The Seahawks are a quarter of the way through a 2015 that has not gone exactly according to plan. But while they would prefer to be better than 2-2, they are trending in the right direction, having won two straight behind dominant defensive performances following two losses against tough road opponents.
"It's a good comeback, we finished the quarter well in getting a couple wins," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We're trying to find our ways to continue to improve. There's a lot of ways for us here to get better obviously, and that's really what our theme is, is to continue to strive to find those ways, adjust things, and fix things so that we can be more efficient and more consistent. It hasn't been like we like it, but we're pleased to be getting on track, and the way the defense is playing gives us a chance every week."
Let's take a look at who and what stood out through the first quarter of the season.
MVP: QB Russell Wilson
It hasn't been a perfect first four games for Wilson—he was harder on himself than anyone for the two fumbles he lost in Monday's win over the Lions—but through four games Wilson is completing a career-best 71.7 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 100.5. And Wilson is doing that behind an inexperienced line that is still finding its way—"We need to get better there," Carroll said of the pass protection—and while playing without Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch for the past game and a half. On top of that, Wilson is Seattle's leading rusher with 177 yards on 34 carries.
"I think he's done phenomenal," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's a unique quarterback in his own right. There's nobody like him in terms of the throwing game, being able to make guys miss, being able to make plays with his legs, being able to make great decisions when he runs. He just does so many good things, we're not going to sit here and pick him apart and try to change the way he plays. We love the way he plays. He does a lot of great things for us, when we want the ball out, he usually gets the ball out. Is there going to be a time when something like that happens? Sure there is, but that's the game we're going to play, and he's going to weigh on if he's going to make it or not."
Best defensive player: LB Bobby Wagner
There are plenty of candidate on a defense that has really turned things around over the last two games, from Michael Bennett to Cliff Avril to K.J. Wright to Richard Sherman to Earl Thomas to Kam Chancellor, who helped spark the defense with his return in Week 3. But Wagner, who was voted captain of Seattle's defense by his teammates before the start of the season, has been especially impressive of late, and now has a team-high 34 tackles to go along with half a sack and two quarterback hits. After earning first-team All-Pro honors last season, Wagner appears to be picking up right where he left off.
"Bobby's really playing great," Carroll said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle. "Bobby's all over the place… He really jumped out at me."
Best special teams player: K Steven Hauschka
With apologies to Jon Ryan, who as always has been instrumental in helping the Seahawks control field position, this honor goes to Hauschka, who is a perfect 10 for 10 on field-goal attempts. In particular Hauschka has been strong over the past two weeks in victories, making all four field goal attempts against Chicago, and making 51- and 52-yard kicks in a 3-point victory over Detroit.
Best rookie: WR/KR/PR Tyler Lockett
Yes, the NFC special teams player of the month for September would have been a good pick for special teams honors, but that would mean ignoring what he has done on offense as well. In addition to returning a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in his first three games, Lockett has 10 catches for 109 yards, including four catches for 58 yards last week. Lockett is making an early impact not just because of his impressive athleticism, but also his work ethic.
"He's really a terrific athlete, and he works at it really hard too," Carroll said. "He's the hardest working guy we have here, he's staying late and getting out there early."
Best free-agent addition: CB Cary Williams
Williams was signed in the offseason with the hopes that he could replace Byron Maxwell, who left in free agency, and so far Williams has been very solid as Seattle's starting right corner. Williams admits he struggled at first to adjust to the technique used by Seattle's cornerbacks, but things turned for him late in the preseason, and he has continued to improve as the season goes on, including an impressive effort against Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.
"There really is indications that he's really getting it and he really feels it and he's getting confident," Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle. "There's a whole style to it and he's really embracing the way.
"He played with the best-challenged receiver you could go against and he was right with it. I was really fired up to see that."
Also deserving of a mention is defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, who has 11 tackles taking over the starting role held by Tony McDaniel the past two seasons.
Best play: Lockett's 105-yard kickoff return.
Lockett's return, which sparked a big second half in a 26-0 victory over Chicago, was another impressive display of Lockett's return ability, but what stood out even more was how perfectly the entire play was executed by all 11 Seahawks on the field.
"That was probably the best I've ever been a part of in terms of all 11 guys doing what we practiced and what we worked on, doing it with the spacing and the timing, it was excellent by all of them," special teams coach Brian Schneider said.
Worst play: Nock Foles' 37-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks.
The Seahawks pulled off an impressive comeback in their season opener at St. Louis to overcome an 11-point deficit, but were unable to hold onto a 7-point lead in the fourth-quarter. The Rams' game-tying drive was punctuated by a long touchdown pass on which safety Dion Bailey unfortunately lost his footing and fell in coverage, allowing Kendricks to score easily. The Rams would go on to win in overtime.
Things to build on: Dominant defense and a lack of penalties.
The Seahawks gave up more points and big plays than they're used to allowing in their first two games, but the defense has been dominant in its past two games, allowing just a single field goal to the Lions and Bears offenses. In a Week 3 shutout victory, the Seahawks forced the Bears to punt on 10 of their possessions, and Chicago ran only two offensive plays in Seattle territory. Last week, the Lions punted on eight of 10 possessions, kicking one field goal and fumbling once. Until their final drive, which ended on Seattle's goal line, the Lions had just 166 total yards and had not been in the red zone.
Another very positive sign is the decrease in penalties this season. Even while playing very well in recent years, one negative for the Seahawks has been a high number of penalties—they had a league-high 130 enforced against them for 1,009 yards last season. Through four games this season, however, the Seahawks are one of the league's least penalized teams, with just 23 enforced for 209 yards, a stat made even more impressive by the fact that penalties are up league-wide.
Things to clean up: Pass protection and turnover margin.
The Seahawks have allowed 18 sacks, which is tied for the most in the NFL, and while not all of those are on the offense line, pass protection has been an issue.
"It was not as good as we needed it to be," Carroll said of the offensive line play after Seattle allowed six sacks Monday. "The protection; we didn't run the ball as well as we wanted to tonight, and we obviously had trouble protecting. We just have to help those guys more. We'll find out as we look again at this week. Each week has been a little bit different, but the results are similar in the protection thing. We have to get better. Week 2 was our best one, and then we didn't do as well the last two weeks."
As for turnovers, the Seahawks, are currently minus-1 in turnover margin, which eats at Carroll, who is constantly preaching his "It's all about the ball" mantra. Oddly enough, the Seahawks are currently plus-1 in turnovers in their two losses and minus-2 in victories, but Carroll knows losing the turnover battle will be costly in the long run. Perhaps the strangest part of that equation is that the Seahawks don't have an interception through four games, though they're confident that will change soon.
"That eats at me," Carroll said. "We're extremely committed to getting the football and taking it away. But you've seen some games and some ways that people have thrown the ball at us to maintain their possession of it. We had a lot of quick throws last week from a very high-powered offense, and the week before they were very careful with the ball. So when you play here, we've taken the ball off people pretty consistently for years, so it's a good way to try to nullify that factor. So I think it's a combination of stuff, but they're going to come in bunches now though. It's going to happen."