Surprisingly straightforward for Seattle

No anxiety? No suspense? Who are these Seahawks who won their season-opener in such a methodical, efficient fashion in Indianapolis?

There was something missing from the Seahawks’ season-opener on Sunday in Indianpolis.

A few things, actually. Suspense for one. Not much in the way of anxiety, either. No goal-line stand that required a last-second stop. No frantic final drive for Russell Wilson in which he’s staring down the clock as well as the opposing pass rush. The team known for riding a unicycle down the middle of that thin line between exhilirating and excruciating found a way to win a game … comfortably? Actually, it bordered on methodical as Seattle scored a touchdown on each of its first two possessions and never trailed the rest of the game. The Seahawks held a double-digit lead throughout the second half.

So take a deep breath, Seattle. Kick up your heels. Subscribe to this newsletter if you haven’t already and then we’ll get down to some of the specifics.

Russell Wilson played as well as he ever has, finishing with almost as many touchdown passes (four) as incompletions (five). His passer rating of 152.3 was the second-best mark of any game in his entire career, and the post-mortem examination of this victory is going to quickly turn to praise of Seattle’s new offense under coordinator Shane Waldron. The defense was highlighted by its strength-in-numbers pass rush in which seven different players had hits on the quarterback. Rasheem Green played especially well and Darrell Taylor had a great debut after missing all of last season with a leg injury.

But what was most notable about the game is what was missing: the white knuckles, the held breath and the excruciating suspense that has become typical for Seattle. The 12-point margin of victory was Seattle’s third-largest for any regular-season game going back to the start of the 2019 season. That’s wild because Seattle has won plenty of games in that time and 12 points isn’t really that lopsided of a win. And after so many close calls, this was an easy-going afternoon in which the biggest thing to complain about was the first-half timeout Seattle wasted before a fourth-down play in which the Colts were going to punt. It was one of the only cues to inform you that yes, these were the Seahawks you were watching.

The Distribution of Credit

A weekly feature in which you will find out not just who deserves praise, but precisely how much using the Danny O’Neil Index. This rating is determined by proprietary formulas painstakingly calibrated to calculate the exact percentage to which a specific player or unit contributed to the victory. These percentages are absolutely not conjured out of thin air.

Offense: 63.8% (Russell Wilson 31.3%, Shane Waldron 10.8%, Tyler Lockett 6.3%, Tight ends 5.5%, Chris Carson 4.5%, D.K. Metcalf 3%, Others 2.4%)

Defense 36% (Jordyn Brooks 6%, Rasheem Green 5%, Darrell Taylor 5%, Bobby Wagner 5%, Carlos Dunlap 4%, Benson Mayowa 4%, Quandre Diggs 4%, Others 3%)

Special teams 0.2%

The offense was the story here. Seattle reached the end zone on each of its first two possessions and never trailed. Wilson was excellent, which not only speaks to his performance but the structure of the offense installed by new coordinator Waldron. Carson gained 91 yards on the ground and added three catches for 26 yards. He would have gotten more credit, but his second-half fumble cost him at least 1.5% in turnover tax. It may not look like much on the final stats, but Seattle’s tight end combination of Gerald Everett and Will Dissly was especially exciting as Everett caught one pass for a touchdown and had a 21-yard gain nullified by penalty while Dissly caught three passes and administered one stiffarm that was more like a choke slam.

The defense held when it needed to starting from the first possession when Indianapolis got the ball inside the Seattle 10, but settled for a field goal after Jonathan Taylor was tackled at the Seattle 3 on third down. The Seahawks then had a pair of fourth-down stops in the second half as D.J. Reed recovered a fumble on a quarterback sneak in the third quarter and Taylor got a fourth-down sack in the fourth quarter where he toppled the right tackle en route to the quarterback.

As for special teams, that came real, real close to being a negative when Michael Dickson pulled up on that second-quarter punt from near midfield. Dickson kicked the ball rugby style while he was on the run, it measured only 25 yards from the line of scrimmage and there was a penalty. Yet that was much better than having the punt blocked, which appeared to be a distinct possibility.

A moment of silence: I’ll get back to the Seahawks game in just a second, but first, I’d like to pause and acknowledge the absolutely cadaverous performance turned in by Washington’s offense on Saturday night at Michigan. When the Huskies finally reached the end zone in the second half it ended a scoreless stretch of 19 consecutive drives that dated back to the first quarter of the season-opener against Montana and spanned 94 minutes of game action. I think we’ve talked about that long enough, don’t you? Good.

Open season: This is the third consecutive season the Seahawks have won their season-opener. Before that, they were 4-5 in season-openers under Pete Carroll. The turnaround is even sharper when you consider road-openers. Seattle was 1-8 in road-openers under Carroll entering the 2019 season. This is the third consecutive year that Seattle won its road opener. The difference is easy to identify: the offense. Seattle has scored 28 or more points in each of the past three road-openers. It scored 28 or more in its road opener only once from 2010 through 2018.

Crunch time: The most decisive stretch of Sunday’s game started with 5:11 left in the first half when Indianapolis got the first of what would turn out to be two possessions. The Colts went three and out on that first drive, punting the ball back to Seattle, which took over at its own 17 with 3 minutes left. The Seahawks ran the ball twice, taking it down to the 2-minute warning and then overcame a potentially drive-killing sequence in which a penalty for illegal formation negated a 21-yard pass to Gerald Everett. Wilson then took a sack on a free runner, setting up second-and-20, which is when Wilson threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Lockett. Indianapolis got the ball back with 37 seconds and futzed around for four plays and used a timeout before the letting the half. It’s a great example of why the final 5 minutes of halves is so pivotal. When the Colts had the ball with 5:11 left, they not only had a chance to score but an opportunity to minimize Seattle’s chances to do so. Instead, the Colts failed to score on either possession, the Seahawks got a touchdown and the lead was double digits the rest of the game.

Figures lie: Wilson and Carson Wentz were sacked three times apiece, but anyone who watched the game knows that the punishment Seattle’s defense doled out to Wentz was magnitudes greater than what Wilson received. Of special note was the second-half sack by Darrell Taylor in which he turned the left tackle into a speed bump followed by the fourth quarter hit from Brian Mone who landed with every one of his more than 300 pounds directly on top of Wentz after he released the ball. Wilson wasn’t necessarily comfortable, but he took nowhere near the beating as Wentz.

Liars figure: D.K. Metcalf was not targeted with a pass in the first half and finished with four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The fact Wilson had more touchdown passes (three) than incompletions in the first half says everything you need to know about his efficiency. If you’re micromanaging receptions from Wilson, you’re doing it wrong. The question is whether the Seahawks were effective when they threw the ball. In this game, they absolutely were.

Swing play: That 69-yard touchdown pass to Lockett increased Seattle’s win probability by 15 percent, according to Lee Sharpe’s modeling, which is a really cool way to look at the flow of a game.

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