Seattle did much of what it needed to do in order to flush the negative feelings following a dreadful game against the Rams last week. They scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and intercepted three passes on their way to a 30-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Of course, that could not continue, as they let the Panthers back into the game late. Never has a Seahawks team so consistently left me aggravated after victory. Thankfully, the 49ers got a much more painful form of torture yesterday to turn aggravation into mischievous glee.
Seattle is now 11-3 and guaranteed to be the top-ranked team in the NFC for this week. They own the tiebreaker with either Green Bay or in a three-way tie with the Packers and the Saints, should the Saints win tonight.
ESPN’s playoff machine indicates the Seahawks would win the NFC West if they beat the Cardinals and the 49ers lose to the Rams. You can see that scenario here. Many other folks have said that is incorrect. Either way, if the Seahawks can win their next two games at home, they have a good shot at being the top seed in the NFC.
I have to admit, this does not feel like a 13-3 team, but do they even feel like an 11-3 team? This group continues to find ways to win despite an obsession with prolonging the life of their prey. An offense that is on pace to break the franchise record for yards in a season seems to love providing oxygen to opponents in the form of turnovers or long stretches of ineptitude.
After scoring three straight touchdowns to start the game, Seattle went:
- End of Half
- Field Goal (on a drive that started at the Panthers 21-yard line)
They did not gain more than 30 yards on any of those six drives after going 75 yards or more on their first three. They eventually went 82 yards for another touchdown, but this Panthers defense was set to surrender 35-50 points. They are bad. Really bad.
Meanwhile, the Panthers offense tortured Seattle in a couple of ways. They featured an ultra-conservative game plan with very few passes traveling more than five yards downfield. It was a lot of end arounds early in the game that Seattle has yet to prove they can defend given what the Rams and now Panthers have done. Then, there were lots of running back screens (another persistent Seattle problem) and receiver screens.
It was tortuous because they managed to do some damage on very simple low-risk plays Seattle has yet to show they can stop consistently, but also because it was a showcase of what the Seahawks offense should do more often when they are struggling with the opponent pass rush or need to find a rhythm.
Instead of always turning to the run game when pass protection breaks down, throw some smoke screens to D.K. Metcalf or get Chris Carson more involved out of the backfield. There is far too much of a wild swing from long-developing deep passes to grind it out run game. There is a huge collection of plays that live in-between those two extremes that Seattle simply does not utilize enough.
Most of that I attribute to coaches. Some of it falls at Russell Wilson’s feet. People hate to admit it, but Wilson and Pete Carroll have very similar offensive preferences. Wilson is always looking for the big play, and will turn down more certain passes for lesser yards while hunting for trophy kills.
It is not clear if this is puzzle that can be solved. When your team is the top seed in the NFC, maybe it does not need to be solved. It certainly is frustrating to watch at times.
Carson had one of his best games of the season. He finished with 133 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, and 2 touchdowns. It was him that helped seal the victory with a 4th down rush for a touchdown and first down run late in the game.
Tyler Lockett looked much more like the dynamic playmaker we have witnessed much of the season. Wilson hit him on one of those trademark, “how did they do that?” completions early in the game that was both a remarkable throw and brilliant catch.
Josh Gordon has a beautiful catch of his own on a 58-yard strike in the first half, but that was his only target all game. The oddity of seeing the team run Jaron Brown or David Moore out there continues. Malik Turner rebounded from a bad game with 3 catches in 3 targets.
C.J. Prosise fumbled, even if he was ruled down, and did not really see the field again. Travis Homer got a few snaps and did nothing noteworthy, besides holding onto the football.
This defense was missing Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, Shaquill Griffin, and Mychal Kendricks coming into the game. They lost Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner during the game.
Seattle can beat the Cardinals this week at less than full strength. They are a dangerous offensive team, so it would require the Seahawks offense to score a lot of points, but they certainly are capable of doing that against the worst defense they have faced.
The Seahawks have almost no chance to beat the 49ers missing most of their defense. Expect Diggs to miss this week and possibly Griffin. They might hold out Kendricks and Ansah as well, even if Carroll is indicating they should play.
Cody Barton had a mostly rough day playing for Kendricks. He missed some key tackles and got overwhelmed by blockers. Not to mention, he got stiff-armed by a quarterback.
Akeem King and Ugo Amadi appeared to do okay. Lano Hill was okay at safety. Amadi had a chance to make a game-breaking play but could not complete the interception.
There is a slim chance Marquise Blair could find his way back into the lineup if Diggs cannot go. He got a few reps in this game. Coaches continue to prefer the assignment-correctness of a guy like Hill, even if he has not shown the playmaking ability of Blair.
Arizona will give the Seahawks a handful to deal with. Their offense can be dynamic with Kyler Murray and an improved run game with Kenyon Drake. Wilson and Carson have to play a great game. The defense will need to cobble together enough plays. It is one game to earn a shot at the top seed in the NFC.
We are the cusp of a great moment. Do not expect your Seahawks to make it easy.