A game that was scary more than pretty only added to Russell Wilson’s legend as he overcame a sore ankle to lead the Seahawks to a dramatic 12-10 victory over the Dolphins.
That Russell Wilson got up off the bench and then got the Seahawks off the proverbial mat made it a winning afternoon as the regular season finally opened.
But both events — Wilson’s injury and Seattle’s comeback — seemed to elicit more of a sigh of momentary relief than outright celebration.
The Seahawks might need a day or two to know if Wilson’s injury is anything that will linger.
If it does, then the tenor of the beginning of the Seahawks’ season will markedly change.
Wilson’s injury aside, the game Sunday also offered a few other cause for concerns, though not yet enough to think the Super Bowl hype is misplaced.
Wilson’s evident difference in mobility the final quarter-and-a-half was telling. But even before the injury, the Seattle offense was largely ineffectual (until the final drive) against a defense that a year ago was 25th in the NFL.
But the last drive was vintage Wilson as he hit his last five passes for 49 yards on a day when he threw a career-high 43 passes.
Other than Doug Baldwin, though, Wilson had trouble making a consistent connection with any receiver. Baldwin had nine of Seattle’s 27 catches while getting just 11 of the team’s 41 targets.
Tyler Lockett dropped two passes and Christine Michael another, typifying an out-of-rhythm day.
A heartening sight was Jimmy Graham making an 11-yard catch on the final drive. If he can pick up next week where he left off, then the Seattle offense could take on a much different look.
The big question mark about this team, though, remains: the offensive line. Wilson was sacked three times (though he admitted later two were ones he could have avoided) and was hit nine times overall. Seattle also got called for three holding penalties.
And most disconcerting was a largely inconsistent running game — Seattle had no run of longer than 12 in rushing for 112 yards on 32 carries.
The last time Seattle had a shorter long run in a game came last season in a 13-12 win over Dallas — the game before the Seahawks then reconfigured the offense to feature more quick-hitting throws and empty sets.
As cornerback Richard Sherman said, “I think we’ll go through the film and we’ll be happy with three quarters.”
The Seahawks, though, revived bad memories of last season — when it blew fourth-quarter leads in five of its six defeats — by allowing Miami to drive 86 yards in seven plays to take the lead with 4:08 left.
Players said the Dolphins simply found some holes in Seattle’s zone on a few plays on the drive. On another, safety Earl Thomas — who had a most un-Earl-Thomas-like day — missed a tackle allowing Damien Williams to take a pass to the 2-yard-line.
Thomas had a few other missed tackles earlier in the game and later tweeted a seeming apology, writing “That was a rough one … Glad we got the win though.”
A 50-yard gain on a short pass to Arian Foster in the first half was simply due to Cassius Marsh missing his assignment — he was supposed to cover Foster rather than rush the passer on the play.
Carroll also said the Seahawks just blew a coverage on a play where Miami’s Kenny Stills broke wide open deep, only to then drop a sure touchdown pass.
But the Seahawks were mostly their usual stout self, holding the Dolphins to 64 yards on 20 carries with no gain of longer than 9 yards other than an 11-yard scramble by Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Jeremy Lane played one of his best games, with a third-down pass breakup and sniffing out some screens; Jarran Reed was solid in his first NFL game with two batted passes; DeShawn Shead also broke up two passes; and Kam Chancellor made a big fourth-and-one stop early.
Marsh alone gave the Seahawks a solid grade with a blocked field goal and two tackles in coverage. Mike Morgan also had a tackle and an assist in coverage.
And Lockett had a 22-yard punt return on one of the few times he had any real room.
Steven Hauschka had his PAT blocked, though, and a couple more off-snaps from Nolan Frese won’t quiet discussion about that position.