INGLEWOOD—The Seahawks have won low-scoring game this season, beating the Broncos and Cardinals in games in which neither team scored 20 points. They also won a shootout in Detroit in Week 4.
What the Seahawks hadn't yet accomplished until heading into Week 7, however, was a victory in which it felt like they were firing on all cylinders. That changed in a big way Sunday as they beat the Chargers 37-23 at SoFi Stadium.
"I really liked us today, I liked the way we played," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You could feel us in all three phases, we were humming. The guys were running and hitting the way we want to, it was a really physical game… We had a really solid football game."
The Seahawks defense struggled over a three-game stretch that saw them lose to Atlanta and New Orleans and win in Detroit, then made a big turn in last week's 19-9 win over Arizona. The defense continued its strong play against the Chargers, recovering from two second-quarter Chargers touchdowns—one of which came on a short field after a Seattle turnover—to get stops on six straight possessions, five punts and one turnover on downs, before the Chargers finally found the end zone again trailing by three scores late in the fourth quarter.
Seattle's defense got two more takeaways, its sixth game out of seven this season with multiple takeaways, and the Seahawks limited L.A. to 329 yards and a 5 for 15 third-down conversion rate while holding the dynamic Chargers offense to just 53 rushing yards on 15 carries. And with the Chargers having to throw a lot, the pass rush was productive for a second straight week, recording three sacks and eight quarterback hits on Justin Herbert, who had been sacked only seven times all season heading into the game.
"The fact we're starting to come together as a defense and starting to trust on each other and lean on each other is awesome," said defensive co-captain Al Woods.
Asked if he thinks Seattle's defensive struggles are behind them, Carroll said, "I do. I really do, with still all kinds of improvement out there."
And unlike last week when points were tough to come by for both teams, Seattle's offense was able to put 37 points on the scoreboard this week with a balanced and explosive attack. The Seahawks also put together a solid outing on special teams that, while not perfect, did not include any of the disastrous plays that have plagued the unit in recent weeks.
"To do it two weeks in a row—we made even more progress in this game all around—it feels good to our guys," Carroll said. "They can feel it, they can feel the defense, they can feel what they're doing and how they fit together. This is what can happen when you start moving, so we're really excited about it and looking forward to getting it going again next week.
The way the Seahawks played well in all three phases against a strong opponent—the Chargers came into the game with a 4-2 record that had them in a tie for first place in their division—bodes well for the heading forward. From Geno Smith's efficiency to Kenneth Walker III's explosiveness to a defense that looks a lot more like what Seattle was expecting heading into the season, just about every part of Sunday's winning formula feels sustainable. And what Sunday's victory did in the short term was also put the 4-3 Seahawks into sole possession of first place in the NFC West. The Seahawks came into the game tied for first place with the 49ers and Rams, but San Francisco lost to Kansas City, while the Rams were on a bye.
"That's good," Carroll said when asked about being in first place. "Seven weeks in, look where we are. Who'd have thunk it?"
While the belief within the team was always strong, not a lot of people outside of the organization were expecting much out of the Seahawks after parting ways with a pair of franchise icons in Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in the offseason. Yet with Geno Smith playing at a Pro-Bowl level, and with a rookie class contributing in huge ways, the Seahawks are proving a lot of people wrong.
So while the Seahawks know they have a long, long ways to go for this season to be a success, they are enjoying the feeling of sitting atop the standings.
"It feels great," said safety Ryan Neal, who had an interception, seven tackles and four passes defensed. "It feels really good because, I mean let's just be honest, didn't nobody think we'd be (expletive). It feels good to come out here and just show you've got to play us, this is not just a roll over game. But it's only Week 7, so we've got a long ways to go, so we've got to go back to work and keep rolling."
Smith put together yet another strong performance facing one of his former teams, completing 20 of 27 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a 105.5 passer rating, and while he and the offense show no signs of slowing down, he's not satisfied with where he or the team is at seven games in.
"We've got a long ways to go," he said. "Four-and-three is OK, but it's not the greatest. We've got a long ways to go and we've got to keep building. We've got 10 games left in the regular season, and each one of them is going to be a championship game, each one of those games is going to matter. So we're all happy with the win, but we're ready to work tomorrow."
Yet like his head coach and teammates, Smith is capable of appreciating where the Seahawks are at this point of the season even if there is still work to do.
"We're happy with it," he said. "We're happy with it, but we're not done. We've got a lot of work to do, and we're not done. It's just the beginning. It's just the start of the season for us and we've got to get this thing rolling. We're extremely excited with where we're at, but we know we got to get better and keep moving forward."
With Walker rushing for 168 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown, and with Smith continuing to look like one of the league's best quarterbacks, one who has plenty of talented weapons to distribute the ball to, the Seahawks have plenty of firepower on offense to be competitive every week. And with the defense making the improvements that is has the past two games, the first-place Seahawks feel like they've found a formula to win a lot more games this season.
"We're playing complete football again," running back DeeJay Dallas said. "We did it last week, and this week it really showed. It's complete football—special teams, defense and offense."
Check out some of the best action shots from Seahawks vs. Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 23, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.