The Morning After: Seahawks Disappoint In All Phases, Fall 14-5 to Bucs

Some will write about backsliding or regression when describing the Seahawks atrocious performance on Sunday. That would indicate they have been this bad before. They have not. When the offense failed to produce a touchdown against the Rams or the Cardinals, it was at least against two of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL. This was different. This was every single member of the offensive line getting owned by a mostly mediocre defensive line. If those earlier games were the equivalent of man living in caves, this was all the way back to primordial muck. No two cells could combine to form any type of complex entity. Making matters worse, the rest of the team failed to show up until the first quarter was over. It was the exceedingly rare moment when a Pete Carroll led Seahawks team did not come ready to play. What should have been a relatively blissful finish to the season, now becomes a tightrope walk.


Offensive line sets new low

Pass protection is multi-faceted. You have read that from me before. Receivers need to get open, the coach needs to call the right play against the coverage, the protection must be set correctly, the quarterback must make the right read and get rid of the ball quickly enough. Oh, and the offensive line has to block. I have always attempted to be even-handed in assessing where the breakdowns were even when the popular opinion was as simplistic as “every sack is the fault of the offensive line.” There was no sharing of the blame on this day. The line was an embarrassment. They got owned when the team passed. They got owned when the team handed the ball off. It would be an affront to the english language to call what they did “blocking.” It was more like flailing.

Players were getting beat immediately off the snap. George Fant had a terrible day. So did Germain Ifedi. So did Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell. Joey Hunt was not the major problem. What’s worse, they were getting beat by pedestrian players after having essentially shutout one of the the league’s best defensive lines just last week. Noah Spence is a decent rookie who had 4.0 sacks before this game, and never more than one in a game. Fant made him look like Lawrence Taylor off the edge. Ryan Russell has one tackle on the year and zero sacks before notching one on Sunday. Gerald McCoy is a great player, but Ifedi was ragdolled.

The commentators mentioned multiple times that the Bucs coach had spent the week making this about proving their toughness against the league’s toughest opponent. It was shameful to see the offensive line allow themselves to be outmuscled instead of coming out as the aggressors. They can miss a block or get beat by a better player. It will happen. What can never happen is starting the game on your heels and finishing the game on your heels. There is a code associated with Seahawks football. It is that, win or lose, always be physical and always finish. The line broke that code on both counts. They may be wearing the uniform, but they did not look like Seahawks. I have no harsher words to offer.

None of this erases what these young men did in previous games when real progress was apparent. None of it assumes inexperienced guys like Fant and Ifedi cannot get better. The point here is that, never again should we see this line be less physical than their opponent. J.R. Sweezy and Breno Giacomini got beat plenty of times. Their opponents never left the game without plenty of bruises.


Jermaine Kearse needs to step up or step aside

In the midst of a total system failure, it may seem unfair to pick on one guy, especially a receiver who is highly dependent on other parts of the system working. Jermaine Kearse has been working up to this moment for weeks. He has caught 7 passes in 22 targets over the past four games. That is a 31% catch rate. Not good. Not bad. That is awful. He has failed to get separation much of the year, and has not made the tough catches like he sometimes has in the past. It has been more annoyance than critical issue due to the sterling play of his counterparts, but we should be at least be reaching the point of true competition at that spot. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me came on a play that many folks likely barely noticed. It happened at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks once again were backed up against their own end zone, but had started to claw their way out. Russell Wilson scrambled for 7 yards. Then he hit Doug Baldwin on a diving catch in traffic 8 more. A rare first down with two of the team’s stars sacrificing their bodies to get whatever they could. Wilson fired another pass to Jimmy Graham, who took a big hit over the middle to pick up 9 more yards. Thomas Rawls threw his body into the line to barely get the yard necessary for a first down. It seemed like every player on the offense was stepping forward to contribute to a drive that could turn the tide. Then Wilson fired a pass to his right toward Kearse. It was a little low, but was probably the easiest play of the ones made so far on that drive. The ball traveled right through Kearse’s hands and hit the ground.


You have to make that play. The team needs it. He did not. What should have been second and short became second and long. This was not a day where the team could overcome failed plays or long yardage situations. Kearse would wind up with 1 catch in 5 targets on the day. That, after 2 catches in 6 targets last week and 2 catches in 7 targets the week before. Not good enough.

The question is who has earned the right to step forward and challenge Kearse for snaps? Paul Richardson would be the obvious choice, but he made the type of mistake in yesterday’s game that will give any coach pause about providing him more snaps. On Wilson’s first interception to end the first half, it appeared that Wilson made a bad throw. Like so often is the case, however, it was a quarterback throwing to a spot in anticipation of where the receiver was going to be. Richardson was supposed to carry his route further inside where Wilson threw the ball, but kept going straight downfield. Carroll made mention of the error in his postgame press conference.

Had that play not happened, there would be a decent argument to be made for Richardson earning more snaps. He has made some tough catches and absorbed big hits in recent weeks. He has more physical gifts than Kearse, and is better able to create separation and run after the catch. The most likely scenario is Kearse will remain the starter and get all the snaps and targets he is currently getting. We can hope that he starts to play better as the season winds down. For now, signing him to a three-year deal when guys like Anquan Boldin and Kenny Britt were available for less money is looking like a move the Seahawks will regret.


Special teams sputter

In a game like this when the defense gets rocked early and the offense is struggling to get anything going, the special teams can be the spark that turns things around. Jon Ryan is having a year that measures right up there with past seasons in terms of gross and net averages for punting. Beneath the numbers, though, Ryan has been having one of his most disappointing years when it comes to flipping the field and bailing the team out. There have been countless times where I have found myself thinking, “Come on, Jon. Give us a big kick,” only to have Ryan kick short or low or both.

In Ryan’s defense, he did uncork one big kick that looked like it could flip the field, only to have the coverage team blow it and allow a big return.

These may seem like nits in the grand scheme, and they are, but a big kick when the team is struggling can give the defense the advantage it needs to make a big play or just give the offense a fighting chance with better field position when they next get the ball. That just has not happened as often this year as it has in the past. I thought Ryan had a down year last year and was a little surprised the team signed him to a long deal without even considering some youthful competition. He has been better this year, but not to the standard he set in years prior. He can help this team a lot the rest of the way by raising his game.


No pass rush

Seattle was held without a sack for just the second time this season. Tampa Bay features two of the weakest pass protecting tackles in the game, but they were made to look like Walter Jones much of the day. Jameis Winston had oodles of time to throw the ball downfield. The only thing approaching a sack was when Frank Clark was pulled down in the end zone, but that was because he was being blocked by a tight end. Winston was mediocre all afternoon without any pass pressure. Imagine the types of mistakes he would have made if Seattle could have made him feel rushed.


Mike Evans coverage plan was baffling

It did not take a genius to decipher the Bucs game plan on offense. It was:

  1. Run the ball to show we are tough
  2. Throw it to Mike Evans every single time

Somehow, the Seahawks took over a quarter to figure that out. Evans was left open time and again. It is too easy to say that Richard Sherman should have matched up with him every snap because the team does not play man coverage all the time, and doing so here would have also put more pressure on Jeremy Lane, Neiko Thorpe and Steven Terrell. Evans was still too often left to roam free in zone coverage. Whatever the plan, it did not work. Evans caught multiple crucial third down conversions and both the touchdowns. Never let one man beat you.


Moving forward

Seattle took a measured risk in holding out players like DeShawn Shead and Justin Britt this week. Both could have played. It was an understandable gamble that did not pay off. There is reason to expect both will be back this week, along with Mike Morgan. Michael Bennett is a possibility, as is Earl Thomas. That is a lot of goodness on tap. Whoever pulls on a Seahawks uniform next Sunday will need to come out far hungrier than the team we saw yesterday.

The Seahawks have become the powerhouse they are not by reputation or talent, but by force of will and strength of character. No team in the history of the sport has been more consistent in their approach for such a long period of time. This game was startling not in the outcome, but the way in which it unfolded. Meek is not a word that should ever describe this team, but it was fitting in this game.

Their play in recent weeks had been inspiring. This was just disappointing. They are firm control of their own destiny. Only two road games remain, and one is against the 49ers. There was some cushion to secure the second seed, and some chance of snagging the top seed in the playoffs. That is gone now. The return of some of their top talent will be a welcome sight. The return of their unbendable will and unmatched character is far more critical to where we all want them to go.


Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. You summed up my feelings on the game yesterday perfectly, just a disappointing effort all around. At least the defense stepped up after that horrible first quarter, but the rest of the team did not follow suit. If they play like they did yesterday next week, the Panthers will beat us once again. We can only hope this was an aberration and not a sign of things to come. Go Hawks!

  2. Sorry but the Pats have been the most consistent team in their weekly approach. Pats have been doing it for 16 years, Seahawks for 4. Not really close.

    1. No team in NFL history, not even the Patriots, have played as consistently game-to-game as the Seahawks have the last five years. Their streak of not losing by more than 10 points is over 90 straight games, including the playoffs. The next closest such streak is 74, and was set in the 1920s. I stand by my statement, but also agree that the Patriots are a model of consistency at the more macro level. Thanks for reading.

      1. “No team in the history of the sport has been more consistent in their approach for such a long period of time”. Hum? Please, we only have been doing it for 4 1/2 years. If you want to “measure” within that frametime, then yes you’ll have a strong argument. However, 4 1/2 years are not a LONG TIME if you consider the longevity of success in the Patriots or Spurs. We are not even close.

        Now, if you want to compare within those years, between 2012 and now, we are as good as NE. For example, from 2012-current, during the regular season, we have a 71 winning percentage compared to 76 for NE. But we have more “success” during the playoffs, 70% versus 67%. We won one more game than them, 7 to 6 with 3 losses for both teams. Points differential- reg season NE-867 to 790; playoffs Seattle 87 to 80 with one more game. Both won 1 SB. Not losing by more than 10 points is a great streak, but we also blew at least 15 games w/ leads going to the 4th quarter. We were 2nd to the Bucs but I think we are first now w/ that dubious streak consider the greatness of our defense.

  3. Happiness or sadness about any given outcome is largely based on expectations. After the win over the Eagles a lot of folks were saying something along the lines of “oh good, now we go into the easiest part of the schedule.” Hint……….that’s a red light thought. It would be hard to prove, much less imagine, but the way that game unfolded you could reasonable think that the Hawks didn’t take the Bucs as seriously as they should have. Sure, they prepped as well as they do from a routine standpoint, but apparently not for intensity. The Bucs were INTENSE……..which might explain why they outplayed their rep. If I were to put such skepticism on the Hawks it would be more on coaching than on the players alone. I continue to be concerned about how nimble the coaches are (or aren’t) for in game readjustment of the game plan. Perhaps that’s what Pete meant when he took the blame post game.

    The O-line was the worst, not a revelation I admit, but I don’t think that the general feelings we hear are accurate, albeit emotionally intense. Much will be made yet again about how this is the lowest paid line in the league and that’s why they performed so poorly. People who think only or mostly that way probably don’t have much experience with being responsible for employment decisions. Paying more and automatically getting better performance outcomes are not inextricably linked. It’s an easy calculation though historically largely flawed. More difficult is having the ability to assess skill appropriate to the needs of the entity (business/team/etc). A better lesson from yesterday should be that the O-line needs to be made up of guys who work together very well to be successful. The Britt haters would have to swallow a big lump to admit that his absence was the most significant factor in poor line play yesterday. Not that he’s a one man super stud guy who would cover for the other four, but rather, his ability to coordinate the line communication AND hold his blocking assignments. Ifedi had probably his worst game. Inexperience is a portion, but having “new” guys on each side hurt more than most know. And that’s not a full on dis to Hunt. He’s probably serviceable, all things considered, but not with this much of a disrupted line configuration. Gilliam is probably a goner because he’s bumped up hard against his ceiling of performance (sad), which in turn might extend Sowell’s presence on the team. He wasn’t great at RT, but by comparison he was far from the worst of the five. Fant got schemed beyond his current abilities. I see much hope for him over time, and given how well he seems to learn yesterday may have been a huge tutorial for him. We’ll see. Glow? Again, he may have suffered a similar fate to Ifedi. O-line chemistry is more important than appreciated. Will it get better in the few games remaining in the season? Perhaps, but will it be enough? Back to expectations…………we may have to wait for next year to better appreciate these guys. If our coaching is as able as some think they have their work cut out for them this week in preparing for the Panthers. Their DC is pouring over the tape from yesterdays game, maybe with glee.

    The defense actually did pretty well all injuries considered. Lane was a bit shaky, Terrell could probably star on 20 other teams as a starter. Thorpe held up well also. How many noticed that Tripp started the first plays as OLB? More to the point, how many knew he was on the team? I think Richard is shaping into a pretty good DC, despite the secondary alignment shortcomings Brian noted above. Those guys mentioned above filing in for the starters might explain why the ST coverage wasn’t as sharp as usual. Gunners need fresh legs.

    As for Kearse, it seems lots of folks have noticed his gator arms. If he’d wave them some on those picks he might not get the OPI calls as much. My suggestion for a replacement would be McAvoy. I think he’s got the winner attitude, and with some experience would bring some added tools to the job. I’ve seen some criticism of Lockett of late. Not only is he playing off a fairly significant knee injury, he’s also not 7 foot tall with 35″ arms…………which he would have needed for some of those passes.

    Likewise, Rawls has gotten a tiny bit of criticism, though maybe folks are cutting him just slack. He’s still playing his way into game shape, probably still trying to regain full confidence, though he puts on a good face. Right now he’s the one man band of the RB room……hang tough Thomas.

    I’m not saying the season is over, but expectations should be tempered for another victorious post season. We keep having trouble getting a complete team on the field. Until we can, we’re not the caliber of team (important word) to get to the BIG game.

  4. Brian, your piece is just what I needed after this ugly game. Great perspective because it just makes so much sense all around. Just a bit of advice if I may regarding your public persona – I can’t help but sense a bit of condescension from the way Softy has, at certain moments, addressed you on the podcast. Tell him to CUT IT OUT ! More people need to get to know the unique sensitivity you have to express to Hawk fans – the way you’ve expressed it in this piece. And somehow, you have to utilize that podcast in a way that people get you as the person capable of such a piece of writing, as apposed to a bit of a pawn within the entertainment direction of Mr. Mahler. Just one man’s opinion…

    1. Hi Isaac,

      Thanks for the note. Softy and I are tease each other. I appreciate your sentiment, and will try to keep him on his toes. I also plan to bring back my solo podcast soon. Take care, and thanks for reading/listening!


  5. Tom Cable needs to let go of OL coaching duties. I’m tired of his experiments and I’m tired of is lack of inability to develop these kids from college.

  6. I have to say, thank you for the validation about Kearse. I have fumed over the past few weeks about how poorly he has played and why he still gets the attention he does. Admittedly PRich made an error on the play that resulted in an interception, and I won’t excuse that. But the rest of the time that guy is playing his heart out and making a considerable effort to help his team. Kearse seems to be going through the motions.

    As for the O-line, I felt Hunt carried out his own assignments rather well. He held up in pass protection and made room in the ground game. I think he will make some team a very good regular started despite the flaws he might have. The big difference between him and Britt at this point is leadership. Not that Hunt won’t be, or can’t be a leader, but Britt has been in this system for 3 years now. He knows the assignments in and out, which is why I think the O-line played almost adequately over the past few weeks. His presence was certainly missed, especially since he is the most experienced player on the O-line this year. I don’t blame Hunt for the issues, but I think the game would have been different with Britt.

  7. Agree with Uncle Bob; Tanner McEvoy deserves consideration. An ex-QB, he should well-understand the need for crisp and timely route-running. He’s showed a lot of poise in his limited appearances.

    As to the general malaise and lackadaisical nature of yesterday’s performance, I do wonder if we can right that off due to a break in the team’s rhythm. If they were at home on Thursday with their families instead of participating in their usual Turnover Thursday festivities and then had to fly 3,000 miles to Tampa on Friday morning, maybe that was a major contribution to this breakdown. (Although a professional player should be able to overcome that!).

    1. Completely agree on McEvoy and I said so during the game on Twitter. The guy is a gamer and doesn’t drop…and he’s tall. Pete’s mantra is ‘always compete’ and Gilliam saw that put into action on Sunday. But sadly, that mantra doesn’t seem to apply to Kearse. Everybody in Seahawkland see’s Kearse and all his shortcomings, but not Pete\Bevell. Frustrating.

      I’m a bit concerned about Ifedi. If he was a prototypical Seahawk Olineman (late round or undrafted) I wouldn’t be concerned, but he’s a first round pick. Should he bu struggling like he is? Does it require two years like Britt? A bit of concern about Fant as well. He seems to often get beaten on the edge by quick D-ends. With his Basketball background, I assumed he would have quick feet at least, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. You can’t teach quick, so not sure it’s going to improve. I never played Oline so I really have no idea if what I’m seeing means anything….hopefully he pans out.

  8. You are right in all the negatives you present. Yet, we played a hungry team that thinks they are going somewhere, in their home, with some of our major pieces missing and others not ready to grind, and we gave up only two scores, early in the battle. There was a lot of failings, but there was also a lot of grit on display again.
    These seahawks are still set to soar.

  9. The criticism of Paul Richardson on the first INT is a bit unfair. He took a shove, about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, that took him off the route. To say that one play will cost him snaps, when Kearse has been terrible, is crazy.

  10. As Sando said, Bucs got healthy as Hawks got hurt, & that was biggest factor. Britt & Prosise have been stars & their loss degraded entire O. Rookie Fant & Ifedi were due rookie stinkergames. Sowell & Rawls were rusty. Gilliam & Kearse were due UDFA stinkergames. 3000 mile flights are tough. Hawks always have 1 stinker in the stretch. Kearse has not been himself, we can only hope he turns it around.

    Its fine, relax 12’s. Gonna be fun beating cowboys in NFC champ game & then winning SB51 by thrashing Raiders,Pats, Broncos or Steelers.

  11. Is it me or does it feel like we’ve been waiting a lifetime for the PRich the ‘Hawks drafted to show up? I lump him in with Tharold Simon as guys that got a lot of hype during camp then got hurt and vanished.
    Kearse is confounding. He always seemed clutch until this year where he has been Charles Barkley ‘Turrable’. I understand Russ being loyal to him, but at this point, I’d rather him throw a jump ball to Jimmy Graham with double coverage. At least Jimmy will come away with a catch more than 31% of the time.

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