The Morning After: Seahawks Mix Old Flaws with New Talent for 21-20 Win Over Bengals

Hello aggravation, my old friend. It is that time of the year. Seattle skies are are waging an epic battle between summer sun and autumn storms. Reluctant whispers have begun about days getting shorter. Northwest berries have lost their vibrance. And your Seattle Seahawks are driving you absolutely bonkers. It must be September.

Seattle struggled once again in a season opener against what was expected to be a vastly inferior opponent. The fact that they struggled should not have been a surprise. They came into the game 4-5 in season openers under Pete Carroll, and have not won their first game since 2016 when they had a similarly teeth-grinding 12-10 victory against the woeful Miami Dolphins.

Aggravation only comes when there is a disparity between your expectations and reality. There were a litany of errors in setting my expectations for this game:

  1. Ezekiel Ansah did not play, turning what could have been a major advantage into a far smaller one
  2. The Bengals were awful last season on offense and defense. New head coach Zac Taylor looks like a good one who will lead this team to a far better 2019 than anyone expected. That was not a six win team out there.
  3. The Seahawks offensive line had looked improved in pass protection. They were arguably worse than a season ago and brought back memories of the J’Marcus Webb era.
  4. I thought Brian Schottenheimer was going to incorporate more intermediate throws and screens that require less time to develop.
  5. The Seahawks run game was going to be the one constant this offense could rely on.
  6. I believed Tedric Thompson was capable of basic athletic functions.

The offensive line aspect sticks out because I continue to too generous in my projections of the talent on that line. Germain Ifedi whiffed so badly on his opponents you would have thought they had converted to gaseous form.

There is a lot more to complain about—and I probably will—but let’s focus for a bit on what we may have learned in this game.

Tyler Lockett is not a #1 receiver yet

This might have been my most egregious mistake in analysis. I believed Lockett had ascended to the top-tier of receivers and would continue to be great this year. He can be, but it will be because he grew and developed, not because he is already there.

Lockett was honest about the fact that he had not seen double-teams like the Bengals threw at him since his college days. Doug Baldwin Jr. was the guy who often commanded that kind of coverage. Lockett benefitted from Baldwin in ways we are all still coming to grips with.

This is something Lockett, Russell Wilson, and Schottenheimer need to work on together. It’s on all of them. This offense will not function if Lockett is getting two targets in a game like he did Sunday.

The good news is I believe Lockett can make the necessary adjustments. We will learn in week two what kind of trajectory this trek is going to take.

D.K. Metcalf is going to be just fine

There was some delightful irony in D.K. Metcalf making his first two NFL receptions on slant routes considering many scouts said he could only run go routes straight down the field. He did that as well in a performance that stood out on a number of levels.

He broke the Seahawks rookie record for receiving yards (89) in a player’s first game that had been held for 43 years by Steve Largent. He also became just the sixth player age 21 or younger to have that many receiver yards in their first game. Two of the other five guys to do it were Randy Moss and DeSean Jackson. Not a bad way to start a career.

Metcalf did more than pile up numbers. He made plays that mattered. The Seahawks first touchdown came after Metcalf drew a pass interference penalty in the endzone to set up Chris Carson’s 1-yard run. Their second touchdown came after Wilson completed a 42 yard pass to Metcalf down the left sideline. Seattle’s third touchdown came after Wilson threw a miraculous teardrop pass to Metcalf on third down for 25 yards to set the stage for Lockett’s long grab to start the fourth quarter.

All three of the Seahawks touchdowns were enabled by crucial plays from Metcalf. That is some #adulting for the youngster.

As encouraging as Metcalf’s performance was in his debut, it would be a mistake to think any rookie is qualified to carry a similar load throughout their first season. Seattle needs more from others.

One last note on Metcalf was that, according the NFL Next Gen Stats, Metcalf made his plays with only about a yard of separation from his defenders. The negative interpretation there is his route running is not great. The positive is that he does not need separation to make plays due to his size and strength. That makes him a far bigger headache for opposing defenses.

Quinton Jefferson can help

That was some kind of game from Quinton Jefferson. Don’t write off that 2016 draft class quite yet. Jefferson recorded a third of his career 6.0 sacks in this game and had 3 QB hits to go along with them. He also swatted two passes out of the air.

Jefferson was the starting 5T defensive end last season but came into the league as a defensive tackle. That is what he was playing yesterday, often lining up next to Jadeveon Clowney.

He will face better offensive lines, but that does not take anything away from the fact that he delivered against this one. Many lineman feast on inferior opponents.

Jefferson was one guy who took a very promising preseason and translated it into the regular season, at least for one game. That can only help knowing the team gets Jarran Reed back after five more games.

Shaquill Griffin looks better

Many folks are going to focus on the 418 yards passing by Andy Dalton and assume the secondary was terrible. The Seahawks played a lot of zone coverage from what I could see. That generally allowed the Bengals to complete shorter passes underneath and took away deeper throws.

It also gave fewer opportunities for the corners to demonstrate their man coverage skills. Shaquill Griffin made three very impressive plays when he was in man.

He broke on a ball an knocked it away on a stick route. With the Bengals leading 17-14 in the second quarter and driving for more points, Dalton saw John Ross streaking down the seam and lofted a pass that appeared destined for a big completion. Griffin was defending his man on the right sideline but had his eyes on the ball and saw Ross was uncovered so he slid over and knocked the ball away. The Bengals would later turnover the ball on downs.

Finally, the Bengals jumped at the snap but the players did not hear the whistle and Dalton lofted another deep pass 50+ yards downfield to Ross. This time, Griffin was matched up on the NFL’s fastest man, and ran with him stride-for-stride before diving and swatting the ball away. It did not count in the official stat book, but you better believe it counted in Griffin’s mind.

Despite the gaudy Bengals passing numbers, Griffin had a performance that left me encouraged.

Al Woods could be darn good

This was one of the darkhorse signings that I’ve had my eye on and Woods did nothing to dissuade me from that perspective in this game. He was the player who stuffed the Bengals on 4th down to get the ball back in the first half. He also drew a huge holding penalty down near the Seahawks goal line to push the Bengals back and force them to settle for a field goal that turned out to be their final points.

The defensive tackle depth looks promising pending word on Poona Ford’s injury.

Jadeveon Clowney is a beast

The new defensive end was close to unblockable for the first half before wearing down a bit in the second half. There was a stark contrast in the pass rush when he was in versus when he was not. Rasheem Green and Branden Jackson are just not quality pass rushers at this point.

I continue to question why the team kept Jackson over a guy like Cassius Marsh. This is part of why I would have much rather given up a guy like Rashaad Penny than a guy like Jacob Martin in the deal for Clowney. We have no idea if that was an option, but my point is that the defensive end situation is not great when either Ansah or Clowney are not on the field. When both of them are off the field, it’s downright bad.

Granted, Green made the game-sealing strip sack, but he was not a factor for most of the day against really poor tackles for the Bengals.

Clowney, on the other hand, should continue to get better as he gets his wind back and benefits from the return of Ansah.

Tedric Thompson needs to go

I am not sure a single NFL team would pick up Thompson if the Seahawks were to cut him today. If they did, I am certain he would not start for any of them. Thompson had one of the easiest plays a safety will ever see in the closing seconds of the first half when Dalton lofted a jump ball right to Thompson.

There was plenty of time to track the ball, position himself, and make either a simple interception or swat the ball down. Instead, he misjudged the flight of the ball and gave up a touchdown that very well could have cost his team the game.

Think about it. As poorly as the Seahawks played, they would have won by 8 points if Thompson makes that basic play. It was inexcusable.

The Seahawks need to make a change. Any change. Play Lano Hill or Marquise Blair. Sign DeShawn Shead. Just do not keep running Thompson out there and expect he will all-of-a-sudden be a competent NFL athlete.

Overall impressions

People will scream at me for saying it, but I left mostly encouraged by the defense. Yes, they gave up a ton of yards through the air, but much of it came in zone coverage underneath. They ended up allowing 20 points, had four sacks and five QB hits, and locked down the running game.

It felt like the parts were there for a defense that could become much better than I expected as the season rolls on, but we will certainly learn a lot more in the coming weeks against Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and others.

The offense was a huge disappointment. Nathan Ernst was teasing me in the post-game show last night that the team ran more in this game than they did last season against the Broncos in the opener and the offense was still bad. That is true.

What also is true is that the Wilson did not throw an interception because the team limited pass attempts after seeing the line was a mess. He threw two last year in the first game. He was also sacked two fewer times. Oh, and the Seahawks won this game.

This type of performance will not win many games. Lockett needs to improve. The line needs to steady. Schottenheimer needs to make better and faster adjustments.

How this team was still calling slow-developing play action passes in the second half was beyond explanation. That they did not have outlet passes for Wilson in case of pressure may point more to a reluctance of Wilson to utilize those options than to Schottenheimer’s unwillingness to offer them.

Nothing gets any easier heading into Pittsburgh next week against a team that just got blown out in New England and will be desperate to avoid an 0-2 start. Seattle can win that game, but not with the way they played on Sunday. Time to turn over a new leaf.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. Why should this season be any different from the others in the PC era? Slow starts in seasons and games are a hallmark. What it spawns from I can’t pinpoint other than Pete repeats often that he doesn’t care how they start, it’s how they finish. Well, apparently the guys take that “I don’t care……” to heart. Even in the glory years just a few ago they had some stinkers. Those teams recovered quickly, this one may not be there yet. It would be a safe bet that next week is going to be ugly, not all that different from last year. Those two sacks improvement over the Denver opener last season might be made up for in Pburgh.

    Wilson reluctance you mention near the end of your commentary is real though not often noticed. For all his abilities and winning ways there are a small number of traits he repeats that appear based in risk avoidance. He hangs onto the ball too long, taking sacks as a result. A receiver doesn’t play the way he likes, he mostly ignores him for the rest of the game, maybe season. Lockett will get a pass for that uncharacteristic drop because they have so much history, and he’s the best option for Russ. Which makes me extra happy to see that Russ has so much faith in DK so early. I was much more reserved on Metcalf than most because I wanted to see (not just hope) if that connection was real, and functioned in real games. Yesterday it looked real, let’s see more of that (it would help Lockett too). And Metcalf shows he’s got his head on straight too. In post game interview he was wearing a tribute Jersey………………..#80…………classy. Maybe a little swagger too, as if to say, “This guy was the best and I want to replace him in that.” Not a bad goal. We’ll see.

    Like last season the O line started really shaky, which bodes badly for next week if repeated. Brown looked his age. Ifedi reminds why he didn’t get a 5th year option pick up. Fluk looked good enough and Britt (with a scare) was serviceable. Pocic may finally be coming into the form we hoped he would from the beginning. I have no faith in Iupati so Pocic is all the more critical for me. They are playing into form a bit slowly for a mostly carry over unit from last season which isn’t too reassuring.

    We’re in trouble at tight end, especially if Dissly was rushed into service prematurely. The running game will be similar if/when the line gets right and injury doesn’t bite.

    On defense we’re going to need T2 to start for awhile longer. He’s the sacrificial lamb to fill the Not Earl role. Whomever replaces T2 will have the good fortune of being compared to him and not Earl and no matter his level of play it will always be forgiven as “not as bad as T2”.

    The secondary is still evolving. For all that PC is touted as a guru of the secondary, he still has to rely on his position coaches to aptly apply the scheme. Sure, it’s up to the players to have the skills and football aptitude, but coaching matters. I’m still skeptical about Norton’s abilities as DC, he may have been promoted to his level of incompetence. He’s a darn good line backer coach, which might be part of our problem yesterday because we seemed to rely on base, three LB line ups too often. I hope that didn’t happen because they don’t have any confidence in the backup CBs and slot coverage. Speaking of promotion to the level of incompetence, Dan Quinn might be available to fill a DC role again……………….something to think about.

    The D line was pretty good for a season opener, especially with a guy who’s only been on the team a week. It appeared often that he got help from the other guys about where to line up for a given scheme, but his native ability and athleticism shined none the less. Once those guys get used to working together we might have something there. Is this QJeff’s year to do what Reed did last year? I hope so. For all that the non-starters get panned here, they are adequate rotational pieces with upside, modest as it may be. Ansah may not ever be a significant factor, time will tell. But when Clowney gets to full strength/integration, the attention he’ll draw should allow the other guys to exploit the less accomplished O lines they face.

    This team will give us some excitement this year, and no shortage of frustration. Those that started to succumb to the thoughts that adding Clowney meant the path to the Super Bowl was ours were fan silly. I’m still at 10-6 as the ceiling, and with a smidge of bad luck here and there it could be a tad worse. They’ll be on the wild card bubble, and could fall off just by the numbers. As these guys, especially the younger talents, get used to playing together though, we could be setting up for a good season next year. Not a bad objective, though most fans don’t have the patience for that.

    1. It is the first game of the season. Something will change, but something will remain unchanged as the season progresses. OL will get better or at least back to be “average” as last season. Never high on Brown, but he is the best Seattle has. Ifedi’s experiment needs to be over. Pocic had a good game, but let’s see the rest of the season, not sold on him. Britt and Fluker will be steady serviceable.
      That is true about RW holding on to the ball. But as you know, this offense is not good enough to maintain drives, so throwing the ball away and getting to 2nd or 3rd and long will be detrimental. Three and out is the norm for this team. I believe they led the league or in the top 5 in past years. They need to make at least 4 to 5 explosive plays (usually determine an outcome of an NFL game), so the trade-off between getting sacked and big plays are worthed (RW’s historical output)
      The secondary won’t get better as the talent level is not there. You need to have talents first and get better with coaching. They could have had Eddie Jackson, instead of Thompson. This is a reflection of how bad the talent evaluation has been since Scot’s departure. Let’s put that into some perspective, since 2012 (last “jackpot”), 58 picks, no positional All-Pro/Pro Bowler except for a punter (discount return specialist.) That should tell you something.
      This team will be 10-6/9-7 and probably will make the playoffs with an easy schedule based from last year record. But it will be one and done unless they get home field. They need to re-think if that happened. PC needs to go and be adaptable to the new NFL game with new faces, philosophy, and innovated minds.

  2. Good analysis overall Brian. Couple thoughts/concerns:

    – Why did it look like our O line regressed? Discouraging.
    – Why would Lockett be surprised to be double teamed?? It happens to all #1s at some point
    – How was TT other than that terrible play? I’d be perfectly fine with letting Blair learn on the job.
    – Totally agree on the short passing game, this has to become a staple. When Russ plants and throws like that short pass to Dissly, tough to defend. And really hope Uncle Will is gonna be okay.

    I’m still bullish on this season (10-11 wins), would have liked to see a couple other guys targeted like Brown or Prosise, but it’s darn early.

    As always, appreciate your takes.

  3. Brian, couldn’t agree more that “still calling slow-developing play action passes in the second half was beyond explanation.” Hopefully they identify the root cause of it this week. If it’s Schotty, man, he’s just not a good play-caller (in-game adjustments, anyone?). If it’s Russ, he needs to figure out who his safety valve is! Those repeated pathetic 1/2 second chip blocks leading to near-immediate pressures and sacks were inexplicable.

    The sooner T2 goes, the better. As noted on Twitter last night, Dion Bailey was cut for lesser offenses than T2’s. At this point it seems really unclear what he brings to the table that others do not.

    1. Good OCs could make or break a QB. Zac Taylor was an unknown besides being a Sean McVay’s underling. He made AD looked like a HOF yesterday, granted with a lot of help from our secondary and defensive scheme. We have seen this pattern before, offensive philosophy, and scheme, since PC’s arrival. It will not evolve, so don’t hold your breath.
      Regarding RW, he is what he is. He holds on to the ball to make big plays as this team is not good enough, offensively, to maintain drives. The trade-off between getting sacked and explosive plays are worthed under this system. You only need to make 4 or 5 big plays per game to determine an outcome of the game.

  4. The schedule is pretty brutal and I thought going into the season that our playoff odds were 50/50. I might downgrade that after seeing my worst fears were well founded yesterday.
    For all the “Carroll is a secondary genius” the evidence is starting to mount that the reason for his initial success was having ET, Sherm and Kam. I give you Exhibit A: Tedric Thompson. Why the heck is this guy our starting safety? If PC is such a secondary genius, why didn’t he see T2’s suckitude? If PC is so great at coaching up his DB’s, why does T2 still have such immense suckitude going into yet another season.
    Tre Flowers led the team in tackles. That’s how bad Tre Flowers was Sunday. I’m hoping Blair is ready to replace T2 soon. That day can’t come fast enough.

    I saw what we all saw: Oline get ripped apart and secondary get ripped apart.

    Okay, dismay and gloom part over. Now for some rational thought: Talking to a sports writer from Cincy last week, I was told that there was excitement for the Bengals pass rush this season. “Expect to be surprised” I was warned. So I won’t be too critical of the O line woes for game 1 because I suspect he knew what he was talking about.

    After the game, PC didn’t seem phased about the pass yardage given up, saying, “That was part of our gameplan.” Okay, maybe he’s got Joe Biden disease and the mental faculties are going because 400+ yds passing cannot be part of the game plan. Or maybe he’s PC crazy like a fox because giving up the underneath passing game, make Andy Dalton beat you philosophy seemed to work. They bent, but didn’t break. Except T2, who is just busted.

    What does it mean for the future? You can’t bet against a Pete Carroll Seahawks team after a slow start game one. They won, that’s something it took three weeks to do last season when they still made the playoffs.

    1. Based on last year record, Seattle has one of the easiest schedules in the league. Regarding the secondary, you need to have talent first before you can get better with coaching. The biggest issue this team has since the last SB appearance is the talent evaluation and draft choices. It doesn’t matter if PC is a “genius” in certain areas if you don’t have the talents. PC only knows only one way and does not know how to adapt or just being stubborn. Who knows? Btw, PC has authority on all personnel matter, including the draft.

  5. I don’t understand the knee jerk love for the coaching staff. PC should hire a creative OC and stick to the D. (Not gonna happen). I give Ken Norton a pass. (Ken lets me live another week, but, hey, what up Mr. Solari? You call that an OL? I know—–wait till nxt week.

    Ifedi not a bad pick for a 6th rounder. (Jamarco/Fant to replace or wake up Mr. G.I., please). Enough is enough. Here’s hoping they don’t resign a 1st round turnstile. (We cd have had Watt Jr.) but no.

    Plain vanilla offense forever—We’re used to it. (Imagine Russ w/ Reid or Bellichick. (Instead he’s the game’s best mgr. @ 35 mil per, thanks to pete and schotty.)

    Yeah, let’s see Blair. Time to move on from TT. And keep Penny outside (not gonna happen).

    Hawks lucked out. Different dialogues in blog-sphere today, if not for that missed FG and rain slippery INT. (Nice catch, Al Woods).

    I guess a SB victory = lifetime tenure.

    1. So true, but nothing will happen unless PC is no longer the coach. Seattle fans should get used to it by now.

      1. We’ve missed the playoffs twice in 9 seasons under Pete. I’m fine with Pete. There will come a day when he’s gone and we remember what being sucky was like.

  6. DK Metcalf breaks opening game receiving record ….cough cough Will Dissly technicality cough cough

  7. Was it just me or did the Hawks run the Read-Option 20 or so plays throughout but didn’t let RW run until a couple times late in the 4thQ? Seemed like there was nothing but daylight every time. Here’s hoping that the offense gets a bit more unpredictable very soon.

    1. “Didn’t let”? RW makes the read and takes or doesn’t take the option. There’s no “let”. They called it. That he decided not to take it is on him.

  8. This is like reading 3 logical columns in 1. Thanks Brian and thanks y’all.
    A win’s a win. Frustrating but good game. Never thought the Bengals would come out like that.

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