SEATTLE - The Seahawks bounced back from an 0-2 start in a big way, beating the Dallas Cowboys 24-13 in their home opener Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
And the Seahawks didn’t just earn their first victory of the season on Sunday, they did so playing the type of football that head coach Pete Carroll wants to see. They ran the ball effectively and frequently, and were efficient on offense, and the defense had a big game, including three takeaways and five sacks.
As Carroll put it in his postgame press conference, "This is how we want to play... Everything fit together precisely how we hoped to see it. Now it’s our job to recreate it and do something again with it this week."
Here are six rapid reactions to the Seahawks’ first win of the season:
1. The commitment to the running game was clear.
The Seahawks came into the season wanting to run the ball more effectively than they had in the past two seasons, but through two games, the numbers weren’t what they were looking for, both in terms of production and in particular in the number of rushing attempts. Whether it was third-down struggles leading to a lack of overall plays or down-and-distance situations causing unfavorable running conditions, the Seahawks handed the ball off to running backs only 14 times in their first game and 19 times last week.
That changed dramatically on Sunday, however, with the Seahawks rushing for 113 yards on 39 carries, including 102 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries for Chris Carson.
Perhaps the signature drive for Carson and the running game was Seattle’s 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that started in the third quarter and ended early in the fourth quarter, taking five minutes, 49 seconds off of the clock. On that 10-play drive, Carson carried six times, gaining 27 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown that was the first touchdown run by a Seahawks running back since J.D. McKissic scored on a long run in Week 4 last season.
"We just got clear on the commitment and the value of running the football and we just stayed with it," Carroll said. "We talked about it all week. We’ve been talking about it for some time. I was really disappointed that we didn’t come into the season in that mode, but it was because we had gone for it in some things that we did in the first two weeks. This is where we want to be, so we’ve righted it hopefully. It won’t mean anything unless we come back and do it next week. One week was good, though, and it’s a great illustration of what we can be like.”
2. The pass protection was better, and so was Russell Wilson.
After getting sacked 12 times in the first two games, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson enjoyed a much cleaner day in the pocket against a dangerous Dallas pass rush, which came into the game with nine sacks. Wilson wasn’t sacked until midway through the third quarter, and that was the only sack he took in the game.
The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for that, but so too does Wilson, who looked more decisive than he had in the previous two games, getting the ball out on time and on target.
Wilson finished his day completing 16 of 26 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a passer rating of 109.8, and those numbers could have been even better if not for a couple of first-half drops.
"I thought Russ played really well at controlling the tempo of the game," Carroll said. "He was really smart today, he was really on it. I really liked him in that role. He had a lot of stuff he did, a lot of subtle things today that you might not be able to see that we’re really happy about in controlling how the rhythm of the game went."
Asked more about the subtle things Wilson did, Carroll said, "It’s managing the tempo and the line of scrimmage and the cadence. They had to call timeouts today, a couple different times, because they weren’t ready for what we were doing. They didn’t want to let the ball get snapped. Those were subtle aspects for how he contributes. He was responsible for all of that happening, in the management manner that he has and how he’s doing it. That’s something that he and (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) have worked on all offseason. It just didn’t show up in the first couple weeks; we couldn’t get the first downs. In this one you could really see it, and we’re just getting started and growing with that. It’s not just going no-huddle, there’s other aspects of just tempo. When he’s in control of it, we’re really at our best.”
3. The defense had another very good game.
The Cowboys made things somewhat interesting with a touchdown drive late in the game, but for the most part, Seattle’s defense was outstanding for the second week in a row.
On their first seven possessions, the Cowboys punted five times, turned the ball over once and kicked a long field goal.
For the game, the Cowboys forced three turnovers, two of them Earl Thomas interceptions, held the Cowboys to just 3 for 13 on third down, and didn’t allow the Cowboys to reach the red zone until midway through the third quarter.
The Seahawks also had a season-high five sacks, including Frank Clark’s third in as many games and two by Jarran Reed, and with three takeaways they’re up to eight this season, including seven interceptions.
"The defense played really well all day long," Carroll said. "We gave up a little bit of yardage rushing, particularly late when usually teams are throwing the football, they got some easy runs on us. The pass rush was terrific overall, with five sacks, three turnovers by the D, too. Picks again, and then the great play by Bradley McDougald on the forced fumble. Just really good stuff."
4. Earl Thomas keeps making plays.
Earl Thomas did not practice Friday for what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called personal reasons, but he was on the field Sunday and was his usual play-making self. Thomas, had two very impressive interceptions off of tipped balls, the second of which all but put the game on ice in the fourth quarter, and he also recorded a team-high seven tackles.
"Earl had a heck of a game with his two picks, both of them were fantastic catches," Carroll said. "I didn’t get to see them as clear as I want to, and will, but they looked incredible and those were great plays."
Carroll didn't go into detail on the practice Thomas sat out on Friday, but said, "What I do know is he gave everything he had today. He was in every step of the way, every aspect of the game. The communications, the focus and the adjustments, and we were going, I was with him on some of those things on the sidelines. He was in everything. He played his tail off and he had a blast playing, and he had a blast in the locker room."
5. Bradley McDougald? More like McDo-Good, right?
Sorry, that pun was terrible. But what has been anything but terrible has been the play of safety Bradley McDougald, who has been great all season for the Seahawks, and who came up big again on Sunday.
McDougald, who had two interceptions in the season opener, and eight tackles and a turnover-causing pass breakup last week, was again one of the best defensive players on the field on Sunday.
McDougald, who finished with five tackles, had a tackle for loss on Dallas’ first possession, then later in the first quarter he forced a punt with a pass breakup on third down. In the fourth quarter, McDougald chased down Ezekiel Elliott after a big gain for the Cowboys running back, and punched the ball loose, with Justin Coleman recovering to give the Seahawks their second of three takeaways in the game.
“He’s a good ballplayer," Carroll said. "He’s playing really well. He’s a terrific cover guy. He knocked the ball down on a crossing route today and he was involved in another pick, and also in the turnover; a fantastic forced fumble on a big play. He’s playing great ball.”
6. Tyler Lockett keeps coming up with big plays.
The Seahawks signed Tyler Lockett to a multi-year contract extension before the start of season, and the speedy receiver has responded by rewarding them with big plays early this season. Lockett had only four catches in the game, but he made the most of them, with two allowing the offense to convert on third down, and another going for a 52-yard touchdown, also on third down. That production by Lockett, who has a touchdown in each game this season, is even more needed with Doug Baldwin still sidelined with a knee injury.
Lockett also had an 18-yard punt return late in the first half to give the offense a short field, leading to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal at the end of the half.
“He’s off to a great start," Carroll said. "He has a touchdown in every game, he’s making plays, makes things happen. He’s really good at getting open underneath on the third down stuff in the slot. It gives us a great variety, when Doug gets back, that we can have those guys. He’s playing great football. Have you ever seen anybody run a punt back smiling? He was smiling on his last punt return. He came over to the sidelines and he was smiling. He was smiling during the return. Woody Hayes used to say you can’t make a tackle with a smile on your face, but you can return a punt with your smile. He did it today.”
Photos of Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor raising the 12 Flag prior to Seattle's 2018 Week 3 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field.