The Seattle Seahawks opened their 2021 season with a complete performance on both sides of the ball in a 28-16 road win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 12. Here’s the first edition of a weekly numbers-based look at notable trends and storylines surrounding the Seahawks:
7.2 — Seattle’s yards per play: By all accounts, the much-anticipated debut of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was a rousing success. The Seahawks were both efficient and explosive on offense Sunday, as evidenced by their impressive 7.2 yards per play. That was Seattle’s second-highest mark in its past 62 regular-season and postseason games, dating back to the middle of the 2017 season. Though it’s a small sample size, Waldron’s new-look scheme appeared to feature a degree of creativity and unpredictability that’s often been missing under previous offensive coordinators. There was a nice blend between the run and pass, with Chris Carson rushing for 91 yards at 5.7 yards per carry and Russell Wilson throwing for 254 yards and four touchdowns at 11.0 yards per attempt. The passing attack expertly incorporated all three levels of the field, with Wilson completing passes to seven different players on a wide variety of routes. And there was an increased use of elements like play-action, pre-snap motion, fly sweeps and tempo that added greater diversity to the Seahawks’ attack. Yes, it’s only one game. But it was certainly a very encouraging start to the Waldron era in Seattle.
152.3 — Russell Wilson’s passer rating: Wilson was an ultra-efficient 18-of-23 passing for 254 yards, four TDs and no interceptions during a nearly flawless debut in Waldron’s offense. It resulted in a 152.3 passer rating, which was the second-highest mark of Wilson’s 161 career regular-season and postseason games. Once again, Wilson showed why he’s arguably the game’s best deep-ball thrower when he launched an immaculate “moon ball” to Tyler Lockett for a 69-yard TD pass. However, the biggest takeaway was how much easier things looked for Wilson in this new offense. In years past, there were far too many times when it seemed like Wilson had to make a Superman play just to complete a pass. But on Sunday, there were a number of instances in which pass catchers were schemed open, resulting in easy completions for Wilson. Again, it’s only one game. But Wilson sure looked sharp and comfortable in Waldron’s scheme. “I’ve never seen this kind of chemistry be so obvious between the (play) caller and the quarterback,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the game. “I hope this is just the first step of a great march together.”
57 — Receiving yards by Seattle tight ends: Waldron’s offense is expected to make tight ends a much larger part of the passing game, and that certainly bore out in Sunday’s opener. Will Dissly and offseason acquisition Gerald Everett combined for 57 yards receiving from the tight end position, with Dissly hauling in three catches for 37 yards and Everett catching two passes for 20 yards and a TD. Last season, one of the biggest contributing factors to the Seahawks’ offensive decline over the second half of the year was their lack of a short-to-intermediate passing game. After defenses began taking away the deep ball, Seattle didn’t have enough diversity in its passing attack to counter. This year under Waldron, an increased emphasis on tight ends should help expand the field for Wilson and make it easier for him to attack all three levels of the defense.
7 — Seahawks who recorded a QB hit: Although somewhat overshadowed by Wilson and the offense, it was also a strong start to the season for Seattle’s defense. And much of that had to do with the pass rush. The Seahawks generated three sacks and 10 quarterback hits on Carson Wentz, pressuring the Indianapolis quarterback on 45.5% of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. It was a true all-around performance, with seven different players registering at least one QB hit. Rasheem Green filled up the stat sheet with one sack, two QB hits and two pass breakups. Benson Mayowa had a sack and two QB hits. The most encouraging showing came from second-year linebacker Darrell Taylor, who recorded a key sack and two QB hits in his first NFL game after missing all of last season with a leg injury. With the Colts facing a fourth-and-2 in the red zone in the fourth quarter, Taylor bull-rushed standout right tackle Braden Smith into the ground and pummeled Wentz for a sack that helped extinguish Indianapolis’ comeback hopes. Standout defensive end Carlos Dunlap, Poona Ford, Kerry Hyder and Bryan Mone also were credited with one QB hit apiece. Entering the season, the talent and depth of the Seahawks’ pass rush appeared to be one of the team’s greatest strengths. And their performance Sunday only furthered that notion.
141-76 — The NFC West’s scoring margin: The NFC West flexed its muscles by going 4-0 in Week 1 and outscoring opponents by a combined 141-76 margin. And that was despite the 49ers taking their foot off the gas and allowing the Lions to turn a 38-10 second-half game into a one-possession contest. Once again, there’s the caveat of one week being a small sample size in the scope of a full season. But last year, the NFC West was widely considered to be the NFL’s best division. And there’s reason to believe each of its four teams may be even better this year. After being decimated by injuries last season, the 49ers have the talent to return to the top of the NFC hierarchy if they can stay healthy. The Rams were a divisional-round playoff team a year ago, and they made a clear upgrade at quarterback by trading Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford. The Cardinals, pegged by most as the division’s fourth-best team, looked awfully impressive in their stunning 38-13 season-opening rout of a talented Titans squad. And with Waldron taking over as offensive coordinator, there’s optimism that the Seahawks can break through their trend of early playoff exits and contend for another Super Bowl. In ESPN.com’s post-Week 1 power rankings, all four NFC West teams were in the top 12 — with Seattle at No. 3, Los Angeles at No. 4, San Francisco at No. 7 and Arizona at No. 12. The NFC West, again, is shaping up to be a buzzsaw.