Wilson cooks in opener
Seahawks kick off unusual 2020 season with easy road win over Atlanta Falcons
If 2020 has proven to be a year when you never know what to expect in life, Sunday proved that one thing, at least, remains a constant: Russell Wilson is really, really good at playing quarterback.
Wilson kicked off his ninth season in the NFL with one of the best games of his career, throwing for four touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to a 38-25 win in the regular season opener at Atlanta.
Jamal Adams, meanwhile proved that he remains really, really good at football, too, the only revelation on this day being that he did in a Seattle uniform, the Seahawks getting a big early payoff from their most significant offseason acquisition.
Adams finished with eight tackles, most seeming to come at key times, and broke up a two-point pass in the end zone by Atlanta in the fourth quarter.
Adams keyed a Seattle defense that gave up some yards — which was to be expected against Atlanta’s offense — but came up big when it had to with three stops on fourth downs.
In fact, fourth downs proved pivotal all day as Seattle also forced a turnover on a fourth down fake punt and scored a TD on a 38-yard pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf on its one fourth down attempt.
It all added up to one happy change in 2020 for the Seahawks — an easy win.
Seattle went 11-5 last year by tying an NFL record with 10 wins decided by a possession or less.
After a sluggish second quarter that allowed Atlanta to close within 14-12 at halftime, though the Seahawks scored on their first three drives of the second half to turn the game into a rare comfortable win.
Seattle is now 6-5 in season openers in the Pete Carroll era and also continued a streak of good play in what used to be the dreaded 10 a.m. kickoff time slot. Seattle is now 17-6 in its last 23 10 a.m. starts and 6-0 since last season.
Along with piling on TD passes — Wilson increased his team career record to 231 — Wilson also ran for 30 yards and passed the 4,000-yard mark in his career becoming just the fifth QB in NFL history to surpass 4,000 yards rushing (the others being Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Cam Newton and Steve Young).
Much of the offseason debate centered on how the Seahawks will use Wilson this season, and specifically will they throw more early in games and on earlier downs.
Those who say yes couldn’t have been disappointed early as Seattle called passes on nine of its 12 plays.
It was an effective strategy as Wilson completed his first 12 passes overall in powering Seattle to an early 14-3 lead.
The first drive was keyed by a 41-yard pass interference penalty by Tyler Lockett that allowed Seattle to convert on a third and 23 and set up the first of two of Wilson’s touchdown passes to Carson.
The Seattle defense then rose up to stop Atlanta on a fourth down at the Seahawks 40, with Benson Mayowa making the key play to bat down a Matt Ryan pass on fourth down.
Seattle then needed just three plays to score again keyed by a 28-yard run by Wilson.
But the Seattle offense managed only one first down the rest of the first half, punting after each of its three drives in the second quarter.
That allowed Atlanta to close the gap, with Todd Gurley scoring on a 1-yard leap after a 75-yard drive to make it 14-9 (the point after kick was missed) and then with a field goal on the final play of the first half to make it 14-12.
The first half stats hardly portrayed a vision of a Seattle victory as the Seahawks were outgained 240-135.
But the Seahawks again found their offensive rhythm to start the third quarter and take command for good.
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On fourth and 5 at the 38 Wilson read that Atlanta had man coverage on DK Metcalf on the left side. Metcalf easily beat Atlanta cornerback Isaiah Oliver off the line of scrimmage with a step to the left and then a quick move right inside to create space. Wilson threw a perfect strike that Metcalf caught in stride and Seattle was ahead 21-12 and back in control.
At that point Wilson was 18-21 passing for 163 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
He hardly stopped there.
Atlanta tried a fake punt on its next drive, but safety Sharrod Neasman fumbled after appearing to have the first down on a hit by Marquise Blair with rookie Freddie Swain recovering at the 36.
Seattle needed just five plays to convert with Wilson hitting Greg Olsen for a 7-yard TD and his fourth scoring pass of the day to make it 28-12.
Atlanta drove to the Seattle 11 on its next drive. But on third down Jamal Adams tackled Todd Gurley for no gain and on fourth down Mayowa sacked Ryan.
Seattle responded with a field goal and a 31-12 lead that basically sealed the game.
It wouldn’t be the Seahawks, though, if there weren’t still a few anxiety-inducing moments.
Atlanta scored on a scary quick drive when Calvin Ridley was left wide open when Adams and Shaquill Griffin ran into each other, his 18-yard score making it 31-18 with 9:35 left.
Atlanta got the ball back quickly and drove to the Seattle 35.
But once again, the Seahawks got the fourth down stop they needed even if this time it basically was handed to them.
Ridley was wide open on an out route near the sidelines but Ryan’s throw was off target and Seattle took over.
Wilson led another scoring drive, this one resulting in a Carlos Hyde 1-yard plunge, and that was that.
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