RENTON — Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had one message to any fans who wished Thursday’s 30-29 win over the Rams might have been just a little less nerve-wracking.
“Suck it up’’ Carroll said. “That’s the way it is.’’
And the way it will likely be all year.
Seattle has now won games by one, two and one point in five games this season. And while things can change, this might be who the Seahawks are — a talented, if flawed, team with a great quarterback, which makes them capable of just about everything, but also susceptible to just about anything.
As Thursday night showed, the ride might be a bit bumpy at times. But it’s sure to be entertaining and the destination might be unexpectedly memorable.
Now for my weekly review of the game, of what I thought might happen going in and what actually did.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
What I said: Rams WRs vs. Seahawks secondary AND Seattle interior OL vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald.
What happened: The Rams threw for a ton of yards — 395, to be exact — tied with the Bengals in week one as the second-most Seattle has allowed since 2015. But the Rams did a lot of it emphasizing their two tight ends and trying to exploit Seattle’s three linebackers (who according to Pro Football Focus gave up 177 passing yards). Certainly not a battle that Seattle won. Nor did Seattle win its battle with Donald, who in conventional stats didn’t do much (three tackles, one QB hit, one tackle for loss) but who was disruptive all night long.
What I could have said: Russell Wilson against the Rams defense. This was one of those games where it seemed like it hardly mattered what advantages the Rams may have had elsewhere. There were plays that the Rams appeared to have defensed perfectly that Wilson found a way to turn into successes for the Seahawks. Quarterback is the most important position in the game, the Seahawks have one playing as well as any in the league. And as long as Seattle has that matchup, it has a chance every week. Because Wilson does the improbable so often it’s almost hard to know what new superlatives to throw his way. The best Thursday might have come from teammate K.J. Wright. “You can’t take this stuff for granted because a lot of quarterbacks in the league can’t do this.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Who I said: WR DK Metcalf.
What happened: My thought was maybe Metcalf would be more involved after being held to one catch for six yards against Arizona. Metcalf didn’t have a huge night but he had one big play — a 40-yard TD in the second quarter. Metcalf is averaging 22.3 yards per reception. Seattle’s team record, based on getting at least 50 receptions, is 18.74 by Steve Largent in 1979. Metcalf is on pace for 38.
Who I could have said: DE Jadeveon Clowney. As Carroll said, Clowney was “so close to having a huge night.’’ According to Pro Football Focus, Clowney had six pressures and according to Carroll “he just missed probably four times to knock down (passes).’’ He also got credited for a forced fumble and recovery (even if Bobby Wagner wants some of the credit, as well). Clowney has now made really key plays in three of Seattle’s wins. Anyone asking what he’s brought to the Seahawks isn’t paying attention.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
What I said: Unleash the linebackers.
What happened: I thought the Seahawks might want to bring more pressures to get more pressure, with Seattle’s overall pass rush still a work in progress (despite what Clowney has brought) and the Rams’ protection struggles in recent weeks. And indeed Seattle did — according to PFF Seattle brought at least one extra rusher on 45 percent of the Rams’ pass attempts compared to a 28.2 percent average in the first four games. Carroll said later that decision was made in part due to Seattle’s struggles to get much pressure with a four-man rush, and Seattle also brought pressure on most of the snaps on the Rams’ last two drives. But proof it’s not as simple as calling blitzes to get sacks, Seattle didn’t bring down Goff once.
What I could have said: Going for it on fourth down. The call near the end of the first half might have been second-guessed forever if the Seahawks had lost. That Seattle isn’t running with the same effectiveness as a year ago — still at just 4.0 yards per carry compared to 4.8 last season and is just 2-5 on third-and-one this year— seems to be making these calls harder for Carroll. And has Jason Myers made the kick then it’s a pretty moot point. Carroll admitted Friday these are all pretty much gut-feel calls. Thursday’s almost turned into a punch-in-the-gut instead.
What I said: Prime-time magic.
What happened: If that wasn’t Prime Time Magic I don’t know what was. Seattle is now 27-5-1 under the lights in the Carroll era, 9-1 on Thursday nights, and 4-0 wearing the Action Green uniforms (which means, for better or worse, they aren’t going anywhere).
What I could have said: The emotion from the Paul Allen induction ceremony. Carroll didn’t want to go so far Friday to say that he thought the memory of Allen made the team play any harder. But it undoubtedly helped fuel what felt like a lot of electricity in the stands (and not of the weather kind that some worried about ahead of time). “A lot of us were emotional about it,’’ Carroll said. “It just added to a great night for the 12s and everybody around it.”
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Who I said: RB Rashaad Penny.
What happened: My thought was Penny might play a significant role with Carson having had 26 touches on Sunday at Arizona. But I was wrong on that. Carson played a whopping 62 of 74 snaps against the Rams (Penny got the other 12 at tailback) gaining 118 yards and making the winning TD grab and later earning a pretty emphatic shout-out from Carroll. “Isn’t it great we didn’t give up on him?’’ Carroll said, referencing the fumble issues earlier this year. “Sit him down? Don’t let him play? BS to that.’’ Indeed.
Who I could have said: Guard Jamarco Jones. OK, so there was no way to know Jones would have to be called on to replace the injured D.J. Fluker. But called on he was and in his first game he showed more evidence of the promise he had begun to illustrate in camp in 2018 before he suffered a season-ending injury. Only, this time at right guard instead of tackle. Carroll said it was shocking how well Jones played under the circumstances — and having to often go up against Donald. Jones had by far the best grade of any Seattle’s offensive linemen from PFF at 79.1 (Duane Brown next at 71.5).
What I said: Turnovers.
What happened: Seattle again won the turnover battle — if in rather dramatic fashion with Tedric Thompson’s juggling act finally giving the Seahawks a 2-1 edge. Suffice to say the Seahawks needed both to hold off the Rams. Seattle is now 24-3 since the start of the 2016 season when winning the turnover battle and 3-0 this season.
What I could have said: How much Seattle might play nickel. Seattle’s willingness to stick in its base defense with three linebackers has drawn lots of attention this season. But the Seahawks bucked their own new trend a bit Thursday with nickel corner Jamar Taylor on the field for 47 percent of the snaps — he hadn’t played more than 34 percent in any other game. Carroll said the increase was mostly due to how Seattle wanted to defend the Rams’ three two-minute drives (end of first half and the last two of the game) than anything else. According to PFF, Taylor allowed four receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in 34 snaps for a QB rating of 67.4.
THE FINAL WORD
What I said: Seattle 31, Rams 27.
What happened: Well, I was close in score if no one anywhere could have been close in seeing how that would all evolve. The game proved a fitting tribute to the Paul Allen-era Seahawks — maybe a little hard on the heart at times but enormously entertaining, and ultimately victorious.