJ up immediately after the catch and, as he swung him to the ground, somehow snaked a free hand up through Beckham Jr’s grasp and punched the ball free. Bobby Wagner scooped it up at the Ravens 41 and the Seahawks had a chance to make it a one-score game before the break, and flip the vibes of this game on its head.
But instead of capitalizing, Seattle suffered a very (V)annoying set of downs. Smith had his first pass batted down then took a sack as Kyle Van Noy beat his man inside on a delayed rush to force 3rd & 16. On the next play, Van Noy smoked Charles Cross and knocked the ball free of Smith’s grasp for second straight disruptive play. Baltimore recovered the fumble in field goal range and the best kicker to ever walk the earth made it 17-3 when Justin Tucker knocked his attempt through the uprights. Seattle was thisclose to making it 14-14 at halftime but trailed by 14 instead.
From there, the Ravens played big-stack poker, leaning heavily on an overmatched Seahawks team for the entirety of the second half. You know how in Scorcese movies there’s always one scene where someone is just beating the shit out of some other dude? Kneeling over the vanquished opponent and just raining blows on them as blood splatters everywhere. That was the final two quarters of this game and the director didn’t yell “cut” until Baltimore’s backups kneeled out their final drive inside Seattle’s 10.
Coming into this game, I believed the Baltimore Ravens were the best team in the NFL and they validated that opinion with every possession of this game. It was Seattle’s biggest test of the season and they failed it in every facet. Seattle was left breathing through a tube in a Beltway hospital room when they downed out the clock, tying the largest margin of defeat in the Pete Carroll era but knowing it was only a tie because John Harbaugh halted the fatal blow.
37-3. Whew. That’s as rough as it gets, man.
~The Baltimore defense confused the fuck outta Geno Smith this afternoon. And to be fair, that’s what they do to just about everybody. But you could see how tentative Smith was and that hesitation was evident even on the few plays where he wasn’t pressured. When you fall behind a team with a great defense— and I mean a great defense, you need to be no less than elite to have a chance and Geno Smith has been far less than elite this season.
But don’t hear what I’m not saying. “Geno Smith has been far less than elite” does not mean “Geno Smith is bad”. I’m gonna get ahead of the world’s dumbest discourse by saying the idea that Drew Lock would’ve been successful under today’s circumstances is laughable. I’ve already seen a lot of y’all talking about getting Lock in there but what good would that have done? Let’s say he would’ve been marginally better (for whatever unlikely hypothetical reason). All you’ve done is introduce an unnecessary conversation at the most critical position on what’s still a better-than-most football team*.
*I’ll be super impressed with y’all f the comments section isn’t a giant Geno vs Drew conversation.
That being said, this was probably Smith’s worst game as Seattle’s starting quarterback. The team, who was subpar everywhere else, needed him to be excellent and he wasn’t. 13 of 28 for 157 yards with no touchdowns and two turnovers. Nathan Peterman numbers. He’s better than this and will be better than this the rest of the way but despite having the deck stacked against him, he was unable to rise above. A shame, and it creates a discussion that frankly should have no oxygen otherwise.
~There’s not much to say about the running backs today. The game script took the ball out of their hands but the way the O-line was getting whipped up front, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Ken Walker had the worst game of his career, turning nine carries into 16 yards. His best play was a remarkable one-handed catch on a desperate checkdown for one yard.
~Fantasy bros everywhere have been drooling over the idea of Zach Charbonnet taking over this backfield and for as impressed as I am by the rookie, that ain’t happening any time soon. Charbonnet, like Justin Forsett before him, has benefitted from playing many of his snaps in 3rd down and hurry-up sets, getting the bulk of his touches against light boxes. He’s a good RB and is a meaningful part of this team’s future but even Barry Sanders would’ve been a footnote in this one. Four carries, eight yards, and a catch for five more. I’m not passing judgment on any Seattle ballcarrier today.
~On a day where everything sucked, Jaxon Smith-Njigba sucked the least. And that’s even with him, who famously didn’t drop a single pass in training camp, bobbling away a chain-moving catch on 3rd down on the opening drive. That was the only target JSN didn’t catch, converting his other six chances into six catches for 63 yards including an impressive 35-yard grab where he out-maneuvered the corner on a deep ball up the right sideline. He’s officially a focal point of this offense and the “holy shit” game is just around the corner.
~Even when Tyler Lockett doesn’t have a big statistical performance, he’s almost always deathly efficient but that was not the case today. But I don’t say that as an indictment of Lockett. When the O-line is this overmatched, and the QB isn’t answering the bell, it’s tough to judge a wide receiver too harshly. Lockett was targeted a team-high eight times but only caught three of them for 32 yards. Yuck.
~DK Metcalf had the biggest play of the game but it was his only play. Four targets, one catch, 50 yards. I’m aware that Metcalf is my favorite player and I’m also aware that the most consistent criticism of my writing is my seeming unwillingness to criticize Metcalf for the frustrations many of you feel towards him. But like, what do you want me to say? I don’t come by my predilections accidentally. He’s the coolest, and maybe best, player on this team and he had exactly one catchable target today— which he turned into 50 yards. Whatever. If you wanna be mad about DK I’ma let you do that.
~I expect that the addition of Leonard Williams will be very beneficial to what’s been a very good Seahawks defense, but today was no indication. The Seahawks defense, which has been insanely good for the last month, was no match for Todd Monken’s diverse running attack. I recognize that I unfairly framed this paragraph around Williams but that’s only because I was so excited to talk about him as Seattle’s trade-deadline acquisition.
The bottom line is that the Seahawks were outclassed up front all game long and I’m not sure that prime JJ Watt would’ve changed much. They gave up 300 yards rushing in a throwback to last year’s defense, annihilating all the positive buzz around this team’s defensive turnaround. Now, a lot of credit has to be given to Baltimore’s offensive line but the Seahawks were whiffing on tackles like a little leaguer against a major league closer. An atrocious effort from a unit that’s been excellent otherwise.
~Shane Waldron got his ass kicked by Ravens defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald today. Now, it’s worth mentioning that maybe no assistant coach in the NFL has done a better job than MacDonald this season but if you want to enter the hallowed grounds of the best teams in the NFL, you need to at least look competent against schemes like this. Regular readers of this article know that I’m generally pro-Waldron but the thing that’s kept me from a full-throated endorsement is my perception of his inability to counterpunch.
More often than not, he’s been good enough. But the great ones can find a way around a supreme outmatch and Waldron simply didn’t have an answer for how much better Baltimore’s defensive personnel was than Seattle’s offense. Now, Detroit’s Ben Johnson might be the hottest OC in the NFL and he got whooped just as soundly by this defense two weeks ago so I’m willing to withhold judgment for another week.
Y’all can freak out if you want to— I sure as shit ain’t gonna stop you. For me, however, this is just a reminder of how good the best teams in the NFL are and how good you need to be to play with them when they’re at their best. Coming into this season, I thought the Seahawks were a 10-7 squad that was good enough to win a playoff game and, if things broke right, maybe two. Today’s result doesn’t change that for me. What it does do is thoroughly temper the feeling that maybe this team is better than that— that I had set my sights too low.
The Seahawks are a good team who played really terrible football today. This Ravens team is playing elite football and the Seahawks weren’t a match. Does that mean that Seattle is bad all of a sudden? Hell no. Are they flawed? Most certainly. But, as I always say, NFL seasons are broken up into a bunch of mini seasons within it, and injuries and weather and adjustments constantly rebut the assumption that the true nature of a team is evident in their most recent performance.
The Seahawks have a great opportunity to right the ship next week against a middling Washington Commanders team that just jettisoned their two best defensive players. Don’t be surprised if they burn that shit to the fucking ground. And if they do, they’re 6-3 and not one of you would have turned that option down before the season.
The Seahawks will spend a day examining what went wrong; then, Pete Carroll will burn the tape and this team will move on. Few teams are less susceptible to a bad loss affecting them than Seattle and I fully expect them to look a hell of a lot better next week. If they don’t then I might freak out, but I’m not in the habit of dying unnecessary deaths.
The Seahawks are 5-3. They’re tied for first place in the NFC West, and their destiny is still fully in their own hands. It is highly likely that what we saw today is the worst version of the Seahawks we’ll see all year. It sucks, and you’re 100% justified in feeling however you’re feeling, but once we’re able to zoom out, things are generally fine. We’ll have a better answer regarding how good this team is next week but until then, onward and upward, my friends.
The best part of today was the Undercrown Dekk’d Out cigar I smoked during the game. Strong but gentle, like a Red Shoes Diary lover. Great stogie, highly recommend.
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