By: Ryan Ehrmantrout
The Seahawks were heavy favorites as they entered their home opener at Century Link Field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Instead of the blowout most anticipated, the Seahawks were able to do just enough to walk away with a 21-20 win to start the season 1-0. If you were shocked by the outcome of this game, you’re probably not alone, but before jumping to conclusions we should first consider that this is simply how Pete Carroll teams operate. Consistently throughout the years they have been expected to blow other teams out, but that is not the way Pete Carroll likes to play football. He loves this type of knockdown drag out war, and is perfectly comfortable keeping it close to the vest until the 4th quarter. The Seahawks have done this for years, and thus I find myself amazed that people are shocked, dismayed, and even concerned about the welfare of the Seahawks after a game like Sunday’s. While there may be plenty of reasons to be concerned after Sunday’s performance, the fact that the Seahawks were able to gut out a gritty win at home is not one of them. Below are my other takeaways from the Seahawks/Bengals game on Sunday:
1.Jadeveon Clowney is for real:
The Seahawks traded for the pass rush extraordinaire less than a week ago, so the thought of him making a serious impact in this game seemed unlikely. That notion was quickly turned on its head however as Clowney consistently harassed a Bengals front line that was missing their starting Left Tackle in Cordy Glenn. Clowney finished the game with two tackles and a sack, but his presence clearly helped players like Quinton Jefferson, who had a career day against the Bengals on Sunday. Clowney has never finished a season with more than 10 sacks. I think that changes this season in a contract year for the 26 year old.
2. Rookie DK Metcalf Will Have a Major Impact This Season:
The sky truly seems to be the limit for Metcalf if he is able to stay healthy, which is a big if. The 6’4 230 pound receiver had a solid debut as he led all Seahawks receivers with 4 catches for 89 yards. It wasn’t the catches Metcalf made as much as the situations in which he made them. Before halftime, the big receiver was able to haul in a 42 yard reception from Quarterback Russell Wilson which led to the Seahawks scoring a touchdown to take the lead. Similarly, he made a critical contested over the shoulder catch on a crucial 3rd and 1 in the 3rd quarter to help breathe some much needed life into a Seahawks offense that came out of the half floundering. Metcalf’s body type and speed remind me of Calvin Johnson. If he can stay healthy, there’s no doubt that he’s the type of receiver that can take this league by storm.
3. Doug Baldwin’s Absence Will be Felt:
Doug Baldwin was the rock of the Seahawks receiving core. He made so many clutch plays over the years, and was clearly Russell Wilson’s favorite target. Now, Baldwin is gone, and there is a massive hole where he once was. That hole was felt significantly Sunday as the Seahawks struggled to convert 3rd down situations and extend plays on a regular basis. It’s obvious that the ability to extend plays once they break down is something that makes Russell Wilson special. It’s just as obvious after Sunday that Baldwin was a major reason why the extension of those plays worked in the first place. The chemistry and trust between Doug and Russ afforded Wilson the confidence to play backyard football in a way very few could. Now, that chemistry is gone and really doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Tyler Lockett, who is himself being asked to take on a role he has never had to previously. The development of chemistry and trust between Wilson and his receivers over the year will be a major determining factor to whether or not the team can find success this season.
4. Offensive Line Struggles:
So much for that revamped offensive line from a season ago. The line that showed up today was much more reflective of some of the horrific offensive lines of Seattle’s past. Wilson was harassed all day, and was ultimately sacked 4 times by a terrific Bengals front line. Perhaps even more troubling than this was the struggles Seattle faced rushing the football. Chris Carson was held to just 46 yards rushing on 15 carries, and the team overall was held to a modest 72 yards. The struggles this offensive line has had in pass protection are well known, but its strength is supposed to be the run. This is important because success on the ground is what allows them to overcome some of their struggles in the pass protection game. They will have to be much better moving forward if they hope to be a legitimate threat to the Rams in the NFC West.
5. Secondary Woes:
The Seahawks struggled giving up big plays last year on defense. Coming into this season, Cornerback Shaquill Griffen vowed to be better after grading his performance in 2018 as a D-. After Sunday, it seems as though Griffen and the rest of the Seahawks secondary will continue to need tutoring as they gave up 418 yards passing to Andy Dalton and were consistently beat by the Bengals receivers. The Bengals moved the ball at will, and were pretty much able to do whatever they wanted in the passing game.
The biggest play of the game came just before half when Andy Dalton let a pass fly to Wide Receiver John Ross, who had beaten his man off the ball and was sprinting wide open down the sideline. Dalton laid up an absolute duck that should have easily been intercepted by Safety Tedric Thompson. Instead, Thompson mistimed his jump and Ross was able to make the catch for a huge touchdown that gave the Bengals the lead before half. With Thompson’s continuous struggles at the safety position, it may be time for Carroll and co. to try starting Delano Hill or rookie Marquise Blair. After all, what good is it having a great front 7 if the opposing players are able to simply settle in the slot behind them? These issues will likely need to be addressed if this team hopes to realistically compete deep into January.
6. Russell Wilson is Magic:
I can’t explain why because there is simply no quantifying it, but Russell Wilson is simply magic at the Quarterback position. No, Wilson didn’t have the flashiest of games, but numbers aren’t everything. Under duress all day long, Wilson was able to make plays when it mattered most. Down 17-14 early in the 4th quarter, Wilson hit Tyler Lockett on a 44 yard touchdown pass that turned out be the game winner. Wilson is a winner, and even more than that he is clutch. When it comes right down to it, you always feel confident when he is leading your team, no matter how bleak things may appear. That’s a pretty rare quality in today’s NFL, and just goes to show how special Wilson truly is.