Russell Wilson may have been the headliner of Monday night’s matchup between the Broncos and Seahawks, but his successor in Seattle, Geno Smith, left the primetime finale of Week 1 victorious. A nearly flawless performance from Smith, coupled with a physical showing from Pete Carroll’s defense in front of a raucous Seattle crowd, kept the Seahawks in front of their old friend all night. While Wilson threatened to play spoiler and steal the game at the end, inexplicable clock management on the Broncos’ final series left Denver unable to complete the comeback, securing a 17-16 win for the Seahawks on “Monday Night Football.”
Here are some instant takeaways from Monday’s big Seattle upset:
Why the Seahawks won
Believe it or not, Geno Smith actually played like the steadiest, most comfortable quarterback of the night. Aside from a single cross-body heave early in the contest, the longtime No. 2 not only kept the ball out of harm’s way but proactively extended plays, adopting a quasi-backyard approach to get eight different receivers involved. Seattle didn’t close or prolong drives as well as it could’ve, but under Smith’s guidance, the team never lost a lead, with Rashaad Penny showing plenty of burst despite just 12 carries. The defense was just as good, if not better, bending and bending but never breaking, surrendering over 400 total yards but forcing a pair of goal-line fumbles, making six stops behind the line and showcasing sustained physicality. Seattle was, simply put, the more disciplined and inspired team on the field.
Why the Broncos lost
There are plenty of reasons, including the fact that neither Melvin Gordon nor Javonte Williams could hold onto the ball on goal-line runs. But none will ring louder this week than the collective mental lapse between their new QB-coach pairing of Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett, who let 30 seconds tick off the clock on their final series, only to settle for a 64-yard walk-off field-goal try. It was poor, inexplicable clock management for any organization, but especially one that went all in to add star power at QB this offseason, only to relegate said QB to the sidelines in crunch time. Denver’s “D” was feisty to keep things close, with Bradley Chubb in particular wreaking havoc, and Russ found Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton for big plays. None of it added up to a reliable rhythm, however; it was a disjointed, undisciplined debut punctuated by 12 penalties.
A goal-line fumble is one thing; two straight goal-line fumbles is another. When Javonte Williams coughed up the ball during the second of the Broncos’ two red-zone failures, he ensured that Seattle would retain its tight lead into the final minutes of the third quarter. And, ultimately, Denver only got the ball back for two more series, going 15 plays on its next drive but settling for three points, then driving to the Seattle 46-yard line on its last series. Once the Broncos turned the ball over a second time while knocking on the door of the end zone, destiny just felt as if it belonged to the Seahawks.
Play of the game
Give it to the entire Seahawks defense, which stuffed Melvin Gordon at the goal line before punching the ball loose to force the first major takeaway of the night:
The Seahawks (1-0), who stand atop the NFC West after one week, will travel to San Francisco to visit the rival 49ers (0-1), who lost to the Bears in sloppy weather Sunday. The Broncos (0-1), meanwhile, will make their home debut against the Texans (0-0-1), who tied with the Colts.