The Morning After: Seahawks Stack Up Convincing Road Wins, Stoke Playoff Fire
My mom hates surprises. Family lore includes the tale of my father ignoring all warnings and arranging a surprise birthday party for her at a restaurant. They exited the vehicle, went inside, friends and family yelled, “Surprise!” and my mom walked out. I, on the other hand, love a good surprise. The world gets pretty boring when everything goes as expected. Know-it-alls think they have life figured out, but are actually missing the splendor that comes with the discovery of being wrong. Ignorance is bliss is ways many do not understand. One of the persistent pleasures of sport is knowing so much about it and still being faced with the humility of being wrong on the regular. This Seahawks win over the Lions was just the latest happy example.
Never in my wildest dreams did I see the Seahawks building a 28-7 lead in Detroit. I certainly did not expect the defense to hold Lions running back Kerryon Johnson to 22 yards on 8 carries for 2.8 yards per rush. Holding Golden Tate to 50 yards receiving on 7 receptions (7.1 yards per catch) and Kenny Golladay to 12 yards on 1 catch was shocking. Sacking Matthew Stafford three times after his offensive line came into the game as one of the best pass blocking crews in the league was eye-opening. Seeing our Aussie punter run farther out of our own end zone (9 yards) than any Lions rusher did on the day (7 yards) broke my brain.
All those surprises combined with more predictable greatness to create bountiful bundles of glee. That was fun, right? It was like if a game could be formed by a Seahawks fans wish list:
– Run the ball down their throats even when they know it’s coming
42 carries for 176 yards. check
– Give Chris Carson the chance to dominate
25 carries for 105 yards and a badass touchdown. check
– Give David Moore the chance to showcase his immense talent
4 catches in 4 targets for a team-leading 97 yards and a touchdown. check
– Keep making Tyler Lockett’s contract look like a steal
Another touchdown gives him 6 on the season, good for third in the NFL. check
– Give us some hope that Ed Dickson can help the shaky tight end position
2 catches. One for 42 yards and the other for a contested touchdown. check
– Pass the ball with deadly efficiency
Russell Wilson becomes the first quarterback in Seahawks history to throw a perfect game (min 10 pass attempts) with a 158.3 rating. check
– Hold a damn good offense with talent at every position under 20 points in their house
This is getting ridiculous, but sure. check
– Create a bunch of turnovers and giveaway none
Three takeaways, including a pivotal one on special teams and no turnovers. check
– Give me some hope that Dion Jordan can help the pass rush
Well, now we are getting obscure, but he definitely looked healthier and more impactful than at any other point this season. check
I seriously could go on. How about intercepting Stafford at the goalline after a super aggravating pass interference penalty? Or K.J. Wright coming back and playing well? Or Frank Clark moving past Cortez Kennedy with 28.5 sacks in his first four seasons, with 9 games left to go? Even Akeem King deserves props after a terrific day covering punts.
Seahawks games are not usually this comfortable. Seattle has had two laughers in a row. This game could have been a blowout had the team scored from the one-inch line on fourth down when Nick Vannett stepped out. By the way, the loss of down part of that rule is weird. Why do you lose a down when stepping out of bounds but not for something like offensive pass interference or holding?
By far the biggest surprise for me in this game was how the defense was able to slow down the Lions offense. This is one of the more talented receiving crews in the league, with a solid quarterback and a good pass-blocking offensive line. I entered this game expecting the Seahawks defense to be exposed. I did not expect the pass rush we saw against the sorry Raiders line to show up. The secondary remained a major question mark in my mind. Put those two things together against this offense, and I was braced for 30+ points from the Lions. They did not reach half that total.
It is worth pointing out that a big part of the formula for slowing the Lions offense was an offense that ran the clock and played keepaway. Seattle finished with a season-best 34 minutes and 55 seconds of possession. The Lions got the ball once in the first quarter. Thanks to Tedric Thompson forcing a fumble on a kickoff, the Lions only got the ball twice in the second quarter. But the defense forced the Lions to punt on both of those possessions.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks offense was dominant. They went 75 yards for a touchdown on their second possession, finishing a series of punishing runs with one of the prettiest throws of Wilson’s career into Lockett’s hands. Then they turned that turnover on the kickoff into another seven by giving Moore another chance to make a play on a contested catch. He tipped the ball up and back and into his hands while the defender fell screaming in agony and shame. Moore was not done. On the next possession, he sent another Lions defender crying to mama with a 27-yard catch so unbelievable that Seahawks fans were angry at Pete Carroll for challenging the call of an incomplete pass.
Moore is my latest mancrush. He may have even pulled slightly ahead of Carson. I said on Real Hawk Talk this week that I think he has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. Most people thought that was crazy, and most people still do. He can run. He can jump. He can gain separation with both physical and technical skills. He makes great contested catches with strong hands. He runs after the catch. There have been precious few Seahawks receivers who has had the combination of physical gifts Moore has. Sidney Rice comes to mind, but he was not built to take a pounding the way Moore is. Joey Galloway is the best athlete Seattle has had at the position. He was faster than Moore, could jump higher, and even had more strength. Moore is rare.
That does not mean he is destined to be an All-Pro, but he is exactly the type of young talent who could explode with Wilson throwing the ball the way he is right now. Wilson is throwing it far less, but his efficiency is off the charts. He broke the franchise record for yards per attempt yesterday with 14.6 yards per throw. That is insane. He was 6-7 on 3rd down with a touchdown. His only incompletion was a drop by Vannett. He has 3 passing touchdowns in three straight games for the first time since 2015. He also has three straight games of 125+ passer rating for the first time since 2015.
Remember that 2015 stretch of play that we all started wondering whether it would ever happen again? It’s kinda happening, folks.
Now there will be a vocal contingent of Seahawks fans who will try to cool your jets and tamp down your excitement. They will tell you the Seahawks have not beat anyone good. The Lions? Who cares that they trashed the Patriots or beat the Packers? Seattle just did what they were supposed to do. Let me give you a brief field guide to your Seahawks fan safari. Steer clear of those folks. If they approach you, smile and nod and move along. Drop a pin on your map to remember where they are so you can circle back in a couple weeks after the Seahawks beat the Rams in LA.
Crazy talk? I don’t think so. People know they are going to run the ball, and they cannot stop them. People know they have unproven players on defense and still struggle to score on them. Receivers are making plays while coverage is tight. Pass protection is slowing even the best pass rushers. These are characteristics of a football team that plays well wherever they go and against any opponent. Seattle also plays 6 of their final 9 games at home. As of now, they are the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. They are about to make a lot of teams and prognosticators very uncomfortable. Whether they like surprises or not, humility and humble pie awaits those who have doubted or continue to doubt this team. The Seahawks are back.