Complaints about the Seahawks, and angst over their decline, have been rampant in recent weeks, and deservedly so. When a team with this pedigree — and the preseason expectations to match — starts out 2-5, the fallout is going to be far-reaching.
However, if you really wanted to see what a down-and-out football team looks like, in all its misery, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave an honors course Sunday.
Or maybe it was a dishonor course. They were as disorganized, poorly prepared and outmanned as you’d expect from Urban Meyer’s (for now, but check back Tuesday) beleaguered squad.
The Seahawks, in comparison, have had more pedestrian problems to deal with as the season threatened to slip away. But Sunday, in what Pete Carroll called “the official start of the second half” — more of a philosophical statement than one of mathematical accuracy — they gave their strongest hint that the coach’s promised revival is not just forced happy talk.
Yes, the aforementioned ineptitude of the now 1-6 Jaguars must be taken into account when judging this game. But if you were to draw up a blueprint for how the Seahawks can jump back into the playoff race, it would look pretty much like their 31-7 romp at Lumen Field.
Namely, an opportunistic and cohesive defense that harassed rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence all day long, frustratingly losing its coveted shutout with 1:49 left in the game on a fourth-down touchdown pass.
And namely, an offensive game plan that focused on getting the ball to their two most dynamic playmakers, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Metcalf caught two touchdown passes — one of them an acrobatic, twisting grab that few receivers on the planet could have pulled off — while Lockett grabbed 12 catches for 142 yards.
To Carroll, it’s the manifestation of a breakthrough he’s been sensing all along, just bubbling under the surface. And yet it won’t be proven authentic until the Seahawks show it can be sustained in their first two games after next week’s bye, which will be against Green Bay and Arizona.
Those two powerhouses are the antithesis of Jacksonville, but Carroll believes that a corner has been turned. And despite the genuine happiness over Geno Smith’s strong, assured outing — and his first win as a starter since 2014 — the possible return of Russell Wilson by the time Seattle plays again would also be a potent potential turning point.
“I’ve been seeing it and feeling it for a month now,” Carroll said. “But we just haven’t been able to cash in and get it done. We have so many good numbers that are supporting good play. … That’s because we’re doing a lot of things well. It just hasn’t translated into getting these wins in the close ballgame.
“And I won’t dwell on this, but we’ve missed Russ in this three-week span. He’s a pretty good player, you know.”
Smith was pretty good in this one, starting off with 14 straight completions (of which he was well aware: “I always count them in my head,” he said). And Smith put his own stamp on the game with a soaring quarterback sneak over the pile on fourth-and-1 for Seattle’s first touchdown in the first quarter.
Carroll dubbed that play “Geno’s Leap” and called it “poetic.” Quandre Diggs said admirably of Smith, “He lit them on fire today.” When asked if his stellar numbers — 20 of 24 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and a 128.3 QB rating — represented validation, Smith replied, “In the words of the great Kevin Durant, you guys know who I am.”
What we still don’t know is exactly who the Seahawks are. Their defense has been steadily improving from its dreadful start, but check back after Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray have been accounted for.
Without Chris Carson, Seattle’s running game is sagging, and they still haven’t found a way to get the tight ends involved to the extent they need to be (two targets, one catch, 7 yards Sunday). But the entire offense will get a huge boost if Wilson can come back from his finger injury in two weeks.
As Jamal Adams put it with minimalist verbal power, when asked about the impact of Wilson’s return: “Come on, man. Three (Wilson’s number) is three. He’s that guy.”
What the Seahawks definitely have going for them is the muscle memory of a proud team that is so used to being on the big stage that they’ll have to be dragged off.
“At the end of the day, we know exactly who we are as a team,” Adams said. “When we put it all together, when we go out and execute, we’re a pretty good team.”
The question, of course, is if there’s still time for a playoff run by the Seahawks even if they’ve seen the light. The math isn’t in their favor, even with a 17th game tacked on, barring an epic run.
“I mean, of course we don’t like where we are. We know we’ve got a lot of ground to catch up,” Quandre Diggs said. “But if there’s anything about this team and organization since I’ve been here, we’ve always been really resilient. And we’ve always had a stretch where we’ve won five, six in a row and we just stack those wins.
“So it can be done. We know we can do it. I think last year, having some of the same deals, and we got back on track. So I know we can do it, and we’ve got the right people in this building and on this team. So we’ll get it done.”
The Seahawks at least bought themselves more time Sunday at Jacksonville’s expense — and perhaps shined a light on the path they need to take the rest of the way.
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