You know that feeling when you go to see an old band you love on the road, and you don’t want them to waste your time with crap off the new album. You just want the damn hits?
Well, down in Los Angeles, the Seahawks went out and for the most part spent Sunday afternoon jamming out the hits. Earl Thomas was a force in all phases of the game. Hit! Bobby Wagner turned a world-class running back into an afterthought. Hit! Richard Sherman erased a third of the field, again. Hit! Russell Wilson shook off a slow start to make just enough plays to beat a division rival in what was in many ways a must-win game. And the Seahawks eked out a great 16-10 win against a good team against the odds. That likely will matter when it comes to playoff positioning in January. The hits! I love the hits!
Also, some of the new stuff they’ve been playing? That kinda sucks? Well it was only there on Sunday in dribs and drabs. The running game never got on track, but the offensive line wasn’t a total catastrophe against a Rams front that features Noted Russell Wilson Destroyer Aaron Donald. Also, the Seahawks' recent woes defending the run? Not really there against a rejuvenated Todd Gurley. Also our inconsistent kicking game’s only blip was a weird kick off that rolled out of bounds for a penalty. Otherwise that new track “Rattled Kicker” wasn’t played at all.
And there were some fun new wrinkles on the hits too. Instead of Cliff Avril (whom we’ll get to later) delivering the game-altering strip sack, it was Frank Clark, who managed to hit Jared Goff by being the first player all year to beat Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. And instead of not Sheldon Richardson picking up the ball and scampering down the field for his second turnover of the game, it was Sheldon Richardson doing that work. Also? The new hit, “opposing team drops potential game winning touchdown,” was cool as hell to see live.
So let’s go through this fun (and also heart-exploding) throwback performance point by point:
• Walter Jones was may be the best left tackle in the NFL for a decade straight. Steve Largent was the best wide receiver of his generation. Kenny Easley just went into the Hall of Fame. Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner play at All-Pro levels year in and year out, and Wagner is probably the team’s best player this season. All that said? Earl Thomas is the best Seahawk of all time. If you disagree? Fight me in the streets.
This week he brought back the “ruin a Rams touchdown by karate chopping the wrist” move he invented back in 2014. No one had even tried it since. It worked again, wiping what would have been a Rams TD off the board on the first drive, keeping the game close until the Seahawks could find their bearings. He also had an interception and was involved in seven other tackles. After seeing what happens to the Seahawks without Thomas on the field, and now reinspecting the impact he brings on every play? Best. Seahawk. Ever.
• That’s to take NOTHING away from Sherman and Wagner who need to be All-Pros at their positions if they keep up their performances at anything like the level they’re playing at. Wagner again led the team in tackles, and was crucial as the team bottled up Todd Gurley in the second half.
• I loved when the Seahawks played a great cover of Drew Brees’ classic “hitting Jimmy Graham in the endzone.” Graham was unexceptional outside of his touchdown, but still, nice to hear a song I had only admired from afar before in person.
• Gunner Neiko Thorpe was back, and made an immediate impact on special teams, recovering a Tavon Austin fumble in punt coverage. He also revealed himself to be the team’s best dressed player:
• Kam Chancellor continued to be a real mixed bag of plays where he looked like Kam Chancellor and plays where he looked a little washed. I’m going to take the bye week to figure out exactly what’s been happening with Kam and what I want from him going forward. He’ll probably spend the bye week lifting weights, spending time with his family and not caring at all what I think of him. Advantage: Kam.
• The one thing missing from this game for the Seahawks? Explosive plays on offense. None of the deep shots landed, no receiver wound up with over 40 total yards, and none of the runs broke through to the second level. Russell Wilson played an efficient game, but given that the team had two interceptions (one of those belonged to former Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy who demonstrated why he’s no longer a quarterback) their inability to get chunk yardage was what prevented the Seahawks from blowing out the Rams in the second half.
• That the Seahawks were in a position to maybe blow out the Rams late? Miraculous given how good they looked on offense early. Rams wunderkind head coach Sean McVay is so much better at his job than his predecessor Jeff Fisher. His offensive design is currently second only to whatever wizardry is happening in Kansas City these days. He’s taken a potential historic draft bust in Jared Goff, and put him in a position to succeed in a bunch of ways.
McVay's use of misdirection keeps even great defenses like the Seahawks off-balance. He gives Goff simple progressions, that mean that Goff has multiple options on plays but clear ways of working through his progressions. And his protections schemes are complicated and (this is where things differ from the Seahawks’ protection schemes) effective. The Rams lost this game by missing on plays that were there and turning the ball over because of some heroic Seahawks individual efforts. Also, frankly, the Seahawks had a little bit of luck. The Rams did not lose this game because they’re the same old Rams.
• I missed the National Anthem as I was wading through security at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday, so I’ll say this about the current state of the anthem protests: fuck Mike Pence and fuck the systematic oppression and police brutality that disproportionately affects minorities in this country (which, again, is WHAT IS BEING PROTESTED). Ideally we’d eliminate both Pence and that oppression from the public sphere as quickly as possible.
• I’m genuinely worried about Cliff Avril. There have been reports that his neck injury could be career threatening. I’ll say this: Cliff has been one of the best Seahawks on and off the field over his tenure with the team. I want nothing more than to watch him keep wrecking quarterbacks on Sundays. That said, if there’s a real risk to his neck health if he continues to play? Then I want nothing more than for Cliff to retire a Seahawks legend, a player without whom this team would still never have won a Super Bowl. Hopefully his prognosis improves in the coming weeks.
• It was a brutal day in the NFL for injuries as a whole. New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is likely out for the year after breaking his ankle. And Texans defensive lineman JJ Watt suffered a season ending injury. The Seahawks managed to avoid any additional serious injuries, head into the bye tied for the division lead, and emerge to play… the Giants and the Texans. This team could well be 5-2 and in control of their destiny as they attempt to play my favorite hit as an encore to this game: insufferable Super Bowl contender.