Yes, the opponent was the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are barely a lounge act on the NFL stage. But they set up well the main act, the Seattle Seahawks, who did so many splendid things Sunday at the Clink that the marquee needs to be bigger and brighter.
The final minute of the first half expressed it well. With Jacksonville on the Seattle 18-yard line, the Seahawks defense was on the verge of giving up a touchdown for the first time in seven quarters. Instead, the response was to pressure Jags QB Chad Henne into throwing a ball off his center’s helmet. The carom was tipped by LB Bobby Wagner, who, seeing no one else available, leaped horizontally to fetch his tip and make an interception.
That left 44 seconds and 79 yards for the offense. It took 34 seconds to go the distance for a touchdown and a 24-0 lead. Whoosh.
It was a potential 14-point turnaround, and only a snapshot of a 45-17 triumph that went to script about as tightly as the director could have choreographed.
“I was fired up for us that we played just the way we should,” said coach Pete Carroll. Before you dismiss the statement as typical Carroll hyperbole, pause and re-read the quote. Then ask yourself: How many times have you heard any NFL coach say something similar?
The answer is nearly never. The Seahawks lost no focus because the Jags were lousy, picked up the offensive intensity from the first two weeks, and again brought down the defensive hammer in the first half (four first downs, 52 yards of offense for the Jags) so thoroughly that the lesser-knowns on the roster were purchased some playing time.
“We played cleaner and sharper, the way we wanted to,” Carroll said. “The most important thing to report is that we had four penalties.”
Relative to the first two games, in which they had a cumulative 19 for 183 lost yards, the Seahawks added the descriptive term choir boys to supplement the established term, destroyer of worlds (see 49ers).
In the first halves of the first two games, the offense managed two field goals. In the first half Sunday: 24 points, 275 yards, 13 completions in 17 attempts. The previously mentioned 79-yard TD drive — five plays of 30, 5, 23, 10 and finally, an 11-yard pass to WR Sidney Rice — represented the acme of Seahawks offensive progress in 2013.
“That was the biggest drive we’ve had, all preseason, all season so far,” said Wilson, who matched his career high with four TD passes. “To be able to score in 34 seconds, that’s crucial. Guys were really understanding of the situation, the communication in the huddle was great, everybody was on the same page.
“If there’s any time on the clock, I believe we can score. That’s the way I’ve always thought.”
That quick-strike action was among the few unknowns with this team: Because of injuries and penalties, the offense so far lacked last year’s late-season cohesion. In the first game against Carolina, the Seahawks couldn’t run the ball; against San Francisco, the passing game faltered in the first half.
This time — and again, with the caution that it was only the 0-3 Jags — everything worked, down to the second team. Backup QB Tarvaris Jackson saw his first regular-season action and completed seven of eight passes for 129 yards, including a majestic, 35-yard pass for a touchdown to Doug Baldwin, who made a leaping, one-handed grab. Rookie RB Christine Michael saw his first action too, rushing for 37 yards in nine attempts. Rookie tackles Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey survived their first collisions, and rookie backup TE Luke Willson caught five balls for 76 yards.
The defense, which had two picks and recovered two fumbles, saw the debut of DE Chris Clemons, who had about 15 plays and reminded everyone why he was valuable. The only disappointment was the surrender of a couple of touchdowns in the second half, one of which came on a two-yard drive, thanks to a rare Wilson mess-up.
On a third-and-five from the Seattle seven-yard line, Wilson scrambled into and out of the end zone, then fired a short pass that glanced off Golden Tate into the arms of Jacksonville LB Paul Posluszny, whose return was stopped at the 2-yard line.
The Jags scored two plays later, breaking a remarkable Walkover Weekend streak in big-time state football: After Washington beat Idaho State 56-0 and and Washington State beat Idaho 42-0, the Seahawks were up 31-0 when the Jags escaped from the Northwest schneid.
“That one hurt,” said Wilson of the pick. “I can make those plays too. You want to make the smart decision, so that one’s my fault.”
Even then, FS Earl Thomas laughed at the thought that Wilson owed the defense dinner for serving up an opponent’s score.
“You know, I actually kind of enjoyed the opportunity,” he said. “When the other team gets in the red zone, the smaller field is when (the Seattle defense) starts to make things happen. I was looking to see if we could get a turnover.”
Didn’t happen. It was a rare, off-script moment for the Seahawks, which helps create an opening for Carroll to goad improvement. Since the next two games are on the road against more formidable opposition, Houston and Indianapolis, getting right at home was eventful.
“When we have these back-to-back games at home, we have to come through and play great,” Carroll said, “if we going to to be really substantial.”
Three weeks into the NFL musical, they are hitting many high notes.