The start of perhaps the most unique NFL season in recent memory proved to be an overwhelmingly positive one for the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns as the Seahawks earned a 38-25 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in a mostly vacant Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. Chris Carson caught two of the scoring passes while D.K. Metcalf and Greg Olsen each caught a touchdown as well to carry Seattle to the victory.
While the Falcons put up over 500 yards of total offense, the Seattle defense stopped Atlanta on all four of the fourth downs they attempted during the game. Benson Mayowa had a sack and a deflected pass on two of the fourth down tries and Marquise Blair forced a fumble on a fake punt that was recovered by Freddie Swain for a turnover as well.
With no preseason games to whet the appetite, Sunday's season opener was the first true chance to get a feel for what this year's Seahawks team could bring to the table. The first audition served as a promising introduction that the team will hope they can build upon in the coming weeks.
Here's the takeaways from the 38-25 win over the Falcons:
-- Jamal Adams was not at all bored in Seattle's defense
New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams made a comment last month that he thought Adams could get bored played in Seattle's system. Pete Carroll certainly wouldn't send Adams on as many blitzes or give him the freedom to knife into the backfield regularly like Williams gave Adams in New York.
Yeah, Gregg, about that...
"I wasn't bored," Adams said after racking up a team-high 12 tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits in his debut for the Seahawks. "I was glitching. I was having fun.
"Just out there making plays. Whenever my name is called or my number is called, I'm trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. Get put in the best position to get the ball back to (Wilson). Obviously, when you get the ball back to (No.) 3 he's going to make special plays so that's my focus. I'm never trying to be a one-man guy. I'm just trying to do my job to the best of my ability."
Adams was frequently in the backfield of the Falcons and caused problems for the Atlanta offense. He was brought on blitzes and also was quick to react to run plays as well. He made a handful of tackles in open space on Falcons skill players and was generally a constant presence for Seattle's defense.
"Defensively, you couldn't help but watch Jamal Adams," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He was all over the place. Twelve or so tackles, a sack, and was close on a couple of others and just made some beautiful plays, tackles and hits and pressures and all that. He's an extraordinary football player."
-- Offense off to promising start
For all of those that have implored Russell Wilson to get more opportunities to throw the football, Sunday in Atlanta would have been a welcome sight.
Wilson had 38 drop backs to pass with 35 total passes attempted against the Falcons. Conversely, the Seahawks ran it with their running backs or wide receivers just 17 times overall as Wilson had two more carries himself.
"I thought he called a terrific game all day long," Carroll said of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. "He just went with the stuff we've been doing that's looked so good in practice. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary for how we've been preparing to play really the game. It looked very much like we've been practicing.
"I thought it was a terrific football game for us offensively.
Wilson completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and the four touchdowns on the day to carry Seattle's offense to victory. Wilson also had 29 yards on three carries to lead the rushing totals as well, including a 28-yard keeper out of a triple option.
"I'm not used to it!" Adams said of watching a highly-productive offense.
Wilson crossed the 30,000 passing yards threshold for his career and the 4,000 rushing yards threshold as well. He joins Steve Young as the only two players in NFL history to have over 30,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards.
Chris Carson contributed more in the passing game than as a rusher on Sunday. He caught six passes for 45 yards and two touchdowns as Seattle built a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. While the offense did stagnate during the second quarter with three straight punts and just 24 yards gained on 11 plays, the unit responded after halftime.
A 10-play, 70-yard drive to open the third quarter ended with a stunning 38-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Metcalf on fourth-and-5.
"To be honest with you, they made a good stop on third down and they were all celebrating and so we kind of just looked at the sideline and I was like 'OK, let's go after them.' We wanted to be aggressive in that approach right there," Wilson said.
"I think Schotty and I were on the same page and we went for it and sure enough, D.K. makes a great play, slips by (Isaiah Oliver) and runs right down the field and it makes a great, great touchdown catch. That was big for us."
Following the Falcons failed fake punt, Wilson hit Olsen for a 7-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 28-12 advantage.
Jason Myers would add a 42-yard field goal and Carlos Hyde would score on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring for Seattle.
-- Pete Carroll kept rotating players in at different positions as evaluation season continues.
In addition to give some players a bit of a soft entrance to the season by cutting back on reps, the lack of a preseason also means that evaluations of the roster will continue will continue for several weeks to come.
Jordan Simmons replaced Mike Iupati at left guard for a handful of series. Tre Flowers rotated in with Quinton Dunbar at the right cornerback spot. And first-round pick Jordyn Brooks took some of the reps at weak-side linebacker in place of K.J. Wright.
Seattle also used all three members of their running back group - Carson, Hyde and Travis Homer - throughout the game.
"I don't know what the numbers came out today. But it felt good," Carroll said of the running back rotation specifically. "It felt good giving those guys a chance to keep them fresh."
Battles such as the one at right cornerback between Dunbar and Flowers will likely continue as both players have shown themselves capable of playing time. Additionally, Brooks can be used to give Wright - a 10-year veteran - a little bit less wear-and-tear while also getting a chance to see their first-round pick get some playing time.
-- Fourth down defensive success covers up areas to work on defensively.
The defense had its moments during the game but also has room to improve.
The two turnovers and four stops on fourth down help erase the 506 yards of offense Seattle allowed to the Falcons on Sunday. It's the second straight meeting between the two teams that the Falcons have put up over 500 yards on offense against the Seahawks. They put up 510 yards last year in another Seattle victory.
Mayowa had a sack of Matt Ryan on a fourth down and also batted down a pass to Todd Gurley on fourth down to account for two of the turnovers on downs by Seattle's defense. Mayowa and Adams had the only two sacks of the game as well. Blair forcing a fumble on the fake punt may have been the true turning point of the game as it allowed Seattle to build a two-score cushion early in the second half.
"He makes a great hit to knock the ball loose and Freddie Swain jumped up and made a great recovery to get the ball," Carroll said. "So I think what happened in the game to really make the difference was the defense winning on fourth down."
After picking up 20 yards on his first two carries alone, the Seahawks held Todd Gurley and the rest of the Atlanta ground game in check. However, Julio Jones (157), Calvin Ridley (130) and Russell Gage (114) all went over 100 yards receiving. Via a Pro-Football-Reference search, that appears to be the first time Seattle has allowed three 100-yard receivers in the same game in franchise history.
The defense did get eight hits on Matt Ryan. However, he also had 56 total dropbacks during the game so that's still not an incredibly effective pressure rate for the game.
But the Seahawks won the game and a large chunk of the yards by Atlanta came in "garbage time." They can work out the kinks moving forward with a home opener against Cam Newton and the New England Patriots on deck for next Sunday.
Photo Credit: ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 13: Jamal Adams #33 of the Seattle Seahawks tackles Russell Gage #83 of the Atlanta Falcons after a reception in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)