There is always the risk of over analysis when things go wrong. A disappointing loss to the Cowboys last weekend has shaken the confidence of Seahawks fans, players and coaches. Losing was one thing. Losing at home, in a manner that deviated so obviously from the 2013 championship formula was far more sobering. This week represents the first chance for the Seahawks to start reestablishing their place among the elite. It is not who they play, but how they play.
Most people recognize the Seahawks star players and their style of play. Fewer understand just how good the coaching has been over the past five years. Pete Carroll and his staff have out-schemed opponents week in and week out regardless of the talent they brought to the field.
They have protected suspect lineman from dominant edge rushers. They have cut out key aspects of dominant offenses, forcing their opponents to rely on secondary and tertiary options. They have simplified their attack to emphasize efficiency and reliability over variety and sophistication.
Jeff Fisher is one coach who has stood out as someone who has arguably out-coached Carroll each time they have played. There have been fake field goals, and flawed defenses that have looked impenetrable. There has been a significant talent gap that St. Louis has overcome each time.
Criticism of the coaching staff has never been more acute in the Carroll era than it is right now. Darrell Bevell is under the spotlight and needs to demonstrate that he knows how to feature the running game and utilize Percy Harvin. Dan Quinn has escaped most of the fan and media attention, but another poor performance would turn up the heat considerably. There is no better place for Seattle coaches to stake their ground than against Fisher and a Rams team the Seahawks should control.
Pound is a different unit of measurement when it comes to Seahawks football. It is not just about mass. It is about a mentality that permeates how the offense and defense plays. The offense is built to punish and exhaust defenses. The defense is built to intimidate and discourage opposing offenses. Neither has been happening much this season.
One of the best Seahawk-style plays Sunday was when they ran the ball on 3rd and 4 for a first down. They need to regain that mentality. Make defenses deal with the running game and then spear them with the pass. This is not a blind edict to run the ball on first and second down every drive. It should be a return to running the ball more often on first down than passing it. And more than that, the team should not go three plays without a run very often.
The defense has to get back to rallying to the ball and gang-tackling. Missed tackles will happen, but the damage is greatly reduced when there are supporting players in the area to clean up. This is about effort. There is no excuse for seeing a single defender trying to bring down a ball carrier.
K.J. Wright is a great middle linebacker. His move there while Bobby Wagner recovers from injury brings Malcolm Smith on the field as a WILL, his optimal position. Smith is a playmaker on a team that needs some plays to be made.
Earl Thomas absolutely must reemerge. He must hit. He must get his hands on the football. He must radiate emotion and intensity.
Get the ball
Turnovers need to return to the equation; and not just fumbled snaps and muffed punts. The Seahawks defense needs to show they can hit the quarterback and the pass defense needs to get their hands on the football.
They need to be ripping at the football on every single carry. They must become predators again. That hunger has been missing for most of this season. It has to return.
Great players making great plays
Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Thomas are the instigators on defense. They have to make the plays that elite players make. Their impact on the game should be undeniable.
Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Harvin and Doug Baldwin need to play with precision and power. There should not be a need for explanation about why this or that did not happen on Sunday. The result should speak for itself.
This offense has yet to impose its will on a defense for a full game. It is time.
There are injuries. The Rams have good talent. It is a 10AM game. Set it all aside. Great teams overcome obstacles. This should be a great team. This game will be a test of just how badly they want to be great again. They cannot reclaim their throne in an empty St. Louis dome this weekend, but they can demonstrate the resolve they will need to do it.