SEATTLE — In a way only Pete Carroll could enjoy, the Seattle Seahawks coach was perfectly fine seeing his team trailing going into the fourth quarter against the Bengals.
Maybe it was because he knew what was being dialed up to start the final 15 minutes.
“We played from behind the whole day and those guys never stopped. They never stopped thinking we were going to win the football game and that’s so valuable to us,” Carroll said.
Seattle never trailed again after Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks withstood a career day from Andy Dalton to beat Cincinnati 21-20 on Sunday.
It was not supposed to be this tough for one of the favorites in the NFC. Seattle had DK Metcalf, Jadaveon Clowney and several other new options to deploy against a revamped Bengals team under first-year coach Zac Taylor.
It nearly became one of the big upsets of the opening week. Wilson and the Seahawks struggled offensively for most of the game, but got the big plays they needed on a day Dalton looked great running Taylor’s system.
Wilson was 14-of-20 for 196 yards and two scores, including a 10-yard TD pass in the first half to Chris Carson, who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. Carson also had a 1-yard TD run.
“We started off kind of rusty. It was something we had to get the hang of, but we have to start off faster than that,” Carson said.
Wilson’s numbers were pedestrian compared to Dalton’s. The veteran threw for a career-high 418 yards and two first-half touchdowns to John Ross as the Bengals used some trickery, luck and a smart game plan to surprise the Seahawks.
But after leading 17-14 at halftime, the Bengals failed to score on three possessions inside Seattle’s 36-yard line in the third quarter, and that became the difference.
“One of those drives probably would have won it for us,” Taylor said.
Ross, who played collegiately across town at Washington and had 210 yards receiving all of last season, finished with seven catches for 158 yards. He caught a 33-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker midway through the second quarter and hauled in a 55-yard TD pass with 7 seconds left in the first half after Seattle safety Tedric Thompson misjudged Dalton’s pass.
Thompson’s whiff at picking off Dalton was one of several mistakes by Seattle that allowed the Bengals to hang around. Wilson was sacked four times. The Seahawks, the top running team in the NFL last season, rushed for only 72 yards. The Bengals had 22 first downs and nearly 36 minutes of possession.
But Cincinnati missed its chance to take control.
Carson fumbled on the first play of the second half, but three plays later at the Seattle 12, Dalton lost control of a wet ball and gave it back to the Seahawks. Kicker Randy Bullock, who hit from 39 yards in the first half, hooked a 45-yard attempt. And the Bengals were stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 36 late in the quarter when Giovani Bernard was stuffed for no gain.
For all the statistical advantages Cincinnati had, it was only a three-point lead going to the fourth quarter.
And it was gone in an instant.
After going without a target for the first three quarters, Lockett came free down the seam on a play-action fake and hauled in a touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 21-17 lead. Lockett said Cincinnati was defending him in ways he hadn’t seen since college.
“It was good to go experience that and see what it might be like down the road,” Lockett said.
Cincinnati again failed to find the end zone and settled for a 27-yard field goal from Bullock with seven minutes left to pull within 21-20.
Seattle went three-and-out on its next possession and Dalton had 5:30 to work with. He converted one third down but had another third-down pass batted down by Quinton Jefferson, and Cincinnati punted. Carson rumbled for 21 yards on third-and-1 with 3:13 left and Cincinnati out of timeouts. The Bengals got the ball back with 21 seconds left, but Dalton was sacked and fumbled.
Dalton was 35-of-51 passing and connected with eight different receivers. His previous career high was 383 yards passing against Baltimore in 2015, a game the Bengals won 28-24.
Clowney had a sack in his Seattle debut, chasing down Dalton along the sideline in the fourth quarter. Clowney’s presence opened up opportunity for Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods, who both had big games on Seattle’s defensive line. Jefferson had six tackles, two sacks and two passes defensed.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon left in the third quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return. Mixon had just six carries for 10 yards. Seattle lost tight end Will Dissly to a right knee injury in the fourth quarter and special teams standout Neiko Thorpe in the first half with a hamstring injury.
Seattle also kept Ziggy Ansah inactive, delaying his debut. Ansah appeared on Friday’s injury report as questionable after practicing all week.