***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 beat reporter and Washington’s Sports Journalist of the Year GREGG BELL. You can listen to all the shows, including this article, right here:
I mean, they gave it a go, and with the late Geno Smith scratch, I guess that’s the best you can ask for. The San Francisco 49ers are the best team in the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks were two scores short. I’m guessing that, if you’re reading this, you’re more surprised that Seattle covered their 14.5-point spread than you are that they lost.
The tone was set early in this one, with Christian McCaffrey breaking off a 72-yard run on the first play of the game that highlighted both how good he is at avoiding tackles and how bad the Seahawks are at tackling. And while CMC sucked wind on the sideline, Jordan Mason subbed in and waltzed into the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
Now, credit to Seattle— they punched back. An eight-play, 75 yard TD drive tricked us, once again, into thinking the ‘Hawks might be on the level of one of the best teams in the league. Drew Lock, thrust into the starting lineup, followed the opening script beautifully. He completed four of five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, sending the Geno discourse, momentarily, into a frenzy. There hasn’t been much that you can count on with this team this season, but one of them is that the first 15 plays on offense are gonna look a whole lot better than the 45 that follow it.
Drew Lock was ready, I’ll give him that. He hit Jaxon Smith-Njigba for seven to start and after Ken Walker picked up the first down and an incompletion, he hit DK Metcalf on a short hook that saw Seattle’s stud receiver muscle his way forward for 21 yards. After a penalty erased another completion to Metcalf, and two runs lost a yard, Lock found Tyler Lockett for a first down. Then, Lock did what he should have spent the remainder of the game doing, dialing up Metcalf on a deep ball up the left sideline. Metcalf was covered beautifully on the go route, but it didn’t matter, because DK went super-saiyon and discarded the defender with an expert shoulder shrug. With the ball approaching, Metcalf pivoted, caught the pass, and dragged his feet inside the pylon to tie things up at seven.
The two teams would trade punts on the next three drives and Seattle surprised the nation by notching a field goal drive, highlighted by back-to-back 23-yard runs from Zach Charbonnet. Getting extra run with Walker on a clear pitch count, Charbonnet showcased his unique combination of power and contact-balance to make three defenders miss on the first carry and prototypical burst on the second one. The Seahawks, in their unending quest to be unintentionally hilarious, sent 10 men out for the field goal and took a five-yard penalty before Myers knocked the kick through the uprights.
Unlike last week, Seattle covered their comical lack of preparation for a high-leverage situation by actually making the kick, giving them their final lead of the day at 10-7. From there, it was all Niners, as the home team leaned on the visitors for an 18-6 advantage the rest of the way.
Look guys, I can go blow-by-blow if you want but none of you want or need that. This is the first four-game losing streak of Pete Carroll’s tenure in Seattle— an accomplishment in and of itself— but we all knew where this was headed. The disbelief was suspended for two more drives when Brock Purdy missed an open Brandon Aiyuk, whistling a pass off his intended receiver’s hands and into those of a diving Julian Love.
Unfortunately, Shane Waldron had reached the end of his pregame playbook so that was pretty much that on the offensive end. The Seahawks would go scoreless on the next four drives and the only break in the drought happened when Deebo Samuel torched a flat-footed Jamal Adams for a 54-yard touchdown. 14-10, San Francisco.
That would be the score at half and it would stay that way until Samuel beat both Adams and Quandre Diggs for 45 yards to the one yard-line. Initially it looked like a touchdown but the thing about Kyle Shanahan is that he can literally pick who he wants to score next. In this moment, he decided to reward Samuel for his effort, so he drew up one of his 500 scoring plays and got it to Deebo for the 21-10 lead.
There was a little flicker of hope, the way an errant piece of newspaper fluttering into a smoldering pile of ashes will briefly catch fire. That’s because Waldron drew up a triple fake that led to a beautiful slip screen. The recipient was Colby Parkinson, who charged into the endzone to make it 21-16. Lock would get strip-sacked on the two-point conversion and Seattle was done scoring for the day.
The 49ers answered on the very next possession, laughing at Seattle’s defense with a three-play, 75-yard drive that saw a big completion to Aiyuk chased by a 44-yard TD to George Kittle that shone a spotlight on the difference between Shanahan’s offense and Carroll’s defense. On the play, Samuel and Aiyuk occupied every non-linebacker with precise routes, leaving the Niners’ all-world tight-end to beat Seattle’s zone defense that’s looser than a kindergartner’s shoelaces. All Kittle had to do was catch a layup pass and avoid one tackler with like, 12 yards of separation, in order to put the final points on the board.
That made it 28-16 and despite Love forcing a fumble that Riq Woolen recovered, Lock’s two interceptions down the stretch represented water finding its level. Before you knew it, Purdy was downing out his latest multi-score victory and the once 5-2 Seahawks were licking their latest series of wounds at 6-7.
~Drew Lock was fine. He gamely took on the best team in the NFL and for half of the contest, gave his team a chance to win. I won’t lie, I spent 50% of the broadcast bracing myself for an exhausting eight days of Geno vs Drew discourse. Hell, if there’s anything I’ve learned from a decade+ of writing this column, that debate will probably happen anyway. If you’re the type, have it at it. God bless you and if you think Lock is better than Smith, god bless you.
Seattle’s backup finished with a respectable 22/31, 269 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT line for a passer rating of 92. Make of that what you will. He made a half-dozen really cool throws and a half-dozen terrible ones. He’s a Rorshach test for Seahawks fans. All else being equal, gimme Geno and figure out the rest in the offseason. I’m certain Seahawks Twitter will be a mess this week but there’s a non-zero part of me that thinks a fully healthy Geno Smith wins this game against a 49ers team that played through a clear trap-game lag after that big win against the Eagles last week.
~As I mentioned, Ken Walker was on a pitch count today, but he flashed when he had a chance. Eight carries, four catches, 54 yards. And if you were grading him on the yards that were blocked for him, I’d give him 40 total. He’s slippery, and he showed why he’s the guy against a defense that has shut down just about every running back that’s faced them this season.
~Zach Charbonnet had his two best runs of the season back-to-back in the first quarter and he will be a meaningful part of this offense for a long time. Ten touches for 48 yards, which is a nice line for a backup. The disconcerting part is that he only had two of them on eight touches outside of his two big runs. The selling point for Charbonnet is his willingness to simply take the yards that are blocked for him, but I wonder if his two exceptional runs didn’t seduce him away from that proletariate mindset. His other eight touches amounted to two total yards and on more than one of those, he lost ground trying to bounce plays that had no business being bounced.
~With his performance today, DK Metcalf came just 36 yards shy of joining AJ Green and Randy freaking Moss as the only players in NFL history start their careers with five straight seasons of 50+ catches, 900+ yards, and 5+ TDs— I’ve had to spend half the season dealing with folks who think he’s overrated. If you can’t enjoy a player like this, go argue about it with your mom.
On Seattle’s opening possession, he caught a short pass, spun away from a defender, and sprinted upfield for 21. Then he capped the drive with a gorgeous contested, toe-tapping touchdown grab in the endzone. He’s the best player on this offense, maybe on the whole team, and now that he’s no longer playing through rib and hip injuries, he’s reminding the league why he’s been one of the highest-profile receivers in the NFL.
The fact that he didn’t receive any other targets besides two desperate 4th quarter heaves is an indictment on Waldron and Lock, because there were no fewer than five opportunities where he was matched up against a reserve corner in man coverage. Zero yards in the last 11 drives, with two extremely low-quality targets is an embarrassment.
~Tyler Lockett did what he could to fill the play-calling void, snagging all six of his targets for 89 yards. He was really good today and, like Metcalf, was a victim of his quarterback’s reluctance to move off of his first read.
~The defense was good in some respects and atrocious in others. Devon Witherspoon got hurt early but even that doesn’t excuse 9.9 yards per play. The positives were two forced turnovers, both recorded by an otherwise torched Julian Love, and three sacks split between Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, and Leonard Williams, but the negatives were basically everything else.
~Jamal Adams, it’s time. I’ve spent a lot of energy defending the acquisition of Adams (which should not be interpreted as a defense of the cost to acquire him). But after him taking the bait on Twitter, and getting absolutely smoked in coverage for the second straight week, it’s time for even me to call the trade a disaster. Just like with the moves for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham, John Schneider brought in a player that has been criminally misused by the coaching staff— at the cost of multiple high-level picks.
Trade major draft capital for proven talent if you want— lots of teams have won Super Bowls that way— but if you, do, create a situation that leverages the things your acquisition is great at. And just like with Harvin and Graham, the Seahawks failed themselves once again. Got damnit.
We all got duped into thinking the Seahawks were ready to compete on the highest level by an unexpected playoff berth last season and a 5-2 start this year. We also knew that this particular five-game stretch would be the ultimate litmus test for this, or any other team. The Seahawks have failed that exam, and I think that’s the most disconcerting part of it all. The way things shook out today, 6-7 gives them a chance of sneaking in the back door but I think most of us assumed some progress from last year’s surprising success.
I said it last season, and I’ve said it this season, but 2024+ has always been the goal for this team’s reset. Through that lens, last year’s victories have almost set the fanbase up for failure. Not that I’d trade it, it’s just that this team is very clearly not ready to compete on a meaningful level.
Next week it’s a reeling Eagles team on Monday night. Seattle will, without a doubt, be home dogs and they’ll need to win in order to inject any hope into the home stretch of the 2023 season. If they pull it off, and exit 7-7, the tenor of the year changes but we haven’t seen anything that suggests this team is capable of winning a playoff game.
With all of that in mind, the Seahawks are right where I expected them to be on December 10, 2023 had you asked me after the Russell Wilson trade. That’s what gives me hope. We all struggle with recency bias, and if the Seahawks started 0-4 and went 6-3 to be where they’re at right now, we’d all feel a lot differently. Sadly for the vibes, that’s not how it went, Whatever happens from here on out is, well, whatever.
Next year maybe. Let’s see how next week goes but in the meantime, onward and upward my friends.
I’ve been saving the Wise Man by Foundation cigars all season and at some point, you just gotta smoke it. Which is what I did today. A long, slow, smooth smoke with excellent flavor and an easy burn.
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!
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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’re also thrilled to announce an awesome new partnership with Westland Distillery in Seattle, which is my favorite local whiskey maker. Lately I’ve been loving their Outpost Range Solum, which has a delightful bite to it that really makes the flavor pop.
Westland is an American Single Malt Whiskey distillery in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. Tasting room and bar is open to the public, serving whiskey flights, cocktails, and small bites. Bottle shop onsite, featuring distillery exclusive releases and more, located at 2931 First Avenue, a little over a mile south of Lumen Field. Needless to say, I’m stoked to be working with them and one of the reasons I love their whiskeys so much is that they’re excellent pairings with a good cigar.
The 2023 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors in Bellingham, WA.