It took about seven quarters into the season, but Brian Schottenheimer and the Seahawks might finally have figured out exactly how this offense should run.
In Pittsburgh, they picked up right where they left off in that ugly opener against Cincinnati: The line gave up three sacks in the first quarter and was called for three early penalties (plus Jaron Brown’s), Chris Carson fumbled for the second straight game and the Hawks burned all of their timeouts (two on offense) by early in the second quarter, ruining their chances on a two-minute drive at the end of the half.
But Schottenheimer put the offense in Russell Wilson’s hands in the third quarter, and the QB rallied the Hawks to a 28-26 win over the Steelers and their first 2-0 start since the 2013 championship season. It also gave Pete Carroll his 100th win on his 68th birthday — which got him the game ball and a water bath in the locker room afterward.
Wilson was almost flawless. He completed a career-high 82.9 percent of his passes (29 of 35) for 300 yards and three scores, he ran for 22 yards and he also made two downfield blocks on Rashaad Penny’s 37-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Wilson’s goal is to complete 70 percent this season, and he is pacing at 78.2 percent after two games.
The Hawks got off to the same slow start that plagued them against the Bengals, going 0 for the first quarter. But, just as he did against the Bengals, Schottenheimer picked up the pace on the fourth drive. Wilson started unleashing quick passes and using play action. That got them into Pittsburgh territory. Schottenheimer then tightened up too much, running Penny four straight times and ending up with a field goal — except a penalty on Pittsburgh gave Seattle another shot at a TD, and Wilson found Will Dissly on the next play from 14 yards.
After ignoring him in the opener, Wilson looked to Dissly a bunch in this game. They had a 43-yard gain negated by a blocking penalty earlier in the first half, but Wilson found Dissly five times for 50 yards, including a 12-yard TD connection in the third quarter. Wilson hit his other tight end, Nick Vannett, for a 13-yard gain on third-and-10 just before the TD.
That drive got the Hawks going, and Wilson came out throwing the next time, too — hitting Carson and Tyler Lockett four times to get into Pittsburgh territory. Then Penny cut away from a clogged middle of the line and sprinted 37 yards for the TD with Wilson as his bodyguard.
Lockett, who was targeted just twice in the opener, had a big volume game in Pittsburgh: career bests of 10 catches and 12 targets. He also drew a 38-yard pass interference penalty on second-and-20 — a call made after Carroll challenged for it (the refs missed a head hit on Wilson on that same play). Three plays after that, Wilson hit rookie D.K. Metcalf for a 28-yard score that put Seattle up 28-19.
The Hawks can never make things easy on themselves, though. On the next possession, Carson fumbled the handoff as a blitzer came free (Vannett missed his block), and Mason Rudolph (who played much of the game for injured Ben Roethlisberger) quickly threw a TD pass to cut the deficit to 28-26.
With Wilson running through open middle lanes, the Hawks ran out the final 5:34 — though it took a huge fourth-and-1 conversion by Carson to do it after Wilson slid on his third-down rather than diving or plowing through a defender. Carson atoned for those two fumbles with that crucial run.
It was a big road win that ended Seattle’s five-year losing streak in road openers (Carroll is now just 2-8 in those) and set up Seattle for a big game against New Orleans (likely without injured Drew Brees) next week in Seattle.
Hopefully Schottenheimer has figured out how he needs to run this offense going forward. Wilson apparently got rid of the ball faster in this game than any quarterback since 2016, and that was the key to the win. It should be the plan in every game.