The Morning After: Seahawks Raise Expectations in Narrow 33-31 Loss to Juggernaut Rams
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Something mysterious and magical happens during the three hours the Seahawks play every week. Fans collectively fall under a spell that causes acute amnesia. Whatever expectations they had before kickoff are wiped out. It often happens gradually in games where the distance between pregame prognostications and in-game results are diverging. The Seahawks are tied with the Rams after one quarter? Well, they can’t hang with these guys are probably still going to get blown out. At some point, the distance grows too great and the fans lose touch with their pregame beliefs. The trepidation, intimidation, and dread of facing a stacked Rams team that absolutely humiliated the Seahawks last season in Seattle is replaced with a belief that the Seahawks should win this game. For many, it goes as far as believing they should actually being playing even better, despite already completely eclipsing any reasonable expectations. That leads to anger and frustration when the result ultimately goes against your team. Some will belittle what happened as a moral victory. This was more than that. Seattle exits this game having earned the right to dream bigger, to fear no opponent. You may find yourself looking down on the coaching, the players, and the outcome, but that is because those same people have lifted you to a higher perch than you were just three hours earlier.

I won’t spend much time explaining how much better this year’s Rams team is to the one that curb-stomped the Seahawks last season, or how much talent the Seahawks have lost compared to the team that lost that day. I do think it is worth jogging your memory about how that Rams team won. Jared Goff had just 120 yards passing. Todd Gurley had 152 yards rushing, 28 yards receiving, 4 touchdowns, and sat out the fourth quarter. The Seahawks offense had fewer total yards (149) than Gurley had on the ground. Russell Wilson was sacked seven times, and was the team’s leading rusher with 39 yards.

Let’s bring it forward to this season. The Rams offense has been on a record-shattering pace in terms of yards per play, especially through the air where they were averaging over 10 yards per attempt. That is a first down every time they drop back to pass. They had scored 38 points and piled up 556 yards of offense last week against an incredibly talented Vikings defense that was the best in the NFL last season. They scored 35 points and had 521 yards of offense the week before against the Chargers. They scored 34 points against Arizona and 33 points against the Raiders in a season-opener where they were still shaking off the rust. Their offensive line has been ranked best in the NFL by a variety of metrics.

They were far and away the favorite to win the Super Bowl before Sunday by every advanced analytic and Vegas oddsmaker. Profootballfocus had them as easily the most talented roster in the NFL with a 93.7 grade (anything above 90 is rarified air). Seattle entered this game with a 69.0 grade, good for 27th out of 32 teams. They lost their best defensive player last week in Earl Thomas. They lost their second-best linebacker in Mychal Kendricks. They are still without K.J. Wright. They lost their promising rookie tight end in Will Dissly. Their best receiver, Doug Baldwin, is dragging around two damaged knees.

I picked to win this game 20-17 on our podcasts this week, but only after prefacing the pick by saying that my gut was that this was going to be a 37-7 blowout. We were David. They were Goliath. And we very nearly knocked them on their asses. Seattle rewrote the story of their season this Sunday.

It was once known that teams that faced the Seahawks were highly likely to lose the next week because, the thinking went, that Seattle so physically punished their opponent that they were not able to recover for at least a week. You better believe the Rams defense is waking up sore this morning after the beatdown the Seahawks offensive line delivered. Think about that.

The Seahawks offensive line punished a Rams defensive line that featured Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and Ndamukong Suh. This is real life. It happened. We are finally seeing a melding of the physical mentality Pete Carroll talks about as the circle of toughness that starts with the running game.

 

Seattle has had three consecutive 100-yard rushers for the first time since Marshawn Lynch did it four straight games to end the 2012 season.

 

Chris Carson was an absolute badass. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, and the yards after contact numbers have to be insane. He bulled his way through Rams defenders up the middle and around the edges. Mike Davis was the perfect counterpunch, darting inside and out for 5.7 yards per attempt. They helped the Seahawks convert 7-12 third down attempts, including four on the ground. Those were the most rushing conversions since the Indianapolis game last year. Before that, they had not done it since 2015 against the Vikings.

They also had another rushing touchdown in the red zone on a play where D.J. Fluker put Suh on his back. Seattle was a perfect 2-2 in the red zone, and now lead the entire NFL in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 80% of the red zone possessions.

Russell Wilson was great, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions and averaging 9.4 yards per throw. He was sacked just twice and both appeared to be on the offensive line, as opposed to the quarterback holding onto the ball too long.

What was most encouraging about this game was how repeatable it seemed to be. Seattle is getting better and better at the running game. The blocking has improved as the coaches finally gave the team a chance to dig in. It would not be hard for me to get aggravated thinking back to the first two weeks of the season when the coaching staff inexplicably were passing 60% of the time and giving rushing reps to anyone not named Chris Carson. Instead, I am heartened by the trend we are seeing in both how the Seahawks are approaching their craft and who they are leaning on.

Keep in mind that Fluker was not available the first two weeks of the season. His addition to that line, and the chance for J.R. Sweezy to take over the other guard spot, has been a massive difference figuratively and literally. Germain Ifedi has steadied. Wilson is not having to run for his life, and running backs are not having to avoid defenders three yards deep in the backfield. Dare I say it, but this offensive line is becoming a strength of this team. God help me.

That is part of what made it so disappointing to see the game come down to two big mistakes by Ifedi and Fluker. A false start for Ifedi, and then a holding call on Fluker, moved the Seahawks out of field goal range. A team that had played so well for so long against such a potent opponent could not afford those miscues. It is impossible to say with certainty whether Seattle would have won had those penalties not happened, but that is my belief.

Much of the talk will be about how bad the Seahawks defense played. All I really have to say about that is:

  1. The Seahawks defense is among the least talented in football.
  2. They are playing over their heads because of the coaching, not in spite of it
  3. The Rams offense is going to make everyone look foolish this season
  4. Seattle held the Rams to their (tied for) lowest point total of the season
  5. The Seahawks defense created a red zone turnover after a blocked punt
  6. The Seahawks defense forced a field goal when the Rams had a 3rd and goal from the 1-yard line
  7. Seattle knocked the Rams out of field goal range before the half
  8. Two Rams receivers got knocked out the game due to big and legal hits from Seattle
  9. Seattle stuffed Gurley with the game on the line on 3rd and 1 late
  10. They held the Rams to 3-9 on third downs

The other story line will be how Carroll made egregious mental errors. I will let others argue both sides of that debate. I have known who Carroll was for years. I think we all should know by now. He is a remarkable football coach with a clear philosophy that has translated to some of the best football we have ever seen in Seattle and a impressive week-to-week consistency in terms of effort from his players. He has shown great ability to make adjustments at halftime. He is also a horrible game manager who gets in the way of his players and coaches. I still remember him calling a quarterback sneak at the goalline with Matt Hasselbeck before halftime with no timeouts left, which did not work and the Seahawks left with zero points on the possession. That was the moment where I knew Carroll was going to cost the team some games with poor decisions.

He also coached a team with far inferior talent to stand toe-to-toe with the best team in football and nearly win. I am not going to sweat something that is not going to change. Carroll will be Carroll with in-game decisions (and I will almost certainly complain about them in the future), but this was not the game to focus there. I am far more impressed with the way he got his team to play than I am angry with the poor decisions he may have made.

Seattle legitimately looked like a playoff team in this game. They made the road far more difficult by essentially throwing away the first two games of the season, but this is a team I can look forward to watching each week. The offense will pound you on the ground and strike with explosive plays through the air. David Moore will be given a chance to grow into an impact player. Tyler Lockett will continue to earn his new contract. Maybe even 325-pound George Fant will catch a pass. The defense will give up yards and points, but they will play hard and hit hard and create turnovers. My expectations have been raised, and I like the view.

 

10 Responses

  1. Scott Crowder

    Here’s my pet peeve with clock management. And Pete should have improved on this by now because he’s always preaching always compete and always get better. Well get better about this Pete!
    2:10 left in the game. Call timeout. Next play the two minute warning stops the clock at 2:00. It’s an extra play Pete. Tom Landry used to do this decades ago so it’s not new math. Pete let’s the clock hit 2:00 for the second week in a row. Now they run a play and he uses that timeout anyways except NOW there’s only 1:39 left in the game. That’s one more play for Wilson to run if you get the ball back. A play up the middle for a big gain instead of a sideline pass.
    It didn’t end up mattering anyways, but it’s the process, not the result.

    Reply
  2. Christine Hansen

    Thank you, Brian, for being the voice of reason. I had two hopes for this game. 1. Hawks play their hearts out. 2. They avoid injuries. Both were realized.
    I’m very proud of them!

    Reply
  3. Uncle Bob

    Since the TO controversy is sucking all the oxygen I’ll toss out my slightly different take. That call didn’t cost the game, the loss emanated from the team going scoreless in the fourth quarter and the defense apparently running out of steam. Even if they’d gotten the ball back in the last minute it would have constituted some kind of miracle to win it. As a tactical matter arguments on both sides of “was it good/bad” can be rational. PC isn’t likely the only coach who would make that choice on the fly. To me he blundered away a psychological advantage. By making that call he gave time for McVey’s crew to lobby for the sneak play which bolstered their self image (as if they needed more) and that little subconscious “voice” that says, “hey, the coach really has confidence in us.”. Pete, on the other hand, gained nothing. He put his guys in the position of going off the field at the end of the game with a whimper instead of a roar. It’s a small thing, might not amount to much, but for a young (mostly) team working to jell, every little event matters. The first three quarters of this game potentially injected a lot of enthusiasm and confidence. Hopefully that will sustain. I keep saying it’s about team, not individual talent…………..this game was a vindication of that notion.

    To that point, can we stop with the ETIII laments? He won’t be part of any game the rest of this season…….or maybe ever again. And I don’t mean we should forget all the fantastic play he’s given us for the better part of a decade. Likewise for the rest of the former stars that have departed for whatever reason. We’re “stuck” with the team we’ve got…………give ’em a break and judge them on their own efforts, not a comparison to some unrealistic belief in “what might have been”. T2 made a mistake or two……………news flash…………Earl wasn’t perfect in reality either. That stuff on Gurley toward the end of the 4th was just flat out heads up play……give the man credit for that and more. While the pass rush wasn’t great, it wasn’t a failure either. The soft middle of the field wasn’t entirely the fault of bad line backer/safety/cb coverage, it’s a function of Pete’s system, we’ve had a soft middle zone for years.

    The O-line is rounding into shape for good reason. Brown taking Ifedi under his wing seems to be working for the most part. Fluker is a bulldozer, and a mean one at that. I loved his post game comments. He respects but doesn’t fear the big names across the line. Until the fourth quarter he and the rest handled those guys pretty well. Sweezy has that attitude edge as well and likely is in over Pocic because of it. Pocic bulked up, now he needs to “mean up”, and we’ll be better for it.

    Games are won as much on confidence as individual skill and team effort. Hopefully that game yesterday will help instill even more in this gang. They haven’t been blown out yet this year. They can prevail “on any Sunday (or Monday or Thursday)”. This won’t be a championship year, but if they can figure a way to recruit just a few more capable hands to meld in with this unit in the next off season, next year could be more like what we fans hope for.

    Reply
  4. Reggie Howard

    Your first paragraph is outstanding. The others are terriffic too. Thanx.

    Reply
  5. AB29

    I may have missed something, any reason why Carson wasn’t used on the last drive?

    Reply
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