The Morning After: Seahawks Earn Stayed Sentence in 28-21 Over 49ers

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Staggered after two weeks of embarrassing play, with their season hanging on a thread, the Seahawks came out against the hated rivals from San Francisco looking like an old champ, destined to hit the mat for good. They did get a first down until less than 5 minutes remained in the second quarter. They gave up a touchdown drive on the 49ers first possession that looked like every other opponent drive of late. Their offensive line had more holes than a donut shop. It was bleak. Very bleak. Then something very confusing happened.

The much-maligned defense made a stop. Then another. And another. After yielding the opening score, they would hold the 49ers without points for eight straight drives. Meanwhile, another punching bag of Seahawks fans, the offensive line, steadied and wound up not giving up another sack the rest of the day after surrendering three in the first four drives. They shut out Nick Bosa and the 49ers defense for over 42 minutes, and gave up only six QB hits on the day. Seattle layered on top of that some clutch play from Russell Wilson and productive running from Alex Collins to turn what seemed destined for an ugly defeat into a commanding victory.

Should the Seahawks find a way to turn this season around, fans will almost certainly forget it was the defense and offensive line that made it possible. If not for a blown coverage and garbage time touchdown, the Seahawks would not have allowed a legitimate point after the 49ers first drive. The 49ers had just 13 points with under two minutes to play in the game.

Of course those scores do count, but it was a clear step forward for a defense that gave up extended drive after extended drive the past two weeks. This felt like far more respectable and sustainable defense. Give the Seahawks coaches credit for a notable turnaround in just a week.

They inserted Sidney Jones into the starting lineup ahead of Tre Flowers and moved DJ Reed back to the right side. They played a significant amount of dime defense, with an extra defensive back on the field. The extra defender was often Ryan Neal, who may have had the best game of any Seahawk.

I have not had the chance to see whose playing time was reduced by these changes, but usually it would be linebacker. That might have meant fewer snaps for Darrell Taylor as a SAM and possibly Jordyn Brooks. Seattle has been playing extra defensive linemen, so maybe it came at the expense of Bryan Mone or others there.

Credit to the players as well. Jamal Adams had his first impactful game of the season. He was good in coverage, and made plays all around the field. Quandre Diggs had the team’s first interception on a beautiful read. Bobby Wagner was a rock as usual. Brooks got his first career sack. Taylor got his 3rd sack in the first four games of his career, a feat only matched by Rocky Bernard and Antonio Edwards in franchise history.

There will be a lot of debate about the play of Jones. He have up two touchdowns, including a bad blown coverage. There is no arguing that is bad. He will almost certainly have a bad PFF grade. I was encouraged by what I saw. He is clearly quicker and faster than Tre Flowers. His coverage was tighter in all but the blown assignment situation. He broke up at least one pass, and possibly more. I also thought Reed looked more comfortable and confident on the right.

I would not go as far as to say the Seahawks corner situation is fixed, or even league average, but this was a decent distance from the product we saw the last two weeks where receivers were open by 5-8 yards when making a catch.

Pass pressure was better. Even with only two sacks, they were collapsing the pocket more than previous weeks. Al Woods had another nice game. That, paired with coverage that had 9 passes defensed, felt far more like a functioning NFL defense.

The offense was good enough, if not good. Wilson and Collins stood out. It will not go down as Wilson’s best game by any stretch, but he has gone four games without a turnover, had two more TD passes and added a rushing score. He carried the offense, as he should be expected to do each week. His escape of a sack and touchdown throw to Freddie Swain was one of the most remarkable plays of his career, which has had no shortage of them.

The more intriguing story was the play of Collins. I had predicted him to have this game against the Titans in week two, but the coaches never gave him the chance. Same thing in Minnesota. Finally, with real playing time, Collins was clearly the better of the two Seahawk running backs in this game.

He was the leading rusher with 44 yard on 4.4 yards per run and a nifty touchdown. He was the second leading receiver with 2 catches for 34 yards, including a 28-yard play that sparked the Seahawks first points and was their first 1st down of the game.

Carson was not bad. He ran as hard as he could. Collins was just better. He has more lateral agility than Carson, and more burst. This is not to say he is better than Carson. He just has different traits. You want that in a second back. Different styles work better in different games. There is very little harm in splitting reps or going with the hot hand. Seattle may not have won this game without Collins.

DK Metcalf had a touchdown and played really hard, tough football. He ran a number of great routes. What continues to hold Metcalf back are his hands. He dropped multiple passes again. I would like to think that is a problem that can be fixed. If not, his ceiling as a receiver will be much lower than I have anticipated.

Tyler Lockett and Metcalf both played through injuries. Lockett looked hurt. His quickness was not there. He still had 4 catches in 5 targets and drew a key defensive pass interference call, but it was worrisome to see him hampered to that degree. The offense is not good enough to be without Dee Eskridge and have Lockett largely neutralized.

The hope is he can recover some more this week and then take advantage of the extended time between the game on Thursday and his next game the following Sunday.

Returning from injury was Cedric Ogbuehi, who started in place of Brandon Shell at right tackle. He gave up an ugly early sack, but appeared to play pretty well from then on. Film may say otherwise, but that would be a big development as neither Jamarco Jones nor Jake Curhan have been up to the task.

I will also have to wait to watch again and see grades from those who watched more closely, but the interior line seemed to have their best game, both pass blocking and run blocking.

Credit to the Seahawks for clear improvement from previous weeks, but we should also peer over at the bloodied remains of the 49ers. They imploded. This was a week where the Seahawks regime seemed to be teetering on the brink, but it may have been the 49ers who left with mortal wounds.

Kyle Shanahan has become a very controversial figure in San Francisco. His handling of the quarterback situation in this game is sure to be put under the microscope. Jimmy Garoppolo was yanked at halftime in favor of rookie Trey Lance. They said it was due to a calf injury to Garoppolo, but he received no treatment on the sideline and stood the whole second half. Shanahan also said he expects Garoppolo to play next week, so the injury just could not have been that serious. It felt far more like an emotional Shanahan getting upset at the quarterback play and using an excuse to get Lance on the field.

Lance struggled a lot. He showed some clear gifts as an elusive runner in the pocket and has a very strong arm, but was also inaccurate and seemed a long ways away from operating an NFL offense. Shanahan has not played Lance almost at all this season, which is odd on a number of levels. Now he has opened Pandora’s Box. Who starts next week? How does he balance these two? Most importantly, are either of them good enough to make the 49ers a playoff contender?

San Francisco also lost star left tackle Trent Williams to injury. Shanahan admitted he was worried about the shoulder injury after the game. The 49ers defense is a shadow of what it was two years ago. The offense looks like it could be held back by quarterback play. Injuries continue to haunt them. This could be another last place finish for the 49ers if things do not turn around quickly.

Elsewhere, the pecking order in the NFC West started to come into more focus as the Cardinals demolished the Rams in LA. The cocky Rams had to be thinking they were god’s gift after beating the hyped reigning champ Tampa Bay Bucs the week prior. Now, they are left to wonder if they are even the best team in their own division.

There is every reason to expect the Rams to come into Seattle and get a win on Thursday. They have definitely played more consistently good football than Seattle to this point in the season, and have been a thorn in the Seahawks side for years. However, should the Seahawks rise up and defend their home turf, it would be the Seahawks who would be 2-0 in the division and the Rams who would be 0-2.

Home teams have a decided advantage in Thursday night games. Dr. Frankenstein would have nothing on Pete Carroll if he manages to bring this team back from the dead with two division victories in five days. The odds are long, but the Seahawks earned a shot with their win on Sunday. This monster has a pulse.