SEATTLE — Sunday’s season opener ultimately felt more like the Bengals bungled than the Seahawks soared.
But, you take your victories however you can get them in the NFL, and inartful as was Seattle’s 21-20 win over the Bengals, Pete Carroll isn’t going to turn it down.
Seattle was statistically dominated — outgained 429 yards to 234 — and shockingly couldn’t really run it much of the day against a team that a year ago was one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.
But when the plays mattered most, Seattle somehow found a way to make them.
A 44-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Seahawks the lead, and then a defense that bent almost all day found a way not to break at the most critical of times to hold on to the win.
The victory was Seattle’s 11th in a row in a home opener and the Seahawks are now 15-0 in September under Carroll.
A snapshot of how the day went can be found in one stat: The Bengals had four drives into Seattle territory in the second half — all to the 36 or closer and two inside the 12 — but scored just a field goal while Seattle had only one drive into Cincinnati territory in the second half but scored a touchdown.
Maybe it was as simple as a team used to winning playing at home and a team in its first year of a rebuilding program playing on the road.
The bigger picture is that Seattle won’t win too many games playing like this anywhere — certainly not next week at Pittsburgh.
The Bengals held a 356-150 edge in yards heading into the fourth quarter, and that stat accurately reflected the degree to which Cincinnati dominated the game.
But, Seattle once again hewed to Carroll’s theme that you can’t win the game in the first, second or third quarters but you can in the fourth.
This was the 28th time in 126 games — regular season and playoffs — that Wilson led a fourth-quarter or overtime comeback.
Most amazing may have been that the Seahawks were down just 17-14 at the time.
The Bengals had drives in the third quarter that advanced to Seattle’s 12-, 27- and 36-yard lines but got no points out of any of them.
One ended when the ball simply slipped out of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton’s hands and to Al Woods for a fumble, another on a missed field goal of 45 yards, and another on a fourth-down stop by Woods.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Bengals again drove into Seattle territory, this time to the 4 — if somewhat controversially so with a pass interference penalty on Tre Flowers getting it that far (Carroll took advantage of the new NFL rules to challenge the penalty but it was upheld on a review).
The Bengals couldn’t get it in from there, though, thanks in part to Woods — who had a huge game — drawing a holding penalty and then Jadeveon Clowney getting his first Seattle sack.
The Bengals settled for a field goal that cut the lead to 21-20 with exactly seven minutes left.
Seattle couldn’t get the kind of time-consuming drive to put the game away it has so often in the past, due in part to Lockett dropping a pass on first down at about the Bengals’ 40.
Cincinnati got the ball back at its own 29 with 5:30 remaining but after one first down was stopped and punted — Quinton Jefferson, who also had a big game — batted down a pass on third down.
Seattle got the ball back at its own 6 with 3:22 left.
And for the only time all day Seattle’s running game was a factor. Two runs set up a third-and-one and Carson then burst loose for 21 yards for a first down that effectively allowed Seattle to run out the clock.
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