DENVER -- The Seahawks had chances to get a victory on the road in Denver to begin the 2018 season. Instead, Seattle fell shy of knocking off the Broncos at Mile High Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Seattle lost Doug Baldwin to a sprained MCL early in the game and it took the offense a while to adjust to being without its No. 1 wide receiver. Russell Wilson was sacked six times by the Broncos, though some of those were his own doing. And a missed field goal (twice) by Sebastian Janikowski brought memories of 2017 to the forefront as Seattle fell three points shy of sending the game to overtime.
Here are the five takeaways from the Seahawks' loss to the Broncos:
1. Russell Wilson still making too many glaring mistakes with decision-making.
Wilson made some stellar plays Sunday against the Broncos. He's one of the league's best quarterbacks when he's playing at his peak ability and a handful of plays showed he can still be that player. However, Wilson is still making some of the same mistakes that hurt the Seahawks tremendously over the last two months of last season.
Wilson was sacked six times by the Broncos, but Wilson said himself that at least three of those sacks were his fault. On two separate occasions, Wilson took a sack of greater than 10 yards by turning around and running backwards in trying to avoid pressure.
"I'm not just going to give up on a play," Wilson said. "I'd definitely probably three of those are on me just trying to make a play. ... I take the blame for some of those, for sure."
Facing a second-and-1 at their own 41-yard line with 37 seconds remaining in the first half, spun backward when Shane Ray flashed in his face and then tried to get around Shaquil Barrett closing from the other side. Instead, it resulted in a 22-yard loss and was the final play of the half, throwing away a possible scoring opportunity.
Then in the fourth quarter, on a third-and-3 with 9:19 remaining, Wilson drops back as his receivers all run routes short and just beyond the sticks. Wilson holds the ball too long, decides to retreat backward instead of stepping up in the pocket to open space and gets enveloped by Von Miller.
Finally, on third-and-5 at their own 27-yard line with 4:17 to play, the Broncos brought a cornerback blitz by Chris Harris Jr. Wilson either didn't diagnose the blitz before the snap or didn't adequately account for Harris being an unblocked defender on the play. He's dropped for a 9-yard loss and Seattle has to punt.
He would also fumble a snap on the team's final possession, which led to a harried spike attempt with a false start as the team didn't get set up correctly. The flag led to an additional 10-second runoff and essentially ended Seattle's chances to rally for a tying field goal.
While Wilson admitted his faults in this aspect on Sunday, it'a a continuation from similar issues he showed last season. Of the six sacks, Wilson says three were on him. The first play of the game appeared to be a coverage sack as Seattle's two receivers were well covered off a play-action drop. Two of the sacks could be attributed in some fashion to the offensive line.
The success rate of making a positive play moving backward is not very high. If Wilson is looking to move, he needs to move forward, not back.
Wilson made three really nice touchdown passes on the day, fit a tough third down throw in between three defenders to Brandon Marshall and managed to move the ball some despite losing his favorite target. However, the self-inflicted errors can't continue to happen.
2. Will Dissly the surprise offensive star of the game.
Jimmy Graham had just four 100-yard receiving games in his three years as a member of the Seahawks.
Dissly - a fifth-round pick from Washington known more for his blocking acumen than his hands - caught three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown on his first ever reception Sunday in Denver.
"He was on fire. He was like Mike Ditka out there," Carroll said.
Dissly was one of a very few positives in the first half offensively for Seattle. An Earl Thomas interception set up Dissly's 15-yard touchdown on a nice play-action call that left Dissly leaving his blocking assignment mid-play for a wide open score.
He also caught a 66-yard pass from Wilson that involved breaking multiple tackles that set up Seattle's first field goal of the game.
Graham only had two games with more receiving yards in three years in Seattle than Dissly had in his debut performance. That's not to say Dissly should be expected to be a Graham-like offensive producer, but it was a stellar first outing.
3. Safety play the only bright spot on defense in opener.
The Seahawks allowed 470 yards of offense and 146 rushing yards to the Broncos on Sunday. Denver picked on rookies Tre Flowers and Shaquem Griffin, both of whom were starting for injured players K.J. Wright and Dontae Johnson.
"Defensively, we played in spurts really well and we gave some easy plays to them. They threw a flat route for a 30-yard touchdown pass and they threw a crossing route for 40-yard touchdown pass. Those are really easy plays to not let happen and those were big plays in this game," Carroll said.
The defense got just one sack of Case Keenum and managed only five hits on the quarterback throughout the game. However, the play of Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald helped keep the Broncos from running away with the victory.
Thomas and McDougald combined for three interceptions of Keenum. A Thomas deflected pass nearly ended up in McDougald's arms for a third interception on the day as well.
“It’s really on us," McDougald said. "Guys just need to make better reads, make better schemes, or just communicate better. The Broncos did a good job of hurrying up the tempo, and guys just need to communicate better. We’re working hard, but guys just need to communicate better and get to where their supposed to be.”
4. Michael Dickson is unbelievable.
The rookie punter from Texas, via Australia, had perhaps one of the best punting performances in league history Sunday against the Broncos.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, only four times before Sunday had an NFL punter had at least five punts in a game and averaged at least 59.0 yards per punt dating back to 1950.
Andy Lee (49ers vs. Seahawks, Week 1, 2011, 59.6), Mike Scifres (Chargers at Rams, Week 6, 2010, 59.5), Greg Montgomery (Oilers vs. Bills, Week 17, 1992, 59.2) and Shane Lechler (Raiders at Broncos, Week 16, 2005, 59.0).
However, none of the four of those had the 57.5 net average that Dickson produced on Sunday. Dickson also had four of his six punts inside the 20-yard line without recording a single touchback.
"Oh my gosh, what a kicker man, what a kicker," Carroll said. "I don’t know what his numbers wound up at but he is a fantastic part of our team and we are just getting warmed up with him, he is really something. I mean, the punts were gorgeous, but not just the distance of the punts, but the placement of the punts too."
5. Earl Thomas says he still wants to be with Seattle, but he still wants to get paid.
Thomas ended his hold out this week and immediately made his presence felt against the Broncos. He intercepted Case Keenum on Denver's second possession, which set up the opening touchdown from Wilson to Dissly.
Thomas didn't get a new contract from the Seahawks like he had hoped to leverage by holding out. He said he still wants to be in Seattle "if they want me," but still wants to get a new contract for an amount he perceives to be fair value.
"I have no clue," Thomas said when asked if bridges had been too severely burnt to repair things with the Seahawks. "All I can do is just put the best product out there that's possible (and) protect myself until I do get paid."
So why did Thomas end his hold out and report to the team when he did?
“I talked to my agent (David Mulugheta),” said Thomas, who hadn't discussed his return outside of a social media post since reporting last Wednesday. “We understood that I had a lot of money on the line. I just couldn’t throw it away. So basically I decided to come back. I’m glad I did.”
Thomas would have forfeited $500,000 a week for every game he missed if his hold out continued into the regular season.
Photo Credit: DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 9: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos makes a catch on the edge of the end zone for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 9, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)