The brilliance of Russell Wilson is no longer a revelation but rather an expectation. Given encouraging latitude to spread his wings, the quarterback delivered on cue Sunday in the Seahawks’ season-opening win over Atlanta.
But there was a new wrinkle in this game, an energy, a vibe, that fairly rippled across the field. Jamal Adams was acquired to be a difference-maker for a team that had slowly but steadily lost the defensive verve that once made the Seahawks special. And in their utterly convincing, not-really-that-close 38-25 triumph over the Falcons, Adams was the revelation.
As coach Pete Carroll said afterward, “Defensively, you couldn’t help but watch Jamal Adams. I mean, he’s all over the place.”
Remember when Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams mused that Adams might be bored in Seattle’s supposedly staid, non-gambling defensive scheme? Adams pre-emptively addressed that question in an ebullient postgame Zoom interview.
“I wasn’t bored,’’ he said. “You know, I was blitzing. I was having fun.”
In fact, Adams said, if anything, he was turned loose maybe a little more than last year with the Jets — a relief to those who feared the Seahawks might not Let Jamal Cook. That observation by Adams came a few moments after he had been asked what it was like to watch Wilson put up 38 points and said, bitingly, “I’m not used to it.”
Explaining Adams’ usage, Carroll deadpanned after the game, “He’s totally freelancing, he’s on his own, we have no control over the guy. … (pause) … No, that’s not true. He is such a marvelous football player, you just got to put him in positions to give him a chance, and then stuff happens.”
The “stuff” is what compelled the Seahawks to pursue Adams despite the daunting price tag. The stats tell a compelling but only partial story: 12 tackles (eight solo), two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and one sack.
What resonated much louder was the infectious spirit, bordering on joy, that Adams played with. It was just one game, sure, but it was reminiscent of the sort of furious, unbridled-yet-controlled mayhem that marked the glory years of the Legion of Boom. And it unquestionably rubbed off on his teammates, Carroll said.
“There’s no doubt. He is such an energetic personality. He’s got so much fire in him, and he’s an incredible competitor,” Carroll said. “Does it rub off? Yes, and that’s why I’m so thrilled he’s on our team and we got him. Not just for the play, but for what else he brings and how he affects other people, and he’ll continue to do that.”
Under crowd-less circumstances this season, when much of the adrenaline has to be self-generated, that bodes well for the Seahawks’ outlook in 2020. Especially if the offense continues to cook like it did Sunday. While the yardage totals allowed by Seattle — 506, of which 434 was through the air — appear alarming, a fair portion came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. And the Seahawks negated that with four huge stops on fourth down.
With Adams’ addition, the Seahawks have two elite performers on defense. The other, linebacker Bobby Wagner, had a less flashy but just as emphatic performance Sunday as he began his ninth season in Seattle.
Upon his arrival in Seattle, Adams remarked that joining Wagner on the Seahawks’ defense was like “a cheat code.” On Sunday, Adams compared the pairing to Batman and Robin. Either way, it’s a combination that few teams can match.
“But it’s not even just Bobby, man,’’ he added. “Just so many guys out there. The whole defense was flying around the ball. Talking noise, just having fun. We had a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, we were creating stops and trying to create turnovers, so that’s what it’s about.”
Since his arrival, Adams has been eager to make clear, whenever asked (and even when he’s not), how content he is to be in Seattle. It cost the Seahawks two first-round draft picks to acquire him from the Jets, to the disapproval of many, and will cost them immensely in cash when it’s time for a new contract after the season.
But when you have a dynamic talent who is fully comfortable in his surroundings with a life-changing contract to play for, it can be a recipe for great things. The Seahawks have needed a jolt, and Adams looks equipped to give it to them. And speaking of jolts, count him among those marveling at Wilson’s nearly flawless performance.
“For Russ to go out there and do what he did and what he’s always done, I’m just happy to be a part of this organization, man,’’ he said. “These guys are telling me they’re happy I’m here, but I’m really happy I’m here, man.
“I just see so much talent, so much great success coming our way.”
The one downside for Adams on Sunday, and it was of the playful variety, was when fellow safety Quandre Diggs wrestled an interception away from him in the end zone. One of the few criticisms of Adams’ resume has been the absence of picks — just two in three years. But after some mock indignation, Adams lauded Diggs and said, “I’m happy for him. I’m not mad at him one bit.”
He added later, “I’m never trying to be a one-man guy.”
That’s an admirable team-first attitude. But the Seahawks are hoping Jamal Adams is one man who can help lift their team back to its former exalted level.
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send columnist Larry Stone to Atlanta for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.