The Morning After: Seahawks Offer Some Pleasant Surprises in Otherwise Predictable Loss to Denver

You had to know this would be the outcome. Seattle almost never wins in road openers. Denver is practically unbeatable at home in September. Von Miller is one of the best defenders in football. K.J. Wright was out, forcing a work-in-progress rookie to play in his place. Dontae Johnson got injured days before the game, forcing a work-in-progress rookie to play in his place. If not for Earl Thomas returning from his holdout in time to play a significant role in this game, the outcome could have been far, far worse. Amid all the predictability, there were some surprises. Some pleasant. Some not. As we embark on this season of Seahawks discovery, we have left our first port knowing a little more than we did before. The seas ahead are sure to be rough, but there will be splendor along the way.

Will Dissly. Who knew? The fourth-round pick out of the University of Washington, who converted from a defensive lineman to a tight end just last year, was easily the biggest surprise of the game. He finished with 3 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. One of his catches included a rumbling, stumbling, 66-yard catch-and-run that might as well have had a glow filter applied with stars pulsing around the edges and DreamWeaver playing in the background as I fell in love. This is what a tight end is supposed to look like. Dissly cemented my affections by whispering these sweet nothings in my ear in his postgame interview

His jersey rockets to the top of my wishlist as he restores honor to the #88 in Seattle. It is unreasonable to expect that kind of performance from Dissly on a regular basis as teams will now know he is more than just an in-line blocker, but much of what we saw indicated his upside is much higher than anyone dared to predict. Not only does he have a legitimate shot to be Zach Miller, he may be better. Scoff if you must. Just watch.

Brandon Marshall should have had two touchdowns this game. He needlessly pushed off on his first score, and was called for an offensive pass interference that often goes uncalled. He also had a clutch third-down catch in the middle of triple zone coverage that was an equally encouraging sign of growing trust between him and his quarterback. The team will need more from him. This was a promising start.

Bradley McDougald shocked me with two interceptions, and he easily could have had a third if had not dropped a simple tipped pass on the first Broncos possession. The Seahawks starting safeties were terrific, combining for three picks and four passes defensed. As great as Kam Chancellor was, he had been creating fewer turnovers the last couple of years. His last season with more than two interceptions was back in 2013 when he had three. McDougald nearly matched that in one game today. Admittedly, Case Keenum was awful at times. That’s the NFL. Do you really think Chancellor did not face guys like Keenum the past few seasons? Of course he did. McDougald proved in this game at least, that he has higher impact potential than I give him credit for.

Michael Dickson was not exactly a surprise, but the dude set an NFL record in his first game. His net average of 57.5 yards per punt was the most in NFL history for a player with at least six punts.


Denver’s average starting field position after a Dickson punt was the 14.5 yard line. On possessions that started with a Dickson punt, the Broncos punted four times, threw an interception that led to a touchdown on a short field, and kicked a field goal.


Dickson was among the best defenders on the field for Seattle. He had a 69-yard punt that went out at the 6-yard line. The line of scrimmage went from the Seahawks 25-yard line to the Broncos 6-yard line. That is insane. He didn’t even require a return team on most kicks as he angled them out of bounds. He may have had the best punting performance in NFL history in his first game. That is a hard statement to prove, but the record he set at least makes it plausible. He is going to be a weapon for the next 15 years in Seattle.

There were some surprises that were more confusing than good or bad. Top of that list was that Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny split reps in the backfield. Each player had exactly 25 snaps and 7 carries. Both were targeted 5 times in the passing game. I was eager to see Carson unleashed on the NFL, and excited to see if Penny had more to offer than we have witnessed thus far. It never occurred to me that the coaches would deploy them equal amounts.

This game did little to help me see why Penny is deserving of splitting reps. He’s fine in the Robert Turbin, give the starter a series off, sort of role. Carson did significantly more with his chances. He finished with 51 yards on 7 carries for a 7.3 average that included an eye-popping leap over a defender on a 24-yard run. He also averaged 4.5 yards on his other carries. Penny gained just 8 yards on his 7 carries for a dreadful 1.1 average. He did fine receiving, including a 15-yard catch that set-up the Marshall touchdown.

I just don’t see the burst, the wiggle, the power, to justify equal time with Carson. Take these two examples. Both players receive a pass from Wilson in the middle of the field and have to beat the same defender (#31) in the open field. These are the moments that running backs live for. Single defender. Open field. Make him miss. Run him over. Whatever your thing is, here is where you do it. Check out how each back did:

Rashaad Penny

Chris Carson

You will have trouble finding a more apples-to-apples open field moment against the same defender for two running backs. I don’t even think this is a particularly difficult win for the back. Carson did what you are expected to do. Mike Davis would have likely made that man miss. There is a huge advantage for the offensive player when there is no help on either side of the defender. This doesn’t mean Penny is worthless, but it’s a good example of a moment where I was holding my breath hoping to see a sign of something special gift, and exhaled in disappointment with the result.

Lots of people are complaining that the Seahawks should have run the ball more. Not me. I just want to see them give the ball to their best player and let Penny earn more snaps. Critics will point to Carson’s fumble. Sure, that was bad, but I’d bet at least 50% of backs in the NFL would have lost that fumble the way the play unfolded. Miller snuck up from the perfect angle and had great leverage. As of right now, it should be far more of a question whether C.J. Prosise should be stealing reps from Penny than Penny nabbing them from Carson.

This was an uneven performance for Wilson. He had some great throws to Dissly, Tyler Lockett, and Marshall. He also had some head-scratchers, including a few rockets fired to his backs a few yards away that were uncatchable and a few that were off-target to his backs that made for difficult catches or limited yards after the catch. His worst throw of the day was probably the interception he threw in Seattle territory when Marshall was open and Wilson did not put enough air under the ball, allowing the underneath defender to drift back and make a relatively easy pick.

He also was uncharacteristically discombobulated during the final drive. Those are the moments he tends to shine. This time, he fumbled a snap after wasting nearly 20 seconds between plays, and then chose to spike the ball instead of running a play.

Most everyone will point to the six sacks and roll their eyes about the offensive line play. Truth be told, a number of the sacks were as much about Wilson decisions as the line. Sure, Germain Ifedi got embarrassed by Miller for a sack and beat J.R. Sweezy on a stunt for another. The line was not great. They also were worlds better than what we witnessed in Green Bay last year in the opener when Mike Daniels practically lived in the backfield. Wilson had too many moments where he chose not to throw the ball away or take his first read.

In those moments where he chooses to be off-script, he has to be smarter than to spin blindly in the direction of the all-world pass rusher. He did that at least twice and was punished for it each time. Those classic Wilson plays where he retreats 10 or 15 yards behind the line and spins in every direction to avoid rushers before unleashing soul crushing completions are fewer and farther between. He was sacked almost every time he tried that in this game.

What will be worth watching is whether this coaching staff will work with him to avoid those negative plays through more standard means like quick reads and willingness to throw the ball away. It is tough given how much of Wilson’s magic has come off-script. You don’t want to steal his shine, but he has a chance to evolve to the next phase of his career if someone can help guide him toward more repeatable outcomes in those situations.

The Seahawks defense is pretty bad. It was great to see the three turnovers. It was nice to see a few stops to give the offense a chance to win the game. And yes, there is a chance they will improve when Thomas plays a whole game, Wright is back, and they add a veteran corner. That said, the pass rush was healthy and it was awful. Denver does not have a good offensive line, and they dominated the Seahawks defensive line all afternoon.

There was almost no penetration in the run game and Keenum had all day to throw. Rasheem Green was silent. Quinton Jefferson was no more impactful than he has been in previous years. Tom Johnson was silent. Shamar Stephen was silent. A pretty good sign of how the line struggled was that Bobby Wagner had only 5 tackles. There was too much traffic he had to fight through. Shaquem Griffin was really bad. He blew at least two coverages that I saw. One directly led to a touchdown.

Tre Flowers has yet to cover a receiver running across the field that I have seen. He does reasonably well on go routes straight down the field, but his lack of lateral agility gets exposed on those plays where he has to change direction. He is not ready to be on the field. Seattle needs to be auditioning veteran corners today. Lots of people are asking about DeShawn Shead. That is fine if that is where they have to go, but he is older and injured. My preference would be to see a guy like DeAndre Elliott return if he has recovered from his injury. He is younger, can play both inside and outside, and has upside. Sticking with Flowers as the starter would be a mistake.

Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goal attempts. The team lost by three points. He is 40 and there is a 30-year-old kicker named Dan Bailey, who is the second-most accurate in the history of the NFL sitting on the street. Go get him. This is silly. Janikowski is fine. He’s not Blair Walsh, but he has not been a particularly accurate kicker for years. Go get the younger more reliable guy now.

Seattle heads to Chicago next week for a Monday night game. It will be their home opener and Khalil Mack will be ready to wreak havoc. Neither Denver nor Chicago are better than the Seahawks. That will not help Seattle avoid going 0-2. The offense will be without their best receiver in Doug Baldwin, who is probably out a few weeks or longer. They need to put their best foot forward. That means featuring their best players who have proven their worth. It means Wilson letting it rip to his receivers and dreamy new tight end. They will need to control the clock more than they did Sunday to protect a vulnerable defense. Converting 2 of 12 third downs is not going to cut it. This offense has to be reliable for the Seahawks to weather the storms ahead.


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  1. Brian, I love your column and it makes getting up on Monday worthwhile. But you are far too generous to our star QB who thinks he deserves to be paid like a HOF player.

    We were 2-12 on third downs.

    RW ran into four or five sacks cuz he refuses to throw the ball away when he is under pressure.

    He fumbled late in the game to snuff out any comeback.

    My brother played QB in college and we were talking about the three things that make a good Pro QB.

    1) You do what the coach tells you. ( That seems obvious but there are lots of Alpha jocks who have NEVER done that, and gotten paid.) Look at half of Brett Favre’s career or the guy I know best, Chris Chandler. He didn’t get to the Super Bowl until his eighth team and he started doing what the coach told him.

    +/- RW does that to a point. PC tells him not to throw interceptions, but that means RW holds the ball until AFTER the guy breaks open, then he throws it. Often that’s too late in the Pro game. That’s why RW is more comfortable with his sandlot plays….

    2) You have to trust your arm. That means making good reads, anticipating, keeping your eyes down field, then letting it go…. and trusting the ball gets there.

    – I don’t think that RW trusts his arm anymore, whether it is injury to the rotator cuff from so many sacks, or the velocity has just gone away. Look at that weird windup he takes sometimes, like he’s throwing a baseball. He never had that super strong arm that could make those out throws QBs have to make in the league. That’s why the Seahawks took that throw out of this playbook years ago and went with the fade.

    3) You have to get the ball to your playmakers.

    -/+ RW has never had a great set of playmakers around him, but in the sandlot game he likes to fall back on, his favorite target of all-time, our T-town Husky who is now in New York. His juggling kicking sprawling catch in the Super Bowl would be THE highlight catch of all-time except the next completion went to New England and its like its always been, back to RW.

    Its always about RW.

    He was our best playmaker for awhile, but now that he’s slowed down and defenses know how to contain him, he’s no longer a good Pro QB.

    He will cure childhood cancer. And be a baseball franchise owner. And Ciara’s husband. And…..

    Just not a good Pro QB.

    1 for 3 three on my scale means we are in for a long season.

    I just hope that Khalil Mack doesn’t kill RW next week.

    1. One game does make a player? Like I’ve said it before, RW had peaked about 2 years ago (Brian argued otherwise) and this is it unless you can get a brilliant offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan or Andy Reid to work with him. That said, if he continues with the trajectory, then he is a future HOF QB.

      Regarding the game itself, he has always been a slow starter, and PC should know this and prepare the game accordingly. About the sacks, not quite sure what is Brian was watching, but the pressure came mostly from the middle, and there is no way he can’t get out of it by spinning to the right side. The league has figured him out by not over being aggressive on the right side when he tries to spin out of the pressure from the middle. It is physically impossible to spin to the left side when you’re on that position moving up from the pocket. What happens to the running game that the guy has been “preaching” for the last few years? 14 rushes between your 2 “starting” running backs? PC and JS need to go at the end of the season and get some younger and fresh perspective into this organization. Recent drafts have been atrocious. The philosophy of sticking to your “old” horses do not work anymore. Should have to start to rebuild about 2 or 3 years ago in making “tough” decisions in trading some of your best players in restocking your talent pool. However, if the execution sucks in drafting, then it is a moot point anyway.

      This is an 8-8 team at best.

      1. I think what Brian was saying was RW should not be spinning out and instead throwing the ball away or at worst taking a much smaller sack instead the typical 7-10 yards. The coaches could assist this by going to a shorter timing based passing game or being more efficient in the run game (ie not splitting Carrie’s between Carson and Penny)

  2. From April’s draft, thru the preseason,the Hawks were all about reestablishing the run game. Then comes the opener and the pass to run ratio was approximately 2-1. (And passing on 3rd and short does not a hard-nosed run team make) That’s a major disconnect. And that, I think, is on the HC.

    Penny looked slow and timid. Carson looked powerful, fast and fearless. I imagine they’ll continue to split RB duties, however, because Penny’s got the pedigree and “Always Compete” comes with an asterisk.

    Earl is a major upgrade. But to pay him or Russell monster money would be a major blunder at this point. This is a rebuild. The rest is semantics. Pete constructed a SB winner and lost a dynasty. He’s a great D coach, but fails, in my opinion, in many important areas .

    I think Russell may have been scarred by all the Carroll-Cable OL experiments of the past, such as Drew Nowak for Max Unger. Russ USED TO BE mentioned in the same breath as Rogers & Brady. But that’s all in the rear view. Russ is still elite every once in awhile. It’s his team now, they say, but elite-every-once-in-awhile is not good enough for a QB who wants elite money.

    It’s 8-8 time and we need a 2nd Rounder. If it’s still on the table.

    Go Willy D. It made me laugh to watch you rumble.

    1. Agreed. There is no leadership from the top. IMHO, the organization needs to move on from PC or JS, or both, preferably PC at the end of the season. I have seen this picture from the USC days. PC has done a lot for the city, but it is Peter’s Principle, no pun intended. He is a one trick pony. Only know one way, and there is no adaptivity or creative mind at the work. Can’t blame the guy, he is old. Enough about the running game, have heard it for the last few years and it is the same crap. I’ve said Penney was a reach when they drafted him. Could have a decent secondary player at that position and pick him at the later rounds, but we have seen this before. Recent drafts have been atrocious.

      Regarding RW, he does not have the physical traits like other great QBs so if he is in a great system with a brilliant offensive mind like Andy Reid or Kyle Shanahan, then he can move to the next level. He had peaked about 2 years ago. Brian and I had a good discussion about it.

      Regarding ET, he was not in it. Someone posted a stat about when he was on and off the field. I believe they gave up more yardage when he was in the game. Trade to Dallas and get a second rounder. JS is not very good at making trades. Always got “robbed” by the other teams. If you are “rebuilding’, then make a clean start.

      Or you can trade RW and get a couple of 1st rounders or more. But there is no guarantee you can get someone from college as good as RW. Don’t see it for this year or next. So what to do?

      You’re right. This is an 8-8 team at best.

  3. Sometimes being correct isn’t very gratifying, like most of us who expected the loss yesterday. While the box score looks close, and if the field goal weren’t missed…………., all that stuff, the feel of the game was much worse except for the few highlights you mentioned. The other day I said I was surprised by the number of wins the HB team projected on the podcast, I suspect I now have more company for my slightly under .500 feeling…………I hope I’m wrong. In the first 5 we might beat a sad looking Dallas team, but that’s about it from what I expect. After that the best hope is this group of youngsters (for the most part) will jell into a productive unit. We’ll see.

    Yep, Uncle Will was a pleasant surprise……..the tight end we wished we’d gotten in trade for Unger. I think he out stat-ed Graham yesterday didn’t he? At the risk of sounding like one of those “the refs hate us” whiners, I do contend that in pre-game briefings the refs will hear preparatory remarks something along the lines of “Oh, you’ve got the Seahawks. Watch ’em closely, they’re coached to be a handsy group”. B. Marshall needs to know he can’t get away with the blatant stuff that’s worked all his career elsewhere. He too is a pleasant surprise, an with the injuries to Doug much needed. I’m not going to say Flowers is top of the pile ready, though promising, but I think he’s being thrown under the bus a bit. St. Earl hung him out on the one scoring play by dropping inside instead of staying in the umbrella savior role. If it wasn’t Earl’s choice to drop inside then the fault falls on the coverage call………….bad coaching (which might be more troubling). I’m not saying Earl is a bum, but he’s not the perfect player his devoted fans portray him to be……….he really is human. And the game is about team, not individual.

    If offensive play looks a lot like last year with so many changes in both players and coaches what’s one of the constants? Yeah, RW. The really restless natives appear ready to throw him overboard as well. Fan over reaction probably. That being said, he does have his repetitive flaws. Supposedly that’s what Pete has told us Schotty is for…………to be the “hammer” and deal with Wilson honestly. I wonder if that’s part of why he looked poor yesterday………he’s not reacting as much as he’s trying to process the revised version of himself…………the over thinking disease. Now, both he and the team have a history of slow starts, yet he had more touchdowns in an opening game than ever before in his pro career. Glimmer of hope? We’ll see. I hope Schotty sits him down and replays that nice slant pattern he passed, make him watch it over and over. Then make him watch how an injured A. Rogers dealt with a heavy rush front in the second half of last night’s game, again, over and over til he gets it. Even statistically good quarter backs can grow…….let’s see it.

    On to Chi Town……….another road game, another fearsome rush, another ????

    1. Good observations, Uncle Bob. Regarding RW, it is what it is. I said he had peaked about 2 years ago, but others seemed to disagree. He is not your typical QB, does not have the physical talents like AR, but there is only one AR in the world. Does not have the peripheral skills like TB, but there is only one TB in the world. Does not have the system or great offensive support like Drew Brees, but there is only a hand full of them around like Sean Payton, Andy Reid, or Kyle Shanahan. PC tried to make him into those players when he does not have those variables to ensure the success. But he is pretty good in my eyes considering all the factors. A future HOF with the trajectory.

      ET is not “in” it. Let him go. Get what you can. They should have done the Belichick’s thing from 2 or 3 years ago. Restocking your talent pool by trading some of your best players in their prime. The philosophy of sticking to your “old” horses does not apply in today game. Or they can trade RW to get a whole lot of picks. But based on the recent drafts, I don’t feel very confident in their making the appropriate picks. Penney is another excellent example.

      IMHO, this team needs a fresh start. PC or JS needs to go or both, preferably PC. The organization needs new perspectives with creative and adaptability mindset. PC has neither. He is old and not getting any younger.

      Don’t expect too much. This is an 8-8 team at best.

      1. Andy,

        8-8 is being generous. We have a tough schedule and have no leadership out there, to hang tough when you are ahead, or get it back when you are not.

        Being 3 players short because of the cap really hurts in these kind of games.

        We have no field goal kicker again this year. ( Somebody should get fired just for the Blair Witch project and that drunken oaf who replaced him)

        Our best player is the punter and if he hadn’t switched fields for us a half dozen times, we give up 45 points.

        We can stay close to a mediocre Chicago team but we will come up short again.

        5-11 and a top five draft pick should be our goal. We won too many games last year by chance and attitude and it got us a second place schedule.

        We could give up 50 to a one-legged QB.

    2. Way too many people overanalyzing Wilson’s performance here. Against a solid Denver defense, he kept Seattle competitive on the scoreboard under duress.

      The defense is the real culprit. Uncle Bob, you say the ‘box score looks close’. I am not trying to be rude, but the only part of the box score that was close was the scoreboard and the turnover battle.

      First Downs: 25 -13
      Total Plays: 72-55
      Total Yards: 470-306
      Team Y/P: 8.1-6.2
      Rushing Yards: 146-64

      Seattle’s offensive numbers are not surprising, considering opponent and venue, but against a Denver offense that is not supposed to be very good this year, the defensive numbers are shocking, even if we expected some growing pains.

    3. I’ve been troubled by a remark I made above about St. Earl and the play where he didn’t back up Flowers. Not because I don’t stand by what I said, but rather by what I saw last night in the match up of the Rams and Raiders. Most football fans know that the Rams have been anointed by the talking heads as Super Bowl winners……….listening to many of them the season was over before it began. Sure they’ve got lots of player talent, scary lots reputationally. Last night should have been a rout from the gitgo. But in the first half the Rams got out coached, and had a fair bit of trouble from a team with only a handful of acknowledged football studs (sound familiar?). Admittedly I didn’t watch the second half, not because I thought it was not going to be interesting, but because I’m in the Central time zone and half time was past my bedtime………..I’m old, I need my rest. Reading about the second half it’s clear there were some serious adjustments to scheme by the Rams coaches. The talent level, on both teams, was the same. Giving that talent a better chance is what made the 180 flip in performance on the field.

      In the first half Grudens game plan took advantage of the Ram plan and talent. Once the Rams worked it out they were better able to utilize their talent to snuff the Raiders. So when I wondered above was the mistake on St. Earl, or was it the play/scheme? I’m now leaning more toward poor play calling rather than a toss up. A few days ago when St. Earl returned Norton got to the podium and said something like “I just became a better coach.” My first thought was, okay suck up a little to help motivate the prima donna get over a little of his pique. Now I’m wondering if that wasn’t some honest introspection. I think Norton is a very good linebacker coach, I haven’t been confident he is a good or better DC. It’s what used to be called “The Peter Principle”, though the management concept existed before Peter’s definition, and prevails under whatever nomenclature it has today. It’s based in human nature, it will be eternal. If you’re unfamiliar it’s the idea that an individual gets promoted to their level of incompetence, usually based on the idea that their stellar performance in lower assignments means they should be good higher up in performance demand. It’s about the potential ceiling……and I think Norton is above his. Can anybody see him as a Bradley or a Quinn? Bradley demonstrated he wasn’t ready, Quinn, so far, is looking better. Norton? He may already be out of his depth at DC. Will Pete get more involved in the day to day of defense, and let his other duties slide just a bit to cover for his choice? That may be what it takes ’cause I don’t believe there will be any in season removal/change at the coaching level. We’ve got some young talent that can be “coached up” for individual skill sets, and some of our coaches have demonstrated abilities to do that. It’s the “coordinator” scheming/planning that falls short……..btw, same can be said for offense on this last point.

      On the bright side, Dickson is likely to have one hell of a static busting year.

      1. Looks like I should have gone to sleep earlier. Corrections:
        “talent level, each team (not both)…”
        Bradley failed at head coach.
        For Dickson, statistic busting, not static.

  4. Yo, Kurt Z, I betcha anything the Hawks could hold a one-legged quarterback to 45. Don’t be so pessimistic.

  5. Recap of numerous comments on various sites:
    After 1 game that they didn’t win I think fan “over-reaction” is obvious. Fire PC?, Fire JS?, 1-st round pick was a bust? All recent drafts were a bust? Trade ET because he ain’t good anymore? Trade away RW, because he isn’t a pro QB? Many now saying sub 500 for the season, after already predicting the same prior to the start of the season, now after I game they yell that they were right all along see, they lost that game (by 3 points) and that proves their predictions that the Seahawks are a crap team and will lose more than they win ’cause some of y’all are such experts and PC/JS are just plain stupid? All of this, after 1 f-ing game?

    Many people need to chill. After 4/5 games if the Seahawks are not better, you may be right, but after the first game of the season with so many new players & coaches that have insufficient time to prepare (Non contact practices are a joke). Maybe we all just need to chill a little on the negativity and look more at the positives, if we want to remain viable Seahawk fans.

  6. An uneven performance by Wilson? I’d say one of the poorest of his pro career. Inaccurate all day. Couldn’t even hit Carson on a simple uncontested screen. Interception when targeting Marshall was wide open and massively underthrown. Pirouette vs stepping up in the pocket made Ifedi’s overall decent performance look like he gave up a sack that he performed perfectly on. Lots of missed hot routes.

    Lots of positives to cling to as you pointed out, but RW supposed to be one of the top 5 QB’s and didn’t perform as needed or expected.

    Agreed on Bailey. Gift horse right in front of them.

    Pass rush is a problem to no surprise, however gotta blitz more with that being the case.

  7. I suspect the Lion’s fans would gladly trade Stafford’s “poorest game of his pro career” for Wilson’s.

  8. Lets all overreact! I thought you stated things well, Brian, like always. It is the first game, in a tough location, with changes in personnel (like Baldwin hurt). But everyone is looking for a bus to through RW under. Incredible.

    1. My difference would be, just as Penny has shown nothing, I feel either has Shaquim.
      He is fast so will always get to the pile for a ‘tackle’ but have not seen anything about him that screams star, let alone starter.
      Calitro is better so far.

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