The Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a moment of euphoria on Monday Night Football following their thrilling 17-16 victory over Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks were visibly motivated to spoil Wilson’s return to Settle and they accomplished just that. The Seahawks played an impressive brand of football on both sides of the ball.
There’s a real possibility that the Seahawks can sneak into the playoffs as the NFC’s seventh seed.
Any Seahawks praise must begin with the performance of quarterback Geno Smith, who was making his first Week 1 start since 2014. Smith was excellent, showcasing the natural feel to navigate the pocket effectively while hitting his targets in stride. Smith was extremely accurate and efficient, completing 23-of-28 passing attempts for 195 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers. Smith completed his first 13 passing attempts and was 17-of-18 with his pair of touchdowns at the break. The sample size is small, but Carroll was rewarded for his belief in Smith as a starting quarterback. It’s possible the general public underrated Smith’s potential in this offense. Smith looks comfortable in year two alongside offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
Despite Smith’s heroics, the Seahawks will likely feature a run-heavy offense throughout the campaign. There were several signs of promise on Monday. The returning Rashaad Penny received the start and totaled a team-high 60 rushing yards on 12 carries. Penny averaged 5.0 yards per carry and exposed Denver’s run defense with a 26-yard gain. Penny looked explosive and arguably should have received more touches in a close-contested ballgame. Seattle’s running game will receive a boost when rookie running back Ken Walker III returns to the lineup shortly. Walker and Penny should form a fearsome backfield tandem sooner rather than later.
Seattle’s running game will be as effective as their reworked offensive line allows it to be. Positive progress has been made in that department. Rookie left tackle Charles Cross enjoyed a largely fruitful debut given the challenge. Fellow rookie tackle Abraham Lucas earned a 71.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his consistent showing. The Seahawks may have a pair of long-term bookends on their hands.
Don’t sleep on Seattle’s defense, either. A pass rush that recorded a disappointing 34 sacks last season received an immediate boost from free-agent signing Uchenna Nwosu. Nwosu sacked Wilson once, totaled seven tackles, and had a pass defended. Nwosu’s biggest moment occurred when he forced a turnover by stripping Broncos running back Javonte Williams at the goal line.
Nwosu is already living up to the two-year, $19.055 million deal he signed in March.
The Seahawks fielded a promising young secondary that featured rookies Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen. Squaring off with Wilson and his impressive supporting cast thrust Bryant and Woolen into difficult spots. Both first-year defenders experienced growing pains, but stacked multiple wins too, and appear primed to contribute all season long.
Once considered a first-round reach, linebacker Jordyn Brooks is a tackling machine. Brooks was excellent against the Broncos, recording a team-high 11 total tackles (10 solo). Cody Barton recorded eight tackles and Seattle’s second team sack. Several defenders made sizable contributions.
Seattle’s defensive performance lost some of its luster when it was announced that superstar safety Jamal Adams suffered a serious quad injury. Adams was carted off the field with a knee injury. Adams’ return-to-play timeline hangs in the balance. He was replaced in the lineup by former NC State standout and veteran journeymen Josh Jones. Defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt is tasked with finding a solution in Adams’ absence.
Several of the NFC’s perceived wild-card contenders put forth less-than-desirable showings in Week 1, particularly ones that share the NFC West alongside Seattle. The San Francisco 49ers blew a lead to the lowly Chicago Bears. The Arizona Cardinals had a terrible defensive game plan and lost by 23 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Even the division favorite and Super Bowl defending champion Los Angeles Rams were embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills.
The Dallas Cowboys were defeated handily by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and lost Dak Prescott for the foreseeable future. The Carolina Panthers failed to defeat a Deshaun Watson-less Cleveland Browns at home. The Atlanta Falcons blew a three-score lead. Remind me why the Seahawks can’t make the postseason?
The Seahawks put forth a gritty, inspired performance. They’ve taken on the identity of a quarterback-coach tandem that refuses to be disrespected. There’s a legitimate path to 8-9 or even 9-8 for Seattle in a weakened division and conference. Don’t be stunned if the Seahawks claim a postseason berth in the first year post-Russell Wilson.
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