CINCINNATI—Two possessions into Sunday's game, it looked like it might be tough day for the Seahawks defense.
With Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow getting the ball out quickly and accurately, Cincinnati scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions, driving 69 yards on 13 plays to answer Seattle's opening score, then driving 73 yards on seven plays to take a lead they would never give up in an eventual 17-13 win.
Following those two touchdown drives, however, Seattle's defense played an outstanding game, limiting the Bengals to just three more points, and those came following a turnover on a possession on which Cincinnati didn't gain a yard.
"I thought the guys on the defensive side of the ball played about as good as we've played, at any time," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "They didn't make a yard on the turnover that they got, kicked a field goal, and other than that those guys gave us every chance to keep in there."
Following Cincinnati's two touchdown drives, the Seahawks allowed just one first down on the Bengal' next two possessions, both of which ended with punts. Then to open the third quarter, cornerback Tre Brown made a great play to intercept a deep pass intended for Ja'Marr Chase. From there, the Bengals would punt four more times, only getting points after a Seahawks turnover put them in field goal range.
"We had to settle ourselves down as a defense, everyone had to come together, regroup, recenter ourselves and our focus," outside linebacker Boye Mafe said. "We took that accountability and said we've got to come back in the second half and be better."
In all, the Seahawks got quick stops on eight straight Bengals possessions, allowing only five first downs, and never more than one per possession, after the initial two touchdown drives. And after gaining 138 yards on their first two possessions, the Bengals managed just 76 yards the rest of the game.
"I feel like we're just getting started," said safety Jamal Adams. "Obviously, just having everybody out there, that's the key. Just flowing and understanding where everybody's going to be. Communication-wise, playing as one. But the sky is the limit. We just have to keep working, put our heads down and just continue to get better."
As Adams notes, having more players available, particularly in the secondary, was a big factor for the Seahawks. After tearing his quadriceps tendon in last year's opener, Adams made his 2023 debut in Seattle's Week 4 win in New York, but he suffered a concussion on the Giants' opening drive. The Seahawks also had Brown back from a concussion, marking the first time all season they've had their secondary at close to full strength.
"We haven't even scratched the surface of what the secondary can be," said Brown, who in addition to the interception also had a third-down pass breakup that gave the Seahawks the stop they needed to set up a potential game-winning drive. "This is the first time everybody has been healthy, so to see that and realize what we've got in front of us, it's going to be special."
Such a strong defensive performance didn't lead to a win because of missed opportunities in the red zone and turnovers, which had Geno Smith upset with himself because the Seahawks couldn't turn that defensive effort into a victory.
"Really, really proud of those guys (on defense), and that's what we expect from those guys," Smith said. "They've got a lot of great players on that side of the ball. They're a big reason why this team is going to win a lot of games. We're going to need them to continue to play like that for the rest of the season, and as an offense, it really hurts—especially as a quarterback—seeing those guys battle the way they did. I think they only gave up like 50 something yards in the second half. And for us not to go down there and take the lead, that's on me. That's really on me. I've got to be better, and I will be."
Ultimately the Seahawks couldn't pull out a comeback win, but despite the loss, the play of the defense will give the team confidence moving forward.
"We just had to settle down and play our type of ball," said Brown. "We know who we are, and once we realized we're beating ourselves, that's when everything started to click."
Said defensive end Dre'Mont Jones, "I thought our energy and effort were there. That's something we always want. We never got discouraged. We really believed we had a chance to win this game, but if we keep up this attitude, there's going to be more numbers in the win column for sure."
The 12s made the trip to Cincinnati, OH to watch the Seahawks take on the Bengals in Week 6. Presented by TCL.