The Seahawks showed tremendous improvement in all aspects of their game as they lose for the third consecutive time on the road. Plagued by complaints of a leaky offensive line, many fans were wondering how the ‘Hawks would protect Russell Wilson and if that extra time would translate into more looks and passing attempts. Also, would they be able to block adequately enough to allow the running game to flourish? Seattle was missing Marshawn Lynch for a second game in a row, so Thomas Rawls would handle the early down work, while Fred Jackson, mere days after sustaining a high ankle sprain, started and provided third down and passing relief. Marcus Burley, Tharold Simon, Alvin Bailey, Kevin Pierre Louis, Demarcus Dobbs, Kristjan Sokoli, and Ty Smith were also inactive for the ‘Hawks in the game.
The points started flying early, with Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton finding Tight End Tyler Eifert for a score very early on in the contest. The score was set up by long gains by A.J. Green and Marvin Jones the Wide Receiver duo for the Bengals. Richard Sherman and Cary Williams kept Green; known for his speed and big play abilities, in check for the majority of the game. Green would actually thump Williams for a touchdown on Cincinnati’s second drive, but it was nullified by and offensive holding call. That wouldn’t stop them from gaining enough yards for a first down conversion when Cincinnati needed it. The touchdown pass to Eifert was puzzling, as Eifert breezed by Kam Chancellor to waltz untouched into the end zone.
Seattle responded on their first drive by the powerful run nature of Thomas Rawls, who gave the ‘Hawks 33 yards and a first down. Jimmy Graham, chided by some in the press for his lackluster blocking abilities, provided Wilson with enough time to find Jermaine Kearse wide open for a 30 yard fade route for a touchdown. Offensively speaking, Tom Cable’s O-lineman did their homework, improving their blocking immensely and providing enough room for Rawls to gain 169 total yards during the scrimmage. 69 of those yards came on an incredible third quarter run, in which Rawls demonstrated superior ball handling skills and broke many tackles to find the end zone. The ‘Hawks totaled 397 yards in this game, almost evenly split between passing and running disciplines.
Defensively, the Legion was Booming for most of the game this time around. Bobby Wagner was an absolute animal, stifling Cincinnati’s run game every chance he got. His marquee play came off of forced fumble by Michael Bennett on a carry from Cincinnati’s Rex Burkhead, which Wagner scooped up and outran Dalton for a 23 yd. return touchdown. After the Bengals started the game by scoring on their first drive, Seattle turned up the heat, forcing a number of three and outs and holding Cincinnati scoreless through two full quarters. Richard Sherman played stout man coverage, tipping a pass intended for A.J. Green that was almost an interception. Speaking of interceptions, the ‘Hawks recorded their first interception when Earl Thomas nabbed an errant pass from Andy Dalton intended for Green. He would take off, gaining a huge return play that would have set the ‘Hawks up, but it was negated by a penalty committed by Michael Bennett for repeated hits to Andy Dalton.
Cincinnati was unable to get big plays with their star players, so Dalton began methodically attacking the even matchups afforded to Mohamed Sanu and Giovani Bernard, in place of A.J. Green and Jeremy Hill. Hill was contained to only 25 total yards, and Green totaling 78 yards, a far cry from the 227 yards he put up against Baltimore. Sanu would finish the night with 69 yards, and Bernard would notch 100 yards in this contest. This presented an interesting choice for the ‘Hawks to make in coverages, as they couldn’t afford to let Eifert, Hill, or Green run free, but ended up allowing a number of smaller, inside slant routes for easy yards and 1st down completions.
It was in the fourth quarter that the tide turned for the ‘Hawks, as Tyler Eifert again breezed by midfield coverage for a touchdown, and Andy Dalton executed a QB sneak after repeated stuffing from the defensive line. Dalton was sacked four times, losing 21 yards in the process. The two turnovers forced by Seattle’s defense threatened for send the 68,000 fans in Paul Brown stadium into a tizzy, but the volume of attack sputtered out in the fourth quarter, as neither the offense of defense could put points on the board or stop Cincinnati from putting up. As the ‘Hawks go to overtime, an exchange of three and outs ultimately set up the Bengals Mike Nugent for success, as he replicated his late fourth quarter talents with field goals to put the game on ice.
At the postgame press conference, Pete Carroll had this to say regarding the team: “We’re not dead and gone. We don’t feel like that at all. We just need to fix some things and I think we can. These guys are forthright and strong individuals who will hang together and work to get it done. The baffling part of this is that we played so strong for three quarters. The Bengals have been on fire and they showed it in the first drive and we were able to handle it. We just need to finish the game.” Finishing seemed to be an accurate term for what Seattle couldn’t accomplish in this game. However, it is somewhat comforting to know that the team, who hadn’t scored a rushing touchdown in this season, got it done handily against a team ceding the sixth fewest yards to running backs thus far.
Up next, the ‘Hawks get another undefeated team, the red hot 4-0 Carolina Panthers, at Century Link field. The ‘Hawks are 7-2 all time versus the Panthers, and have never lost at home. Greg Olson, the Panthers Tight End, has proven to be a legitimate target monster and red zone threat. Their run game, anchored by JBLM native Jonathan Stewart, hasn’t been as explosive as it was last season (he’s averaging 50 yards/game). Aided by Cam Newton’s running ability (190 rushing yard by himself), an emerging Wide Receiver conundrum in Jericho Cotchery, Ted Ginn, and Corey Brown, and cornerback prowess by the name of Josh Norman (4 Interceptions in 4 games, 2 of those returned for touchdowns), plus the probable return of Luke Kuechly (out since Week 1 with a severe concussion) may set up yet another slug fest if the ‘Hawks do not get up early and hold their opponents to low scores.