Sometimes you get both what you want AND what you need.
That was the case Sunday for the Seahawks, who desperately needed a win in any way imaginable to snap a three-game losing streak and restore hope before heading into their bye week.
“It was going to be a loooooong week,” receiver Tyler Lockett said of the thought of heading into the bye by losing to the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars. “A long bye week.”
On top of a win, the Seahawks hoped they could do it in dominating, feel-good, confidence-raising fashion against a Jags team that had lost 20 of its past 21 games, making the bye week that much more of a sigh of relief.
And that they did, as the Seahawks scored on three of their first four possessions en route to a 31-7 rout in front of a sun-drenched and celebratory Halloween crowd at Lumen Field, their first win at home this year in four tries.
“This was a really good game for us when we needed it badly,” coach Pete Carroll said.
They did it with a defense that pitched a shutout for 58 minutes and 11 seconds, making 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence look every bit the rookie he still is, not allowing a pass completion of longer than 17 yards all game.
And they did it with an offense that intentionally was much more aggressive than six days ago during a 13-10 loss to the Saints on a wet and windy night at Lumen in which Seattle deliberately reined in the offense to avoid mistakes as well as accounting for a tough New Orleans pass defense.
“You saw us in the weather and all that last week,” Carroll said. “We were just concerned about making sure that we took care of the football.”
With sunny skies and going against a pass defense ranked 31st in the NFL, the Seahawks opened in an empty set with Geno Smith hitting Tyler Lockett for 9 yards on the first play, setting a tone for the rest of the day.
Five plays later Smith hit Lockett for 27 yards to the 1 – though at first it appeared to be a TD, setting up Smith’s eventual dive over the top for a fourth-down TD.
That kicked off an almost perfect day for Smith in what was his third start in place of an injured Russell Wilson.
Smith completed his first 14 passes (13 of which went to either Lockett or DK Metcalf) before being forced to throw one away to avoid a sack. In getting his first win as a starter since 2014, he finished 20-for-24 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for the third straight game.
Was Smith conscious of the fact he’d completed his first 14 passes?
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” he said. “I always count. I’m always counting in my head. I want to complete every single ball.”
And while the desultory offensive performance against the Saints had some questioning if Smith were up to the task of replacing Wilson, Smith said he never lost faith. And like Carroll, he said there were reasons the game plan was different Sunday than it had been Monday.
“It had to be,” Smith said. “People don’t want to take account for the wind and rain, but it was real out there. You can’t just go out there and be throwing the ball all over the place. That’s not realistic.
“… We had great weather today, (and) we were just aggressive at the beginning of the game and stayed on it and pushed the tempo, and you could see how it affected those guys.”
Seattle punted after its second possession, and the Jags moved to midfield with a first down early in the second quarter. But Lawrence tried to hit Tavon Austin deep only to underthrow the ball and see Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs race in to pick it off.
Diggs said he could tell the play was coming, noting the presence of former Seahawks offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell (who was also with the Lions when Diggs was in Detroit) and Brian Schottenheimer on Jacksonville’s staff.
“They know how aggressive I am with run fits and things like that,” Diggs said. “I’m kind of slowing myself down a little bit this year and just knowing teams are going to try that type of play. … People can say he threw it to me, but I actually jumped the route.”
It was his third interception of the season, making him the only player in the NFL to have three or more picks each of the past five years.
Seattle’s offense then responded with a 73-yard drive capped by a 16-yard pass from Smith to Metcalf, who reached over former teammate Shaquill Griffin to snare the ball in the front corner of the end zone and make it 14-0.
And with Jacksonville’s leading rusher James Robinson sidelined with a heel injury, the Jags had few other answers.
Seattle added a field goal before halftime and then another TD on the second drive of the second half set up by a trick play – running back DeeJay Dallas throwing the ball back to Smith, who then hit Lockett for 28 yards to the 5. Smith fired to Metcalf for a 5-yard TD two plays later, and all that was left was seeing whether Seattle could get its first shutout since the third game of the 2015 season (26-0 against Chicago).
That didn’t happen. The Jags scored with 1:49 left. But putting a fitting capper on a feel-good day, Travis Homer scooped up the onside kick and returned it 43 yards for another TD.
“Obviously, as a defense, we didn’t want to give up the last one,” safety Jamal Adams said. “That really stings because we wanted the shutout. But at the end of the day, we got the job done.”
And that was job one as a loss might have already meant the end to any realistic playoff hopes.
Not that the road will be easy as after the bye Seattle travels to 7-1 Green Bay and then hosts 7-1 Arizona.
Wilson might be back for the Packers. If not, the Seahawks have shown they can win a game with Smith, especially with the way the defense has been playing of late, having allowed only two touchdowns in the last 10 quarters.
“We continue to get better,” Carroll said. “We can see it, we’re proving it. And we need to keep counting on it as we had in the second half here.”
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