Rost: 2 reasons Seahawks’ 1-0 start this season is different from last year
NFL coaches will tell you they don’t dwell on the past, but a look back can also measure change and improvement, and that’s exactly what the Seahawks are hoping to see on both sides of the ball this year.
Weirdly enough, this year’s Seahawks had a similar start compared to 2020. Last year’s squad also got a win on a road trip with a 10 a.m. kickoff and drew plenty of praise about their offense afterward.
But there are a few key differences when it comes to this year’s start. So, while Pete Carroll and the Seahawks are looking ahead to hosting the Titans in Week 2, my co-host Jake Heaps and I looked back to see whether this year’s Seahawks team – which brought a little déjà vu in Week 1 – feels improved from its 2020 version.
Jake: The right offensive system makes all the difference
Quarterback Russell Wilson threw four touchdowns, wide receiver Tyler Lockett had 100 yards, and running back Chris Carson nearly put up just as much on the ground in Sunday’s 28-16 win over the Colts. None of that is shocking. But there was something that felt new to Heaps, and that was the system itself.
One of Seattle’s biggest changes this offseason was at offensive coordinator, and for Heaps, that was made clear in the opener.
“I get why people would sit there and say, ‘We saw this same song and dance last year,’” Heaps said. “Or, ‘We saw a great offensive start, they got a ‘W’ in Atlanta. What’s different about this offense, and what’s different about Russell Wilson starting hot if he’s just going to fizzle in the second half?’ I think they’re all very valid questions and what I would say in response is that this team must earn a new narrative. But what we saw on Sunday is for real. They have to go out and prove that, but this was very different to me than what we witnessed in Atlanta (in 2020).”
Wilson threw 31 for 35 last year against the Falcons in a pass-heavy approach that kickstarted its own catchphrase. But there were two aspects to the start that felt unsustainable.
“Being that incredibly efficient with that many pass attempts, for one” Heaps said. “The other part of it is going into every game saying, ‘We’re going to throw it 35-40 times and rely on our pass game,’ when their roster – and this is the key part – and their offensive philosophy were not built to be that style. They weren’t built to go into any game against any opponent and win like that. Did they have the ability to do it if the matchup played favorably to them? Yes, and for a good portion of the year that happened. But when it came time to adapt, they didn’t have the firepower, they didn’t have the system, and they didn’t have the personnel.
“The Seahawks were in this pseudo, in-between (place) trying to expand their offensive horizon and go into uncharted territory with an offensive coordinator who’s never done that before. So that stands out to me the most. (New offensive coordinator) Shane Waldron has a system in place that he’s been well established for years (with the Los Angeles Rams).”
I’ve never heard the excitement and belief in a new OC and system like what I’ve heard from Seahawk players regarding Shane Waldron. You see why today. Versatility. So many ways to attack. Physical ground game, easy completions setting up YAC and Russ being Russ downfield.
— Jake Heaps (@jtheaps9) September 12, 2021
Stacy: It felt like a big step forward for the defensive line
It’s easy to get lost in the hype when a team throws for four or five touchdowns or puts up 400 yards of offense, but there were red flags on defense as early as Week 1 last year. Seattle allowed 506 net yards, including 434 passing yards, by Atlanta. They also allowed the Falcons to successfully convert 50 percent of their third-down attempts. The good news was that it wasn’t enough for the Falcons to beat them; the bad news was that allowing that many yards was never going to lead to sustained success.
You saw a much-improved defense, particularly up front, this time around. I’d caution against using limited Week 1 figures to try to extrapolate what the defensive line can do this season, but so far, it’s encouraging. Seattle’s defense held Colts quarterback Carson Wentz to 251 passing yards and limited a great running game to just 3.8 yards per carry. They also allowed the Colts to convert just 38 percent of their third down attempts.
The secondary, which struggled to remain consistent last season, will get a big test in Week 2 against Titans receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. But if there’s one thing you can take comparing these two Week 1 starts for Seattle, it’s that not all wins are created equal, and I think fans should feel good about the overall balance this time around.