Ultimately, the good outweighed the bad for the Seahawks on Sunday because they got what they wanted and needed most: a victory.
But, man, was the good-to-bad scale teetering precariously against the Seahawks for most of the day, the home team caught in a surprisingly taut struggle against a Bengals team with a new coach and listed as a 9½-point underdog.
A few big offensive plays, a couple of critical defensive stands, and — to be frank — a bunch of self-inflicted wounds by the Bengals finally allowed Seattle to escape with a 21-20 win, the 11th consecutive in a home opener, and making Seattle 15-0 at home in September in the Pete Carroll era.
But if Carroll mostly clung to the positive later, saying “It’s great to get a win in the opener,’’ he also admitted, “It wasn’t the game I hoped it would be.’’
Indeed, the Bengals outgained Seattle 429 yards to 233, forced the Seahawks to punt eight times in 12 possessions — six of which were three-and-outs — and held Seattle’s supposedly vaunted running game to just 72 yards, fewer than all but one game last season, and 2.9 yards per carry (the Seahawks averaged 4.8 last season in leading the NFL in total rushing yards).
But if there was one stat that ultimately told the tale it was this: The Bengals had four possessions inside Seattle’s 36 in the second half and got just one field goal out of it while Seattle had six possession in the second half, but scored just one touchdown.
Here’s more of the good and the bad:
GOOD: The Seahawks came up big when they really had to.
As noted, while the Bengals moved it all over the place they weren’t able to convert all those yards into many points, which Carroll referred to later as a “rope-a-dope’’ strategy.
And while Seattle amazingly had only five of 11 drives that went for more than 11 yards, the Seahawks scored touchdowns on three of them.
Two examples stand out:
• Down 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Seahawks stood at the Cincinnati 44 when Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett saw the Bengals leaving the middle of the field “wide open,’’ to use Lockett’s term. “They saw something and made a little adjustment and it was perfect,’’ Carroll said.
Lockett, to that point, didn’t have a target — he said later he was double-teamed like he hadn’t been since college. But he ran past Bengals safety Jessie Bates III, who appeared to be looking for something into the flat, and broke open deep where Wilson hit him for a touchdown that ultimately proved to be the winning points.
“It reminds me of just playing in the yard,’’ said Lockett. “Go where everybody else isn’t.’’
• A little later, the Bengals had a first-and-goal at the Seattle 4 following a pass interference penalty on Tre Flowers.
But a holding penalty drawn by Al Woods and then a Jadeveon Clowney sack forced the Bengals to settle for a field goal, and Seattle held a 21-20 lead with seven minutes left.
“The mentality was just where it needed to be to go ahead and set it up for an opportunity to come from behind and make a win and then hold them off and get out of here,’’ Carroll said.
BAD: The running game.
Seattle knew the Bengals were going to gang up to stop the run. Still, Seattle expected to do more than it did — the Seahawks had just 39 yards until getting 30 on three plays on a drive that began with 3:22 left that sealed the victory (21 on a third-and-one run by Chris Carson as big as any play all day).
“Not our best outing by any means,’’ said Seattle left tackle Duane Brown. “The standard that we have set for ourselves, especially in the running game, was not met today.’’
GOOD: DK Metcalf.
The rookie was as good as advertised with 89 yards on four receptions, the most for a Seattle receiver in his debut since Steve Largent had 86 in 1976, according to NFL stats (fittingly, Metcalf wore a Largent jersey to the game).
An example of just how much Wilson already trusts Metcalf came in the second quarter when Wilson sensed a Bengals blitz and saw Metcalf in man coverage and tossed it to him for a play that turned into a 42-yard gain that set up Seattle’s second touchdown.
“That’s a really good start for him,’’ Carroll said.
BAD: Pass protection.
Wilson was sacked four times and took nine hits on a day when he threw only 20 times.
“I was really surprised that we had trouble protecting today,’’ Carroll said.
As for why, Brown said the Bengals surprised the Seahawks a few times with some stunts but also that “we’ve just got to be better.’’
GOOD: Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson.
Winning games like this requires big plays from maybe somewhat unexpected sources. Woods is being asked to replace Jarran Reed while Reed serves a six-game suspension and could hardly have done more. He had a fumble recovery that was initially called an interception to stop a Cincinnati drive at the Seattle 12 and also had a solo tackle on a fourth-and-one run that was stopped for no gain in the third quarter. Jefferson, who might not start once Ziggy Ansah returns, had two sacks and also batted down two passes.
“Definitely the best game he’s had for us,’’ Carroll said. “We needed every bit of it.’’
BAD: Some shaky play in the secondary.
Carroll said the overall plan was to eliminate the Bengals running game and force them to throw but also play a lot of zone that would hopefully keep all completions to short gains.
But the Bengals used two big plays to take a 17-14 halftime lead — a flea-flicker that turned into a 33-yard touchdown pass to former Husky John Ross, and then basically a Hail Mary by Dalton to end the first half that Tedric Thompson appeared in position to bat down only to mistime his jump, allowing Ross a 55-yard score.
“That was supposed to be eliminated by the way we played it,’’ Carroll said of the two plays.
Thompson owned up to the play, saying, “I’ve got to catch the ball.’’
That the Bengals could manage only two field goals out of the rest of their yards, though, seemed to prove the worth of the overall strategy.
“The challenges have begun,’’ Carroll said. “The first one, it was about believing and the guys hung tough today.’’
A lot tougher than they ever figured they’d have to.