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John Blanchette: Seahawks produce answers and questions in Week 1 escape

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 9, 2019, 12:15 a.m.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson watch a tipped ball during the second half Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / AP)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson watch a tipped ball during the second half Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / AP)

SEATTLE – Earl Thomas got himself an interception in his NFL season opener. Richard Sherman had a pick-6.

And their old team, the Seattle Seahawks, surrendered 418 passing yards to Andy Dalton, the 20-teens NFL version of Dave Krieg, whom he very much tried to channel Sunday at CenturyLink Field by doing one of those bar-of-soap-in-the-shower numbers with the football.

Boy, to be able to tap into the LOL texts flying among the old Legion of Boomers Sunday night.

Then again, what really counts is the summation of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Pete?

“This was not an indication of anything,” he concluded.

OK, that was said specifically in reference to Carroll’s precious running attack, which pretty much tanked behind an unengaged offensive line – aside from a had-to-have-it 21-yard grind by Chris Carson when the Seahawks were playing keepaway in the final minutes.

But that was nearly every part of the Seahawks’ game in their 21-20 escape against the aspiring-to-be-ordinary Cincinnati Bengals, and surely that has to be an indication of something.

Examples?

How about Tyler Lockett, the default go-to receiver now that Doug Baldwin has limped into retirement, being alarmingly AWOL – until springing free for a 44-yard touchdown catch that put Seattle ahead to stay?

Or the defense that couldn’t get Dalton and his targets off the field – they ran 70 plays to Seattle’s 49 – suddenly surging with sacks, swats and general havoc in the need-to moments.

“We rope-a-doped it a little bit today,” Carroll shrugged, “and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Hey, it was good enough for Muhammad Ali. But can the Seahawks really expect the heavyweights on their schedule – the Steelers next week, the Saints the next, division rivals like the Rams and 49ers – to punch themselves out?

Are the Seahawks really special enough to succeed with survival football?

Well, maybe they won’t have to.

There is a rather hoary disclaimer that in football there is Game 1 and then there are all the other games, with the thinnest of threads connecting the first to the rest. It’s largely true, and maybe even more so in this case — the Bengals coming in with a new head coach (Zac Taylor, most recently the Rams’ quarterbacks guru) and concepts, and the uncertainty in how the visitors might attack tended to hamstring Seattle’s defenders.

Plus this was the equivalent of the fifth practice for the Seahawks’ new toy, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney – the steal of the end-of-training-camp NFL deal-making, at least until the Patriots came up with Antonio Brown in circumstances way more suspicious than Inflategate.

The Pro Bowler had his moments in less-limited-than-expected work – a pass deflection his second play, an important fourth-quarter sack. But his indirect influence was more apparent.

“He just amps us up,” said linemate Quinton Jefferson. “I sure appreciate it. Because of him, I get a lot of one-on-ones and that’s great – go slide to him so I can do my thing. And he’s going to get his, too.”

As a result, Jefferson had two sacks – he had three all last year – and three other quarterback hurries and two deflections. Al Woods had that slippery-soap recovery of Dalton’s fumble and a fourth-down stop (“so that’s two turnovers,” Jefferson said). Rasheem Green ended the game with another strip of Dalton. So Clowney did seem to make everyone else better.

Plus there’s free agent Ziggy Ansah and top draft pick L.J. Collier still on the mend. There could be some occasional world-shaking up front.

It’ll likely be necessary.

Opponents will gang up on the running game until the Seahawks can establish they have reliable receivers. Rookie DK Metcalf had a strong debut, but he and Lockett were the only wideouts Russell Wilson targeted, and tight end Will Dissly left early with more knee trouble.

And the Seattle secondary had a devil of a time chasing Dalton’s receivers, in particular former Washington dart John Ross – a bit of a bust last year (210 yards) who got 158 on 12 catches Sunday, including a 55-yard touchdown when safety Tedric Thompson badly mistimed his jump for a sure-thing interception. Ross also burned Seattle on a 33-yard flea-flicker for a TD – all in all much more auspicious than his previous CenturyLink appearances.

“I used to work here for Staff Pro – I used to be a security guard here when I was in college,” said Ross, calling the return “surreal.”

Clowney knew the feeling.

“I remembered there was something about this team when we played them when I was in Houston,” he said. “They beat us in the fourth quarter, also. (Russell Wilson) is a relentless guy who never quits. On the sideline, he was saying, ‘I’m going to take it. I’ve got y’all. Just keep your guys locked in.’ We kept playing for him.”

Oh, and those 400-odd passing yards? That’s happened six times against Carroll-coached Seahawks teams.

Seattle’s won every time.

Guess it’s not an indication of anything.

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