They found a way to win again Sunday, and that has been a prevailing theme for the Seahawks in their charmed start to the 2023 season — just find a way to get over the finish line.
And with their 24-20 victory over the Browns on Sunday, the Seahawks improved to 5-2 to set the pace in the NFC West, moving a half-game ahead of the San Francisco 49ers atop the division. In our weekly Four Downs segment, Seattle Times beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude tackle the Seahawks’ latest win and break down their big trade Monday:
1. The Seahawks are surging. The 49ers are slumping. Too early for the Seahawks to start dreaming big?
Condotta: Nope, not at all. And the Seahawks gave their answer to that question Monday when they traded for Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams. The Eagles are unquestionably the favourite in the NFC. But they also have four wins by a touchdown or less, a loss to the Jets, and had to mount a furious fourth-quarter rally Sunday to beat Washington. It just feels like one of those years when there is no overly dominant team, and on the proverbial “Any Given Sunday,” anything can happen. Seattle’s moves throughout this offseason have painted the team in mostly a win-now mode — hey, Pete Carroll seems perpetually young, but he also is 72. And getting to 5-2 shows there is no reason not to think that maybe they really can keep winning now.
Jude: Dream big. Why not? It’s been a weird season around the NFL — there is a giant cluster of good to very good teams, but few elite teams. That’s especially true in the NFC. The Eagles, at 7-1, are the NFC favourites, and the Cowboys (5-2) are loaded with talent, but as things stand, the Seahawks should see themselves as legitimate NFC contenders. They have already beaten the Lions in Detroit, and the 49ers are facing some serious questions after their third-straight loss. And the Seahawks have won five of six despite their offence sputtering for much of the past month — which is to say there is plenty of room for growth there, and reason to be optimistic their best is yet to come.
2. What’s your initial reaction to the Leonard Williams trade? Did the Seahawks give up too much?
Condotta: Nope. Not if you’re really in win-now mode, which the Seahawks seem to think they are — although they would never really admit otherwise if they weren’t. If Seattle hadn’t pulled out the Detroit and Cleveland games and was 3-4 right now, you might think differently. But Seattle has reloaded its roster with a number of young players the past few years. Seattle entered Week 8 with 29 players on its roster who are 25 or younger, the seventh most in the NFL. So Seattle can afford to give up a bit of its future for the present, especially with the Giants taking on most of the financial hit of Williams’ contract.
Jude: Yeah, it’s a lot to give up for what right now is a rental player … but you have to admire the Seahawks’ go-for-it mentality here. Again, you look around the NFC landscape, and the Seahawks are right there — and Williams is the kind of player who could take Seattle’s defence from that very good cluster and elevate it into elite territory.
3. What’s working for the Seahawks defence right now?
Jude: Just about everything but their screen-pass coverage. The Seahawks have an interesting mix of youth and experience on defence, and each week, they are coming up with plays when they need them most. They haven’t allowed a second-half touchdown since Week 3 vs. Carolina, and they continue to rank in the top five in run defence (3.6 yards per carry). The secondary, in particular, continues to raise its level of play, with three young corners (Riq Woolen, Devon Witherspoon and Tre Brown) finding their footing, and the three veteran safeties (Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams and Julian Love) adding some important experience. It’s a defence on the rise, no doubt.
Condotta: As Adam noted, it all starts with the run defence. Even Sunday, when the Seahawks allowed a season-high 155 rushing yards, they gave up just 3.9 yards per carry. And on Cleveland’s first two drives of the fourth quarter, when the Browns had chances to put the game away, the Seahawks put just enough doubt in the minds of the Browns to make them pass on third downs of 4 yards and 3 yards — the first going incomplete and forcing the Browns to settle for a short field goal, and the other resulting in the Jamal Adams header heard round the world. It’s a far cry from last year when Seattle allowed 4.9 yards per carry. That defence would have lost Sunday’s game. And while everyone Adam mentioned is a worthy reason for Seattle’s improved defence, the leadership of Bobby Wagner in the middle also can’t be ignored. It feels like there are a lot fewer missed assignments this season, and Wagner’s presence is undoubtedly a big reason why.
4. The offence has been spotty the past few weeks. What’s the solution?
Jude: Geno Smith needs to take better care of the football. He’s committed six turnovers in the past three games — two in each game — and he could have thrown two more interceptions Sunday. Late in the third quarter, Browns cornerback Cameron Mitchell dropped what would have been a sure pick-six late in the third quarter. And then on the final drive, Smith’s only incompletion came on a dangerous pass intended for D.K. Metcalf in the back right corner of the end zone. Smith had scrambled away from pressure, and tried to give Metcalf a chance to make a play. But the ball was underthrown and could have easily been intercepted by Denzel Ward, the Browns’ best cornerback. It was Smith’s worst decision of the game, and he’s had far too many of those kinds of go-for-broke plays lately.
Condotta: Quarterbacks are always the obvious focal point. But maybe the Seahawks can help him out by committing a bit more to the run. That’s a funny thing to say about a Carroll team, isn’t it? And to be fair, the Seahawks are passing the ball at a lower percentage than last season — 58.6 per cent compared to 59.3 per cent. But Sunday it felt like maybe trying to lean a bit more on the duo of Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet would have eased some of the mid-game struggles. Consider that in the second and third quarters Sunday — when Seattle’s six drives went punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, punt — the Seahawks gained 51 yards on 16 pass attempts and 34 yards on six rushes. Carroll explained later that the Seahawks were having more success pass blocking than they had thought they might, which compelled them to keep throwing after the 17-point first-quarter outburst. That’s a reasonable enough explanation. But for the long haul, you’d think the Seahawks are going to have to be a little more committed and efficient with their running game to get where they want to go.
Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.
You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.