The Morning After: Seahawks Season Flashes Before Their Eyes, Narrowly Avoid Perilous Fall vs 49ers
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If the Seahawks were a couple, everyone would assume the offense had to be rich, because there is no way someone as beautiful as this defense would naturally pair with someone as hideous as this offense. In the cruel world of professional football, the defense is both better looking and wealthier, but still must be tethered to this offense like some grotesque three-legged race. This time, the big uglies up front were not the main issue. Russell Wilson and a few of his receivers played an awful game that nearly cost the team a shot at a meaningful season. If this offense was a zombie, they would have no arms and no jaw, rendering them harmless, slow, and eliciting groans instead of producing them. They still managed to inch forward ever slightly. That will have to provide sustenance for an anxious Seahawks fan base. It remains unclear if this offense will eventually devour our shared hopes or become a true threat to opposing defenses.
Russell not good enough
Wilson has been sacked so many times over the years that one can forgive him for feeling a little skittish at times in the pocket. If someone smacks you across the face 40 times, human nature is to flinch the next time that person raises their hand. Post-traumatic sack disorder appeared to set in as Wilson was dropping his eyes and prematurely scrambling through much of the first half when his line was providing at least marginal protection.
His passes were less accurate than what we have come to expect from Wilson, and his decision-making was questionable. He threw a few balls up for grabs. Any one of them could have turned a narrow win into a crushing defeat. His fumble last week keyed the Packers first offensive score. One of Wilson’s greatest natural attributes is his ability to evaluate the risk and reward of his passes in a way that allows him to be a high yards per throw player while also having a low interception rate. This was not a great game to demonstrate that talent.
Wilson rarely appeared to throw to his first read. I will need to go back and watch the coaches film to be certain, but there appeared to be players open that he was not finding. Whether that is because the play prioritized other targets or because Wilson simply missed them is impossible to know. A common pattern through two games is Wilson not hitting his first read who he is eyeing as he drops back.
That is most likely because the player is covered. If so, that raises other questions. Is it the receiver who is not getting open or ineffective play calls? Could Wilson do a better job pre-snap identifying the coverages and anticipating who has the best chance to be open?
Wilson is no longer wet behind the ears. The bar is high. He is paid like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees and Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. It rare for those guys to have off days, where their passes are inaccurate or they cannot find a way to jumpstart their offense. Defense not only struggle to keep up with their physical abilities as passers, but their savvy as experienced signal callers. As bad as the Seahawks offensive line has been, Wilson still must find a way to rise above it and lift his team along the way. He was not good enough on Sunday.
Receivers let team down as well
Jimmy Graham dropped a key third down pass last week. This week, Tanner McEvoy dropped two key passes and C.J. Prosise dropped two more. Prosise and McEvoy cost the team a touchdown on two of their drops and third down conversions on the others. The offense simply is not good enough right now to withstand those kinds of mistakes.
Paul Richardson dislocated his finger early in the game, got it sewed back together, and came back to catch the game-winning touchdown. If that doesn’t remove all excuses for dropping passes, I’m not sure what does.
If you are thinking that these drops made Wilson’s day look worse than it was, that is fair on some level. His final numbers would have definitely been better. It still would not invalidate all the items raised earlier.
Graham fading into the background
The offensive line was rightfully the story of the Packers game. They were awful. Graham was not all that far behind. He looked like he barely cared, and was going through the motions as a blocker and as a receiver. He ran out of bounds on a reception instead of taking on a defensive back to gain a first down. It was the type of performance that coaches, teammates, and front office personnel sit up and notice. The hope was that he would snap out of it and come back strong this week. That did not happen.
Graham dropped the first pass that came his way after absorbing a vicious hit, and wound up with just one catch for one yard on the day. More telling was his total lack of involvement when the game was on the line. He was either on the sideline or not targeted for the touchdown drive. When the team needed to clinch the victory on their final drive, Graham was standing on the sideline.
I believe the team will seriously consider trading Graham before the October 31st trade deadline. Something appears to have soured. This is not just lack of targets in the red zone or a tough time integrating him into the offense. His heart does not look to be in it, and this team will not tolerate that, even for a player as talented as Graham.
Offensive line improves
Nobody should start throwing confetti, but the five guys up front were better than they were a week earlier. There were fewer free runners, and a promising ending where the team was able to run the clock out. Improvement is obviously relative. Verne Troyer can stand on a dollar bill and technically be taller. This group has a long way to go before being competent, but they deserve recognition for steps taken in the right direction, and this qualified.
Chris Carson makes his case
As I mentioned on the podcast with Softy, it seemed like Eddie Lacy was a candidate for being in street clothes for this game given his lack of special teams contribution and more defined roles for the other backs on the roster. Sure enough, the most highly paid back on the roster was a healthy scratch for this game. Thomas Rawls was supposed to be the starter, but received only five carries. Chris Carson had 20 totes for 92 yards and a healthy 4.7 yard per carry average.
If he is producing like that behind this line right now, it is very hard to justify giving anyone else carries for the foreseeable future. He runs hard. He runs decisively. He runs creatively. He blocks and he catches. Pete Carroll seems to get that, and may be intentionally keeping it casual with his public comments that imply all the runners still have a role to play. His actions are speaking volumes right now. I don’t believe Carroll was intent on limiting Rawls to just five carries as he implied in his postgame comments. I think Carroll loves what Carson provides and is having a really tough time justifying having any other player out there. He also joined some pretty impressive company with that performance:
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Defense was good, not great
San Francisco only scored 9 points, and had 89 yards passing. It may seem unfair to critique a defensive performance like that, but that is how high expectations should be for this group and how bad the 49ers offense is. This was a game where the offense was going to need help from their big brothers on defense. The idea was the Seahawks would completely overwhelm the 49ers offense and create turnovers that would give the Seahawks offense a short field to work with.
They only managed one turnover, a nice Bobby Wagner interception, and just two sacks. They also allowed over 8 yards per carry on the ground. Not good enough. Sheldon Richardson was mostly quiet. Cliff Avril has been absent for two weeks. Chaos was the hope when Richardson joined this group, but they have not achieved it yet. The way Green Bay looked against the Seahawks offense last week is how the Seahawks defense should look against quite a few opposing offenses.
Carolina created two takeaways, and allowed just three points to key their victory over the 49ers last week. The Ravens created five turnovers against Cleveland this week. That is the type of domination this Seahawks unit is capable of.
This was far from a poor performance. Coverage was outstanding all afternoon, with the 49ers longest pass going for 14 yards. This group will have to become even more disruptive next week if they hope to get a win on the road against a capable Titans offense.
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Welcome to first place
The mighty Los Angeles Rams lost a close game to the Washington Redskins and handed over first place in the NFC West to the Seahawks. Arizona needed overtime to beat the lowly Colts. The 49ers fell to 0-2. This division looks like the one we saw in the mid-2000s when it was historically bad. Nobody should fear an NFC West team at this point. Seattle has a huge game in front of them next week. The Titans should be favored to win, given the feckless Seahawks offense.
Should the Seahawks find a winning formula on the road in Tennessee, it would give them something to build on. There were signs of life in this game. Wilson ran more willingly at the end, which could remind him how important that can be to a struggling offense. The line saw Carson finishing runs, which should give them some of the confidence they so desperately need. The team converted 42% of their 3rd downs and had 9 conversions overall between 3rd and 4th down. Progress must be measured in inches right now. Beauty must be measured by effort and grit. Show us that big toothless grin, Seahawks. We still love ya.