Offensive linemen play in obscurity, rarely reaching a level in which casual fans learn their names.
You might not know any of the Seattle Seahawks‘ offensive linemen by name, but after Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers you already know that group is the biggest obstacle to Seattle doing much this season.
The Seahawks offense was awful against the Packers, and the reason was the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was pressured on most of his drop backs, and often he had a Packer in his lap before he got to the final step of his drop. We expect Wilson to perform magic because he has for a while behind bad offensive lines, but there wasn’t much he could do Sunday. The Seahawks scored just three field goals.
It wasted a good defensive performance. The Packers were shut out in the first half, even in great weather conditions and a healthy offense around Aaron Rodgers. The Packers didn’t break through until they got a short drive thanks to a strip-sack on Wilson by defensive lineman Mike Daniels. On Green Bay’s next play, Ty Montgomery had a 6-yard touchdown run. Again, the Seahawks’ offensive line loomed too large in the game.
The Packers hit one big offensive play in the second half, lining up quickly and catching the Seahawks out of position. Jordy Nelson got a 32-yard touchdown against blown coverage. The Seahawks didn’t allow too much more, but the Packers didn’t need anything else. Seattle’s offense had no chance.
The past couple weeks there was a debate about the biggest injury in the NFL preseason, and George Fant rarely got mentioned. He was the Seahawks’ left tackle. Fant played college basketball and before last season hadn’t started a football game since his pee-wee league days, but Seattle was excited about his progress. Fant suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, and as it turns out, that was a major blow. It says something about the state of the Seahawks’ line that losing a left tackle who played basketball in college and had 10 career NFL starts was that important.
It was a strange offseason for the Seahawks, though drama isn’t new for them. A big part of the issue was an ESPN story that described friction between offensive and defensive players. If that was the case, the chemistry won’t get better after Sunday. The Seahawks struggled early last season on offense too and then improved, but the early issues were mostly due to Wilson being injured. This was different. Wilson was healthy on Sunday, though he might not remain healthy for long if the line doesn’t get better.
The Seahawks defense looks like it’s a championship unit, with new defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and safety Earl Thomas back from a leg injury. The offense might be very good too if the line can block anyone. That won’t be so easy for the Seahawks to fix, and it has already cost them one huge game in a wide-open NFC.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 1 NFL action:
The two highest-paid players in NFL history: The Oakland Raiders made Derek Carr the highest-paid player in league history this summer, and then Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions eclipsed him with his own mega-deal. Both looked like they were worth the money on Sunday.
Carr led the Raiders into a tough spot on the road against the Tennessee Titans, who have high hopes for this season. Carr and the Raiders played well in a 26-16 win. Oakland’s defense looked better than it did last season, and Carr was efficient. The Raider was in his first game back since breaking his leg late last regular season, and he finished off the Titans with a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts in the fourth quarter. The Raiders look like they are picking up right where they left off last season, when Carr got hurt.
Meanwhile in Detroit, Stafford started with a pick-six. He was fantastic after that. Stafford had 292 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-23 win over the Cardinals. The Lions trailed in the fourth quarter, as usual, but won anyway. A big reason was Stafford, who threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to impressive rookie Kenny Golladay. Stafford hasn’t always had much to work with, but it looks like the Lions have given him some decent help this season.
Cleveland Browns: Sure, the Browns couldn’t finish the job against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. But they look a lot better this season. This won’t be another 1-15 team.
Cleveland lost 21-18. Had it not been for a big Antonio Brown circus catch in the final minutes – and there was enough question he caught it that Browns coach Hue Jackson unsuccessfully challenged it – the Browns might have had a chance to upset the Steelers at the end.
The NFL isn’t built on moral victories, but the Browns need to show progress in tangible ways. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was 20-of-30 for 222 yards, one touchdown passing and another rushing. Eight different targets caught passes. The defense, without top pick Myles Garrett, held Le’Veon Bell to 32 yards on 10 carries, and 15 of those yards came on one run. In the final four minutes, the Browns cut the powerful Steelers’ lead to a field goal. That was after starting the game by allowing a touchdown on a blocked punt.
Getting the win would have made it a great Week 1 for the Browns. It was a positive performance nonetheless. And there will be a few wins for the Browns this season. That’s progress.
Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles: Fournette wasn’t the NFL’s rookie star of the week. That was Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, of course. But Fournette did his job, and it allowed Bortles to do his.
Here’s what the Jaguars want to do this season: Run the ball often with Fournette, play great defense and have Bortles make just a few plays. The defense definitely showed up on Sunday. So did Fournette, with 100 yards and a big touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Bortles completed only 11 passes, but that’s fine. He didn’t throw an interception. He threw a short touchdown. He made a few passes to keep the chains moving. That’s all the Jaguars need from him if the defense and Fournette are going to be as good as they were Sunday, when they blasted the Texans 29-7.
The offense’s job will be tougher with star receiver Allen Robinson likely out for the season with a reported ACL injury. But in a dominant win over the Texans on Sunday, we could see the Jaguars have a path to improvement this season.
T.J. Watt: It wouldn’t have been too surprising to hear that someone named Watt had a couple sacks and an interception in a big game Sunday. It would have been surprising to hear it came from T.J. Watt, superstar J.J. Watt’s younger brother.
T.J. Watt was the Steelers’ first-round draft pick, selected to help Pittsburgh’s pass rush. The Steelers needed him on Sunday, with outside linebacker Bud Dupree out with an injury. And in Watt’s NFL debut he had a couple sacks and a pick in a 21-18 win.
With the Patriots looking more vulnerable than expected, the Steelers should have championship hopes. If they can get a defensive rookie of the year-level season out of Watt, that becomes more realistic. Through one week at least, it looks like Watt could have that kind of impact.
Giorgio Tavecchio: Tavecchio waited for a long time to kick in an NFL regular-season game. And he couldn’t have been much better for the Raiders on Sunday.
Tavecchio hit all four of his field-goal attempts as he got the call with Sebastian Janikowski going to injured reserve. He hit two field goals from more than 50 yards out and a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The last kick was the type of calm, clutch kick you wouldn’t expect from a guy who waited years for his first NFL chance.
Tavecchio first got a shot to make an NFL roster in 2012. He spent time with the 49ers, Packers, Lions, and then four straight preseasons with the Raiders without ever getting into a regular-season game.
To keep chasing the dream, then come through like that in his first career game … it can’t get much better than that. What a story.
Giorgio Tavecchio on long wait for NFL debut: "Aristotle said anticipation can be the greatest form of pleasure. " #Raiders
— Ron Kroichick (@ronkroichick) September 10, 2017
Tavecchio seems to know history well, so maybe he knows Wally Pipp’s story too. Pipp famously lost his job as New York Yankees first baseman when he had a headache and was taken out of the lineup, allowing Lou Gehrig his chance. If Tavecchio keeps kicking like he did Sunday, Janikowski might never get his job back.
Chuck Pagano and the hapless Colts: The next time you want to claim Andrew Luck isn’t that good, remember how the Colts looked on Sunday. It’s possible the Colts without Luck might be as bad as the 2017 Jets. It was that brutal.
The Rams blew out the Colts 46-9. Indianapolis’ defense was picked apart by Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff, who had by far his best NFL game. The Colts’ offense actually operated at a deficit: Scott Tolzien gave away two touchdowns with pick-sixes and backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett was tackled in the end zone for a safety. That’s 14 points for the Rams defense, and just nine points for the Colts offense.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano can’t help that Luck is still out with a shoulder injury, but he has to be feeling a lot of heat anyway. He said after the game the Colts got their behinds kicked by the 49ers … after they lost to the Rams. Yikes.
Nobody quite knows when Luck will be back. Tolzien was so bad the Colts might have to turn to Brissett next week against the Arizona Cardinals, even though he has been with Indianapolis only a week after he was traded by the Patriots. It was ugly for the Colts on Sunday, and it’s not going to get any better until Luck is back.
But the final sequence will haunt them. The Bears moved down to the Falcons’ 5-yard line in the final 30 seconds. Mike Glennon had Josh Bellamy on first down, and threw it just a bit wide. On second down, Jordan Howard dropped a pass right at the goal line. On third down, it was another close incompletion to tight end Zach Miller. Then on fourth down, the Bears had nobody open right away – it didn’t look like a creative play call – and Glennon held the ball too long. He was sacked by Brooks Reed to end the game.
Perhaps the Bears should feel optimistic after giving the defending NFC champs such a scare. On the other hand, it’s another loss. And Chicago lost receiver Kevin White to a possible season-ending collarbone injury, according to ESPN. The Bears should have had a headline-grabbing victory in Week 1, and they couldn’t finish it. That stings.
Marvin Lewis: People have been ready for the Cincinnati Bengals to fire Lewis for a long time, but the team has shown a remarkable amount of patience with him. But if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, that patience might run out.
The Bengals were horrible on Sunday in a 20-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They were shut out at home. Quarterback Andy Dalton, playing behind a bad offensive line (seems to be a theme this season, huh?), had four interceptions against a Ravens defense that looked really strong. The Cincinnati defense was OK, but a 46-yard touchdown allowed to Jeremy Maclin pretty much took the Bengals out of the game. It was a debacle.
One game doesn’t sentence a team to a terrible season. But it’s surprising the Bengals looked so unprepared. Cincinnati was expected to bounce back from a rough season last year. It didn’t look on Sunday like that’s going to happen. It’s hard to believe Lewis, who is in the final year of his contract after he wasn’t given an extension, will be back if the rest of the Bengals’ season looks like Sunday’s performance.
Kirk Cousins: Everyone figures on Cousins breaking the bank next season when he hits free agency or gets another franchise tag worth about $35 million. However, Cousins still needs to play well to cash in (although, given what we’ve seen the last couple offseasons, playing well at quarterback isn’t a requirement for getting a huge contract).
Cousins wasn’t very good on Sunday in a big divisional loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw a crushing red-zone interception early in the fourth quarter. He lost a fumble later in the fourth quarter when he was sacked, although there wasn’t much protection for him – and he thought his arm was moving forward and it should have been incomplete. Overall the offense looked out of sorts. The Redskins scored 17 points and seven of them came when the defense returned an interception for a touchdown.
Cousins hasn’t played all that well in Week 1 three years in a row, and he ended up fine each of the past two seasons. Maybe he’s a slow starter. But he’ll need to play better, for Washington and for his future opportunities.
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