SEATTLE -- The offense scuffled, the pass defense strained and the Seahawks had to withstand a final push from a scrappy Bengals team that had pushed them harder than anticipated. But Rasheem Green came through with a strip-sack of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton to deliver the final blow as Seattle held on for a 21-20 victory in the team's season opener on Sunday.
Dalton became the 12th passer to throw for at least 400 yards against a Seahawks' defense and the sixth quarterback to do so during Pete Carroll's tenure as head coach. However, three Cincinnati turnovers and an inability to convert in the red zone helped Seattle withstand the Bengals more potent attack. The Bengals out-gained Seattle by a 429-233 margin and ran 21 more offensive plays than their counterparts. But a pair of Chris Carson touchdowns and a 44-yard touchdown strike from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett in the fourth quarter proved enough to lift Seattle to their first win of the year.
The game was reminiscent of several of their openers through the years. This one maybe most closely resembled a 12-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at home in 2016. Here are the takeaways from the first game of the season...
-- Seahawks pass defense struggles against heavy test from Cincinnati.
The Bengals dropped back to pass on 56 of their 70 offensive plays on Sunday. That's 56 pass plays to just 14 rush attempts, a 4-to-1 pass-to-run ratio.
An ankle injury to running back Joe Mixon may have somewhat influenced the decision to be as pass heavy as they were, but it was still a staggering amount of pass attempts to throw against Seattle. It's the most passing attempts a Seahawks' defense has seen since Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones combined to attempt 59 passes against Seattle in 2015.
Tedric Thompson may a critical error in misplaying a throw to John Ross late in the first half that went for a 55-yard touchdown. Thompson had read the play well and looked to be in good position to take advantage of a massively underthrown ball by Dalton. Instead, the ball cleared a leaping Thompson's fingertips and was caught by Ross for the score.
"I got to catch the ball when the ball is in the air," Thompson said.
Added Carroll: "He just misjudged it. He's a terrific ball hawk guy and he just misjudged it. He left his feet too early. It was too bad. That never should have happened, obviously."
Tre Flowers was also picked on frequently by Cincinnati's passing attack and he was assessed two penalties for illegal contract and pass interference. However, Carroll said that was partly based on the coverage decisions the team made strategically.
"We played a lot of zone today," he said. "He was off (coverage) and they threw the ball underneath him some. We did not spend a lot of coverage underneath those guys today. That was not part of the plan. They were kind of hung out and they took advantage of it a little bit. More scheme than anything else."
The Bengals also found success in the screen game. They utilized a ton of halfback and tight end screens to find space against Seattle's defense.
"They were getting us in some good play calls," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "We just got to do better, got to execute better and we will. Once they do it once, a lot of teams are going to see that and try to imitate it so we've got to be ready for it."
An opposing quarterback has thrown for 400 yards against Seattle six times in the Carroll era. The Seahawks have managed to win all six of those games: vs. CIN Andy Dalton, 418 yards, 21-20 (today), vs. SF Nick Mullens, 414 yards, 43-16 (2018), vs. HOU Deshaun Watson, 402 yards, 41-38 (2017), vs. PIT Ben Roethlisberger, 456 yards, 39-30 (2015), at NYG Eli Manning, 420 yards, 36-25 (2011), vs. SD Philip Rivers, 455 yards, 27-20 (2010).
The Seahawks did get some scattered pressure on Dalton. The team sacked Dalton five times in total but were unable of causing much more discomfort outside of that. And though the Bengals only ran the ball 14 times, Seattle held them to just 34 yards rushing for the game.
The Bengals also lost three fumbles - two by Andy Dalton and one on special teams - that helped turned the tide in Seattle's favor.
-- Quinton Jefferson had his best game as a pro.
The most significant defensive disruptor for Seattle on Sunday was defensive end Quinton Jefferson.
Jefferson recorded two of the five sacks of Andy Dalton. He finished the game with six total tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and two passes batted down.
"We're just having fun out there," Jefferson said. "We knew we were going to have to be a factor, wreak some havoc. They had a lot of (run-pass options) so if we couldn't get there my biggest thing was I was going to try to get my hands up to bat it down."
Jefferson had four career sacks entering Sunday's game with three of those coming last season. With Ziggy Ansah inactive as he continues to work back from shoulder surgery and Jadeveon Clowney still acclimating to the defense after last week's trade, the Seahawks needed Jefferson to produce and he did so against the Bengals.
"he had a great game," Carroll said. "He had six tackles, he had two tackles for losses, he had two sacks. He had a couple pass defenses, knocked down or whatever. He had a terrific game today. It was definitely the best game he’s had for us. We needed every bit of it."
Jefferson is in his fourth season with Seattle. He played just three games as a rookie and should be a restricted free agent after this season. Last year was his first season with regular playing time and he appears to have made even more strides heading into year four.
-- DK Metcalf makes strong first impression.
One of the more hyped offensive rookies in recent memory delivered an impressive debut performance against the Bengals.
DK Metcalf caught four passes for 89 yards on six targets from Russell Wilson. He was the team's most targeted wide receiver on Sunday with only running back Chris Carson getting more passes thrown his direction.
"I thought DK was special," Wilson said.
Metcalf hauled in a 42-yard grab on a streak behind cornerback William Jackson III to help set up Carson's 10-yard touchdown reception late in the first half. He then improvised on a broken play as Wilson floated a jump ball to him for a 25-yard gain prior to Tyler Lockett's 44-yard game-winning touchdown.
"The play broke down and then I saw Russell about to scramble so I just turned upfield and we made eye contact. He had enough trust in me to just lob it up and I had to just go and make a play," Metcalf said.
Metcalf did have an offensive pass interference penalty and a holding called against him, but Carroll was still thrilled with the showing after the game.
"It was a good opener for him, other than the penalties; he did fine," he said. "He made some tough plays. Russ got the ball to him on a couple. The big bomb and the one down the middle. I don’t know how to explain that pass. But, it was a great grab for him under duress. That’s a really good start for him. He’s ready to go."
Metcalf's 89 receiving yards mark the best debut by a Seahawks' rookie wide receiver in franchise history. Steve Largent had the previous benchmark with 86 yards on five receptions against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976. Doug Baldwin is next on that list, tied with Curt Pardridge, with 83 yards. Baldwin set his mark against the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 while Pardridge made his mark against the Miami Dolphins in 1987.
Tight end Will Dissly's three catches for 105 yards last year in Denver is the best showing by a rookie Seattle pass catcher ever.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 08: Quinton Jefferson #99 celebrates alongside Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Seattle Seahawks after sacking Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter during their game at CenturyLink Field on September 08, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)