Seahawks Takeaways: T.J. Watt does what Jamal Adams didn’t
After a rough start and 14-0 halftime deficit, the Seahawks clawed back against the Steelers on Sunday night. A few plays went the home team’s way, though, and Pittsburgh came away with a 23-20 overtime win, jumping to 3-3 while Seattle slides to 2-4 to start the 2021 season.
This was, of course, the Seahawks’ first full game since star quarterback Russell Wilson was injured and placed on injured reserve, and while Geno Smith kept Seattle in the game, he had a costly turnover late that effectively sealed the deal for the Steelers.
Let’s take a closer look at how this game was won by the Steelers and lost by the Seahawks, as well as what positives there are to take away for Seattle.
Defensive star comes through for Steelers, but not Seahawks
After a massive third-down stop by the Seahawks’ defense in overtime, the Steelers needed their defense to answer the call. They did that and then some.
Smith dropped back to pass, pump faked, surveyed the field and stepped up in the pocket to either tuck and run or at least get further up field before looking to pass again.
Then, T.J. Watt happened.
Watt, the highest-paid defender in NFL history, kept on chasing Smith despite being blocked by seemingly half of Seattle’s offensive line. He got to Smith and punched the ball loose, allowing teammate Devin Bush to recover and set up the Steelers’ game-winning field goal.
TJ WATT FORCES THE FUMBLE. #HereWeGo
— NFL (@NFL) October 18, 2021
There are two things that make this extremely noteworthy aside from the simple fact that it won Pittsburgh the game.
The first is that Watt, for the most part, was off and away from Smith for the game’s first 60 minutes. But on Seattle’s first overtime drive he came away with a sack on third down in Pittsburgh territory to force a punt. Then, on the very next defensive play by the Steelers, he got the strip sack.
The second thing is that for the Seahawks, their young, high-paid defensive star also had a chance to make a game-changing play, but he didn’t whereas the Steelers’ did.
That would be safety Jamal Adams, the league’s highest-paid safety.
With the game still 17-17 and the Steelers driving into Seahawks territory and looking to take the lead, they did just that on a field goal. But what happened before that? Well, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger basically gift-wrapped an interception to Adams on second-and-15. Adams was in the perfect spot at the perfect time. A pick there would have kept the Steelers off the board and given the Seahawks a chance to go win it with roughly 1:45 left.
Well, Adams didn’t catch it. In fact, Adams took the pass straight to the facemask and it fell incomplete. Two plays later, Chris Boswell drilled a field goal that meant the Seahawks would be playing for the tie and not the win if they could get into field goal territory.
After Adams signed his big contract, the big plays from him have been few and far between. He’s never been a ballhawking safety by any means, but he had two picks during his New York Jets tenure and had five in three years of college ball.
What has been the biggest complaint of Adams’ play since he came to Seattle? The lack of ball skills or getting his hands on the ball.
In a game where the Seahawks were playing at a clear disadvantage because of Wilson being out, they needed that one play from the defense, especially after the offense failed to capitalize on a Roethlisberger fumble earlier in the contest. Instead, Seattle’s star defender watched the pass hit his helmet and fall to the ground while Pittsburgh’s big-play defender made two game-winning plays.
I know some will question why Watt was even in the game after some punches going Alex Collins’ way when Watt was trying to jar the ball loose, but that’s too much of a “what it” to handle. Watt made the plays when the Steelers needed them while Adams let his fall flat in front of his face.
Were there other plays that contributed to the loss on both sides of the ball? Duh. But Adams is paid to be a playmaker for the defense. And to this point in 2021 that really hasn’t happened, even when the opportunities are pretty much handed to him.
Defense’s overall performance is encouraging
Yes, the Seahawks lost. Yes, there are still areas they can improve. But the play of the Seahawks’ defense is at least something that appears to be moving in the right direction.
Sure, the pass rush struggled again, but Roethlisberger gets the ball out of his hands better than almost any signal-caller in football. He’s also a massive dude, and while he’s not nearly as mobile as he was in the past, he’s a tough man to bring down.
All in all, the Seahawks played a solid defensive game, especially after a pretty shaky first half.
After allowing over 450 yards in four straight games, the Seahawks gave up 345 to the Steelers. They also held Pittsburgh to 5 for 14 on third down and allowed just 229 passing yards to Roethlisberger and Co.
Yeah, JuJu Smith-Schuster being out hurts the Steelers’ aerial attack, but Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson are each very good young receivers and Najee Harris is already among the NFL’s best dual-threat running backs. Seattle limited that trio to 134 yards.
Another promising development? Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown.
After missing the first five games of the season with a knee injury, the rookie from Oklahoma made his NFL debut. He played on Seattle’s second defensive series and made a few plays before Sidney Jones returned and handled the rest of the work, but Jones went down and Brown stepped up.
Brown was solid and sound in coverage and he made a massive play for the Seahawks in overtime.
On third-and-4, Roethlisberger threw a short pass to Ray-Ray McCloud, who looked like he was first down-bound. But Brown pulled away from his receiver and delivered a perfect tackle to stop McCloud just short of the line to gain, forcing the Steelers to punt.
Unfortunately Smith would fumble on the very next play, but it was still an impressive play and very promising debut for Brown, which is big considering the Seahawks have struggled against the pass since the start of 2019. If Jones is banged up, Brown is all but certainly the next man up.
Rushing attack keeps Seahawks in the game
With a backup quarterback in the fold, any team would need the supporting cast to step up. But for the Seahawks, they weren’t just down Wilson, they were also without starting running back Chris Carson, who is on injured reserve with a neck injury.
With Wilson and Carson out, Seattle’s starting backfield was Smith and running back Alex Collins. Smith put up numbers you’d expect of a backup playing against a top-10 defense like the Steelers’, going 23 for 32 for 209 yards, a touchdown and the aforementioned fumble.
Back in it. 👊@Budda03's touchdown will put us on the board!
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 18, 2021
If the Seahawks had any stars on offense, though, it was in the run game.
Collins led the way with 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, making him the first Seahawk to rush for over 100 yards since Week 15 of 2019.
Travis Homer also made two explosive plays: a catch for 27 yards and a 26-yard run on third down. DeeJay Dallas also racked up 50 total yards on nine touches.
It was all for naught, though, as the Seahawks fell 23-20, but it is promising that the run game went for 144 yards on the ground against one of the league’s top run defenses.
Collins was banged up and didn’t re-enter the game due to a hip/glute injury, head coach Pete Carroll said after the game, so hopefully he can return next week against the New Orleans Saints.
Carroll says Alex Collins wasn't in the game late because he was knocked on his hip/glute and couldn't get back out there.
— Stacy Jo Rost (@StacyRost) October 18, 2021
Regardless of how long Wilson is out of action, Smith and the Seahawks will need a solid run game to lean on. Week 6 was a good showing in that sense.