Cigar Thoughts, Game 1: Seahawks emerge from the darkness of old to blind Colts with bright vision of the future

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, friends.

Normally the time leading up to the first game of the Seahawks season is one filled with excitement, anticipation, and absolute crippling anxiety. For some reason, though, this time felt different. Even with all the drama surrounding Russell Wilson— and the hullaballoo about the contract situations of Jamal Adams, Duane Brown, and Quandre Diggs— everything just seemed to settle in where it was supposed to. There’s been a weird calm surrounding my headspace with the Seahawks this year. Maybe it’s because I’m so optimistic about Shane Waldron. Maybe because just about every major decision the front office chose made sense. Maybe it’s just because the Seahawks have numbed my sense of pain. Whatever the reason, I am just beset by an ethereal peace coming into the season; a peace buoyed by bright-eyed hope. Now it’s time to find out if I’ve just gone insane instead.

The Colts started the 2021 season with the football, rolling out their new, Carson-Wentz-led offense against a Seattle defense that’s coming off the most schizophrenic season I could possibly imagine. There’s been a lot of talk about a lot of aspects of the Seahawks leading up to today but one of the more underrated subtexts is which version of that D we’d see most of this year— the one that was on pace to allow more points and yards than any team in history during the first half or the one that ranked second in points allowed over the final eight games.

On this occasion, they came out and immediately stuffed Jonathan Taylor on a dive up the middle then Bobby Wagner expertly closed on a stick route over the middle and broke up Wentz’ first pass. On third down, Jamal Adams came on a sprint-blitz around the left side and recorded his first sack of the season… but alas. Adams, who plays football like a sugared-up 5-year-old, came across the line a hair too quick and the sack was nullified by an offsides penalty.

The new life was all the Colts needed, as they spent the next nine minutes absolutely carving up Seattle’s defense with a series of quick passes and gashing runs. That unrelenting sequence gave Indianapolis a 1st & goal, which is where the ‘Hawks finally found their footing. Darrell Taylor, who has by all accounts had a phenomenal camp, broke through the line to wrap up the other Taylor for a short gain. On the next play, Adams did the same and chopped Taylor down for a loss of three. That was followed by a screen pass to Taylor and it looked for a moment like he would follow his blockers into the end zone. Instead, Adams undercut a lead blocker and chopped Taylor down at the one.

Thank GOD the Colts are cowards. Every single reason (emotional, analytical, game-flow) dictated going for it on 4th down but instead they ran their field goal unit out for an easy three. And while it felt all too familiar watching an opponent slash their way down the field without much resistance, Frank Reich’s chicken-out would set the tone for the rest of the game.

/deep breath

Finally. It was finally time to see Russell Wilson and Co take the field with this new, much-anticipated offense. The starters didn’t really play in the offseason and while I support that approach, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some concern about rust, new playbook, etc etc, ETC. Well, Shane Waldron quickly wiped all those fears away like a mother drying her baby’s tears.

Starting with four-yard pitch to Chris Carson and followed by a two-yard Wilson scramble, Seattle faced their first 3rd down of the new campaign. After a false start negated a debilitating sack, Wilson dropped back, planted his back foot, and shot out of a closing pocket like a blow dart for 11 yards and a first down. Much like the Colts, the second-life 3rd down conversion re-energized the Seahawks, but unlike Indy, Seattle didn’t settle.

Carson would get five on the next play, then four on the following, setting up another 3rd down. Needing only one yard this time, they gave it right back to their lead back and Dr Carson delivered 32 CCs of pure fuck-you to the home team defense. Bouncing off a tackle at the line of scrimmage, Carson powered through a gap in the line and stiff-armed his way down the right side for 33 enormous yards.

As Carson headed to the sideline to wipe the blood off his sword, Rashaad Penny came in for a pinballing four-yard scamper of his own. To this point, Russ still hadn’t thrown a single pass, and while that ended with an incompletion on the next play, we were all quickly reminded that this is still Wilson’s offense. The Colts brought a blitz on the next play, and Wilson kicked them square in the nuts for it.

As the pressure closed in on him, Russ lobbed a sky ball over a vacant middle of the field. As the ball descended towards the end zone, Tyler Lockett feinted hard to the left and then spun around sharply over his right shoulder to make a falling Wille Mays catch for Seattle’s first touchdown. It was a play that highlighted the incredible bond of trust that Wilson and Lockett have, as well as the fine-tuned skill sets they both deploy.

The Seahawks defense was re-energized after that, punctuating a swift three-and-out with an athletic sack from Rasheem Green. From there, Wilson picked up right where he left off— carving up the Colts defense like Zorro. He started the team’s second drive with an 11-yard TE screen to Gerald Everett, a specialty of Waldron’s with the Rams. That was followed by a five-yard run from Carson and a six-yard out to Will Dissly. Then Carson for 4, and back to Dissly, who found a soft spot in the zone for 22 easy ones. After that is what back to Carson one more time for five before we saw something we’ve never really witnessed as Seahawks fans. Everett, who Pete Carroll called the “fanciest” tight end he’s ever had, lined up wide right before running a scalpel-sharp in route. Wilson’s timing was perfect and hit the Uber-athletic TE with a fastball in stride, letting Everett hustle into the end zone to make it 14-3.

Indianapolis, to their credit, showed some muster on their next possession. Alternating touches between Taylor and Nyheim Hines, they moved the ball close enough for Wentz to find Zach Pascal for a 14-yard score. Even though that score made it 14-10, it didn’t feel like this game was leveling out at all. Call it naïveté if you want— I prefer the term clairvoyance— but it just seemed like the ‘Hawks were still in control.

That faith was rewarded on Seattle’s next drive, and like the two before it, new offensive wrinkles were debuted. On the first play, Seattle’s electric rookie Dee Eskridge took a jet sweep around the right end and squirted out of the defender’s grasp like a wet bar of soap for 13 yards. After a short Carson run, Wilson went back to Eskridge, who made a slick catch in tight coverage along the left sideline for 6. That brought up 3rd & 1 and, instead of the empty set shotgun we’ve become so accustomed to, Seattle actually closed their OL splits down and ran (gasp) a successful QB sneak. After a 21-yard hookup with Everett was erased by a penalty, Wilson took a sack creating a 2nd & 20 with less than a minute left.

Instead of turtling up and nursing a 4-point lead into the half, Pete Carroll stayed aggressive. What Waldron cooked up next was delicious. Wilson took the snap and dropped back. His line kept the pocket clean as he surveyed his options and while he did, Lockett wiggled underneath the coverage and exploded up the seam behind the defensive backs. You could almost see Russ’ pants get tighter as he saw what was happening. For the first time in 2021, we saw Wilson tilt his shoulders and address the Lord God Almighty face-to-face. Russ said “wassup”, God nodded back, and Wilson launched his bomb. The pass, like his soul, was found blameless and landed softly in Lockett’s tiny baby hands without the receiver slowing down one bit. Tyler danced into the painted area to silence the crowd and give his team a 21-10 lead at the break.

The third quarter didn’t offer a ton of big plays, but it was nice to see DK Metcalf finally get involved, snagging a couple of passes for 15 yards. It was remarkable to me how efficient the Seahawks offense was in the first half, scoring on three of their four possessions without so much as looking Metcalf’s way. Other than that, there wasn’t much from that period save for your regularly scheduled Chris Carson fumble. And while that had a chance to swing the momentum of the game, Wentz’ deep-seeded sense of righteousness wouldn’t allow him to keep the ill-gotten gain. Instead, he benevolently dropped the snap on a 4th & 1 sneak, a flub that was recovered by DJ Reed. The rest of the quarter was a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really matter (literally 5 punts) and we headed to the fourth with Seattle still up by 11.

The Colts began the final stanza with an impressive possession, using 14 plays to push the ball across midfield and down to Seattle’s 26. After the Seahawks forced consecutive incompletions, Wentz found Michael Pittman Jr for eight to force a 4th & 2. Unlike earlier, the Colts decided to go for it but Darrell Taylor had other things on his mind. Using a combination of early power and late speed, Taylor gobbled up the distance between him and Wentz, wrapping him up for an enormous drive-killing sack.

At this point, the Seahawks were done playing with their food and decided to snuff the life out of their prey. The execution would take 7 plays and cover 73 yards. It started the way it would ultimately end, with Wilson finding Metcalf. On the first play, Wilson ducked through a play-action fake to his right and curled around to his left. Planting his feet, he saw his boy slip behind the biting safety and calmly delivered a 30-yard strike to DK. Then it was Carson for four, Lockett for six, and nine more on another effective end-around to Eskridge. Then it was DeeJay Dallas and Chris Carson trading four-yard runs to set up the kill shot. Wilson dropped back from the Colts’ 15 with no doubts about where he was gonna go. As soon as he hit the top of his set, he spun a perfect pass up the left seam where Metcalf had completely obscured the defender. The pass hit DK dead center for the clinching score.

The Colts would add a garbage-time touchdown before time ran out but it felt very strange to have just sat through a Seahawks game without the usual heartburn and paranoia. Especially an early one on the road against a presumably good team.

SMOKE RINGS

~Shane Waldron, ladies and gentlemen. What a debut. Yes, I know Seattle’s offense was nuclear at the beginning of last season too but this just felt different, didn’t it? The Colts defense is stocked full of really good players but all the Seahawks did was go for 247 yards and 21 points on four first half drives. They converted their first four 3rd downs and never settled into a pattern.

After spending the entire preseason passing the ball, Waldron appeased his gum-chewing overlord by running early but doing so with more creativity than we’re used to seeing. Instead of just plunging ahead, Waldron used the motion, misdirection, and scheme that many of us have been hollering for for years. And even though they effectively ran the ball, the high-leverage plays were still all about their Hall of Fame quarterback.

~Russell Wilson, who never forgets, went 9/11 in the first half en route to a sterling final line of 18/23, 254 yards, 4 TDs, and zero turnovers. The only incompletion on his first eight passes was on a route mix-up with Lockett in the first. After that he was pure napalm, scalding the Colts defense to the tune of a near-perfect 152.3 passer rating. He was calm, decisive, and in control all game. He threw quickly and improvised when necessary. His passes were where they needed to go and arrived precisely on time.

More than anything, Wilson didn’t have to manufacture a bunch of big, broken plays to put up points. For the first time in forever, he was able to stand safely behind his line and on nearly every play, there was someone open within his first two reads. It just looked like all the success was by design instead the product of Wilson’s wizardry.

~Chris Carson is so awesome. His fumble aside, he was cool as hell again today. Just like always. The guy runs like a rhinoceros, bucking and goring his way through whatever swarm of defenders were unlucky enough to get in his way. He didn’t score but he didn’t need to. Instead, he turned 19 touches into 117 yards, shouldering a large workload without ever slowing down.

Rashaad Penny got hurt in this one and while I haven’t heard if it’s serious or not, I’m super bummed about it. I know that when guys get hurt a lot it’s an easy joke to make, but it just sucks to see someone work so hard to chase down their dream after a brutal injury, only to get hurt again right away. From a team perspective, I think Seattle will be fine with DeeJay Dallas and Alex Collins if necessary, but there’s no question that RB room is better with a healthy Penny in it.

~One thing about this offense that became very evident early on was the utility of so many different receiving weapons. For years Seattle has had a very narrow target tunnel, and never was that more so than last year, with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf dominating targets. Today, no one got more than five passes thrown their way, and the results were amazing.

Tyler Lockett had the best day of the bunch, and was unstoppable in the first half. He caught four of his five targets for 100 yards and two touchdowns— an incredible display of efficiency in a low-volume game. He is still so quick and so nimble, I don’t know how anyone ever guards him. And his straight-line speed is sneaky too. On his long touchdown, he just casually put space between him and the trailing defender as he sprinted under the pass. He’s just so much fun to watch.

After a first half that saw zero targets and one taunting penalty, DK Metcalf reminded us all who the fuck he is. Wilson looked his way five times in the game’s final two quarters— opportunities that DK turned into 4 catches for 60 yards and a TD that the defender had absolutely no chance at. Perhaps most importantly, the team didn’t try to force-feed him early in the game and he didn’t freak out about it. Instead, he blocked his ass off until his time came, and made the most of his opportunities when they did.

~The defense was tremendous this morning, and it started up front. The D-line hit Wentz 10 times and logged three sacks while batting down three of his passes. They lined up against one of the best OLs in football and gave better than they got. The sacks were split between Benson Mayowa, Rasheem Green, and Darrell Taylor— and that doesn’t include Carlos Dunlap’s sack on a two-point attempt. They were monsters today.

Bobby Wagner did Bobby Wagner things, orchestrating the team’s performance like a maestro while recording a game-high 13 tackles. The argument against making him the highest-paid middle linebacker in history was that he was bound to slow down. Well, it ain’t happened yet and there’s no signs of it being around the corner. The instincts and ferocity still appear to be at their peak and if that remains the case all season, whew…

It was weird not seeing KJ Wright out there for the first time since I was eight years old, but man oh man is Jordyn Brooks good. 11 tackles for Bobby Jr, in addition to a couple examples of excellent coverage. It’s really kind of crazy how good I think Brooks is going to be, and the early returns have just been so, so good.

I thought the secondary played pretty well today, too. They held a pass-heavy Colts offense to just 251 yards on 38 attempts, which is fantastic. The coverage was good but not great— and that was okay because of the pressure up front and because of how well everyone tackled.

A lot of the passes from Indy were underneath, a reflection of how effective the defensive backs were. When passes were completed to wideouts, it was usually through a very small window. Meanwhile, Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams combined for 15 tackles as they both flew around, rabidly attacking every ballcarrier they could reach. Just a strong, cohesive, but not spectacular effort from the defense as a whole.

Nothing about this win feels fluky. The Colts have a really talented team and the Seahawks just beat them soundly in every phase of the sport. Hell, Pete Carroll didn’t even waste any timeouts or spit in the analytics’ face on 4th down. He just calmly coached his team to a complete victory.

This game checked every box we wanted it to. There was no buffoonery, no unnecessary stress— just straightforward, determined, precision football. It looked like the sort of structure we’ve been craving for the last five years, and it just feels… sustainable. I know it’s only one game, and there’s a literal entire season left to play out, but I don’t think it could have realistically started much better than this.

The Seattle Seahawks are 1-0 and they looked damn good doing it. If this is a harbinger of things to come, we could be in for one of the most enjoyable seasons we’ve had in a long time. We’re still months away from a verdict on that but it’s all onward and upward in the meantime— let’s do this.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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My cigar season started off every bit as well as the football season did. I unsheathed an 21-year Ashton Estate Sun Grown and just let the incredible flavor and impressive smoothness wash over me. I’m still buzzing off the experience— and the Whistlepig Roadstock Rye I paired it with.

This is the 3rd year of our incredible partnership with Seattle Cigar Concierge. They have the plug on some of the most insane stogies on the market and they’re offering them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are extremely special sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the plug, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, Opus X, and Padron. You can also hit him up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars. Many of you have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity and for those who have always wondered what elite cigars are like, this is the best opportunity you’ll get to step into that world.

Seattle Cigar Concierge is also offering a special promotion from Caldwell One, the proceeds of which are going to support first responders. Bundles of 10 going for the deeply discounted rate of $120 for 10 of these beauties.

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The 2021 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners in Bellingham, WA.

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