The Seahawks didn't just earn their first victory of the 2018 season, they got back to the formula that has brought them so much success under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
In Sunday's 24-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys, what was just as important as the fact that the Seahawks won is the manner in which they controlled the game. After two weeks of struggling to get the running game going, Chris Carson powered his way to 102 yards and a touchdown on 32 physical carries. Russell Wilson was efficient and the passing game came up with some big plays, including a 52-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown, all without turning the ball over. On defense, the Seahawks held the Cowboys in check, keeping Dak Prescott and company from even reaching the red zone until the middle of the third quarter, and Seattle had three takeaways, upping its season total to eight.
Add in another solid day on special teams, and this was just about an ideal afternoon at CenturyLink Field for the Seahawks.
"We were trying to get to our formula, and we just didn't get started well in the first couple games," Carroll said. "But this is how we want to play. We couldn't be any more specific about it—we want to run the football, we want to play defense, and use the kicking game as much as we can to control the field. All those things happened today… I just thought that the whole feel of it, the whole attitude, the mentality, 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."
For Seattle's defense, which played very well in last week's loss at Chicago, Sunday was for the most part a case of picking up where it left off. The Cowboys punted five times and threw an interception on their first seven possessions, managing just a field goal as the Seahawks built a 17-3 lead at halftime. The pass rush was the best it has been this season, recording five sacks, and the ball-hawking secondary continued to play well, with Earl Thomas recording two interceptions and Bradley McDougald forcing a fumble that Justin Coleman recovered for the Seahawks' third takeaway of the game and eighth of the season.
"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. Earl had a heck of a game with his two picks, both of them were fantastic catches. I didn't get to see them as clear as I want to, and will, but they looked incredible and those were great plays."
But while it was in a lot of ways more of the same for the defense, the biggest difference Sunday was the positive step in the right direction taken by an offense that struggled at times in the first two games. Third-down struggles, caused in part by sacks and other negative plays leading to bad down-and-distance situations, kept the offense from getting on track the first two weeks, and also prevented the Seahawks from accomplishing one of their biggest goals heading into the season, which was to get the running game back on track after two down years in that department.
In Sunday's win, the Seahawks converted on six of their first nine third-down attempts, they kept Russell Wilson upright, allowing just one sack, and he responded with a very good performance, and most importantly they got the running game going.
"That's what we work for, to try to dictate the game," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We made it a big point of emphasis this week after the last two weeks to be able to run the ball effectively and protect Russ. We were able to do both of those things, and that's the kind of football that we're accustomed to, that's the formula for our offense—effective running game and when we have to throw it, be able to lock (the pass rush) down. They have a good front over there, and we were able to pretty much dominate them, and we're happy with that, we've just got to keep this going. Chris did a heck of a job. He runs so hard and makes defenses pay. And (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) just trusted us and kept the faith in us to keep dialing it up. Even when we didn't get much, they kept trusting us to dial it up, and we were able to dictate the game."
Particularly noteworthy was the play of the line overall, and especially of an interior line that looked quite a bit different due to injuries. Center Justin Britt didn't play because of a shoulder injury, and backup Joey Hunt was one of the game's unsung heroes, playing well in Britt's place on a day where the Seahawks were able to succeed in part because of the way they changed tempo on offense throughout the game, something they couldn't have done without having faith in their backup center. At guard, J.R. Sweezy made his first career start on the left side, filling in for Ethan Pocic who was out with an ankle injury. Sweezy had started the first two games at right guard, but D.J. Fluker's return from a hamstring injury allowed Sweezy to move over to the left side.
"I think that the offensive line did a tremendous job," Wilson said. "To see guys step up and play, like J.R. Sweezy playing left guard for the first time in his career, having D.J. back in there, and Joey Hunt—I thought he was the star of the game really. If you really think about it, to be able to do all of the things that we did offensively, put pressure on the defense, mix it up with all the calls and everything else that we did, I thought he did a tremendous job."
Carroll singled out the line play as well, saying, "I am really proud to see the offensive line be able to go out there and protect Russ and allow us to run the football. We ran the ball 39 times today, and that's what we're talking about."
Whether it was Carson powering his way to the first 100-yard game of his career, Wilson hitting his receivers for big plays, or a talented defense again taking the ball away and making big stops, the Seahawks didn't just win on Sunday, they won playing their style of football.
"That's how we want to be able to play football," Wilson said. ".. We want to be great in the red zone, and I think we were two for two today in the red zone. To be able to be on top of our game where it really matters, and to be great on third downs, to be great in the red zone, get turnovers, be explosive when we need to be, all those things came together. We've been saying in the locker room, on the planes and everything else, 'Imagine what we're going to do when we all click together at the same moment at the same time.' We were able to do that tonight."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' Week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks won 24-13 at CenturyLink Field.