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I have a doghouse. I put people in it. Heck, I put whole teams in it. The Seahawks have been in there since they lost at home to the Washington Redskins in a game where they rang up 138 yards in penalties, missed three field goals, threw two interceptions, and gave up a late touchdown. I nearly needed to move them to the padded room wing after they began to injure themselves in Arizona and Atlanta. A ho-hum victory over the now 1-10 San Francisco 49ers made for four straight road wins, including a sweep of division opponents on their home fields, and kept Seattle a game behind the division lead. It is going to take more than that to earn an exit. The good news for the Seahawks is they will now face three straight games as underdogs, including two at home. After having lost games they should have won, they will need to win games they are expected to lose if they have hopes of a meaningful season. The stage is set.
There was little the Seahawks could do against a truly terrible team in San Francisco that would have elicited real optimism. Throwing an interception on the first play, gaining fewer first-half yards than the C.J. Beathard-led 49er offense, and leading just 7-6 midway through the third quarter, did more to increase cynicism. There were multiple dropped passes, multiple missed reads by Wilson, and avert-your-eyes running from Eddie Lacy.
Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the day was that Pete Carroll sounded pleased with the running of Lacy in postgame press conference. Do not force a Denny’s steak down my throat and tell me it’s Daniel’s Broiler. Lacy was atrocious. He no longer deserves to be classified as a running back. At best, he is a meandering back. His cuts cover inches instead of yards. His burst is more like a slow deflation. His push is more like a light suggestion. On one play, he cut laterally multiple times, basically occupying the exact same place on the field, and then fell down. How he manages to be so large, and yet so easily knocked over, challenges the laws of physics.
If Mike Davis is healthy, Lacy should never touch the ball again for Seattle. We have to hope that Carroll was just being pleasant because every time Lacy carries the ball, an angel loses her wings. J.D. McKissic, on the other hand, continues to be the best running back on the Seahawks active roster. He got just four carries, but averaged 5.5 yards per run and had the Seahawks lone explosive rush of the day.
He added four receptions for 24 yards, and easily could have had twice that total if Wilson had chosen simple dump off passes to his backs instead of forced throws into coverage. On the very first throw of the game, Wilson either missed or ignored a wide open McKissic and threw to a well covered Jimmy Graham. The ball was intercepted rather easily. That is two straight games with early interceptions on poor passes from Wilson.
Later, Wilson failed to recognize Graham streaking alone down the seam for what would have been a touchdown and instead threw out wide to Paul Richardson, who dropped the ball. It was a rather dismal first half for Wilson, who was outplayed by Beathard. Some of that was on receivers for dropping passes. Richardson had two drops. Graham had one. Nick Vannett had another.
On the plus side, Tanner McEvoy made two touch catches, Richardson had some nice catches including a nice run-after-catch play, and Graham caught another touchdown. Give Darrell Bevell credit for getting defenses so worried about Graham running a fade route to the corner of the end zone that a quick slant was wide open. Seattle finished 3-4 in the red zone, tying their best performance of the season. Their lone failure in the red zone was on their last possession when they were more focused on running the clock than getting in the end zone.
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The offense put up 17 points and 186 yards in the second half. That is acceptable output. The offensive line played with both Duane Brown and Luke Joeckel for the first time. Ethan Pocic played his first game at right guard. We will find out if it was a coincidence that the Seahawks did not surrender a sack for the first time since late in the 2015 season. The 49ers have a tepid pass rush, but they recorded 3 sacks in the first meeting in Seattle.
Anyone watching the game saw Wilson escape multiple close calls, so this was not a super clean game in pass protection, but it was better than almost any other game this season. There were some moments of decent push in the run game. Lacy never took full advantage, but I will be interested to see how Davis can do against a far stingier Eagles defense.
Bobby Wagner was the best player on the field. His interception in the first half was a superstar play. He was all over the field, collecting tackles, picking off passes, and putting pressure on the quarterback. Perhaps we will see Wagner rise to occupy the leadership void left by Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. He has been the best player on the team this season, and one of the best in all of football. ProFootballFocus has him with a season grade of 98.1 (out of 100). No player at any position is graded better. Aaron Donald is 97.3.
Strong games from new names helped the defense play solid throughout. Bradley McDougald had his best game at safety, finishing tied with Wagner for the team lead in tackles with eight. Marcus Smith, Branden Jackson, and Quinton Jefferson played nice games along the line. Michael Bennett (1st), Smith (8th), and Frank Clark (10th) all finished in the top ten among 4-3 defensive ends in pressuring the passer, per PFF. Sheldon Richardson dominated against the run. He was credited with five run stops, which led all interior linemen this week.
The secondary did not have much to defend from a truly abysmal 49er pass offense. Beathard was off target much of the day, and his receivers were meek. Their only marginal threat was Marquise Goodwin, who managed to get behind Jeremy Lane for a big gain. Byron Maxwell gave up a late touchdown on the final play, but was mostly fine. This group will get back Shaquill Griffin next week, and it will be interesting to see whether Lane or Maxwell take a seat. My choice would be a Maxwell and Griffin pairing, but it is more likely Carroll will give Lane the nod due to loyalty.
Through eleven games, it has been feast or famine against the Seahawks defense. Three teams have scored 33 points or more against the Seahawks, and eight teams have scored 18 points or less. I cannot recall a team with that kind of bipolar personality. No team has scored in the 20s against the Seahawks all season. That’s just odd.
Seattle also broke a frustrating streak of five straight games with at least 100 yards in penalties. They had only 6 penalties for 35 yards on the day. Opponents have enjoyed over a 50 yard advantage these past five weeks from penalties alone. The 6 penalties tied a season-low, and the 35 penalty yards was a season low. Let’s hope that becomes a new trend.
This game will not be remembered for much, aside from Jimmy Garoppolo getting his first snap and first touchdown pass as a 49er. Seattle did little to prove they are ready to beat a good team, and they now face three straight. The most optimistic view is that the defense has played reasonably well without some of their best players the past two weeks, and the offensive line is better situated than at any other time this season. It will take more than that to win the upcoming games on the schedule. Wilson needs to completely eliminate turnovers. He has done that for long stretches before. He needs to do it now. Receivers and running backs must maximize their opportunities. Davis can be a spark plug if the coaching staff allows him to take over for Lacy. The defense has to continue making opponents work for their points.
Eagles fans have every reason to enter this week expecting their team to hand Seattle their third straight home defeat. Philadelphia has the best record in football, and have been dominating opponents on both sides of the ball of late. Something tells me, though, this won’t be the game they are expecting. They have one win against a team with a winning record, same as the Seahawks. Seattle has been slumming it as they tend to do through the first ten games of the year and have what would appear to be crippling injuries that make them look weak and vulnerable. Beware this team when they are overlooked and cast aside. These underdogs may just be poised to break free of the doghouse.