INDIANAPOLIS — It’s hard to say which was more encouraging Sunday — the smooth syncopation of the Seahawks’ offense in its true 2021 unveiling, the almost preternatural chemistry between quarterback Russell Wilson and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, or the quiet confidence that this was just a tease of much more production to come.
That latter sentiment was overheard by Seahawks safety Jamal Adams as Seattle players hurried to get out of Lucas Oil Stadium following their decisive 28-16 season-opening victory.
“You know, they’re just getting started,” Adams said. “I heard a couple of guys in the shower. They were saying, ‘Man, just wait until we really, really start to click.’”
That’s an enticing notion for down the road. But Sunday, it was more than enough to finally see what Waldron’s vaunted and highly anticipated system could do in action, rather than in theory.
Answer: Quite a bit. As Wilson said after the game, in which he racked up the second-highest quarterback rating of his career (152.3) and threw four touchdown passes, “There’s nothing we can’t do.”
That might be an overstatement, but there’s no doubt that Waldron’s X’s and O’s open up a whole new world of possibilities. The balance between the run and the pass was exquisite Sunday, as was the mixture of short and long, all enhanced by the fast-paced tempo we’ve heard so much about throughout training camp.
Oh, Waldron also worked the tight ends and running backs into the passing game, as promised, and gave just a tease of Dee Eskridge’s explosive potential on fly sweeps.
“I told you guys earlier in the week, he’s like a wizard,” a grinning Wilson said. “You know, I have a lot of control, too, at the same time. So we’re all working together. It’s a beautiful thing.”
So beautiful that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, after listing off a number of key contributors on both sides of the ball, saved his most effusive praise for the man he chose (with Wilson’s input) to upgrade the offense after firing Brian Schottenheimer.
“The day to me really goes to Shane,” Carroll said. “I think his first time out, and the chance to show it, I was really, really proud of what he was able to do, because he went for it the whole time. We did exactly how we’ve been practicing, and how we’ve been preparing. He has such a cool overall mentality.”
So cool and collected that DK Metcalf, who hauled in one of the touchdowns, said he’s never seen Waldron angry.
“He’s always levelheaded and very encouraging,” Metcalf said. “That’s great on game day. The way he communicates on the sideline is always positive, just like Russ. So, I mean, they’re a perfect match for each other.”
“I’ve never seen this kind of chemistry be so obvious between the caller and the quarterback,” said Carroll. “I hope this is just the first step of a great march together.”
In the next breath, Carroll uttered the timeworn, charged phrase — unintentionally, it appeared, but perhaps with sly humor: “He (Waldron) and Russ were just cooking today …”
With that, Carroll stopped, laughed and said, “Scratch that. Doggone it. Shoot, that’s out there. I don’t think I ever said that one time all last year, whenever all that was happening.”
“Let Russ Cook” is so 2020, but the concept speaks to the essence of Waldron’s challenge, which is to marry the elements of a wide-open offense with Carroll’s lifelong belief in establishing the run.
He pulled it off with aplomb Sunday. Wilson was 18 of 23 for 254 yards, with two touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett that were works of art. Another score went to tight end Gerald Everett, who provides a key new wrinkle to the Seattle offense. And then Metcalf, held in check in the first half, caught a 15-yard seam rout that Wilson and he both said was the manifestation of hours of work on just that play.
But the running game also clicked. Chris Carson provided over 100 yards in total offense with 91 on the ground (out of the team’s 140 rushing yards) and 26 through the air. Carson did have one fumble, but it didn’t end up hurting the Seahawks.
“When the ball is spread around like we did today, and everybody’s touching the ball, and Chris Carson’s breaking long runs, I mean, it’s hard to stop us, because you don’t know who’s gonna go next,” Metcalf said.
Lockett’s first touchdown reception, in which he adjusted on the fly to Wilson’s lofting pass, was likened by Carroll to Willie Mays’ famous Vic Wertz catch. The second Lockett TD was one of those classic Wilson deep balls, with Lockett catching it in stride and somehow maintaining his balance into the end zone after being knocked off stride.
Lockett finished with 100 receiving yards As he is wont to do, the veteran wide receiver gave a cogent analysis of the state of the Seahawks’ offense under Waldron.
“I thought we did phenomenal, man. Understanding the coverages that they were running. Understanding their tendencies, the philosophies, all the things that they were trying to do. I thought we capitalized on it, we adjusted to it, we ran the ball the way we wanted to be able to run the ball.
“It opened up a lot of stuff in play action. We didn’t always need to go deep. We went short at times. We went medium at times. I think that’s the thing that’s really going to help us out a lot, because as you go into these next weeks, and even next week, teams are going to try to stop certain types of plays. But I think what we showed is that it doesn’t matter who gets the ball. We’re going to feed whoever and however, based off of what it is that a defense chooses to give us.
“I think the best thing that we’ve learned is just being able to take what the defense gives us, and that’s what happened today.”
At one point, Wilson likened the Seahawks’ offense to “a beautiful puzzle.” And it sure looks that Shane Waldron has a clue how to solve it.