Through the Northwest smoke, light appeared Sunday.
Sure, it came through the TV. From Atlanta. And it wasn’t much help for the physical well-being. But for sports fans beleaguered by fire, disease, racial tension, financial and political peril, the Seahawks offered some psychological sustenance.
They played a ball game. Played it better than anyone expected. Won going away.
In the grand scheme, the 38-25 triumph (box) over the Falcons in what amounted to the Grand Canyon of the South may be little remembered. But there are no longer grand schemes. Only the day to day.
And this day was quite good for the Seahawks and all who are interested in them.
“To get that first one under our belt, score 38 and not even play that great . . . ” said TE Greg Olsen, marveling at his first Seahawks game after 14 seasons elsewhere. “There was a lot of uncertainty coming in, with the lack of fans, and no preseason. Personally, even though I’ve played a long time, this was the first time in a new setting, new system, just a lot of new scenarios playing out in your head.
“You feel like a rookie again. You have your nerves about whether or not you can still do this.”
As with all NFL teams in the COVID-19 world, where the ordinary is forbidden and new ways are mandatory, disruption is inevitable and persistent. A pervasive rookieness.
Which is part of the reason the offensive play of the game seemed to have an out-sized, effortless majesty.
Ahead 14-12 to open the second half, QB Russell Wilson, as ever in command of himself, team and situation, faced a fourth-and-5 at the Falcons 38-yard line. There would be no kicking.
“To be honest with you, they made a good stop on third down and they’re all celebrating,” he said, referring to a tackle of RB Travis Homer for a two-yard loss. “I was like, OK, well, let’s go after them.”
It was as if the villain had just soiled the white dinner jacket of James Bond.
.@DangeRussWilson wanted it all 💥
A perfect throw to @dkm14 for the touchdown on fourth down!
Q3: SEA 21, ATL 12 pic.twitter.com/gK6r0Nzgqk
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 13, 2020
In a play practiced numerous times in training camp, Wilson saw WR DK Metcalf in single coverage.
“We want to be aggressive in that situation,” he said. “(Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) and I are on the same page. We went for it. Sue enough, DK makes a great play.”
Metcalf blew past CB Isaiah Oliver and ran down the ball that seemed overthrown, but was perfect for a 4.4-second 40 man.
“That was big for us,” Wilson said, as he stepped over the villain and sat down to resume his martini.
That was the most glamorous part of one of Wilson’s best days — 31 of 35 for 322 yards, four touchdowns, no turnovers and a QB rating of 143.1. His 88.6 completion percentage tied for the third-highest mark in a single game in NFL history, minimum 35 attempts.
He even led the Seahawks in rushing with 30 yards, 28 on a read-option keeper that hasn’t worked so well in years. That made him the fifth QB in NFL history to have 4,000 career rushing yards.
The low rushing total was reflective of a refreshed game plan that included just 20 rushing attempts and a variety of screens, shorter passes and no-huddle plays. The Metcalf touchdown was Seattle’s longest play.
Respect.@juliojones_11 x @dkm14 pic.twitter.com/uz5d1LqiRW
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 13, 2020
Whether this was to help an offensive line with three newcomers, or a final acceptance of the popular demand by SeahawksTwitter users to #LetRussCook, it represented change during a period when the absence of practice time dictated pursuit of the status quo.
“I think it’s a testament to preparation throughout the whole off-season, and obviously through training camp and definitely this week as well,” Wilson said. The Seahawks made no turnovers, and their six penalties cost 46 yards.
As Olsen said, it wasn’t all great — Wilson was sacked three times, hit 10 times and the Seahawks were three of nine on third down. But given the potential for disjointed play, the flaws were manageable.
As coach Pete Carroll put it, “We really had command of the game on the offensive side throughout.”
Command on defense belonged to SS Jamal Adams. In his first Seahawks game, he was so everywhere that it seemed as if Seattle acquired two players from the Jets for the two first-round draft picks: 12 tackles, two for loss, a sack and two quarterback hits.
“He was all over the place,” Carroll said. “He’s an extraordinary football player.”
Adams also brings an energy and intensity that seemed to leave the defense with the Legion of Boom.
“He’s got so much fire and he’s a credible competitor — it does rub off, yes,” Carroll said. “I’m so thrilled he’s on our team, as much for what else he brings and how he affects other people.
“(In the absence of fans) it really does call on us to maintain the juice and the energy. He’s a wonderful player to exemplify that.”
Said Wilson: “He’s been an unbelievable player and leader. Our defense can be really special this year.”
After giving up 506 yards, that remains to be seen.
The defense predictably took some big yardage hits from QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage — each had nine catches for a combined 401 yards — but the bigger stat was that the Falcons were 0-for-4 on fourth down. In 12 possessions, that’s a remarkable failure rate for a good offense.
Besides Adams, the Seahawks defens had two others new to the starting lineup, CB Quinton Dunbar and DE L.J. Collier (three, if you count returnee Bruce Irvin), so the learning curve is underway.
Adams was asked what it was like to watch Wilson from the sidelines. He offered up a big grin.
“I’m not used to it,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
Even those who are used to it would agree, especially in somber times. However it arrives, take the light.
A much-needed distraction. Being stuck inside as wildfires ravage the West Coast is almost tolerable when the home teams wins. Wilson was lights out. But if he was really good, he’d get to work on those fires.
He was en fuego today.
Nice. You hired a straight man!
I’d be happy if he just blew smoke.
Whatever “it” is, Adams has it. The last time I saw that much “it,” was from Kenny Easley.
Ow. No Love for Kam?
You are correct, sir.
From a debut standpoint, Adams was on a level with Easley, who was taken 4th in 1981, started immediately and was defensive rookie of the year. Adam was sixth in the 2017 draft, and dominated. Kam was a fifth-rounder who grew into the job.
Very nice piece, Art. And whoever picked that photo of Julio Jones and DK, definitely hit the jackpot. The mutual respect is unmistakable. Thanks.
Thanks. That was a good photo of two exceptional athletes.
That first play sack was very on brand. Then the rest of the drive was bewildering. I thought a first drive TD was against the franchise charter, and one with a 10am start was against the laws of the universe. This team looks special.
The first sack was a mistake by the RB. The rest of the drive was a salute to Schottenheimer.
Solid win to kick off the season. The linemen did their jobs, offense moved the ball well, to score 38 on the road for the opener is impressive. DangeRuss in particular since he was near perfect. Some minor cramping for both teams hampered them. I’m wondering if players and coaches when all is said and done will want to bring back the exhibition season? At times the rust showed for both teams.
The players don’t want the extra physical risk of the fake games.
Random thoughts and additions:
** Russ not only became the 5th QB in league history with 4,000 yards rushing today, he joined Steve Young as one of only 2 with 4,000 yards rushing and 30,000 passing.
** His 88.6% completion rate set a Seahawks record (the old record was held by Dave Kreig).
** It will be interesting to see if the offensive approach is the same next week against New England or if today was just Seattle taking advantage of Atlanta’s weaknesses.
** The defense did a’ight overall but the D-line was not very …. um …. reassuring. Put another way, those that have concerns about the D-line probably don’t have any less concerns after the game than they had before it.
** Seattle gave up 460 passing yards to Atlanta’s backup QB last year and “only” 450 passing yards to their QB1 this season; is that considered “improvement”?
** Overall, it was a good team win and a great way to start the season (road win, aggressive play calls, huge day for the offense, record-setting performance by RW3, etc.).
That said ….
** Seattle may have their hands full in Week 2 given how “un-Patriots-like” New England was today: Only 140 of their 357 total yards were through the air. As a team, the Patriots ran the ball 42 times (compared to 19 passes) with Cam Newton accounting for 15 of the 42 carries and 75 of the 217 rushing yards. Plus 2 of their 3 TDs.
** Given the genius of Billy B (and his coaching staff) – and I say that begrudgingly, I expect that they’ll have some things in their game plan that are meant to “neutralize” Adams and limit his impact on the game. (Let the chess game begin!)
Because the Deflatriots got Cam so cheaply**, they are using him like a tailback or fullback like Carolina a few years back. They are going to use him like a beer can. Drink the beer, try to make the beer in the can last 1 season, toss the can.
** 1 mil seven roughly
NE has relatively little invested, and Belichick thinks Stidham is a long-term answer. Expect him to run until he can’t.
Belichick is playing to Cam’s strengths. He always does. As long as he’s healthy, Cam can get close to his 2015 MVP self.
The offense looked amazingly well-oiled. I was surprised, given no exhibition games and some changes on the line. But Wilson did what we thought he would do if he was given the reins at the game’s beginning and was allowed to let his throw’s set up the run instead of the reverse. Peyton was often at his best in games where that was true. Of course, it’s also true Hot Lanta has an amazingly and famously bad pass defense. But that doesn’t remove any luster from what the Hawks did on the road in week 1.
There was a specific reason to change the play schedule. I hope to have more on that Thursday.
Mr. Kite, below, referenced Wilson and the fires. Perhaps in the next zoom interview with the coach or Wilson, could you please ask them to have him fight the fires a little?
I’d rather us pitch in and allow him to do what he does best.
Loved the screen game to Carson! It was creative and well executed…with 2 or 3 OL out front often outnumbering would be tacklers. Haven’t seen that from the Seahawks in a very long time.
Carroll said that may have been the best screen pass in his time here.
Everything you said, for that matter everything everyone else said. Liked how the game plan emphasized everybody on offense getting a touch. Loved having Olsen on our side, welcome big guy. Tyler Lockett bigger part of the game than so far noticed. Was Griffin stinking up the place. Tough assignment, still.
Since Olsen’s age didn’t show in his movements, this is an underrated hire.
I totally forgot Bobby Wagner. He was steller. So we can’t go back to Boom. How about Legion of Doom?
Let’s see if 2-0 happens first.
Jamal played like he was half Kam / half Earl. All the good parts from both of those guys.
He’s his own guy, but every subsequent secondary player will be judged against the Legion.
I was impressed with what appeared to be an expanded offensive playbook. It was impressive, especially considering the 3 sacks and 10 hits. How many other QB’s could have experienced such an onslaught and come away with a stat line like his? 143 rating, 31-35, no Int’s, 4 TD’s. Wow, DangeRuss is truly a remarkable player. Amazing he stays injury-free as he has.
Adams is the real deal – no one is about to forget Kam, but Adams is starting out for induction into the “Kam Chancellor Pantheon of Badass”: 12 tackles, 2 for loss, a sack – the guy was EVERYWHERE.
All said, Belichick, err, the Patriots are next up – this will be a legit test.
The play calls were generated for a specific reason. Hope to have more Thursday.
Thursday? The Hawks/Pats are Sunday’s game of the week.
I’m speaking of my column content.