The Morning After: Seahawks Stop Playing with their Food, Finish Cards 27-10
You can see the look on their face. You know it is coming. The person next to you is about to sneeze. They hold up their finger to pause the world around them and draw in air as their face scrunches in preparation for the inevitable eruption. And then nothing happens. They exhale and pensively contemplate whether the episode has passed, only to realize the wave is building again as they prepare for the screaming sneeze. Everyone watches and waits, and then it passes again with no pay off. Finally, mercifully, the person inhales rapidly before unleashing a satisfying sneeze that allows everyone to get back to work. Welcome to the 2019 Seahawks season. A team that has appeared capable of a complete victory over an inferior opponent finally delivered on the promise.
Seattle has played one game this year that they should have probably lost, and that was the first week against the Bengals. Each week since then, they have been a team punching themselves in the groin as often as they delivered haymakers to opponents. It has been painful and awkward and not nearly as funny as it sounds.
A return to their home away from home in Arizona was just what the fight doctor ordered. As the local media tried to oddly create a storyline of State Farm Stadium (formerly University of Phoenix Stadium) being a house of horrors for Seattle, the Seahawks went in there and continued their seven year unbeaten streak (6-0-1). If that’s a curse, I’d like to order one of those in LA and San Francisco please.
Seattle came out strong. They scored a field goal on their first drive, returned an interception for a touchdown, and then drove 75 yards for another touchdown to take a 17-3 lead. They punted only once in the first half and were ahead by a 20-3 margin that felt like an appropriate representation of the difference between the two teams.
That has rarely been the case for the Seahawks this year, especially in the first half. The passing game was crisp. The offensive line was blocking well in both pass protection and the run game. Chris Carson was getting four yards more often than getting dropped behind the line.
The defense was similarly solid. There were sacks by Mychal Kendricks, the pick-six by Jadeveon Clowney, and an impressive sack from Rasheem Green. Coverage on receivers was solid, and tackling was better, if not great.
A slumbering third quarter that saw neither team score, felt frustratingly like Seattle playing to kill the clock more than to finish the game. That could have come back to bite them as the Cardinals finally found their way into the endzone to pull the game back to within 10 points with over ten minutes left in the fourth quarter.
As weak as the Cardinals looked in this game, they have tied a previously undefeated Lions team that barely lost to the Chiefs on Sunday, and lost by six on the road to the Ravens. No NFL team should be toyed with when you have them on the ropes.
Thankfully, Seattle saved its best drive for the end when they went 15 plays for 75 yards in over eight minutes to finally put the Cardinals on the mat for good.
Chris Carson was marvelous in this game. He ran hard, breaking at least a half-dozen tackles and possibly twice that many. It was the performance he needed, and the team needed from him.
It was wise of the Seahawks to hold Rashaad Penny out knowing there was a Thursday night game this week against the Rams. Carson will be incredibly sore after this game, and will need Penny to take a good chunk of the load. He should be fresh and ready to do just that.
Russell Wilson was terrific once again. He became the first Seahawks quarterback to start a season with four straight games of 100+ passer rating. His 118.7 rating ranks second in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes (120.4). There were probably a couple of plays he could have made, including a touchdown to an open David Moore before the end of the first half, but he was decisive and accurate most of the day.
The blocking by the offensive line had to be one of the more encouraging aspects of the game. This group was expected to be a strength of this team. When all else failed, the expectation was that these maulers could pave the way for a dependable running game. That has not been the case.
There were signs that they are starting to find their chemistry with Mike Iupati in the lineup after he missed all of preseason. He had a number of key blocks to spring Carson for big gains. There were also no penalties on the line for the first time all season.
Will Dissly was terrific again, and became the first tight end since Heath Miller in 2005 to start his career with 6 TDs in his first 8 games. Luke Willson returned and immediately made the Steelers look even more foolish for surrendering a 5th round pick for an inferior player in Nick Vannett.
If you want to nitpick, the dwindling impact of D.K. Metcalf is a concern. He had one catch in four targets. The use of him seemed uninspired. I was happy to see them throw a quick swing pass to him and let him utilize his strength to bull ahead for six yards. That should be a staple in this offense. Targeting him only on go routes is limiting his ability to help the team.
The offense looks like a top ten unit. They have the parts and the field general to get into the top five by the end of the year if things go well. The defense looks like a middle-of-the-pack unit with the potential to grow into a top ten group by the end of the year.
Believe it or not, the Seahawks rank 8th in the NFL in total defense after four games, giving up 319 yards per contest. They gave up 353 yards per game a season ago.
Shaquill Griffin clearly has taken a step forward and is a solid starter at corner. It is hard to point to any other player who is clearly playing better than a year ago. K.J. Wright has been on the field, which is an improvement. Al Woods is better than Shamar Stephen. Mychal Kendricks is better than Barkevious Mingo, but is he better than Justin Coleman? Kendricks is taking the snaps usually assigned to the nickel corner, and it is not clear the team is better off for it.
Bobby Wagner has not been elite yet. Clowney and Ziggy Ansah have been okay, but not intimidatingly good. Poona Ford has been quiet. All the safeties have been mediocre at best. Same goes for Tre Flowers.
Yet, collectively, this group feels like it has a spine that could solidify into something more powerful than last year. Jarran Reed is two weeks from returning. Ansah is working his way back into game shape. Guys like Green and Quinton Jefferson look like capable contributors.
The ceiling may be good, and not elite, but that could be enough to give this team a chance if this offense can realize their potential.
They now face a Rams team coming off a shocking loss at home to the Bucs. The Rams have been carried by their defense this season, but that group just gave up 55 points at home and may be without Marcus Peters and Taylor Rapp on a short week. Jared Goff is looking far more vulnerable this season and Todd Gurley has been a shadow of himself so far. Their offensive line is struggling after losing two starters from last season through free agency.
None of that means the Seahawks enter this game as the favorite. The Rams are the better team until the Seahawks prove otherwise. They played two close and high scoring games last year. The outcome of this next game will go a long ways toward setting the stage for the season.
This comfortable win over Arizona hopefully indicates the early season sniffles are behind the Seahawks. Rarely has a 3-1 start been so aggravating. They should be ready to measure themselves against the reigning NFC Champions. The nation will be watching.