BY Art Thiel 10:42PM 11/01/2020

Thiel: Seahawks’ new guys play like veteran guys

In rookies and newbies, the Seahawks found help where they needed it to pull away from the 49ers, 37-27. They also may have discovered the makings of a credible defense.

LB K.J. Wright knocks down a Jimmy Garoppolo pass in the third quarter Sunday. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

The radiance from two more touchdown catches in DK Metcalf’s ascending career tends to blind some observers as to what else is going on with the Seahawks. But the Apollo launches never would have succeeded without a lot of unglamorous work done by regular folks on the ground.

Which is why a game ball from Sunday’s relatively stress-free 37-27 victory (box) over the broken San Francisco 49ers should be shared among engineering interns DeeJay Dallas, Alton Robinson, D.J. Reed, and even Stephen Sullivan, an obscure rookie tight end who found himself a defensive end rushing the quarterback of the defending NFC champions.

“I didn’t see this,” he said, “in a million years.”

Nor did many imagine the Seahawks at 6-1, the NFC’s best record, before the season, and even after it started. The defense was so underwhelming that the Seahawks were reportedly thinking of trading TE Luke Willson to the Seattle police for some tire-spike strips.

Instead, coach Pete Carroll tossed the untried into the unfamiliar, and it worked out.

“If you take a look at our inactive list today, you see all the guys that couldn’t play,” he said, referring to the injured SS Jamal Adams, CB Shaquill Griffin, CB Ugo Amadi, DE Benson Mayowa and RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. “Guys had to step up and play first-class football, and guys did it.

“I was inspired by it. I was inspired by their toughness, by their guts and the way they handled it, through the whole week.”

We all know Carroll gets a little gee-whizzy in these moments, but the previous week after an injury-filled OT loss at Arizona was all about black-belt roster slapdash. The Seahawks got away with it. He should be thrilled.

They brought in new players for the practice squad, elevated players to the active list, made a big trade and still had three injured running backs. Dallas, the rookie fourth-round pick from the University of Miami, didn’t know he was making his first career start until Sunday morning. He was so casual, he didn’t recollect how it came about.

“I really don’t even remember when they said it, I guess it was before game-time,” he said. “But it was business as usual. Everything was the same. I prepared the same way, I practiced the same way. Not worried at all.”

Business as usual. Dallas rushed 18 times for a modest 41 yards and caught five passes for 17. Doesn’t sound like much, but it also included two touchdowns, a two-yard pass and a one-yard run. The Niners weren’t looking for him. And he should have had a third but barely stepped out of bounds.

“I was sick about the first one,” he said. “But I had guys like Metcalf and (QB Russell Wilson) telling me it’ll come back, it’s going to come back. And then it came back two-fold.”

Also coming back was the defense.

After wins over New England and the Los Angeles Rams, the Niners (4-4) had reason to believe they were on an uptick, especially against defense that had given up the equivalent of Manitoba. But at the half, SF had 116 yards of total offense, trailed 13-7 and looked like a team that has had up to 20 players on injured reserve.

Seattle had injury problems too. It also had LB Bobby Wagner, who once was part of greatness, and was really pissed off to be part of badness.

“I think you have to sometimes show the guys what focus looks like,” he said. “A lot of guys
are young, so I was really locked in and prepared this week. I just wanted to come out and have a lot of energy.

“It was a really big step, especially for (new) guys. We had other guys out,we had guys playing in other positions that they have never played before. But they went out,
executed and did great. I’m definitely excited about the step in the right direction.”

He might have had his best game in the past couple of seasons — 11 tackles, two sacks, four QB hits and three tackles for loss. He was the central figure in a heavily used package of blitzes that harassed QB Jimmy Garappolo (three sacks and eight hits) and chased him from the game with a re-sprain of an ankle that previously sidelined him. According to ESPN Stats&Info, the Seahawks blitzed on 23 of the 49ers’ 45 dropbacks (51 percent), the highest rate since 2010.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan was aggrieved at how successful Seattle’s blitzes were.

“They brought a lot of blitzes and when they brought them early, I thought we had some chances,” he said. “A couple of times and they just got to us too fast, and we didn’t make them pay for it.

“They were risky with a lot of their blitzes, and sometimes you like that. You have to make them pay, though, and we didn’t.”

Reed, who played in 31 games for the 49ers before being cut after an injury and picked up by the Seahawks, made his Seattle starting debut memorable with six tackles and an interception on SF’s second possession at the Seahawks 13-yard line.

“I’ve been real excited about him,” Carroll said. “I really liked the film in evaluating him. He’s a really active player, great quickness, really good instincts. I’m not surprised that he played well. I’m thrilled that we got him. The timing was perfect, with Ugo being hurt.”

The offense took the turnover and made it into a Metcalf afternoon — 12 catches and 161 yards, both career highs.

He began it by turning a shallow cross into a 46-yard touchdown by sweeping across the field and speeding past the entire Niners secondary for the game’s first score. He scored the second touchdown when he basically posted up a smaller defender in the end zone for a two-yard reception.

Metcalf ignited a string of five possessions in the next six that produced four touchdowns and a field goal.

“He’s just so frickin’ tough,” Carroll said. “Whether he’s blocking guys, or whether he’s catching the ball, or they smack him when the ball arrives, and he stands over those guys when they fall off of him.

“When he caught the ball on the crossing route, I started screaming that they weren’t going to get him, because he’s just too fast. He just circled the whole defense and put it in the end zone. I don’t think they touched him. It was a great play.

“We’re so lucky to have him, and to have him emerging into such a dominant football player. He’s really something.”

Amid all this, Wilson was 27 for 37 for 261 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 128.3. That there were newsworthy Seahawks topics sufficient to send him to the bottom of the column is unusual. Metcalf was eager to offer perspective.

“The ‘Russ for MVP’ train,” he said, “is back on the tracks.”

If the Seahawks defense is no longer a caboose full of lead, a deep playoff run is also back on the tracks.

DeeJay Dallas scores one of his two touchdowns Sunday. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks


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YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    I give credit to a guy named Thiel for focusing on a guy named Metcalf before the draft. Truly prescient.

    • Brent Hannon

      I remember that too! it’s crazy that Metcalf was drafted late in round 2.

      • art thiel

        So say 31 GMs.

      • Chris Alexander

        Yep. It was because he had a poor 3-cone drill and supposedly could only run a couple of routes. Thank goodness Seahawks brass could see past that.

    • art thiel

      Nice of you to recall. Given his production at the combine, it was hardly a genius pick. But if you put the electron microscope to anyone, imperfections will be found.

  • 1coolguy

    The quote of the day, perhaps year, is from Mark Schlereth, the co-announcer:
    “In a league of freaks, Metcalf is the freakiest”.
    He said this after the 46 yard TD where DK again showed his Usain Bolt genes.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for sharing. I worked at the game so I didn’t hear it.

    • Macfunk

      Usain Bolt! Exactly how I described his Arizona run!

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  • StephenBody

    Dallas looked really puny, in the beginning. He was taken down by am arm tackle from a guy who was on his knees and bounced off another that he ran into. But as the game went on, he seemed to get the idea that he could run against the “mighty” Niners and began to look more potent, especially on his TD run. I don’t think he’s really going to be good for anything except spelling Carson or Hyde for a few snaps, once in a while, until he adopts a more Seahawk-y attitude and confidence but there’s some potential there, anyway. What really delighted me was that, possibly motivated by the forest fire going on in Bobby’s hair, the defense rose up and played like men. I continue to think that the defensive woes are more rooted in confidence and cohesion than in a lack of talent. But if there is any shot at a Lombardi trophy for this crew, they need to use yesterday as bedrock and build a fortress.

    • art thiel

      It’s true that the talent on hand is better than the defensive production. But a Seattle defense under Carroll has never called that many blitzes. Tells you what they think of Jimmy G. So the element of surprise is gone, but several key players return this week.

  • ll9956

    The biggest improvement IMO was the defense. With some new players they rose to the occasion and played amazingly well. A tip o’ the hat to PC and Norton. And the offense put up 37 points, no picks. Well done!

    • art thiel

      Imagine the defense with Adams, Griffin, Dunlap and Harrison. Which could be Sunday.

  • Kevin Lynch

    3 things. The defense was exemplary considering the guys that were out. 2 – Garappolo was throwing flat-footed from the beginning of the game. Can’t believe they left him in. He was poor. Third thing…in 50 years of watching football I have never seen a QB as large a part of a team as Russ is this year for Seattle. Still saying 12-4 though, not 14-2.

    • 1coolguy

      Garappolo was obviously not healed from his severe high ankle sprain – he was not pushing off with his back foot and didn’t have anything on his passes. He is reported to be out 6 weeks, and if surgery is needed, that’s the season. I was surprised they left him in as long as they did.
      Kittle broke a bone in his foot and is out 8 weeks or possibly the season. If so, SF is toast!
      I was very impressed with Mullens – 18-25, 238 yds and 2 tds, 0 int’s. ALL in the 4th qtr – YIKES! The way they closed will not be forgotten by their next opponent, as he scored 20 points in the 4th qtr, exposing the D once again.

      • Husky73

        For a good deal of Mullens’ completions, the Seahawks were in a soft defense, allowing a lot of room underneath (running the clock) and not getting beat over the top.

  • jafabian

    Beating the Niners is my favorite past time. Not sure if it’s them or the Packers I enjoy beating more. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Hawks will be in December assuming they’re at full strength.

  • Will Ganschow

    Kudos to your prescience as noted below. That said, how many times has Coach Carrol pluck a diamond out of the pile of coal. Isn’t that the unsaid piece behind your whole column?

    • Husky73

      It has been evened out by how many times the Seahawks have whiffed on their first (and sometimes second) pick. For every Russell Wilson there has been a Malik McDowell. I suppose their unpredictability makes them exciting.

  • Alan Harrison

    Surprisingly and welcomely boring, if welcomely is a word. Loved having a calm Sunday where the Seahawks winning (or losing) was not really in doubt after a certain point. I guess I would have liked to see Geno in the closing drives, but the “prevent” defense wasn’t preventing anything…again. Next week? A very mobile, tough QB with a rocket arm. Less Kyler Murray and more Ben Roethlisberger, if Roethlisberger is a word.

    • antirepug3

      I think it was John Madden who said ‘prevent defense’ only prevents you from winning. I agree. It is a gift to opposing offenses and they capitalize on it.

  • Chris Alexander

    Rookies make rookie mistakes. Last week it was Damien Lewis going the wrong way on the critical 3rd and 2 play near the end of regulation. This week our rookie RB went out for a pass when he was supposed to take a handoff at least twice and, I believe, as many as 4 times. One was the play where he caught a touchdown pass – thank goodness Russ can adapt on the fly. Another one was the play where Russ nearly got killed trying to run up the middle and went down near the goal line. The rookie will learn but the mistakes took the “shine” off his night for me; even with him scoring 2 touchdowns.

    The defense looked incredibly good for 3 quarters. Like most, I’m willing to ignore the 229 yards and 20 points they gave up in the 4th quarter but, DAMMIT, why can’t Seattle just put their foot on their opponent’s metaphorical throat and NOT let them up until the final whistle blows? This was a solid win, but 37-7, maybe 37-10, with SF held to less than 200 yards is both a solid win AND “a message”.

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