It's rare to see a bucket of Gatorade dumped on a coach after a regular-season game, but as the final seconds ticked off the clock Sunday, members of the Seahawks defense gave Kris Richard a bath, celebrating his first shutout as defensive coordinator.
"It's so hard in this league to hold somebody to no points," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "That's a fantastic job by our defense today and I'm really proud of those guys, and they had a lot of fun with it and all. Kris Richard and the defensive staff are all jacked up, like they should be, and the players were for them too, because it's the first time ever for those guys."
Yes, the Bears were missing starting quarterback Jay Cutler and top receiver Alshon Jeffery, but as Carroll notes, shutouts are very hard to come by in the NFL, no matter the opponent—this was the Seahawks' first shutout since late in the 2013 season and the first time the Bears had been shutout since 2002. A dominant day for Seattle's defense leads four five takeaways from a 26-0 victory in the Seahawks' home opener.
1. The defense was dominant.
The Bears offense had the ball 10 times on Sunday. Here is how those 10 possessions ended: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. Only two of Chicago's 46 offensive plays were run in Seahawks territory, with the Bears never advancing past Seattle's 45-yard line. Chicago managed just 146 total yards, and 48 net passing yards. So yes, it was a day worth celebrating for a defense that had struggled at times in the first two games of the season.
"It's big," said safety Kam Chancellor. "You want to suffocate a team. It's big for our defensive staff, for our players, for everybody—it sends a statement."
Carroll was excited to see Richard, who was promoted from defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator this offseason, celebrated by his players. After all, Richard is trying to fill some pretty big shoes given the success Seattle's defense has had under its previous two coordinators, Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn, both of whom are now NFL head coaches.
"What I loved about that was the way they responded towards him," Carroll said. "They're really excited about him leading this defense, and he has done a fantastic job of taking over in as difficult of circumstances as you can get. This defense has been pretty heralded for a while, and the guys leave, and he has to do his thing. They love the guy, and they responded in like manner and everybody was real excited about that. It was a good moment."
2. The offense turned things around in the second half. Again.
Despite stifling defense and a 64-yard punt return, the Seahawks had only a 6-0 lead at halftime because, for the third straight game, the offense struggled to get going in the first half. The Seahawks were held to just 125 first-half yards, and until putting together a nice drive to end the half, they had just two first downs on their first four possessions.
But in the second half, the offense got going, putting together an 85-yard touchdown drive and two more drives that resulted in field goals. In the third quarter alone, Russell Wilson completed four passes of 22 or more yards, including a 30-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham, who had seven catches for 83 yards against the Bears after being held to just one catch a week earlier.
The biggest culprit in the first half, Carroll said, was his team going 0 for 6 on third down.
"We just kind of waited it out until we got going," he said. "The first half got really screwed up because of the third-and-shorts that we didn't convert. Normally we're really good there, and we didn't get them, so we lose all those third-down opportunities—I think we were 0 for 6 in the first half."
In the second half, the Seahawks went 5 for 10 on third down and gained 246 of their 371 total yards.
"Once we started getting our third downs in the second half, and (started) running, then everything worked out really well," Carroll said.
Wilson, who finished the game 20 for 30 for 235 yards and a touchdown, had his first turnover-free game of the season, as did the entire offense.
"The key is not turning the ball over, staying on schedule," he said. "That gives you a great chance, especially when the defense is playing as good as they did today. The goal is to score a lot of points and to not give them the ball, and that's what we were able to do tonight."
3. Thomas Rawls came through in a big way.
With Marshawn Lynch unable to get loosened up in time for the start of the game, undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls got his first NFL start. Lynch eventually made it onto the field, but thanks to a hamstring injury, he was unable to finish the game, which meant a busy day for Rawls, who made the most of his opportunity. After carrying the ball only two times for 5 yards in Seattle's first two games, Rawls finished with 104 yards on 16 carries Sunday, making him the first Seahawks running back other than Lynch to rush for 100 yards in a game since Robert Turbin did it in 2012.
"The way he ran today was exactly the way we had seen him run in college," Carroll said. "Very aggressive, very downhill, really stomping those feet and running at people, and he showed the ability to make people miss. Today, he was 16 carries for 100-something yards, that's a fantastic day for this kid."
With Lynch playing some in the first half, and with the offense not converting on third down, Rawls had just one carry for 6 yards in the first half, but got rolling along with the rest of the offense in the second half, carrying 15 times for 98 yards.
"That's one thing about me, even in college, I get stronger as the game goes on," he said. "As long as I keep getting the ball and keep getting warmed up, I get stronger for some reason. I just feel like these legs don't get tired, I just keep going and going."
4. Kam Chancellor's return made a difference.
After missing training camp and the first two games of the season, Kam Chancellor returned to the Seahawks Wednesday, and after just three days of practice, he was back in the starting lineup.
"It felt good, it felt normal," he said. "Just going out there playing with my brothers, running around making plays, making hits, making tackles. It just felt good to get back into a game."
Chancellor recorded only one tackle in his 2015 debut, but players and coaches agreed that his presence was felt.
"He's really important to us," Carroll said. "He factored in in many ways again today. It was great to have him out there… He played good, tough football all day long.
"He did have an impact. We could feel it during the week. The guys were excited to play with him again and he was really excited to be back and play with his teammates. We talked throughout the game, and throughout the week too, about what it felt like, and he was very comfortable, and they were very comfortable with him coming back. You can just see it, he made us whole. He's a terrific football player and he had a special impact."
Chancellor played almost the entire game, getting a break for one series in the first half with DeShawn Shead taking over, then sitting out Chicago's final possession with Seattle enjoying a comfortable lead. Chancellor said he wasn't planning on coming out of the game at all, but that coaches wanted to give him a break, and he said he felt good physically after his first game action since the Super Bowl.
"I felt good, yeah," he said. "I could play another one. I feel real good."
5. The defensive line depth showed up.
Coming into the game, the Seahawks hoped to get rookie Frank Clark a bit more involved after the second-round pick had played just 16 snaps in Seattle's opener and 17 last week against Green Bay. And indeed Clark was more involved, both in the amount of time he was on the field and in the impact he made.
"We tried to play him a lot more," Carroll said, noting they hoped to double Clark's playing time. "… I don't know if we made it, but we just wanted him on the field to see what would happen if he played 30-40 plays."
Clark finished with two tackles, and he briefly thought he scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery, but what the Seahawks hoped was a Jimmy Clausen fumble was ruled down before the ball came out. As for the extra workload, Clark said he's ready for whatever coaches throw at him.
"I'm ready to play as much as they want me to play," Clark said. "Whether it's 15, 20 snaps or 40 snaps, I believe I've got the energy and the stamina to do it."
Another player who had an increased workload was Jordan Hill, who took on a bigger role following an injury to starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Hill finished with four tackles, including two for a loss.