Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks grade out in their 27-24 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Mile High Stadium:
A lot of the problems that plagued Seattle’s offense last year showed up Sunday. The Seahawks were just 2-for-12 on third down conversions, which made sustaining drives difficult, and quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked six times. Seattle also never got its running game going, with the Seahawks being limited to 64 yards on 16 carries. Nevertheless, Wilson nearly played fourth-quarter hero again, as his 51-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett briefly gave Seattle the lead at 24-20.
This was not your father’s Seahawks defense. Seattle allowed 470 yards, a total that was surpassed just twice over the previous four seasons. Free safety Earl Thomas, who just returned this week from his holdout, was given the occasional breather, and the difference between the Seahawks defense with and without Thomas on the field was stark. The rookies, who were asked to fill some big shoes, looked like rookies. But the defense kept Seattle in the game thanks to three interceptions, two by Bradley McDougald with Denver threatening to score.
Seattle had its issues on special teams. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 51-yard field goal wide left, then when given a reprieve by an encroachment penalty missed the ensuing 46-yarder wider left. Seattle also never got anything going in the return game. However, almost all of that was mitigated by rookie punter Michael Dickson’s incredible debut, in which he averaged 59.0 yards per punt, including a ridiculous 57.5 net, and had four of six downed or go out of bounds inside the 20.
This was something of a mixed bag from a coaching perspective. On the plus side the Seahawks came up with well-designed plays for touchdown passes, unleashed a surprise offensive weapon in rookie tight end Will Dissly, and implemented the screen passes the fans have been clamoring for. However, coach Pete Carroll was unable to get his challenge flag out fast enough on a potential fumble forced by Jarran Reed early in the game, and where was the return of the run game that was promised? Seattle had 33 pass plays compared to just 16 runs.
This was not an easy opener. Yes, Denver was 5-11 last year, but the trip to Mile High Stadium meant Seattle had to begin the season dealing with both the altitude and the heat — there’s a reason why the Broncos have won seven straight season openers. The feel of the game was that Seattle was outplayed, yet the Seahawks led in the fourth quarter and had the ball late with a chance to tie or win. It wasn’t the ideal start, but it could have been worse.