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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Seahawks grades: Shaky defense a concern, but offense and special teams step up

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 28, 2020

Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, right, attempts to make a reception as Dallas defensive back Trevon Diggs defends during the second half of Seattle’s 38-31 victory on Sunday.  (Stephen Brashear)
Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, right, attempts to make a reception as Dallas defensive back Trevon Diggs defends during the second half of Seattle’s 38-31 victory on Sunday. (Stephen Brashear)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Maybe this is just how it’s going to be for the Seahawks in 2020 – an offense seemingly capable of anything and a defense seemingly capable of blowing anything.

You can’t say it’s not exciting, and maybe we need some of that in our lives right now.

OK, so maybe not quite as much as Seattle has delivered the past two weeks, including the winning 38-31 high-wire act Sunday against Dallas.

Still, wins are wins, and Seattle is 3-0 for the first time since 2013 and all alone atop the NFC West, even if by the slimmest of margins.

On to some grades:

Quarterback: Maybe Russell Wilson missed a pass or two here or there. But five touchdown passes and the last drive were things of beauty. It’s his third game this year with a passer rating of 130 or better (130.7 Sunday) and Wilson now has an absurd 14-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, setting a record for most TDs in the first three games of the season, something that almost seemed so preordained he wasn’t even asked about it in his news conference afterward.

Grade: A

Running back: The really bad news here turned out to be not bad. Another injury to Chris Carson shouldn’t keep him out Sunday. Carson had a decent enough day until then, with 64 yards and three receptions on three targets. Seattle finished with 117 rushing yards and a solid 4.5 yards per carry.

Grade: B+

Wide receiver: The DK Metcalf gaffe is hard to ignore. But give big props for him coming back to catch the winning touchdown and ultimately finish with 110 yards.

And then the magnificent steadiness of Tyler Lockett with eight catches and three scores, and four in three weeks.

Metcalf’s gaffe moves the grade down for the entire unit but the big picture remains a one-two punch as good as there is in the NFL.

Grade: B

Tight end: Finally, some real impact out of a tight end corps the Seahawks figured could be as good as any in the NFL heading into the season, especially from Greg Olsen, who had a bounce-back game after the drop that led to a pick-six last week. Olsen had five receptions for 21 yards, including the fourth down on the final drive, and also drew a penalty in the end zone that led to another score.

Jacob Hollister also had a score and the two-point play in what felt like the first big game for the tight ends this year.

Grade: B+

Offensive line: The Seahawks had trouble blocking Aldon Smith – who appears not to have lost anything during his four-year absence – all game as he finished with three sacks.

And they had trouble with some of the Cowboys’ pressure packages.

But the Seahawks were able to give Wilson the time he needed on that last drive, and especially on the final touchdown, despite an injury to guard Damien Lewis, with Jordan Simmons having to play the last three quarters.

Grade: B

Defensive line: There were some big plays at key times (Jarran Reed forcing a Dak Prescott fumble) and the Seahawks held Dallas’ usually dangerous running game to almost nothing – Ezekiel Elliott had just 34 yards on 14 carries and felt like a non-factor.

But there is still nowhere near enough of a push in the four-man rush, with the Seahawks continuing to do an uncharacteristic amount of blitzing. That’s even more concerning realizing Dallas entered the game playing with backups at each tackle spots after left tackle Tyron Smith was ruled out due to injury.

Still, to name a few other bright spots, rookie Alton Robinson was active for the first time and had a tackle for a loss on the first series of the game and then the key sack at the end of the game and second-year tackle Bryan Mone got credited for the safety on Elliott in the first quarter.

Seattle finished with two sacks – the plays by Robinson and Reed – and had 10 quarterback hits. But Prescott still seemed to have too much time too often.

Grade: C

Linebackers: There was overall good play against the run and a few times when the pass coverage was OK. But Dallas finishing with 522 yards is an indictment of everybody on defense.

Jordyn Brooks indeed got the start at weakside linebacker but actually wasn’t on the field on the first play of the game.

While K.J. Wright moved to strongside linebacker in the base defense, he typically stayed on the field in the nickel, with Brooks playing WLB in the base. Brooks, though, was used in some situational nickel packages, as well.

Wright was beaten easily off the line by Dallas receiver Cedric Wilson on a play that turned into a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Brooks then left the game in the second half with a knee injury.

Shaquem Griffin came in late and had some nice moments on the final drive.

Grade: C

Defensive backs: So much to discuss here.

The injuries are obviously really concerning – shaky as Seattle’s defense has been, it’s hard to imagine playing any games without Jamal Adams, who left late with a groin injury. Seattle already was without Quinton Dunbar, Marquise Blair and Lano Hill.

But not all that happened Sunday can be excused by injuries.

Adams seemed to be having more of a quiet game than his first two before leaving in the fourth quarter with a groin injury.

And Seattle hoped the return of Quandre Diggs would smooth out some of the issues in the back end giving up explosive plays, but Dallas got a few anyway, burning both Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers for touchdowns in second half.

Still, there were bright spots, such as the two interceptions, including Shaquill Griffin’s right before halftime that led to a pivotal touchdown. Adams’ replacement – Ryan Neal, the backup because Hill was out – then saved the game at the end.

But otherwise the secondary just continues to struggle and now might have to play a while without heralded offseason pickup Adams.

Ugo Amadi, though, continued to show some promise, as the nickel had two breakups of third-down passes in the first quarter, one near the end zone on Dallas’ first drive to force the Cowboys to kick a field goal.

Suffice to say, there is going to have to be some really significant improvement in this area for Seattle to achieve the lofty goals that the play of the offense makes realistic.

Grade: D

Special teams: Seattle’s special teams, a strength through the first two games of the season, continued to be a big difference maker.

Dallas’ Tony Pollard dropped a kickoff following Seattle’s first touchdown and Neal made the tackle at the 1-yard line, leading to a safety on the next play.

Neal, activated from the practice squad Saturday, also forced a penalty and had a solo tackle in coverage.

Michael Dickson had another great day punting, averaging 54.7 yards on seven kicks and downing three inside the 20.

Grade: A

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