Pulling off one of the most surprising upsets of the NFL's opening week, the Seahawks used a trio of goal line stands and an efficient outing from Geno Smith to turn away the Broncos in a thrilling 17-16 Week 1 victory on Monday Night Football.
Which players shined the brightest in Seattle's first victory of the 2022 campaign? Here are my top five grades along with other notable performances from Monday's thriller at Lumen Field.
Overall Grade: 91.0 (Pass Rush 87, Run Defense 90, Tackling 94)
Soaking up the energy in a loud, frenzied Lumen Field for the first time, Nwosu didn't disappoint in a sensational debut with the Seahawks. Impacting the game in a myriad of ways off the edge, he rocketed out of his zone responsibility on the first play of the second quarter to hunt down Wilson scrambling to his left and brought him down along the sideline for his first sack of the season. Two plays later, he recorded a pass deflection on Wilson's third down pass, forcing the Broncos only punt of the entire game. In the second half, he starred on two legendary goal line stands for Seattle, first teaming up with safety Quandre Diggs to hit Melvin Gordon short of the goal line and force a fumble. Moments later in a near-identical situation, he punched the ball out of Javonte Williams' hands in the backfield near the goal line for another fumble that was recovered by Mike Jackson in the end zone, denying Denver points once again. Earning NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Nwosu exhibited excellent burst, physicality, and toughness that will endear him to the 12s while racking up seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, five quarterback pressures, and a forced fumble.
Overall Grade: 89.0 (Passing 93, Rushing 85*)
*Weighted for five rushing attempts
For those questioning Smith's viability as an NFL starting quarterback, at least in the present, the veteran silenced his critics with a fantastic Week 1 performance. Out of the gate, the former West Virginia star became only the third quarterback since 1990 to complete his first 13 passes in the season opener and most impressively, he did so while unloading some difficult throws under duress. On the game's opening drive, he took a shot from Randy Gregory on third down and still delivered a first down throw to Tyler Lockett. A few plays later, he escaped a pair of pass rushers who had collapsed the pocket, stepped up, and lofted a pop pass to Will Dissly for a 38-yard touchdown that led to the crowd going bonkers. While his play leveled off in the second half after going 17 for 18 with a pair of touchdowns in the first two quarters, he completed 84 percent of his passes, didn't turn the ball over, and made a few big plays with his legs as a runner, orchestrating Shane Waldron's offense masterfully and playing the roles of both facilitator and creator on Monday night.
Overall Grade: 84.0 (Pass Blocking 83, Run Blocking 85)
Making history across from Charles Cross as only the third pair of rookie tackles to start a season opener together since 1970, Lucas outshined his first-round counterpart, building off a strong preseason with a superb first NFL start. Putting his fluid athleticism at 320-plus pounds on display, he dished out a pancake on an overpowered linebacker on the first play of the game and delivered several key blocks at the second level, including springing Rashaad Penny for his two longest runs of the night. On top of that, his best run block ultimately didn't count after officials flagged him for a questionable holding penalty, wiping out a 23-yard run by Penny that would have moved Seattle into Denver territory late in the third quarter. While he wasn't flawless in pass protection, Lucas held up well against quality competition in Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory and played clean football picking up stunts, yielding three pressures and no quarterback hits while helping keep Smith clean most of the evening. The third round pick out of Washington State continues to impress and looked the part of a long-term starter in his first regular season action.
Overall Grade: 84.0 (Coverage 80, Run Defense 82, Tackling 90)
Statistically, Diggs didn't turn in one of his best games and uncharacteristically, he allowed an interception to slip through his hands on Denver's final drive of the first half in the end zone, allowing the opposition to kick a field goal and cut the lead to 17-13 before halftime. But as has often been the case since he arrived in 2019, No. 6's presence impacted the Broncos game plan offensively and Wilson didn't take many deep shots down field with him patrolling center field in single-high and two-deep coverages. Only a couple snaps before his unfortunate dropped pick, Wilson was forced to unload a vertical down the sideline to Courtland Sutton out of bounds because the ball-hawking defender turned on the jets and was ready to turn into a vulture swooping in for an interception. Wilson completed just two out of seven passes that were 20-plus air yards and Diggs certainly factored into those struggles. Meanwhile, he also made a critical play knocking the ball out of Gordon's grasp at the goal line to force a critical turnover in the third quarter on fourth and goal and didn't miss any tackles on the night. It was just another day at the office for one of the NFL's best all-around safeties.
Overall Grade: 83.5 (Receiving 90, Run Blocking 75)
After two seasons battling foot injuries and failing to carve out a significant role on offense when healthy, fans had been growing impatient waiting for Parkinson to deliver on his promise in game action. That finally happened on Monday night, as the athletic 6-foot-7 tight end finally came through as a weapon in the passing game as the Seahawks have envisioned him doing all along. Doing all of his damage on Seattle's second scoring drive late in the second quarter, the former Stanford star caught a quick crosser in stride from Smith for an 18-yard gain and a first down to advance the ball inside the Broncos 30-yard line. Two plays later, with Smith identifying man coverage and a mismatch with linebacker Jonas Griffith covering Parkinson, the quarterback lofted a perfect strike down the seam for six points to put Seattle back in front 17-10. He didn't receive another target for the rest of the night, but it was easily his best performance as a pro and showcased why he could be a real problem for opposing defenses in a scheme that better utilizes tight end talent.
Other Notable Performances
Narrowly missing out on joining the top five, Will Dissly enjoyed a strong first game catching passes from Smith and contributing in the run game as a blocker, earning an 82.5 overall score. While he did allow a pair of sacks, Cross held up fairly well for most of the game in pass protection and made a few decent blocks in the run game, receiving a 76.0 overall grade in his NFL debut and the second highest grade among Seattle's offensive linemen. Hurt by penalties from linemen in front of him and a fumble that was fortunately recovered by center Austin Blythe, Penny graded out with a 74.0 overall while finishing with 60 yards on 12 carries. On the outside, DK Metcalf earned an 80.0 receiving grade after making a few difficult contested catches against Patrick Surtain, but a crucial third quarter fumble and questionable decisions after the catch dropped his overall mark to 72.0. Goodwin turned in a solid debut, catching both passes thrown his way for 22 yards and a 78.0 overall grade. Blythe didn't yield any pressures in pass protection, but his score plunged to 68.0 due to issues creating push in the run game, including getting blown up on a failed quarterback sneak in the first quarter. Receiving a 65.5 overall grade, Phil Haynes also struggled in a spot start for Damien Lewis, yielding three pressures and drawing a holding and false start penalty.
If not for a pair of legitimate defensive pass interference penalties flagged against him in the second half, Tariq Woolen likely would have crashed the top-five grades in his first NFL game. The fifth-round pick didn't allow a single reception on three targets and took away a pair of deep balls from Wilson to Sutton, earning a 78.5 overall mark with penalties in consideration. Opposite of him, Mike Jackson's fumble recoveries bolstered his grade and he performed well in coverage, but two missed tackles dropped his grade to 75.0 overall. In the trenches, Quinton Jefferson quietly had a standout performance, generating five pressures on Wilson for an 81.0 pass rushing grade and 78.0 overall mark. Before exiting with an injury, Jamal Adams generated a pressure on a blitz and was well-positioned in coverage, though he let an interception opportunity bounce off his face mask. On just 15 snaps, he earned a 79.0 overall score. While Nwosu excelled off the edge, Darrell Taylor's opener left much to be desired, as the Broncos took advantage running the ball right at him. Bullied by right tackle Cam Fleming at times and botching run fits on other plays, he received a 45.0 run defense grade and a 62.5 overall mark salvaged by a trio of pressures. At linebacker, Jordyn Brooks missed three tackles and gave up eight receptions in coverage, receiving a 71.0 overall mark with a mixed performance. Cody Barton produced a potentially game-saving tackle on the final drive as well as a quarterback hit on a blitz, but he battled issues getting off blocks throughout the night and found himself out of position several times, dropping his run defense grade to 60.0 and overall score to 65.0.
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