This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers. Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles. Russell Wilson: 452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards. Deshaun Watson: 402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards. DeAndre Hopkins: 11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD. Will Fuller: 5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs. Tyler Lockett: 6 catches, 121 yards. Paul Richardson: 6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs. Jimmy Graham: 4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs. Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs. Offense. For. Days.
But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned. Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb. Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game. Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game. The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner. Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.
All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense. And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field. There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.
What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points. That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place. I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime! When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end. This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.
In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways: you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball. Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was: probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias). Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.
I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it: they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions. Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.
I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson. I mean, where was the spy? Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game? What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.
More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most. The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown. The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24. The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day. And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:
With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving. Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!” He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line. At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be: did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock? Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.
(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out. You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard. He just is. He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence. So, hear me out on this: what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts? I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)
But, I digress. Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:
The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game. They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out. They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs. After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out. THEN, we get to the play of the game: second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards. But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more. Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there. Go back and look at it! If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.
Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today: Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play. I can see it both ways: with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive. But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday. You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game). Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play. The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.
I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal. I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!
Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now! Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time? Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before. I mean, shit!
Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless. I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough). But, 6 carries for 0 yards? No. No thank you. Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time. You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.
Which gets me to my next gripe: Darrell Bevell. Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you. I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered. He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half. What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator. And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.
It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season. Why is that? Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling. It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe. You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that. SO FUCKING WHAT? Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron: what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING! Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!
Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs. Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic? Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing? WHO CARES? It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!
I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.” Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL. That’s just a fact. And, you know what? It used to be enough for this team. The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play! Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.
But, nowadays? The Seahawks have lost their sack. They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains. Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius. But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else. Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE! But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach. It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with. Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.
Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack. Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking. But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged. P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit. See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature. Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.
Let’s finish with some quick hitters.
The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger. Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).
I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious. At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.
I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game. The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin. He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead. The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.
Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line. Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!
I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful. But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards? Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough. Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter. Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs! Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene! We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work! And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that. They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field. That’s our game!
What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop. I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with. And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.
Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic: it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.