Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.
And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. – Vince Lombardi
Losing is a habit. Seattle has lost their last three games. They led in the fourth quarter of each one. Their famous defense has given up at least 27 points in each contest. Crucial mistakes, losing mistakes, were made in each one. These are things that try a competitor’s heart. We are all competing—fans, players, and coaches—for the right to call Seattle the best team in football. It are these moments that test belief in that goal. Being the best is not an entitlement. It is earned through grinding and grasping for improvement each and every day and only reflecting on the standings when the season is complete. Where most saw weakness and flaws in the Seahawks loss to the Packers last night, I saw a team that was poised to win the toughest game on their schedule and fell short. Like a newborn foal, the Seahawks legs have wobbled to begin this season, but there is champion’s blood in their veins. Bet against them at your own peril.
Odds were long
It is natural to forget the depth of the challenge when the clocks hits zero and the Seahawks have lost. Any attempt to fairly assess a game should include recalling the expectations and challenges that were present before the first snap.
I cannot recall a game in the past two years where Seahawks fans, including myself, were more aligned in expecting a loss than before this game. In fact, some of us were bracing for a blowout. There were good reasons for what some might call pessimism, but I would call realism.
Green Bay is a great team with one of the best quarterbacks in football. They are almost impossible to beat at home. Their offensive line is one of the best in football. Seattle came into this game with a newly assembled offensive line and a secondary that is trying to acclimate to the unexpected absence of their leader. Their pass defense had surrendered nearly 300 yards and eight plays of 20+ yards to Nick Foles last week. Throw in the intangibles that had Packer fans, players, and coaches craving a win over Seattle like a bridesmaid craves a ring, and this was one of the toughest setups Seattle has faced in years.
I picked Seattle to lose this game before the season. I picked Seattle to lose this game again this week. The truth is that a win here would have been unexpected and fantastic. The fact that it did not happen does not mean the season is doomed.
Let’s take a look at how different aspects of the team fared compared to both the previous week and expectations heading into the game.
After being sacked six times and being hit nine times against the Rams, Russell Wilson was sacked twice and hit three times. One of those two sacks happened when Wilson ran out of bounds just shy of the line of scrimmage without being hit. Wilson had more time to throw than any game in recent memory. That extra time translated into more explosive plays. After netting just one pass of 16+ yards in the opener, Seattle had three in this game.
Run blocking was a bigger problem. Marshawn Lynch was only able to total 41 yards and 2.7 YPC against a suspect Packers defensive front. That, as much as anything, was the difference in this game. Had Lynch been able to get untracked, Seattle likely would have won. He didn’t, and the didn’t.
Defending big plays
Rodgers and the Packers had only three passes of 20+ yards in this game, and each came off script. Michael Bennett jumped offsides on two of them, giving Rodgers a free play to throw down field. The third one came when the pocket broke down and Rodgers scrambled long enough to find his receiver had snuck behind Richard Sherman down the sideline.
These were schoolyard plays. They were good plays. They were much, much different than the clear defensive breakdowns we saw in St. Louis last week. Nothing came easy for Rodgers and the passing game. His final numbers look sterling, but he was sitting at 160 yards passing and 6.6 YPA through three quarters. It was tough sledding for the game’s best quarterback, and that is good news for Seattle no matter the final result.
Rodgers had just 158 yards passing and averaged 6.6 YPA through three quarters before finishing strong
There was a lot of consternation about missed tackles with the Seahawks last week. The linebackers, in general, had a poor game against the Rams. That improved versus Green Bay. Final rushing numbers look ugly as the Packers totalled 127 yards on 29 carries for a 4.4 average, but 35 of those yards came on one run. They were held to 3.3 YPC on the other 28 carries.
Seattle was 1-4 in the red zone against the Rams, and St. Louis was 2-4 against the Seahawks. Seattle finished 2-2 in the red zone versus Green Bay and held the Packers to 1-3 after they had gone 4-5 the week prior.
There was measurable progress in key areas for the Seahawks against a darn good team. They did not translate into a win last night, but are positive indicators for what is to come.
Where the %!$& is Jimmy?
It is fair to be frustrated about the lack of involvement for the team’s new offensive weapon. I’m sure Graham is more frustrated than any fan. Only players and coaches in that locker room know what is going on, and how much of it is play calling versus Wilson throwing his way versus coverage dictating where the ball should go.
I will say that two games into the season, Seattle has seen two highly efficient games from a receiver. Jermaine Kearse had 8 catches in 10 targets versus the Rams. Doug Baldwin had 7 catches in 8 targets and a touchdown versus the Packers. While we may all be looking for gaudy numbers for Graham, he may be already having some of the desired effect in opening the field for some of the other players in the offense.
This one does not really worry me. Graham will play a large role for this offense. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a huge game this week. It will come.
Six penalties for 92 yards, and that does not include offsides penalties that were declined due to big play results. That comes after seven penalties for 46 yards in the opener. It made the game far harder than it needed to be. Michael Bennett, as much as I love him, is too damn smart to keep making the same mistake. Enough.
I will offer, though, that I was damn impressed with the offensive line having only one penalty in that raucous setting. Hat tip to Drew Nowak for showing poise under pressure in his first true road start where crowd noise was a factor.
Penalties have always been a problem under Pete Carroll, but they are usually of the pre-snap variety, which makes them even more aggravating. This was one of the cleanest games by a Seattle offensive line in that regard, but the defense was sloppy and it was costly.
Rodgers is damn good
I don’t want to give the impression that Seattle gave this game away, because they didn’t. Green Bay fought their way to a solid victory, and Rodgers was absolutely the key to it. One play, in particular, stood out as a pass possibly only he could make.
Seattle entered the fourth quarter with a slim one point lead. Green Bay had the ball at their own 15 yard line after a false start penalty, and were facing 2nd and 15. Rodgers was unable to find his primary or secondary targets and had to avoid pass pressure from Seattle as he moved to his left before threading a pass a few microbes beyond the fingertips of Bobby Wagner and into the hands of Randall Cobb for an 18-yard gain.
Most quarterbacks would not have attempted it. Only Rodgers probably completes it. Before that throw, Rodgers had totalled five dropbacks in the second half and was 2-4 for -1 passing yards, due to a Bennett sack. He went on to complete his next four passes and moved his team down to the Seattle 15 yard line before eventually finding Richard Rodgers for the go-ahead touchdown. Great play from a great player.
“Only losers complain”
Lombardi got that one right as well. Saying the sky is falling will not cure what ails Seattle anymore than glossing over their weaknesses will. The team is 0-2 after two tough road games. Find another game on their schedule the rest of the season that looks as tough as this one was. Find another game on their schedule against an offense or quarterback like the one they just played. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.
I am as disappointed in the loss as anyone, but some of the fundamental factors in building a championship football team were on display last night in a way that was largely missing against the Rams in the opener. Say what you want about the Seahawks inability to finish their last three games, they have also come from 10 points down in the second half on the road of their first two games to take the lead.
Only one road team led heading into the fourth quarter in Lambeau Field last season, and that was the Dallas Cowboys who were undefeated on the road, and still lost.
Some teams wake up this morning with their quarterbacks broken. Seattle wakes up with a hill in front of them, but in good shape to start the climb. The team I saw last night can win a lot of games. That starts next week.