The Morning After: Legendary Defensive Performance Not Enough, Seahawks Tie Cardinals 6-6
Superhero movies are pretty formulaic. There is a villain threatening the city or the world, and a hero who does what no other human can do in order to save us all from certain doom. The Seahawks defense might as well have donned capes after performing feats that will stand the test of time. A group that has already cemented itself as one of history’s greatest, were anything but formulaic in what will undoubtedly go down as one of their signature performances. This was not just about leaping offensive lines in a single bound; it was an unshakeable dedication to their craft and to their brothers. Lesser men would have given into doubt or exhaustion a dozen different times. It is customary in the Northwest to fixate on the negative. Most of this week undoubtedly will revolve around the offensive struggles. That feels a little like a citizen complaining about the burning buildings after the League of Justice just saved the world from alien invaders. We watch this game for entertainment and inspiration. It does not get much more inspiring than what we witnessed Sunday night.
A face only a mother could love
It takes a certain kind of fan to appreciate a 1-0 shutout in baseball. I’ll admit, I’ve lost the taste for watching batter after batter stride up to the plate and get out. It is not just chicks who dig the long ball. NFL defensive struggles share some of the same characteristics. The casual fan would have trouble seeing the beauty in a 6-6 overtime tie where their offense was atrocious. Even diehard fans are probably angry, knowing how close the team was to a victory. I share in that emotion, but take a step back for just a moment. There has never been a game like this in NFL history. This was the first tie in Seahawks history. Seattle actually has a larger lead in the division now than they did before the week began. Witnessing something truly unique and improving your place in the standings is decent day at the office.
Seattle sits at 4-1-1 now. You think it stinks for us? Think of how Arizona feels at 3-3-1, knowing they still have a road game in Seattle. What this game means is the tiebreaker for the Seahawks with the Cardinals will come down to who wins the game in Seattle. It also means that the Seahawks will win any tie with other NFC teams when they have an equal amount of wins (e.g., 12-4 and 12-3-1), and lose any tiebreaker when they have an equal amount of losses (e.g., 12-4, 11-4-1). It is better than a loss, but not as good as a win. Welcome to a tie.
An alternate reality
The Seahawks offense was putrid throughout. Even in tying, and eventually putting the team in position to win, there were missed opportunities. The blocked punt by Tanner McEvoy in the fourth quarter left them needing just 22 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown. They netted zero. The final drive of regulation saw them at the 48-yard line with 55 seconds remaining and a first down. Two holding calls later left them at their own 28-yard line, needing to run out the clock. Their 3rd and 4 play at the Arizona 18-yard line on the first drive of overtime saw a wide open Doug Baldwin ignored while a curious pass was lofted to the end zone in Jimmy Graham’s general direction.
Anyone who would argue the Seahawks offense was anything but terrible last night is delusional. What few seem to acknowledge is that the Cardinals defense also played a heck of a game. As I pointed out in the Tale of the Tape column last week, the Cardinals defense is one of the best in football. They outranked the Seahawks offense in nearly every category. They sit at #2 in the NFL in yards allowed and #5 in points allowed.
Were Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell terrible last night? Absolutely. Have Chandler Jones and Markus Golden made a lot of tackles look terrible this year? Absolutely. Not only is that defense talented, but they were playing with ultimate focus and purpose. They will not play a better game this year. This was their final stand for what has been a disappointing season overall, and they played themselves proud.
Shockingly, Arizona finished with just one sack and five quarterback hits. Seattle had four sacks and 10 QB hits. It felt like Russell Wilson was under pressure almost immediately on every snap. Instead of sacks or hits, that pressure resulted in incompletions, holding calls, and punts.
What is difficult to understand is why Darrell Bevell, Pete Carroll, and Tom Cable so completely abandoned the running game. They started with the pass game early, perhaps, thinking that was their bigger advantage. Fine. But after it became clear there was no rhythm to the passing and the pass pressure was relentless, why not commit to the run for at least a series or two?
People will talk about how amazing David Johnson was and how atrocious the Seahawks running game was. The truth is Johnson averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Christine Michael averaged 3.3 yards per carry. The difference between the two was Johnson got 33 carries, while Michael had only sixteen.
Ten of Michael’s 16 carries went for 3 yards or more. There is simply no excuse for why Bevell and the Seahawks chose to drop back and pass time and again.
This is not to say the Seahawks were a few run plays away from putting up 30 points. They were handled by a good defense, but there were more yards to be gained and a more physical identity to forge.
The injury to Bradley Sowell appeared to be serious, and was all the more reason the team should have leaned forward in the run game. Seattle is incredibly thin at tackle. George Fant is a rookie who is still learning to play football. J’Marcus Webb has fallen so far out of favor, he was not even brought in the game. Some might say the left tackle position cannot get any worse than it was with Sowell. We shall see.
Seattle now turns around and faces a Saints team that scores more points than any team but the Falcons. Six points most certainly will not get it done. At least a half-dozen people have already told me that there is no way this Seahawks team can win a Super Bowl with this offense. I can only imagine what those people were saying after the Seahawks game against the Texans a few years ago.
The Seahawks offense totalled 195 yards in regulation, punted six times, yielded five sacks and just 91 passing yards. They turned the ball over twice and had 9 penalties while going just 3-14 on 3rd down. The major difference between that game and this was that the defense had a bad half and the Seahawks found a way to win that one. They went on to win a Super Bowl with that offense. There is a long season ahead, and this is a team that has improved as the season wears on. Cheer on your superheroes. The city around us will get rebuilt.