Having flirted with perfection for five spectacular weeks, the Seattle Seahawks took their first loss on the season two weeks ago to the Arizona Cardinals. The game was close, even going to overtime before being settled, but in the end, the Cards won it.
In response, the national media turned on the Hawks and many analysts knocked them behind the Green Bay Packers and/or Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC standings. But then last week, in a retort of their own, the Seahawks reestablished their utter dominance with their best game of the season against a critical division foe, the San Francisco 49ers.
It wasn’t their best game because of the final, not-as-close-as-it-seemed 37-27 score. Nor was it because of the incredible offense play from quarterback and MVP frontrunner, Russell Wilson, wide receiver and offensive player of the year candidate, D.K. Metcalf, and rookie running back in a breakout-ish performance, DeeJay Dallas… No no.
This game topped the year’s best because of defense.
Coming into the game, the Hawks D had allowed an average of 479.1 yards per game, which is incredibly high, btw. But against the 49ers, they held it to 125 net yards through the first three quarters. It was the exact kind of smothering defense the 12’s had been hoping to see since September.
There are many reasons why the defense improved, but one clear standout was Bobby Wagner, who had 11-tackles and two sacks. Wagner was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. But he wasn’t alone, as rookie pass rusher, Alton Robinson got a sack as well. After the game, Seahawks head coach, Pete Carroll acknowledged the progress.
“We’re getting there, and we’re going to keep getting better. I know, I keep saying that to you, but it’s because it’s going to happen.”
That sounds like generic coach talk, but with the expected return of strong safety, Jamal Adams (groin strain) and the debut of newly acquired defensive end, Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati Bengals), there’s genuine reasons to be believe that there are even brighter defensive days ahead. Not to mention that right behind them, recently signed free-agent defensive tackle, Damon “snacks” Harrison is coming soon too.
So, where does that leave the Seahawks at midseason?
Consider this. The Hawks are through their BYE with six wins and one loss. (And that loss was a ticky-tacky penalty call away from going the other way, so take it for what it is.) During those seven games, the defense had been a testcase for how far a “bend, but don’t break” scheme can go, at least up until this last week. And also, during those seven games, the offense was doing their absolute best to #LetRussCook with Wilson throwing an NFL-leading 26 touchdowns. Both Metcalf and veteran wide receiver, Tyler Lockett have earned the shared title of being among the very best WR duos in football.
So, and improving defense and an imposing offense.
To that, add a healthy Chris Carson (starting running back) returning to the offense as well as Adams, Dunlap, and Harrison to the defense, and you can see that this team isn’t fully realized yet. In other words, we haven’t seen the best version of the 2020 Seahawks. Imagine this offense, but with a powerful when needed running game and an average (not even good, just fine) defense. That’s a Super Bowl winning team this year.
But getting there will require more winning. Starting on Sunday.
The Seahawks will fly east for a 10AM game against the 6-2 Buffalo Bills. Having recently defeated the reigning divisional heavyweights, New England Patriots, the Bills sit atop the AFC East.
For the first quarter of the season, the Bills were on fire, ripping through four mid-level-at-best opponents with high-flying and high-scoring hijinks from quarterback, Josh Allen. His style of play, with all its deep passing and scramble rushing, makes him an unpredictable and dangerous adversary.
In the offseason the team traded for Stefon Diggs (Minnesota Vikings) to compliment Allen’s down-field arm cannon. And so far, it’s been electric. Diggs is currently ranked second in the NFL in receiving yards and tied for third in receptions.
But then Buffalo ran into a gruesome twosome of losses in the Tennessee Titans and the World Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Down but not out, the Bills responded with divisional wins over the New York Jets and aforementioned Patriots.
And now they play the Seahawks. On Wednesday, Allen was asked about the upcoming game against the Hawks and he explained their plan of attack.
“We understand how well the Seahawks are playing. How well the quarterback, Russell Wilson, is playing there. We got no small task this coming week. They’re on top of a lot of statistical categories on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing our part and try to keep them off the field as much as possible. They’ve got some very opportunistic guys on defense, they’re forcing a lot of turnovers, it’s going to be a four-quarter dog fight. We understand that.”
If hearing it from the quarterback wasn’t enough, Bills head coach, Sean McDermott added his own thoughts on the Seahawks.
“They present a huge challenge. They won a Super Bowl. Russell’s playing at an all-time high, an MVP level. They’ve got weapons and they score a lot of points. It’ll be a big challenge for us defensively and as a team.”
What’s that? You’d like a little more from McDermott about the Hawks? Sure thing.
“We recognize they have good players, good scheme. They’re playing at high level. They’re tough, man. They’re really tough. They got against San Francisco and they beat them pretty good there,”
That sounds like a team that’s intimidated. And they should be. The 2020 Seahawks have been a great football team this year. You can hear the respect for Wilson and the team in those quotes.
But as great as they’ve been, I believe there’s still room for improvement. Not within the passing game, which has been truly elite, but with the ground attack and on the defensive side of the ball.
We saw our first look at a better defense last week against the 49ers and it should persist, if not improve, this week. We don’t know yet if Carson will play, but if he does, we should see even more from the backfield as well.
But the Bills are frisky. And I expect a few unexpected runs from Allen that catch the Hawks off guard and a few deep passes to Diggs that connect. But in the end, it won’t be enough. I think the Hawks offense will keep rolling and the defense will show up again like last week.
Or, like Pete Carroll said, “It’s going to happen.”
My prediction for Sunday is a Seattle Seahawks fly back home with a 35-21 win over the Buffalo Bills and they put themselves one mighty step closer to the postseason ahead.