RENTON — So which Seattle team of the past that the 2019 Seahawks have matched for the best six-game start in franchise history will they follow now?
The 2003 team, which after a 5-1 start had to win on the final day of the season and wait for a few other things to happen just to get a wild-card spot at 10-6? Or the 2013 team, which after starting 5-1 just kept on winning and went 11-1 en route to a 13-3 regular season and a Super Bowl title?
What we know is that the road in 2019 is about to get a little tougher.
Consider that with the Rams’ defeat against the 49ers on Sunday, Seattle has not beaten a team that currently has a winning record. In fact, the record of the five teams Seattle has defeated is 9-20-1 (Seattle lost to the 5-1 Saints).
But of the remaining 10 games on the schedule, five opponents currently have winning records (that includes the 5-0 49ers twice) with an overall mark of 33-24-1.
Among those winning teams is Seattle’s next opponent, the 4-2 Baltimore Ravens, who bring Earl Thomas and Lamar Jackson into CenturyLink Field for a 1:25 p.m. game Sunday.
But before we get more into that, a final look back at the victory over Cleveland with my weekly review of what I thought might happen and what did.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
What I said: Seahawks defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah vs. Cleveland’s offensive line.
What happened: Not as much as the Seahawks would have liked as neither registered a quarterback hit (nor did anyone else). But each contributed in other ways, specifically Ansah’s forced fumble and recovery that led to a touchdown that gave Seattle the lead for the first time in the third quarter.
The hope is going to be that the return of Jarran Reed and the domino effect of the havoc he can create inside will help open things up for Clowney and Ansah going forward. It had probably better as it’s hard to imagine Seattle can keep winning at this rate averaging less than two sacks a game (10 in six).
What I could have said: The Browns vs. themselves.
OK, so the Seahawks shored some things up defensively and made some good plays — and Russell Wilson and the offense were solid throughout. But this just felt like one team with a veteran quarterback who knows how to win, and one team with a young quarterback and a lot of new pieces that still don’t quite fit right.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Who I said: Quarterback Russell Wilson.
What happened: Pretty much the same as every other game this season, which means the best quarterbacking play in the NFL. Wilson might have had competition for that title a few weeks ago, but he doesn’t right now. Wilson’s 14-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio is really the only stat of the many that are glittering that you really need. Throw in three rushing touchdowns and how well Wilson commands the offense, and all the MVP talk is well deserved.
Who I could have said: Running back Chris Carson.
Wilson’s exploits make it easy to overlook Carson, who rebounded from the fumbles of the first three weeks to put together a three-week stretch in which he’s gone for more than 100 yards each time while averaging 4.7, 4.4 and 5.2 yards per carry. He’s on pace for 315 carries for 1,344 yards, which would each be the most for a Seattle running back since Marshawn Lynch had 315 carries for 1,590 yards in 2012 (for reference, the team records for each were set in 2005 by Shaun Alexander, with 370 carries for 1,880 yards).
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
What I said: Will the Seahawks be aggressive throwing early in the game?
What happened: This was such an odd game that it feels hard to read much into some of the numbers. But for a third consecutive road game — and a third consecutive victory on the road — the Seahawks did indeed come out throwing more early, with 20 passes to 16 rushes in the first half. And then as they have done in each game, they ran it in the second half more than they passed it — 22 rushes to 13 passing attempts, to finish with 38 rushes and 33 pass attempts. The early passing, which was undoubtedly in part out of necessity after falling behind 20-6, was again a success — Wilson completed 13 of 20 passes for 205 yards in the first half.
What I could have said: Playing safety roulette.
While Tedric Thompson got most of the snaps at safety alongside Bradley McDougald — 52 of a possible 69 — Seattle coach Pete Carroll gave a little playing time as well to Lano Hill (15 snaps, some in the dime package) and Marquise Blair (eight). How did Thompson respond? “He played pretty good,” Carroll said. “Competition is a beautiful thing.’’
What I said: Seattle’s offensive line injuries.
What happened: Carroll said George Fant had a few pass plays that could have gone better but he praised his effort in the running game filling in for the injured left tackle Duane Brown. Jamarco Jones, meanwhile, had another solid game in place of right guard D.J. Fluker. The upshot is that Seattle hardly missed a beat without the two veteran linemen, scoring a season-high in points and with 454 yards of total offense, the second most this season.
What I could have said: Cleveland’s desperation.
Heading into a bye and with the prospect of being 2-4 with the next game against New England, the Browns knew Sunday was pretty much a must-win. The crowd was revved up and the Browns came out hot, too. And while the Seahawks made some mistakes to help Cleveland build the early lead, that Seattle was able to rally from down by 14 on the road shouldn’t be dismissed too easily, no matter how it happened.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Who I said: Kicker Jason Myers.
What happened: Well, I was sort of right on this, guessing that this might be the kind of game where Seattle would need a few kicks out of Myers. He kicked two field goals in the first half as the Seahawks embarked on their run of 19 consecutive points. He also missed an early PAT that ended up meaning Seattle trailed at halftime.
Who I could have said: Wide receiver Jaron Brown.
The veteran was quiet for much of the first five games. But he’s proven capable of some big plays at key times in his year-plus with the Seahawks and his two touchdown catches were each veteran plays. Brown has a pretty amazing seven touchdowns in 25 receptions in 22 games with Seattle.
What I said: 5.2, the yards per carry for Cleveland running back Nick Chubb coming into the game.
What happened: The Browns averaged 6.5 yards per rush as Chubb averaged 6.1, getting 122 yards overall. But 52 came on an early run. And as we have seen so often in the Carroll era, the Seahawks shored up the run defense as the game wore on — Chubb had half of his yards in the first quarter.
What I could have said: Plus-3, Seattle’s turnover margin.
That number proved to be the single biggest reason for the victory. The Seahawks are tied for third in the NFL at plus-6 in turnover margin. They led the NFL last year at plus-15. Seattle actually has lost the third-most fumbles in the NFL — 6 – two more than last season.
But Wilson continuing to not throw interceptions – just four in his past 20 games — is obviously a huge key to the turnover numbers. And the Seahawks now have forced 12 turnovers, tied for fourth in the NFL, and on track with the 26 Seattle had last season.
Seattle is 4-0 this season and 25-3 since 2016 when winning the turnover battle.
THE FINAL WORD
What I said: Seahawks 30, Browns 23.
What happened: Well, I was close. I thought the Browns would do some things and score some points but that Seattle would ultimately pull it out. I couldn’t have imagined just HOW that would have happened. But the how — a missed field goal one week, the wackiness in Cleveland the next — is becoming a big part of the fun.