This past Sunday afternoon, along with thousands of other 12’s around the PNW and beyond, I watched the Seattle Seahawks open their 2019 NFL season by wrestling an ugly win away from the Cincinnati Bengals. If winning was a juicy bone, this football game resembled two mutually apathetic dogs lazily not-fighting for control of even the tiniest, tastiest morsel until the other one grabs ahold, and a real spark of competitiveness inspires some urgency between them to chow down. Woof.
It was neither pretty in the moment nor inspiring for the season ahead. And yet, a win is a win, and any loss to the wretched Bengals would’ve been even more destructive to the psyche of an entire fanbase ready to mash the panic button.
However, beyond the visible issues, which are legitimate, there are also several reasons to celebrate the Hawks and their week one win. And just like a kid trying to navigate unknown pieces of news, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first and end this discussion on a happy note.
First up, the Seahawks’ offensive line was atrocious. The sieve-like pass protection allowed the Bengal’s pass rush to sack Russell Wilson four times and made him uncomfortable far more than that, limiting his time to look downfield and work that signature Wilson magic. Moreover, the O-line offered a less-than-effective run-blocking scheme that would’ve limited the ground game, if not for a higher-than-average commitment to the process and success in the passing game.
Next, the Defensive Secondary showed its limitations, allowing Andy Dalton to clear 400 passing yards and John Ross III (their second (at best) wideout) to rack-up 158 yards and score twice on 7 receptions.
The most egregious moment, drifting among a sea of qualified candidates, was when third-year Free Safety Tedric Thompson lept as high as possible and still failed to intercept (or even deflect) a deep bomb that laded directly behind him in Ross’ welcoming hands. It was an embarrassing admission of how much the Hawks don’t have Earl Thomas locking down the backend anymore.
Thankfully, we can now move on to the good news, of which there is plenty.
Football, more than any other major American sport, is a team game, requiring all 11 men on the field to carry out a synchronized effort to advance the ball down the field. And yet, there were three individuals on the Seahawks’ offense (and a pair on defense) who stood out to me during Sunday’s eventual win.
D.K. Metcalf caught only four passes, yet accumulated 89 yards, proving he was more than combine hype. His size and elite athleticism were both on display, as he twice had to go up and compete against the Bengals’ backfield to successfully come down with the ball. By comparison, veteran receiver, Tyler Lockett, ended the game with only one catch—although, it was a game-defining bomb he can hang his helmet on with pride. I’m excited about where Metcalf can go from here, and to see how the team weaponizes his astonishing physical abilities.
Chris Carson got to work, carrying the rock 15 times for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown. Additionally, he was heavily targeted in the passing attack, reeling in six receptions for 35 yards and another touchdown. To put his volume of usage into context, consider this; he not only outworked fellow running back Rashaad Penny (21 to 6), he actually had more touches than Russell Wilson had pass attempts. His role in the passing game likely flowed from two sources: the overall team struggles against the Cincinnati run defense, but also a much-discussed plan during the preseason to utilize Carson as a pass-catcher. Assuming he stays healthy, which has been an issue in the past, Carson is poised for a monster year.
The beating heart of Seattle sports himself, Russell Wilson, completed 14-of-20 his passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. The Seattle offense is designed to run, a lot, setting up Wilson’s elite ability to look downfield and successfully deliver the prettiest deep ball in the league. His efficiency is the secret to the sauce, but he’ll need to maintain that proficiency to keep the Hawks’ season on track. Assuming he can and does, Wilson can notch another quality season in his belt, pushing him from local legend to national treasure.
On the defensive side of the ball, Quinton Jefferson and Jadeveon Clowney quickly erased any preseason doubts about a retooled Seahawks pass rush, wreaking havoc for Dalton and the Bengals passing attack. Jefferson himself admitted that he played the game of his career, ultimately tallying two sacks, three QB hits, two batted passes, and a bottomless pit of pressure upfront. After the game, Jefferson was asked about his epic day.
“I was just playing hard and trying to make the plays as they came… That was my biggest thing this year, just finish. Any play that comes to me, just finish, make the plays. I feel like I can play at a Pro-Bowl level, and that’s what I want to continue to do.”1
Clowney has only been an official Seahawk for a little over a week now, so watching him even play, let alone make an instant and measurable impact speaks to his extraordinary talents. Originally selected #1 overall in the 2014 draft by the Houston Texans, Clowney was traded to the Hawks in August for Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo, and a 2020 third-round pick. To date, his career may initially appear a bit underwhelming, as he’s not perennially atop the sack leaderboards. However, his ability to draw extra attention, disrupt offensive schemes, and elevate the overall pass rush’s success is unquestionable.
Were these two titans experiencing a fleeting high point of their season or showing the first encouraging evidence of what’s to come? We’ll have to wait and see, but I for one am stoked to watch them pressure opposing QBs as often as possible.
Next week, the Seattle Seahawks travel across the country to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams should approach the game with similar strategies: establish the running attack, take smart deep shots, and minimize mistakes and turnovers.
The Steelers will bring attitude in their home opener in an attempt to prove their week one implosion was a fluke. The Seahawks will be challenged to either compete or be consumed by an established playoff-caliber team.
The game kicks off at 10AM (PST) on Sunday.