The Morning After: A Silent Victory that Echoed Through the NFL
This was a signature Seahawks moment. It goes on the shelf alongside Tony Romo’s fumbled snap in the playoffs (at the same endzone), the Fail Mary (same endzone), Jay Feely missing multiple game-winning field goals (same endzone), Luke Willson’s impossible two-point conversion against the Packers (same endzone), and many more. Yet, there were less fans there to witness it than you would see at a Pop Warner football game. Boundaryless embraces with strangers, ear-splitting chaos, and gravity-defying leaps of 70,000 people were replaced with stillness and silence. Perhaps, this fanbase has infused enough love and magic in this stadium to last a few more weeks before turnstiles hopefully spin once again. In the meantime, the Seahawks are making plenty of noise on their own.
The cycles of life are soothing. The Sun rises. The Sun sets. We inhale. We exhale. Seahawks endure heartbreak at the 1-yard line for passing. Patriots fans endure heartbreak at the 1-yard line for running. Humans are programmed to find patterns. This one was about as simple to identify as a checkerboard.
In fact, this was the second straight time the Patriots have failed to win the game from inside the Seahawks 2-yard line as time expired. It could happen 50 straight times in the regular season and not assuage the agony of the one Seahawks occurence in the Super Bowl, but it certainly beats more heartbreak.
Pete Carroll is now undefeated against Bill Belichick in the regular season. No other coach can claim that who has played Belichick at least three times since 2010. It was Carroll who called Bobby Wagner over before the final play and told him to expect a run to the right. It was Carroll who fired his entire coaching staff after the 2017 season and hired Brian Schottenheimer when we all thought it was a bad idea. It was Carroll who gave a rookie quarterback a chance to win a starting job after they had signed a pricey veteran.
The Let Russ Cook movement is in full swing, but the reality is Schottenheimer is the chef who sets the menu, and Carroll who manages the restaurant. Wilson’s excellence cannot be separated from the environment in which it occurs. They all have been brilliant through two weeks of the season.
Wilson has been the best player in football. His 5 touchdown passes tied for the most ever by a quarterback against a Belichick defense in New England. Drew Brees is the only other player to do it (2009). His 4 touchdown passes to receivers in this game tied the amount the Patriots secondary gave up all last season to wideouts. His 9 touchdown passes through two weeks is the second-most in NFL history behind only Patrick Mahomes 10 in 2018. His 82.5% completion percentage is the highest in NFL history through two weeks of the season (min 50 pass attempts).
We are witnessing history. We saw these sorts of breathtaking numbers from the Legion of Boom defense years ago, and now we are seeing them on offense. Maybe this old coach deserves a bit more credit for adapting to the talent he has.
Completing a pass is never just the accomplishment of one person. It takes a symphony.
The offensive line deserves recognition for a job well done so far. We have not seen the sub-2 second sacks of years past. A group that includes three new starters and had no off-season or preseason games to build chemistry, is performing admirably. Wilson has largely been a pocket passer so far. Because there has been a pocket to pass from.
There is reason to believe this group could get better. They showed their physical side as well in the second half when they started leaning on the Patriots front seven in the run game. We even saw quietly good stint from Jamarco Jones at left tackle after Duane Brown left with an ankle injury for a few snaps.
Wilson has been sacked just five times in 68 dropbacks, and at least three of those sacks were not on the offensive line. That is quite a big change from what we have witnessed the past few seasons.
The receivers have been stellar. Tyler Lockett has been his Mr. Perfect again, catching 15 passes in 16 targets. David Moore has caught all six of the passes thrown his way, including the best catch of the night for a long touchdown. Freddie Swain has caught both of the passes thrown his way, including his first career touchdown, while quietly building hope John Schneider has found another keeper at wide receiver. Then, there is DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf.
The most physically dominant receiver in the NFL made it a point to push the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year all around the football field. He pummeled him on run blocks. He slammed into him in coverage. He tossed him aside on a 54-yard touchdown catch. Metcalf was not just trying to beat Stephon Gilmore, he was trying to break him. This was a second year player trying to force the best corner in the game into submission. If Metcalf can get Gilmore to slide his finger into his belt loop, the rest of the league will need to bow to a new king.
I do not believe we have seen the best from Metcalf. He has the ability to completely take over a game once he puts it all together. This is a guy who could string together multiple games of over 200 yards receiving. That he is this good while only achieving 20% of his potential is like having a Mike Tyson hook waiting to be deployed while delivering Muhammad Ali fists of fury.
It is hard to say this offense can get more efficient, but they can get better. The line, the receiving corps (both the players they have and the ones they will get when Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett return), the running game, and the tight ends all have room to grow.
They might need all of that growth to overcome what has been a troubled defense. No team in the NFL has surrendered more yards than the Seahawks. The pass rush has been even less effective than I hoped. The secondary play has been uneven at best.
Losing Quandre Diggs to disqualification and Marquise Blair to what looked like a season-ending injury made life difficult for the secondary. The Seahawks clearly came in with the game plan to stop the Patriots rushing offense. They did that.
New England had just 67 yards rushing and under 3.0 yards per carry. Cam Newton was fantastic through the air. He may never have been more accurate.
Ken Norton Jr. has been asking his secondary to cover a lot with blitzes that leave them with fewer players on the backend. Their safety is their best pass rusher, which means less help over the top.
The corners appeared to be better last night if you can believe it. A lot of the completed passes were coming against safeties and linebackers. Quinton Dunbar nearly had a pick-six and did get his first interception of the year. Shaquill Griffin has a quiet night, which was likely a good sign he was doing his job. The Dunbar pick was a critical turning point in the game that allowed the Seahawks to create some separation.
Ugo Amadi had what seemed like a very strong performance coming off the bench. His coverage was tight and his tackling was excellent.
Diggs would have made a difference in this game. How much is impossible to say. Jamal Adams was both excellent and problematic last night. He gave up a lot in coverage and missed a third down sack on Newton that led to Patriot points. He also tackled Newton later that drive on third down to force a field goal and broke up a two-point conversion that proved crucial in the final outcome.
I believe we will find that the Falcons and Patriots offenses are among the best in the NFL this season. That said, this defense looks like it is in the bottom third of the league at this point.
The pass rush was nonexistent. I did notice that the linemen were being very cautious in their initial rush to defend against Newton scrambles and runs. The coaches were clearly telling them not to get too far upfield. Even with that factored in, there was no juice when they needed it in the fourth quarter.
Bringing in a veteran or two is almost a must. Give Ziggy Ansah another shot. Sign Clay Matthews or Jabaal Sheard. Sign Dion Jordan off the 49ers practice squad.
It is time to see what Alton Robinson can do. Damontre Moore looks more effective than any other end on the roster and deserves more snaps. It is inexcusable that a team this good is being held back by a roster gap the front office could have filled dozens of different ways this offseason. Do not let ego get in the way of looking for any and all ways to improve the defensive line.
There is no shortage of irony that the game’s ultimate moment came down to the defensive line making a play. The degree of improbability of that play being made is almost unquantifiable, but it is worth noting that Newton has run from the opponent’s 1-yard line 19 times in his career before last night, and had never lost yardage.
That play is as close to automatic as they get in the NFL. Seattle was going to lose that game. Until. they didn’t.
Lano Hill is penning a wonderful redemption story after being left for dead by yours truly and others. He submarined a key blocker to force Newton inside where another comeback story, L.J. Collier, had beaten his block and flipped the New England quarterback to the ground. Many things flipped on that final play.
This Seahawks team exits this week having reason to fear no opponent. Their offense may be the best in the league. Their quarterback is the best in the league. Their defense has severe flaws, but has made pivotal plays. The special teams has been nearly perfect, with Michael Dickson looking like the best punter in football again.
The seats may be empty in CenturyLink Field, but we are all bearing witness. Special things happen during special seasons. Prepare yourself for more memories, more joy, and settle for hugging someone you know for now. The Seahawks are back.