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If the NFL season was a poker game, the hand the Seattle Seahawks were dealt today was a tough one. Not only were they coming off a monumental letdown in the opener, they were traveling for an early road game against a team with tremendous vibes. The Detroit Lions weren’t just 1-0, they were coming off a win against the defending champs, riding the highest expectations in decades, and inducted my favorite football player of all time, Barry Sanders, into their Ring of Fame with a statue unveiling. Everything lined up for the Seahawks to fall to 0-2, so of course they snuck out with a win that was dramatic even by their cardiac standards.
Seattle received the opening kickoff and, with a raucous Motor City crowd gooning in their ears, proceeded to systematically disassemble a Lions defense that held the Kansas City Chiefs to just 20 points last week. It started with a shifty, darting 14-yard run by Ken Walker and was followed up by a toe-tapping sideline catch for seven by Jaxson Smith-Njigba. The Lions then tried their version of a 12th Man and the resultant penalty moved the chains again. Then it was 18 yards to DK Metcalf on a dig route that buckled the corner’s knees and, a few plays later, Geno Smith went back to him up the seam.
On this play, Metcalf slipped inside the CB and angled upfield as the safety closed on him from the middle. Smith’s throw was a bit low and behind Metcalf but his gargantuan target adjusted to it beautifully and hauled it in before getting hammered from both sides at the 1. The hit briefly knocked both Metcalf and the safety out of the game, but it set up Walker’s touchdown plunge a minute later. With all of the negativity from last week, and the Lions surfing a massive wave after their debut, it was a near flawless possession to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead. All in all the drive lasted 12-plays, covering 75 yards and seeing Smith go 5-5 for 58 yards. Perfect execution, no notes.
Unfortunately, the Seattle defense also had to play. The Seahawks defenders got back in their patched-up canoe after wrecking it on the rocks against the Rams last week and immediately tipped over. Jared Goff went 4-4 on the drive, making easy connections with his receivers devoid of anything resembling pressure from the ‘Hawks pass rush. Detroit also ran the ball three times for 15 yards on the drive, but it was Goff finding Josh Reynolds on a simple post route for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.
The Seahawks didn’t do much on their next possession, getting one first down before punting it back to their hosts. That set up more of the same from Detroit, uncorking a 12-play drive of their own that covered 57 yards with a series of short completions and gashing runs that left Seattle’s D hugging air in the open field. They got as far as Seattle’s 28, but a 3rd & 1 run was stuffed by Uchenna Nwosu and Jordyn Brooks— Seattle’s first real positive defensive play.
Lions head coach Dan Gamble kept his offense on the field, trusting his to-this-point perfect QB to convert on 4th & 4. Goff dropped back, looked to his right, and fired a bullet to rookie TE Sam LaPorta. Initially, it looked like the latest in a never-ending string of first downs for Detroit but Seattle’s own rookie made his mark. Devon Witherspoon, making his NFL debut, broke on the ball and snaked his hand in to break up the pass and give his team the ball back. It was a massive play at the time, if for no other reason than to prove to themselves that they were actually capable of a stop.
Seattle’s ensuing possession had promise, using an 11-yard reception by Tyler Lockett and a pretty 31-yard wheel route from Noah Fant to get into scoring range. The drive stalled out there, bringing Jason Myers out for a 45-yard field goal. Myers, who was arguably Seattle’s most consistent player last year, immediately proceeded to duck-hook the attempt wide left, just as he did against Los Angeles last week. It was a big missed opportunity for a team in desperate need of a momentum shift and it introduced doubt into the Seahawks kicker position for the first time in a long while.
The Lions didn’t waste a moment in making the Seahawks pay. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs ran it thrice for two first downs while Amon-Ra St Brown and Reynolds added catches of eight and 20 yards respectively. That’s when Detroit OC Ben Johnson seized his opportunity. On 1st down, Goff handed the ball off to Montgomery, who took a step forward before turning and pitching it back to his quarterback. Witherspoon, eager to go make a play, got caught with his eyes in the backfield and by the time Goff got the ball back, Kalif Raymond was four steps behind him en route to an easy touchdown. 14-7 Lions, and the Seahawks had some wounds to lick.
Seattle would get a first down on their next possession thanks to a nine-yard grab by Lockett and a beautiful 16-yard reception from Smith-Njigba. It was the perfect encapsulation of why the Seahawks made JSN the first WR drafted this year. On 3rd down, Geno dropped back and found no one open, slipping pressure in the pocket and stepping out to his right. By then, Smith-Njigba had lost his defender in the wash and mirrored his QB’s movements to get open for the first down. It was a Doug Baldwin-esque savior route and, hopefully, a glimpse into what lies ahead.
Seattle would eventually get to the Detroit’s 43, forcing a 4th & 3 and presenting Pete Carroll an opportunity to shed his maddeningly conservative history and embrace a bright new future of trusting both his offense and the analytics. Instead, they tried a half-hearted hard count and punted it away like cowards. Disappointing.
Michael Dickson hit a beautiful punt that preseason hero Jake Bobo downed at the 5 and Carroll’s decision to chicken out was bailed out when Gibbs dropped what would’ve been a huge gain. Instead, the Lions had to kick it back to Seattle and the Seahawks had one last chance to score before the break.
It was an effective possession from a yards-gained standpoint, as Smith found Zach Charbonnet for five, Lockett for seven, Fant for four, and Lockett again for 10. Unfortunately, not a single one of those players could get out of bounds and Seattle was forced to send Myers out for a 56-yard attempt. It was an opportunity for their beleaguered kicker to rebuild his confidence but Myers tugged this one left again and the Seahawks were one second away from heading to the locker room holding a bouquet of missed opportunities.
The Lions ran one last play completing a huge pass to St. Brown for 39 but Tre Brown ripped the ball away and Julian Love scooped it up to end the half with the home team leading 14-7. Even though Seattle was down by a touchdown, and had blown a handful of chances to have a lead, I was feeling strangely okay. The offense looked so much better than it did last week and the defense seemed to be finding their feet a bit.
Detroit started the third quarter with the ball but apparently had no interest in keeping it. For the second straight play, they coughed it up, this time when Nwosu blew through the tight end tasked with blocking him and yanked the ball out of Montgomery’s hands. The pigskin was pounced upon by Jarran Reed, which set the offense up just outside of the red zone.
That’s when offensive coordinator Shane Waldron got freaky, lining up two of his tight ends in the backfield and keeping his third one in line. Smith dropped back and, with his TEs running silly little routes everywhere, found a wide open friend-of-the-show Colby Parkinson for 20 yards to the Detroit 3. That big play was followed up by Walker’s second TD run of the afternoon and this game was suddenly tied at 14.
The Lions offense apparently had enough of the bullshit and started slicing flesh off of a suddenly confident Seahawks defense. It took them nine plays to go 75 yards, punctuating a no-nonsense drive with a four-yard Montgomery touchdown plunge. Just when it looked like things were swinging in Seattle’s favor, Detroit was back up by seven. Still, the Seahawks remained resilient and cobbled together yet another extended possession. This one lasted 12 plays and included two completions to Metcalf— notable because of his previous injury absence. Walker added two long runs to help Seattle get inside the 10 before a fumbled snap and consecutive incompletions forced them to settle for yet another field goal attempt. This one was too close to miss, and Myers banged it through to make the score 21-17.
The goal line-adjacent stop gave Detroit a chance to gain some much-needed separation but they were unable to convert, as Campbell decided to go for it on 4th down from his own 45 after Bobby Wagner stoned Gibbs up the middle on 3rd & short. On the play, rookie Derrick Hall beat his man off the edge and forced a throw over the middle to Reynolds, who was shadowed by Witherspoon. Seattle’s #5 overall draft pick actually got his head around quicker than the receiver and as he did so, got his feet tangled up with Reynolds. The refs accurately deemed the contact incidental and Seattle took over in plus territory with the chance to take the lead. This time, they delivered.
After a false start, Geno dumped it off to Charbonnet for nine then hit Will Dissly on a little slip route for 13 more. Smith-Njigba got six on the next play and Charbonnet gained five more up the middle after that. That put Seattle in the red zone but a horrific intentional grounding call against Smith on a miscommunication with Lockett made it 2nd & 20. Smith responded by scrambling for 15 on the next play and after an illegal formation penalty, found Lockett for 12 and a first down on a simple out route. Charbonnet rammed it down to the 3, then Smith calmly faked play-action and lobbed it into the endzone to a crossing Lockett for Seattle’s first advantage since the opening possession.
Now, the question was whether the Seahawks could protect the lead. Instead, they did us one better. After Detroit ground out a first down, Seattle’s mounting pressure forced a Goff throw behind his receiver and into the waiting arms of Tre Brown, who corralled the pass and sprinted 40 unfettered yards to a 31-21 lead.
With Seattle up 10 and just over eight minutes left, all they needed was one more stop. The Lions had other ideas. They used a massive 10-play possession to go 75 yards, with Goff nailing Reynolds over the middle from four yards out to make it 31-28 with three minutes to go.
The Lions had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning left, meaning the Seahawks would need to get two first downs to ice the victory. Normally, this would call for some at least exploratory runs to work the clock and potentially move the sticks, but the Seahawks came out throwing instead. It went about as poorly as you can imagine, short of a turnover. They didn’t hand the ball off once, instead drawing up four pass plays including an offensive PI call against Parkinson. The abomination of a drive ended when Smith inexplicably ran into a 17-yard sack on his own five yard line and Seattle had to punt out of their own endzone.
That gave the Lions enough time to march down the Seahawks 20 and kick a game-tying field goal as the clock expired. I suppose it’s what this game deserved, a rowdy affair devoid of reason, hurtling through the football universe guided by neither physics nor principle.
The teams sent out their champions for the coin toss, with Carroll keeping his tradition of using his backup QB to call it. This time, Drew Lock chose wisely, shouting “Tails!” and being rewarded when the quarter hit the turf. That gave the ball to Geno and Co with a chance to slam the door.
Anatomy of a Game-Winning Drive
Starting on his own 25 with a chance to get the Seahawks’ season upright again, Smith went to work with the same sort of precise execution we’ve grown accustomed to from him. On 1st down, he navigated a moving pocket until Fant settled down in the middle of the field. Smith’s throw hit him between the numbers for 17, and after his next pass was batted down at the line, he hit Fant again for four more. That made it 3rd & 6, meaning a great player was going to need to make a great play. That’s exactly what DK Metcalf did.
Lining up on the right side of the formation, Seattle’s F-14 exploded off the line, pushing the defender upfield before breaking inside and cradling a perfectly-placed spiral from Geno for 16. A massive play in a major moment. Then it was Deejay Dallas up the middle for three followed by Parkinson down the left sideline for 21 more. That put Seattle on Detroit’s 14— in easy field goal range but three points probably wouldn’t have been enough.
To Seattle’s credit, that’s exactly how they played it. Walker took the next play around the right end for three, picking his way through tacklers as he had all day. Then Smith hit Metcalf for six down to the five. Then Smith went back to one of the greatest receivers in franchise history.
On 3rd and game, Geno took the snap, dropped back, and whipped a pass towards the right hash, where it was snagged by Lockett’s tiny little toddler hands. Tyler, who had just eviscerated the coverage with a little two-step, cradled the ball and turned upfield, diving for the endzone, slapping the pylon with the ball for the victory, and waving the crowd goodbye as the official extended his arms upward.
Seahawks: 37, Lions: 31. An exhausting, cathartic victory for a team in desperate need of it— despite how early it is in the season.
~Geno Smith was exceptional today. After maybe his worst game as a starter in Seattle, Smith showed why the team made him their most recent franchise QB with that contract extension. He completed 32 of 41 passes for 328 yards, 2 TDs, and no turnovers while running for 20 more. He was poised, decisive, and excellent; never panicking and always ready for what the moment demanded.
Smith’s throws were remarkably on-target. It’s one thing to complete passes but it’s another entirely to make them easy to catch every time. He led his receivers when necessary and bent them away from defenders whenever the situation called for it. Outside of his bewildering sack in the 4th, he was damn near perfect and the way he orchestrated the game-ending drive was flawless.
Whatever doubts we may have had about whether we’d seen the best of Smith, if last year was a fluke, whether the league had figured him out— Geno snuffed them out like the night’s last cigarette. My confidence in him didn’t waver after last week, but I was definitely on notice. He validated every ounce of the team’s faith in him with his performance today.
~Seattle didn’t have much in the way of explosive runs, but their ball carriers did a great job with what was available. Ken Walker was better than his stat line might indicate, as it felt like he had more missed tackles forced than rushing yards. He dealt with free tacklers at or behind the line of scrimmage on nearly every run, but translated his tribulations into 54 yards and two touchdowns on 18 opportunities. He had the juice today, and picked up some big first downs in a game where every one of them mattered.
~If Walker zigs around the chessboard like a Knight, then Zach Charbonnet is the Rook. Seattle’s rookie runner did well with limited opportunities, charging straight ahead and getting the tough yards when situations demanded it. Four carries and two catches for 30 total yards as he slowly works his way into this offense.
~For as good as Geno was, his receivers were every bit as impressive. And what more can we say about Tyler Lockett? Neither his size, age, real estate license, nor virginity has slowed him down one iota and he came through with a litany of big moments in this one. Smith dialed him up a team-high 10 times, completing eight of them for 59 yards and two scores. Lockett was constantly open and continuously displayed his legendary field awareness. His game-winning touchdown was all heart, and the demise the league has been waiting for doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight.
~DK Metcalf’s evolution as a receiver has been so fun to watch. He didn’t light the box score up but he caught all six of his targets for 75 yards and set up both Seattle’s first and last touchdowns with big-time catches inside the 5. The body control he’s displayed on his routes, and the stickiness of his hands so far this season, are all indicative of a veteran WR in the process of making the leap. His 16-yard grab on 3rd & 6 in overtime was technically perfect and one of the biggest plays in the entire game. Yet another year of he and Lockett infuriating defenses.
~For the first time ever, DK and Tyler have a third Musketeer. Jaxson Smith-Njigba isn’t commanding the target share yet that he inevitably will, but he’s been real good with the opportunities he’s had thus far. He tied Metcalf with six targets, snagging five of them for 34 yards including the beautiful sideline grab in the first and the scrambling 16-yarder in the second. His development is going to be very fun to watch.
~The tight ends did what they do today, making the most of their chances and converting them into big plays in big moments. Noah Fant led the way with four catches and 54 yards, with Colby Parkinson catching two for 41 more. Will Dissly added three grabs for 35 yards, giving the multi-faceted position group nine catches on 10 targets for 130 yards. Add in their efficacy blocking a talented Detroit D-line and you have a remarkable group effort.
~So much was made, and rightfully so, about Seattle losing their two blossoming offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas last week. There was a lot of consternation, including from your beloved author, about how well Stone Forsythe and Jake Currhan would do against Aiden Hutchison and the rest. Well, the results are in and the test scores were exemplary. Despite another injury— this one to center Evan Brown— Seattle’s O-line allowed just the one sack and even that one is tough to pin on them.
They played to a stalemate in the run game but allowed their team to be ruthless through the air, as the Seahawks averaged 8.0 yards per pass attempt en route to six separate scoring drives. For all of the good things we saw today, perhaps nothing was more encouraging than how this beat-up unit performed.
~We talked a lot last week and last season about this team’s defensive struggles. Don’t get me wrong, Sean McVay and Ben Johnson is a brutal combination of play-callers to start your season against but the Seahawks haven’t done much to test them. That being said, the way they played in the second half was very encouraging.
After allowing nearly 10 yards per play over the game’s first two quarters, the ‘Hawks D finally got disruptive in the second half. They bookended halftime with consecutive fumble recoveries, added a pick-six, and sacked Goff twice in the second half. They finally started blitzing and got some crucial one-on-one wins from the members of their defensive line.
~Uchenna Nwosu returned to his usual disruptive self, and was joined in the backfield by big plays late from Derrick Hall, Darrell Taylor, Mario Edwards Jr, Jarran Reed, Cam Young, Tre Brown, and Dre’mont Jones. For the second straight game they were solid against the run as well— certainly after the first three drives. They held the Lions to less than three yards per carry after the first quarter and helped create the turnovers that played such a huge role in today’s victory.
~For a good chunk of this game, the linebackers displayed the same struggles that have haunted them since last season. They were either out of position or a touch slow on the intermediate routes Goff feasted on and whiffed on a number of tackles in the box. You could’ve put any three Seahawks defenders in an elevator with a Lions ball carrier in the first half and he still would’ve gotten a first down. Without Devin Bush and Boye Mafe, the pressure was even more concentrated on Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner and for a long time, they just didn’t seem ready to meet the challenge.
But something changed in the locker room and they were back to their sure-handed selves after that, roping Lions runners down like so many rodeo calves and keeping their offense within striking distance. Both Wagner and Brooks had nice plays in the passing game as well, with Brooks recording 11 tackles to Wagner’s 10.
~The only player who put his hat on the ball more than those two was Julian Love, who notched 13 takedowns to go with his fumble recovery. He wasn’t as sticky in coverage as you might like, but he certainly wasn’t bad and he was definitely willing to stick his nose in on every single play. It will be interesting to see how Seattle handles their secondary when Jamal Adams returns but Love is making a great case to stay on the field.
~Devon Witherspoon made his long-awaited NFL debut today and had a bit of a mixed bag. He showcased the toughness that made him so attractive in college with two great open-field tackles but got beat on a couple of big routes as well, including the flea-flicker touchdown that took advantage of his aggressiveness. That being said, he broke up Detroit’s first 4th down pass attempt with a stellar coverage rep against Sam LaPorta and perfectly traced Josh Reynolds on the Lions’ other unsuccessful 4th down try. In a perfect world, he would have come out looking like prime Deion Sanders but I saw enough today to remain supremely optimistic about his prospects in this league. It doesn’t sound like Riq Woolen’s shoulder injury is serious but if it lingers, Witherspoon’s contributions become even more crucial.
~Tre Brown, have a day. He gave up a couple of completions, as any defensive back is wont to do in this league, but he came up with two massive plays in the fourth quarter that had a huge impact on today’s win. His pick-six was the most notable of the two but his third down pass breakup might’ve been even more impressive.
On that play, he was guarding the outside receiver on the left side of the offensive formation. His man cut upfield, getting even with Brown as Goff set his feet to throw. But instead of turning to run with his receiver, Brown read the play and broke towards the seam. As the ball arrived, he laid out and tipped the pass away on a play that a beautiful confluence of confidence, anticipation, and athleticism. Add a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss to the mix and you’ve got yourself one hell of a game.
~Gotta clean up the penalties. Seattle got away with it today but nine fouls for 80 yards while your opponent goes 4-24 is hardly a recipe for winning. I’d profess some confidence in this happening but nothing about the Pete Carroll era suggests it will.
This is why I preach patience. As frustrating as last week was, the first game of the season does not carry a strong correlation to a squad’s final record. A lot of good teams lost last week and it appears Seattle may have been one of them. What we saw today wasn’t perfect but perfect shouldn’t be the expectation. What I really care about is resilience, adjustments, and performance in high-leverage situations— and the Seahawks gave us all of that today. You’ve heard me say it a million times but the NFL season is made up of a bunch of little seasons within it and the gap between “good” and “bad” teams isn’t nearly as big as we like to think.
I know it was tempting to start digging a grave for the Seahawks after the second half of Week 1 but honestly, we should all know better than that by now. There will be more frustrations this season, more maddening losses, but here’s the thing— every team has them. There was a lot of good in today’s game and the team made big plays when they had to.
There are fifteen games left and the Seahawks still look capable of winning an awful lot of them. Next week it’s the Carolina Panthers and an opportunity to be 2-1 with all of us feeling real good about things. Here’s to another sunny recap next Sunday. Until then, onwards and upwards my friends.
The first win of the season was accompanied by the Figurao Especial from Jaime Garcia, a medium-bodied cigar with a smoothness I was grateful for during such a hectic game. It’s got a little bite on the front end but evened out as I smoked it, burning slowly and holding its ash well. While it’s not the type of stogie I’d write a poem about, it strikes me as a great golf course smoke.
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