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O’Neil: New season, new Seahawks? Win over Falcons sure felt that way

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter Sunday. (Getty)

Can you win the game in the first quarter?

No, but you can give your team a heck of a head start, which is exactly what the Seahawks did, scoring a touchdown on each of their first two possessions on Sunday in Atlanta.

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Can you win the game in the fourth quarter? Sure, but it it turns out that a 19-point cushion with 11 minutes to play can make for a downright enjoyable afternoon.

After a year chock-full of halftime deficits and white-knuckle finishes, the Seahawks beat the Falcons 38-25 in a road win that was comfortable enough that an onside kick recovery in the final minute couldn’t make a difference. New season, new Seahawks?

It sure felt that way from Russell Wilson completing seven passes on Seattle’s first possession, which resulted in a touchdown with just under 5 minutes left in the first quarter. The Seahawks never trailed again, and a team that rode a run of second-half comebacks all the way to the playoffs took a very different path to its first Week 1 road win since 2013.

Wilson was as ruthlessly efficient as he’s ever been. He threw for four touchdowns in the game, the ninth time in his career he had four or more scoring passes. He completed 31 of his 35 passes, which at 88.6 percent is his highest completion percentage of any game in his career.

Even the coach who’s known for his penchant for punting got frisky on Seattle’s first possession of the second half. The Seahawks didn’t just go for it facing fourth-and-5 on their first possession of the second half – they went for the throat. Russell Wilson threw a perfectly-placed 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D.K. Metcalf down the sideline.

It was a play as beautiful as it was important, and it was one of the most encouraging signs that Seattle’s coach might stop letting discretion get in the way of going with his quarterback’s valor. Because for all the chants about the size of Carroll’s … uh … courage, he’s not a coach known for fourth-down bravado. Over the past four seasons, only two teams have gone for it on fourth down less often than the Seahawks.

He loves to play for field position. Most defensive coaches do. They want as many yards between their opponents at the end zone even if it means pulling the plug on an offensive drive when it’s near midfield.

That’s what I was prepared for early in the second half. On third-and-3, the Seahawks lost 2 yards on a flip play to Travis Homer and I fully expected Seattle to try and pin the Falcons close to their goal line. Instead of playing it safe, the Seahawks dropped the hammer with one of Wilson’s four touchdown passes in the game.

Seattle’s defense looked better in the game whether it was new safety Jamal Adams leading the team with 13 tackles and recording a sack, Bobby Wagner being a monster in the middle of Seattle’s defense or safety Marquise Blair forcing a fumble on a fake punt that appeared certain to be successful.

But Seattle’s offense won this game. And more importantly, Carroll gave the offense the opportunity to do that.
The Seahawks finished with 38 points, which matched the second-most they have scored in a regular-season road game under Carroll. The only game in which they scored more was back in 2012 when the Seahawks hung 50 points on Buffalo in a game that was played in Toronto.

That was a game played in December when Seattle found its stride. This was in September when Seattle has usually stumbled on the road under Carroll. Seattle is 2-8 in its road openers under Carroll, the only victories being last year at Pittsburgh in Week 2 and in 2013 when Seattle began its march to a Super Bowl with a Week 1 victory in Carolina.

That was a team that was known for its defense, though. This season, the Seahawks will be led by their offense, which made a heck of an opening statement against the Falcons, perhaps sending a message that will carry through the rest of the season. It’s 2020, and this year, the Seahawks are going for it.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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