SEATTLE — For all of Seattle’s season-opening shortcomings — underwhelming pass defense, inability to establish the run — the Seahawks found a way to get a win Sunday at CenturyLink against a relatively unknown.
Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals’ new-look offense under first-year head coach Zac Taylor carved up Seattle’s secondary, nearly doubling the Seahawks’ yardage output. Conversely, Seattle’s 72 rushing yards marked its lowest output since Week 1 of 2018.
But with a few trademark Russell Wilson plays and a Seahawks defense that made big stops when needed, Seattle earned a 21-20 win over the Bengals.
“It’s great to get a win in the opener,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It wasn’t the game I hoped it would be. I was concerned that we might be a little messy trying to figure out what they were doing. We really took away the running game, totally, and they just threw the heck out of it.”
The win improved the Seahawks (1-0) to 15-0 in September games at CenturyLink under Carroll.
Seattle running back Chris Carson scored twice, plunging in for a 1-yard score before running through multiple tacklers for a 10-yard, late first-half TD reception. The bruising back ran for a game-high 46 yards on 15 carries and added 35 yards on six receptions.
Wilson, who was sacked four times and faced heavy pressure throughout, completed 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Seattle routinely got behind the chains with its inability to pick up yards on first and second down. That went a long way in the Seahawks compiling just 233 yards of total offense to Cincinnati’s 429.
“We know what we can do, and if things don’t go the way we want to, there is no time to panic and there is no time to worry,” Wilson said. “It’s the first game of the year. To win the first game is the critical point.”
Seattle survived a Bengals passing attack that posted 395 net yards. Dalton completed 35 of 51 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns. His main target was former University of Washington standout John Ross III, who hauled in seven receptions for 158 yards and two TDs.
Cincinnati mostly made ground with quick, short passes, racking up 22 first downs. Seattle’s defense stiffened when the Seahawks needed it most, though. What really hurt Seattle were two big plays — a 33-yard TD off a flea-flicker, and a misread deep ball by Seattle defensive back Tedric Thompson that resulted in a 55-yard score.
“Like we said, bend don’t break,” Seahawks cornerback Tre Flowers said. “They’ve got a lot of players on that side. There’s a lot of mental errors that we know how to fix, and it’s get back to work.”
Cincinnati opened the scoring in what was a back-and-forth game.
Bengals kicker Randy Bullock capped a 13-play, 51-yard drive with a 39-yard field to put the Bengals in front 3-0 with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter.
After a slow offensive start, Seattle took advantage of good field position midway through the second quarter to get its first points.
Starting on the Bengals’ 48, Seattle converted a critical third down with a 12-yard pass from Wilson to tight end Will Dissly. Carson scored on a 1-yard TD run up the middle five plays later, giving the Seahawks a 7-3 advantage with 6:36 remaining in the second.
The lead didn’t last long.
Cincinnati found the end zone in three plays. Dalton first connected with Tyler Boyd for a 6-yard gain, and then found tight end C.J. Uzomah down the seam for 36 yards. Next came some trickery to Ross.
From Seattle’s 33, Dalton handed the ball off to running back Joe Mixon, who pitched it back to Dalton before the QB connected with Ross streaking down the left side for a touchdown. The score gave the Bengals a 10-7 lead with 5:12 to go until the half.
Rookie wideout D.K. Metcalf, making his much-awaited debut, setup Seattle’s next score. The big pass-catching target hauled in a 42-yard pass down the left sideline late in the first half on a second-and-2 from Seattle’s 45, giving the Seahawks a first-and-10 on the Bengals’ 13.
“It’s exciting for him to come in and make some great plays in the first game,” said Wilson of Metcalf. “He almost got to 100 yards. He looked great tonight.”
Three plays later, on a third-and-7, Wilson threw a dump-off pass to Carson, who broke three tackles as he worked his way around the right side before sneaking the ball just inside the right pylon for his second score of the game. The TD put the Seahawks in front 14-10 with just under a minute to play until halftime.
Seattle was poised to take a lead into the break, but Thompson made a crucial error by misjudging a deep ball from Dalton to Ross. Thompson was in place to intercept the rainbow pass, and at the very least knock the ball down. Instead, he jumped early, just missed the ball and Ross hauled it in for a 55-yard touchdown.
Cincinnati started the drive on its own 25 and scored in 45 seconds, taking a 17-14 lead into the break.
Seattle turned the ball over when Carson fumbled on the first play of the second half and twice went three-and-out in the third quarter, but the Seahawks’ defense made two huge stops to keep the deficit at 17-14.
Seahawks defensive tackle Al Woods caught a fumble that slipped out of Dalton’s hands when the Bengals were driving deep into Seattle territory early in the third. Later, Woods turned away another promising Bengals drive, stuffing running back Giovanni Bernard on a fourth-and-1 on Seattle’s 36.
“It was a fumble recovery, but it was still a terrific play,” Carroll said. “I should mention Quinton Jefferson. He had a great game. He had six tackles, two tackles for losses. He had two sacks. It was definitely the best game he’s had for us.”
Wilson, through three quarters, hadn’t targeted wide receiver Tyler Lockett, but on the first play of the fourth, Wilson found the Seahawks’ top target for a 44-yard touchdown pass deep over the middle. The score gave the Seahawks a 21-17 lead with 14:53 left in the fourth and was the eventual game-winner.
The Bengals responded with a 13-play, 67-yard drive spanning 7:53, but Seattle’s defense stiffened after Cincinnati had a first-and-goal on the Seahawks’ 4-yard line. Bullock made a 27-yard field goal, trimming Seattle’s lead to 21-20 with 7:01 left in the fourth.
The Seahawks forced a punt on Cincinnati’s next possession, and Carson helped Seattle nearly run the clock out with a hard-earned 21-yard rush.
The Bengals got the ball on their own 25-yard line with 12 seconds left, and second-year defensive end Rasheem Green got a sack and forced fumble, which Flowers recovered to end the game.