The Seattle Seahawks came out of Week 2 riddled with doubts.
The two-time defending NFC Champions were 0-2, big offseason addition Jimmy Graham had just two targets in a 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Russell Wilson wasn’t playing like the second-highest paid quarterback in football and the best defense in the NFL was merely ordinary. Most of the doubts surrounding the defense centered on the absence of All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor and his holdout that lasted nearly two months.
Would he return? Would he be the same? And if he was, would it really make a difference, or had the Seahawks window simply closed?
Well, Chancellor ended his holdout last week after 54 days, returned to practice on Wednesday, started on Sunday against the Chicago Bears and Seattle won 26-0. It was their first shutout since 2013, and the first time the Bears have been blanked out since 2002. It wouldn’t be prudent to say that Chancellor was the only reason for the quick turnaround (we’ll get to Jimmy Clausen in a minute), but shutouts in the NFL are relatively rare for a reason.
Unlike getting hit by Chancellor, having your defensive team captain return in time for the home opener doesn’t hurt.
In 60 minutes of football, the Seahawks managed to erase many of the doubts that surrounded their young 2015 season. They got the ball to Graham – supposedly upset with his role in the offense after gaining just 62 yards through two games – targeting him eight times (he caught seven of those passes, for 83 yards and a touchdown). They answered many questions about their defense – which came into Week 3 ranked 29th in points per game allowed, but ended it ranked 11th – which tends to happen when you allow zero points. And they brought Chancellor back into the fold. He may have finished the game with just one tackle, and he sat out at times because he had only begun practicing five days earlier, but it was his presence that mattered most. You don’t cross certain parts of the field when Chancellor is out there, for fear of being hit so hard that your ancestors feel it.
Of course, it helped that Seattle was facing a Bears team that started Clausen in place of the injured Jay Cutler and was once again missing top receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Playing with basically Chicago’s number three, four and five receivers, Clausen was 9-of-17 for 63 yards. His only saving grace was that he didn’t have any turnovers, but that’s mostly because Clausen rarely threw to anyone that wasn’t within five yards of him. Chicago had 10 possessions, and unbelievably ended every single one of them with a punt – something that hasn’t been done in at least 35 years. The Bears’ best drive went 47 yards and got them to the Seattle 45-yard line.
Many doubts were answered, and the 1-2 Seahawks have a good shot at getting back to .500 with a Monday night home game against the 0-3 Detroit Lions next, but other uncertainties crept in.
Marshawn Lynch missed most of the first quarter with what was suspected to be a lingering calf injury, then played for a couple of series before leaving with a hamstring injury and being replaced by undrafted free agent rookie Thomas Rawls. Lynch has rushed for just 128 yards on 38 carries through three games. It’s too early to say if Lynch’s body is running out of gas at 29, or if the injuries are serious enough to keep him out of any upcoming games, but doubts certainly exist that weren’t there before.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Rawls rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries, showing off the skills that made Seattle decide to cut ties with Robert Turbin and Christine Michael before the season.
However, the offense looked bad for most of the first half, leading only 6-0 at the break before rookie Tyler Lockett returned the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. It’s his second return touchdown in three games, following the two return touchdowns he had in four preseason games. The Seahawks finally got into a rhythm in the third quarter with Wilson, Graham and Rawls, but they won’t be able to continue playing two quarters of atrocious football on offense and getting away with it; I’m pretty sure this is their only game against Clausen.
But Seattle came out of this week victorious, both on the scoreboard and in the locker room. Their leader on defense is back, their new offensive weapon got the ball and they’re one win away from .500, which is where they were after six games last season. And that didn’t stop them from getting back to the Super Bowl.
Slow starts, like Wilson and Graham are fond of saying, “don’t matter.” Not with a team this talented.