ATLANTA - Russell Wilson was cooking right from the start, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the Seattle Seahawks to a 38-25 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener Sunday.
With the Falcons not allowing fans for at least their first two homes games because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Seahawks took advantage of what was essentially a neutral site to pull away in the second half.
Watch Seahawks Gameday post-game coverage tonight at 5:00 p.m. on Q13 FOX, following an NFL on FOX doubleheader and The OT on FOX.
Seattle continues to find success on the road, going 8-1 in their last nine away games. The Seahawks have also been successful in the early 10 a.m. PT slot.df
Seattle heeded the pleas of its fans to “Let Russ Cook” — essentially a call to open up the offense in the first half rather than relying on Wilson to keep leading dramatic comebacks.
He completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards, throwing a pair of TD passes in the first quarter as Seattle built a 14-12 halftime lead and adding two more in the third quarter to put the Falcons away.
The biggest one of all came after the Falcons made what looked to be a crucial stop, leaving the Seahawks with fourth-and-5 at the Atlanta 38. The offense stayed on the field, but instead of going for the first down with a short throw, Wilson lofted one to DK Metcalf, who was streaking toward the end zone.
Metcalf beat cornerback Isaiah Oliver and hauled in the perfectly thrown ball without breaking stride to push Seattle to a 21-12 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Atlanta attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from its own 33. Blocking back Sharrod Neasman took a direct snap and had enough for the first down on a run up the middle, only to fumble the ball. It was recovered by Seattle’s Freddie Swain at the 36.
Five plays later, Wilson zipped his fourth TD pass of the game, a 7-yarder to new tight end Greg Olsen. The 35-year-old was let go after spending the last nine years at Carolina, where he faced the Falcons twice a season.
Wilson hooked up with running back Chris Carson on his first two scoring passes.
A 3-yard TD toss was set up by a 41-yard pass interference penalty against Ricardo Allen that erased a third-and-23 hole. After the Falcons were stopped on a fourth-and-3 play from their own 40, Wilson went to Carson again for a 19-yard score.
The Falcons outgained the Seahawks 506 yards to 383, with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage all collecting more than 100 receiving yards. But Atlanta came up short all four times it tried to convert on fourth down.
It was not a promising start to a make-or-break year for Falcons coach Dan Qunn, who kept his job despite back-to-back losing seasons. He likely must lead Atlanta to the playoffs to return in 2021.
The only bright spot for Atlanta was Matt Ryan going past John Elway for ninth on the NFL career passing yardage list. Matty Ice was 37 of 54 for 450 yards and a touchdown, the second-highest yardage total of his career.
Both teams protested racial injustice on the first play of the game.
As the opening kickoff by Seattle’s Jason Myers sailed through the end zone, all 22 players remained in place and took a knee. After a few seconds, they stood back up, trotted off the field and the game carried on with the Falcons taking the ball at their own 25.
Civil rights leader John Lewis, a longtime congressman from Atlanta who died in July, also was honored as every player wore white armbands with the initials “JL” and the team logos. In addition, the Falcons made Lewis an honorary captain and draped a black jersey with his name over an empty spot on the Atlanta bench.
Seahawks: DE Rasheem Green went out in the first half with a shoulder injury.
Falcons: Gage took a shot to the head on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Seattle S Jamal Adams in the second quarter. After being evaluated for a possible concussion, Gage was cleared to return in the second half. Adams was not penalized on the play but could face discipline from the league when the play is reviewed.
Seahawks: Host Cam Newton and the New England Patriots in their home opener next Sunday.
Falcons: Travel to Dallas on Sunday to take on the Cowboys.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.