Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead
When a loved one dies unexpectedly, the natural reaction is to grasp for reasons it happened; to imply some sense of control by explaining why this terrible thing did not have to occur. It is a dangerous emotional place to be because one can get lost searching for answers. A Seahawks team sitting at 3-3 does not compare to the depth of loss from losing someone you love, but the emotional reactions are similar. There is a clash right now between our expectations for who this team is, and who they actually are right now. The dissonance is jarring, liking the ringing in your ears after a pair of cymbals crash near your head. This Seahawks team is not great. They are also not bad. They are a team with exactly as many wins as they have losses, dating all the way back to the preseason, who are capable of beating Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning and losing to Austin Davis.
Any discussion of this loss to St. Louis has to begin by admonishing Pete Carroll for once again being outmaneuvered by Jeff Fisher. The Rams have managed to pull Seattle down to their level every time they have played since Fisher arrived. Fisher accomplishes this with trickery on special teams and clever game plans on offense and defense.
Tricks require cooperation to work. How many times will Fisher be allowed to get away with these plays before Carroll and staff properly prepare for them? He has done variations on these plays multiple times in this series, and duped the Seahawks twice in this game. Inexcusable.
Defense struggles to be average
Shame on you, Earl Thomas. You are better than blaming the refs. The referees were not responsible for allowing the Rams to go 31 yards in six plays to score their first touchdown. They were not responsible for giving up Tre Mason’s 28-yard run on a 74-yard drive for their second touchdown. They had nothing to do with the 80-yard touchdown drive the defense gave up immediately after the offense pulled the team back within two points in the fourth quarter.
Thomas sounds as if he has not accepted the reality of where this defense is, and that will only delay getting better. This pass rush is terrible. And now the run defense has sprung a leak. Their star players are not making impact plays.
This defense is having trouble playing consistently through a single series, let alone a quarter, a half or a full game. This secondary has been good enough to be great without a solid pass rush before. The Seahawks were 23rd in the NFL in sack percentage in 2012 and were third in the NFL in opponent passer rating.
The truth of where this defense stands right now is that the secondary needs a good pass rush to be solvent. The pass rush needs an elite secondary to have more time to get to the quarterback. Neither one is good enough to lift the other.
Dan Quinn now takes over the hot seat from Darrell Bevell. He must find a scheme or approach that can steady the ship. Playing the same way and hoping for a different result is going to result in more losses.
Offense finds its footing
That was a recognizable Seahawks offense. Their approach to the game was running and intermediate passing. It worked well in many ways.
They were efficient. This was the first game of the season the Seahawks converted 50% of their third down attempts. Their 6.8 yards per play was good for their second-best mark of the season, trailing only a game in which they had just 40 plays against the Chargers. They scored touchdowns on their last three possessions and had scoring drives of 68 yards, 82 yards, 91 yards and 80 yards.
Marshawn Lynch touched the ball 20 times (18 rushes, 2 receptions). Russell Wilson was back in his element. Doug Baldwin played what may have been his best all-around offensive game as a Seahawk.
This was an offense that could win a lot of games. Just not this one.
They failed to convert two red zone possessions in the first half. They failed to convert a two-point chance that would have tied the game. Those were their blemishes.
There were encouraging new aspects of the offense. Paul Richardson showed he can be a guy who has speed defenses have to respect. This showed up Sunday when he was consistently able to drive defenders off the ball and come back for 8-10 yards receptions. Those set up double moves that could have him running free over the top. You could almost feel Bevell getting set to unleash him down the field. It will come.
Jermaine Kearse played with fire and physicality. Baldwin and Kearse both broke tackles and gained big chunks of yards after the catch. I like an offense that leans on guys like that more than the gadget bubble screens we saw before.
Wilson was back to his customary 8+ yards per attempt, finishing with a season high there (8.7). He was also brilliant with his runs. Some will say the 171 rushing yards are tainted by the quarterback scrambles, but there were key chunks of yards that were called running plays to the quarterback. The 19-yard touchdown, for example.
The measure for this offense is whether they are succeeding with repeatable plays or whether it is all improvisational. Counting on unscripted plays is not tenable. Consistency shows up in each series, and can be extrapolated to halves and then games. The Rams wanted no part of that Seahawks offense at the end of the game. Everything was opened up. The Seahawks can build on that.
Where to go from here
Seattle is a miraculous toe-dragging catch and a fake punt away from being 5-1. They are not 5-1. Sitting at 3-3 leaves them with a lot of winning left to do if they want to defend their crown. To ignore their flaws would just set everyone up for more disappointment. To exaggerate their flaws blinds you to the possibilities.
This is a 9 or 10 win team as they stand. That would put them in the middle of the playoff fight in any season. They would certainly be the infamous “team nobody wants to play” in the playoffs, but they can be more than that. This offense has found a light they can now work with. The special teams was starting to be great before this game, and should recover.
Carroll has made a career out of figuring out how to get the most out of defenses. There is talent there. The ability of Carroll and Quinn to get that defense back to at least above average will dictate the ceiling of where this team can go.