If there is such a thing as an ugly double-digit victory on the road in the NFL, then surely the Seahawks’ 27-17 victory in Washington was it. Sure the Seahawks improved to 3-1, and yes they won by 10 points, but if not for a bunch of offensive penalties—three of which took touchdowns off the scoreboard—as well as a couple of big plays given up by a usually stingy secondary, this one could have been a laugher.
“Well, this was an interesting game tonight,” was how Pete Carroll appropriately opened his press conference.
In the end, however, the Seahawks still improved to 3-1, putting them in a first-place tie with Arizona in the NFC West. As Russell Wilson put it on ESPN’s postgame show, “We could have played a lot better, but at the end of the day, a win’s a win. We’re pumped up in that locker room.”
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Russell Wilson was a magician (again)
Somewhere, someone will inevitably point to Russell Wilson’s 201 passing yards and use it as evidence to call him a game manager, and somewhere, that someone will be wrong. Wilson’s passing numbers—18 for 24, 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a 127.3 passer rating—are awfully impressive, but they don’t begin to tell the story of this game. With Washington’s defense inexplicably either not respecting his running ability, or just completely helpless to stop it, Wilson rushed for a career-high 122 yards and a touchdown, and helped ice the game with an insane escape act followed by a flip to Marshawn Lynch that went for a 30-yard gain.
“Russell just had a phenomenal game tonight,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “He was everywhere and did everything we could have asked running and throwing and scrambling and making things happen. He did a fantastic job.”
2. Penalties were a big issue
Sure Jeff Triplette’s crew made a few shaky calls, but you can’t blame all 13 of those penalties for 90 yards on the officials… OK, you can, but you’d be wrong.
As aggressive as Pete Carroll wants his teams to be, he can live with some penalties, but when false starts are consistently killing drives before they start, or when holds that don’t really affect the play are wiping out touchdowns, or when neutral zone infractions keep giving a struggling offense first-and-5, those are plays that can come back to haunt a team in a more competitive game.
“Those are things we can clean up, and we obviously didn’t come out of the bye well in that regard,” Carroll said. “… Those are things where here’s so much in our control. We can fix that.”
3. Percy Harvin had the most impressive 34-yard game you’ll ever see
The final stats for Percy Harvin show four catches for 27 yards, one run for seven yards and no kickoff returns, pretty quiet numbers for an offense’s most explosive player. What those numbers don’t show were three very impressive touchdowns, all of which were wiped out by penalties. By the time Harvin had a third score nullified, a 41-yard catch, he could only throw his hands in the air and laugh.
“First one, I was cool with, I was like, OK,” Harvin told reporters in the locker room. “Then the second one happened, and I was like, wow. Then the third one happened, I just flipped my hands down. I couldn’t believe it. But at the same time, penalties are part of football…I try not to think about it too much; we got the W.”
In addition to having his usual effect on the defense without touching the ball, Harvin also helped Seattle’s field position because Washington refused to kick the ball deep.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game like Percy had,” Carroll said. “That would have been a phenomenal game—it was—unfortunately the touchdowns got called back, but he was extraordinary. He impacted so much of this game… He had a big factor in this game even though he isn’t going to get the numbers to show for it.
4. Seattle’s defense needs to clean up the big plays
For the second game in a row, Carroll was talking after the game about a defense that mostly played well except for a few big plays, and that’s true—Seattle’s defense was mostly very good—but if a couple of big passing plays per game is going to become the norm, it’s going to cost the Seahawks a game at some point.
After Denver beat Seattle for two big plays on an 80-yard, game-tying drive last two weeks ago, this time it was DeSean Jackson twice getting behind the secondary for gains of 60 and 57 yards. Now, let’s give credit where credit is due, Jackson is one of the game’s fastest receivers, and Kirk Cousins made perfect throws on both of those plays, but even so, it’s shocking to see two weeks in a row against a defense that has been so good at taking away big plays in recent years.
“Just a phenomenal throw and catch by those guys,” is how Carroll described the 57-yarder that set up a field goal. “That was just an awesome play. Our guys were all over it, but it was a better play by them.”
Seattle was not, however, all over Jackson’s 60-yard touchdown, but safety Earl Thomas says he and his teammates will clean up those mistakes.
“We let two explosive plays get behinds us, and that let them stay in the game,” Thomas told reporters. “But we’ll learn from it. We do a good job of correcting mistakes… If they were going to beat us deep, we knew it was going to be No. 11 (Jackson), and he did a great job.”
5. Does the P in MVP stand for punter?
For the second straight game, Carroll was throwing the phrase MVP around when talking about the play of punter Jon Ryan. Ryan, who was named the NFC’s special teams player of the month for September, opened October with another spectacular game that helped Seattle stay ahead while the offense was sputtering. Five of Ryan’s six punts were downed inside the 20, including one that Jermaine Kearse was able to casually usher out of bounds at the 1-yard line. And as an added bonus, Ryan gained five yards on a fake field goal, keeping alive a drive that would end with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown catch that gave Seattle some much needed breathing room.