Rarely has a road game felt so welcoming for the Seahawks. London did it’s very best to make Wembley Stadium favor the Oakland team technically playing a home game. They handed out Raiders flags to everyone in attendance. They flew in the Raiderettes (that is what they were called, which made me want chocolate-covered raisins). And perhaps, most pitifully, they set off flame cannons at the four corners of the field when the Raiders finally scored a gift field goal late in the fourth quarter. It was the equivalent of somebody being three hours late to their party and the host gleefully setting off a single party popper. The Seahawks had already made the Raiders kiss the ring by that point, and the fanbase was arguably more dominant.
Seeing and hearing the swarm of blue and green was deeply gratifying, having lived though franchise lows in the 90s. This was more than just wealthy Seahawks tech fans traveling to London. Huge chunks of Seahawks fans were from the UK, Germany, and a dozen other countries. Seattle may have benefitted from their franchise peak coming during the age of mobile phones and streaming video. More people around the world fell in love with Russell Wilson and the LOB than could have if it had happened 3-4 years earlier. Whatever the case, it was the closest atmosphere to the Super Bowl victory since that game.
The game had a chance to be a similar score to that 43-8 blowout against the Broncos. Seattle scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time in 34 games. They took over the football at their own 18-yard line, and then proceeded to run seven straight times to the 49-yard line. Wilson then found Rashaad Penny for a nifty 24-yard screen pass, and later found tight end Tyrone Swoopes for a 23-yard pass on 3rd and 8 (which almost certainly was a missed false start), before eventually hitting Jaron Brown for a touchdown.
It was a physical drive. It was a confident drive. It was Seahawks football. I had a hunch a game like this was coming because the Seahawks stood toe-to-toe with the big, bad, Rams and walked away with the rightful feeling that they should have won. Taking that sort of pounding run style into a game against a far weaker opponent was like punching through wet tissue paper.
Seattle ran for 155+ yards for the third straight game. The last time they accomplished that feat was when they did it four straight times in 2013 in weeks two through five.
They found themselves against the Cowboys, and have not looked back since. It is largely predictable. We were seeing running plays on 61% of their first downs in the three games prior to facing the Raiders and that number very likely went up. Pete Carroll is not trying to fool anyone, but that is not necessarily the bad thing many Twitter analysts will tell you. Tom Brady is pretty darn predictable as well. What matters most is whether the team is good at what they are doing and seeing success.
When Mike Solari joined the 49ers in 2010, Brady was throwing the Patriots to over 500 points and a 14-2 record while a young quarterback named Aaron Rodgers was winning his first Super Bowl. Over the next three seasons, Solari and the 49ers ran for over 6,700 yards and won 76% of their games. They were the toughest kids on the block. Nobody looked forward to playing them, regardless of the venue. While the reliance on the run game was predictable, Solari helped to create a varied run scheme that made life challenging for defenses.
We are seeing the same thing unfold for Seattle this season. This offensive line is key. Once again, they cleared the path for the running game while also keeping Wilson clean in the pocket. When you combine commitment to the run and play action passing with Wilson, great things follow.
Wilson threw three more touchdown passes in this game, and now has 8 in his last four games against only one interception. His passer rating in those four games is 116.0. Over his last two games, his rating goes up to 128.8 with 6 touchdowns and that one interception. Possibly most exciting has been his play on third down over the last two weeks. An eye-popping 20% of his pass attempts on 3rd down in those games have gone for touchdowns, helping him to a 134.1 rating.
It has helped to have his receiver corps step up. Tyler Lockett caught his fifth touchdown, one off a career high with 10 games to go, ranking second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns among wide receivers. David Moore caught his third touchdown in two games, and made a gorgeous grab of a contested ball along the left sideline. Even Doug Baldwin, with zero healthy knees, was a factor in this game with over 90 yards receiving and multiple deep shots.
Moore has the physical ability to become a true #1 receiver. That does not mean he ever will, but he has that ceiling. Seeing him getting more chances to emerge is a very good thing. He is one of the few players on the roster who could represent a wildcard factor as the season wears on. No team is game planning for Moore right now. There is a chance he will become their top threat.
They will soon add Ed Dickson to the tight end room, which should help, and have the option of bringing back J.D. McKissic as another weapon.
Penny played well, and got the opportunity to help ice the game in the fourth quarter. It was nice to see. If he is going to steal reps from Mike Davis, then so be it. If the coaching staff is going to start limiting Chris Carson’s carries again, we have a problem.
There were two major mistakes that likely cost the Seahawks at least one of their first two games this season. One, they relied far too much on the pass. Two, they did not give Carson RB1 reps. They have corrected both of those, and the results have followed. It would not surprise me if they get seduced by their top pick showing some nice progress and confuse that with a valid reason to limit the play of their best back.
All this talk about offense, though, is overshadowing a fantastic defensive effort. The Raiders defense is horrid, but their offense has put up a lot of yards this season. Seattle sacked Derek Carr 6 times, and two additional sacks were nullified due to penalty. Frank Clark had 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He now has 27.5 sacks in his career, which ranks second among Seahawks players in their first four seasons. Cortez Kennedy is a half-sack ahead of him, and Jeff Bryant had 34.0. Clark has another ten games to move up higher on that list.
Branden Jackson, Quinton Jefferson, and Jarran Reed were also part of the rush party. Reed got another sack and now has 4.0 on the season, second only to Geno Atkins among defensive tackles. Jacob Martin was creating pressure off the edge and recovered one of Carr’s fumbles.
Oakland managed just 3.3 yards per play. Marshawn Lynch was bottled up all game.
Raiders passing yardage totals this season:
300 yds vs Rams
281 yds @ DEN
325 yds @ MIA
426 yds vs CLE
289 yds @ Chargers
106 yds vs Seahawks
— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) October 14, 2018
The hope is that Seattle gets K.J. Wright back after the bye week. It is interesting that the best pass rush of the season happened with Dion Jordan and Rasheem Green sitting out due to injury. That will be worth watching.
For the time being, the Seahawks defense looks like it will be capable of being at least middle-of-the-road, and may have a chance to be a top ten unit. That is crazy to think about given how much turnover there has been on that side of the ball.
Seattle has played like a playoff team the past two weeks, and is in the middle of the race. This upcoming game in Detroit could not come at a better time. The Lions will know what is coming.