Season openers in the Pete Carroll era have rarely been comfortable for the Seahawks — they’d lost three of their past five before Sunday.
The last one that came easily was in 2014, a blowout of Green Bay on the night the Super Bowl banner was raised.
So, while there are some things you can maybe pick at in Seattle’s 38-25 victory at Atlanta on Sunday, this was about as convincing of a win as most Seahawks fans should realistically have hoped for, considering the truncated offseason and the Seahawks having to break in some significant new pieces.
On to some grades.
Start the MVP campaign for Russell Wilson. He was just about perfect in Week 1, throwing early and often and seeming in total control throughout.
Wilson was 31 of 35 for 322 yards and four touchdowns — one of the incompletions a drop on a well-thrown pass to a wide-open DK Metcalf, another batted down at the line — and also ran three times for 29 yards to serve as Seattle’s leading rusher.
There was no better evidence of Wilson’s mastery of the game than the 38-yard touchdown to Metcalf on a fourth-down play in the third quarter that was as big as any in the game. Wilson saw Metcalf in man coverage, waited for Metcalf to get open and threw a perfect pass.
No big rushing numbers out of the backs — Carlos Hyde was the leading rusher aside from Wilson with 23 yards on seven carries. Chris Carson had 21 yards on six carries, the fewest of his career. But coach Pete Carroll didn’t sound too worried later, saying he thought the backs ran well when there was the chance.
Carson also showed up well in the passing game with six receptions on six targets for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
In a weird stat, Wilson was a perfect 27 of 27 for 227 yards when throwing to every receiver other than Metcalf. Metcalf had four receptions on eight targets for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Lockett had eight receptions on eight targets for 92 yards, and David Moore and Freddie Swain combined for four catches.
Metcalf had one bad drop but came right back on the same series with the 38-yard TD that helped break open the game.
Greg Olsen, doing what he’s done so often in his career, caught a third-down pass from Wilson to spark Seattle’s first scoring drive and had a touchdown catch in the third quarter.
And in his first action since the Achilles injury that ended his season last year, Will Dissly caught both of his targets.
For a first time out with three new starters, a few early bumps in the road were to be expected. Wilson was sacked three times in the first half (though one appeared more the result of Atlanta coverage).
But as Carroll noted, once the Seahawks cleaned a few things up, the protection got a lot better.
Only one of Wilson’s sacks seemed the direct result of the line: when Atlanta standout Grady Jarrett beat Seattle rookie Damien Lewis.
Lewis also had two holding penalties and a false start — the kind of thing to be expected of a rookie in a year like this with no preseason. But he also appeared to hold his own with Jarrett as the game wore on.
The pass rush seemed a little inconsistent — Seattle had just two sacks, and one was from safety Jamal Adams and the Seahawks often had to bring extra rushers to get pressure. But the pass rush was also far from nonexistent.
Benson Mayowa, taking over as the starter at the rush end/LEO spot had two huge plays on fourth downs, once batting down a Matt Ryan pass in the first quarter and then breaking through to get a sack of Ryan on another in the third quarter.
L.J. Collier, getting the start at one defensive-end spot, broke through to force an early intentional grounding call as well, and Bruce Irvin had two quarterback hits — and Jarran Reed and Damontre Moore one each.
And the Seahawks settled down to play the run better as the game wore on, finishing by allowing just 72 yards, fewer than in all but two games last year, and 3.4 yards per attempt, also fewer than all but two games last year.
Bobby Wagner was fabulous early in pass coverage and also blew up a third-and-one run on Atlanta’s second series. Seattle then got a stop on fourth down.
First-round draft choice Jordyn Brooks entered the game at weakside linebacker on Atlanta’s third offensive possession but after the Falcons gained 37 yards on two plays, the Seahawks went back to K.J. Wright.
Brooks later played a series in the second half and had his first career tackle.
For as dynamic as Jamal Adams was, there are some things to clean up in the secondary, as Carroll said later (Ryan’s 450 passing yards is proof of that), such as the miscommunication that led to Adams and Shaquill Griffin running into each other to allow Atlanta an easy touchdown late in the game.
Quinton Dunbar, who started and played most of the snaps at right cornerback, got beaten a few times, and maybe we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was rusty due to the lack of practice time. Griffin also had a somewhat uncharacteristic game, getting beaten a few times and with a pass interference penalty, though he also had a big breakup late in the game.
But Adams was somehow even better than advertised, making play after play after play both bringing pressure and in coverage.
Maybe none of his plays was bigger than breaking through to stop Todd Gurley short on a third-and-two at the 11 in the third quarter. The Falcons then failed to pick up the ensuing fourth down. Give Adams an A-plus.
Seattle also showed it appears set to use its dime package more this season than a year ago which had Lano Hill on the field quite a bit and was a bit hit-and-miss. He came up with a big stop on a third down on Atlanta’s first series of the third quarter that set up the fake punt fumble by Atlanta. Hill, though, also was beaten for a 44-yard gain to Julio Jones later in the second half.
But with two new starters and essentially a third in nickel back Marquise Blair, a little learning curve was to be expected.
Jason Myers made his only field-goal attempt, and Michael Dickson had a few well-timed and well-placed punts.
The Seahawks appear to have made a change in their return-game philosophy, taking much of it off Lockett’s shoulders. Travis Homer handled kickoff returns and David Moore punts.
But special teams is usually about big plays — or making sure you don’t give up any — and Seattle had the definite advantage there with the Blair hit that forced a fumble on Atlanta’s fake punt that led to the Seahawks’ TD to make it 28-12.
Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Bob Condotta to Atlanta for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.