Before Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks hadn't found the end zone on their opening drive since Week 3 of the 2016 season. The 34 regular-season games they went without a first-possession touchdown on offense was the longest active drought of any NFL team, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
So when they started Sunday's game in London’s Wembley Stadium by marching 82 yards on 14 plays with Russell Wilson throwing the first of his three TD passes, it ended a dubious streak of early-game futility.
And it set the tone for what would be as sound of a beating as the Seahawks have administered in a while.
Maybe they just needed a 4,800-mile road trip to finally put together a fast start and a complete performance.
Or maybe they just needed to face an old and overmatched Oakland Raiders team.
Whatever it was, rarely have things looked as easy for the Seahawks (3-3) as they did during their 27-3 victory. The 84,922 in attendance at Wembley -- the largest crowd ever for an NFL game in London -- watched the Seahawks win with largely the same formula that had been working for the previous three weeks. They ran the ball early and often, including on their first seven plays, they took it away twice on defense and they mostly took care of it on offense save for a forced throw from Wilson that was tipped and intercepted for his lone mistake of any significance.
“This is winning football,” Doug Baldwin said. “You run the ball, you convert on third down … you play stifling defense and stop the run, and you don't turn the ball over. Usually you win the games when you do that.”
What was different in this one: Seattle had its pass-rush working along with pretty much everything else.
The Seahawks entered Sunday with only 10 sacks through five games, sorely missing all the firepower their defensive line lost this offseason. But despite injuries to Dion Jordan and Rasheem Green that left them even thinner up front against Oakland, the Seahawks hounded and hurried Derek Carr all game long. Frank Clarkhad 2.5 of Seattle’s six sacks. He also forced both fumbles that Seattle recovered while routinely beating Raiders first-round pick Kolton Miller off the edge.
According to Pete Carroll, Clark would have done more damage had he not gotten sick in the second half.
The Seahawks held Oakland to 185 total yards and just 3.3 per play. They actually gave up more yards via their eight penalties (64) than they allowed to their old friend, Marshawn Lynch (45 on 13 attempts). A fourth-quarter field goal was all that kept the Seahawks from pitching their first shutout in three seasons.
“Everybody was hot,” Carroll said of the pass-rush. “Everybody was going. ... That really was kind of the story of the day was our ability to rush the passer. It was great to see those guys get that kind of day.”
While the pass-rush had its best game of the season, Seattle’s offense continued to roll. The Seahawks’ 155 yards rushing (on 37 attempts) was right around what they had averaged while leading the NFL in rushing over the previous three games.
Wilson went 17-of-23 for 222 yards and a 125.4 rating. That type of efficiency is becoming the norm as Seattle keeps running the ball and Wilson keeps making the most of his 20-something attempts per game. His interception Sunday was his first since Week 2.
Wilson completed passes to eight different players, including six to Baldwin for 91 yards. His touchdown throw to David Moore came after he mishandled the shotgun snap, calmly picked it up then stepped up in the pocket to buy himself more time. Carroll had that bit of improvisation in mind as well as the way Wilson scrambled before finding Tyler Lockett in the end zone when he said the quarterback “made a couple magical plays to find guys for touchdown passes.”
“We were really good on third down (9 of 13) today and again running the ball for 150 and just one sack is a big day for us on that side,” Carroll said.
The win was No. 91 (including postseason) for Carroll in Seattle, which broke a tie with Mike Holmgren for the most by a head coach in Seahawks history.
Carroll wasn’t as eager to talk about that accomplishment as he was to talk about how well the team handled the massive undertaking that is a trip to London. He credited the staff members who did the planning -- which included the decision to take off Wednesday evening, a full day before the Raiders left Oakland – and the players for the attitude they had about it all.
Carroll mentioned everything from the Seahawks fans who made their presence heard at Wembley to how the stadium’s turf held up and even the quality of the food at their team hotel.
“This was just an amazing week,” he said.
Especially the way it ended.
The arrow is pointing up for the Seahawks. They head into their bye back at .500 after winning three of their last four, with the lone loss in that stretch coming in close fashion to the unbeaten Rams.
They made it out of Sunday’s game healthy, according to Carroll, and have reinforcements on the way. Tight end Ed Dickson is expected to be ready to make his Seattle debut when the Seahawks return to play the Lions in two weeks. They may have another starter, linebacker K.J. Wright, back for that game as well, though Carroll didn’t mention him specifically postgame.
That game in Detroit will precede a stretch of their schedule that gets much tougher in November with home games against the Chargers and Packers in between road games against the Rams and Panthers.
But with the muddled state of the NFC, the chances of the Seahawks claiming a wild card spot seem much better than they did before the season -- especially with the way Seattle is playing.
“We’ve put together really four weeks of pretty good football here,” Carroll said. “I like the way we’re playing the style we’re playing with, how physical we’re playing … We ran for a bunch of yards again today and finished the game on offense running the clock out. That’s exactly how we love to do it. I’m just really pleased with where we are right now taking off for this break."