Kicking off the Shane Waldron era in style, Russell Wilson threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns as the Seahawks rolled to a 28-16 season opening road victory over Carson Wentz and the Colts.
Led by Wilson's three first half touchdown passes, including two to Tyler Lockett, Seattle raced out to a 21-10 halftime lead and never looked back. Bobby Wagner produced a team-high 13 tackles, while Jordyn Brooks added 11 and Quandre Diggs pitched in nine to lead a stellar defensive effort in which they held Indianapolis to 336 total yards.
Following a signature road win to open the new campaign, here are five key takeaways from Lucas Oil Stadium:
1. Russell Wilson was back at it cooking fine cuisine blending a few new ingredients with previous staples.
Coming out red hot out of the gates, Wilson led three touchdown drives on four possessions in the first half, utilizing several newcomers while still relying on his reliable returning cast of characters. He started the festivities by connecting with Tyler Lockett for a 23-yard score in the first quarter, as the veteran receiver did a remarkable job adjusting and tracking the throw behind him to reel in the touchdown grab. Moments later, he threw the first of what Seattle hopes to be many touchdowns to new tight end Gerald Everett, hooking up with him on a nine-yard slant for six points. Wrapping up a masterful first half, with pristine pass protection in front of him, he dropped a 69-yard rainbow into Lockett's hands in stride to expand the lead to 21-10. Then midway through the fourth quarter, he got his other star receiver involved, hitting DK Metcalf with a 15-yard strike to further extend the advantage. He finished the game with completions to seven different receivers, including rookie Dee Eskridge, and posted a near-perfect 152.3 passer rating.
2. At least for a week, Shane Waldron gave the 12s what they’ve long been begging for.
Since he was hired back in May, Seahawks fans have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to see how he planned to elevate the play of Wilson and his counterparts. All offseason long, there had been talk from players and coaches about emphasizing tempo, utilizing more pre-snap motion, incorporating misdirection, and having a more balanced approach. While the results were far from flawless, all of those characteristics were visible in Waldron's game plan on Sunday, playing a key role in the team's explosive first half performance. Waldron got Chris Carson going early, allowing the back to run for 60 yards on just eight carries before the break. He dialed up a couple quick dump off completions for Wilson early to get his quarterback comfortable and got the speedy Eskridge involved in the ground game on fly sweeps. He moved chess pieces such as Everett all over the field to find mismatches and put the defense on its heels. Now that there's game film, opponents will have a chance to dissect his scheme and come up with their own game plan catered to stop it. But overall, fans should love the new wrinkles they saw on display.
3. There will clearly still be growing pains, as evidenced by a subpar second half for the offense.
While Wilson lit up the Colts secondary throughout the first half and added a fourth score in the fourth quarter, there are plenty of areas of improvement for the Seahawks moving towards Week 2. The third quarter was difficult to watch, as the offensive line allowed a sack and three quarterback hits, Carson lost a fumble past midfield, and the team was forced to punt on three other possessions in the quarter. The Colts did an excellent job of adjusting to what the Seahawks did in the first half and brought more pressure than usual, which seemed to rattle Wilson a bit and led to a few uncharacteristic errant throws. Waldron eventually made the proper adaptations to help put the game away, but there will be ample film to comb through and learn from on Monday from a coach and player perspective as the team gears up to face the Titans next weekend.
4. Early returns on Seattle’s deep, athletic stable of pass rushers are encouraging.
Prior to kickoff, news broke that the Seahawks would be without L.J. Collier, as the former first-round pick was a healthy scratch. While the development was a surprising one, a deep defensive line didn't need him on Sunday, particularly in the edge rushing department. Rasheem Green enjoyed one of the finest games of his career, stuffing the stat sheet with four tackles, two swatted passes, a sack, and two quarterback hits. Darrell Taylor demolished right tackle Braden Smith with a bull rush and rocketed past him to sack Carson Wentz on a fourth down play early in the fourth quarter for a turnover on downs. Veteran Benson Mayowa also turned in a fantastic effort, getting his first sack of the season after Taylor drew attention from multiple blockers on a stunt and producing two tackles for loss. Carlos Dunlap also got into the act with a quarterback hit of his own and "sacked" Wentz on a two-point conversion. Even defensive tackle Bryan Mone got into the act, rattling Wentz's bones on a huge hit in the third quarter. Living up to the offseason hype, the group dominated most of the afternoon, which is a more than welcome development given the pass rushing struggles the Seahawks have had in several recent seasons.
5. True evaluations of the cornerback group will have to wait for another week.
While the front seven played quite well for the Seahawks throughout the afternoon to take pressure off the secondary, it's difficult to tell what the team has at cornerback. D.J. Reed, Tre Flowers, Ugo Amadi, and Marquise Blair didn't get their hands on a single football all afternoon in coverage, but no Colts receivers had more than 43 yards either. While none of them were torched in this game, however, there were certainly some plays where the group got exposed when the pass rush wasn't able to quickly get home to Wentz. In particular, Flowers tried to press Zach Pascal in the fourth quarter with the Colts in the red zone, but the receiver was able to win with an inside release and leave the veteran in the dust for an easy touchdown to make the final score a bit tighter. Next week, the Seahawks will be tested by Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, a significantly tougher matchup from a talent and size perspective. Keeping that in mind, Pete Carroll and his staff should have a better idea what they have at the position next week for better or worse.