The Morning After: Schottenheimer & Russell Struggle in Loss to Chargers

One week after throwing a perfect game, Russell Wilson was anything but perfect in an ugly loss to the Chargers. Boos were common in CenturyLink Field as Seattle fell behind early and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer seemed completely incapable of adjusting his approach. The poor performances by two key leaders on offense made it impossible to overcome a race car start by the Chargers offense, some untimely penalties, and the loss of leading rusher Chris Carson. Seattle fell to 1-2 and home on the season and back to 4-4 overall. Unlike the loss against the Rams, the Seahawks played a poor game against the Chargers. They earned the loss. Why they played so poorly is less clear.

I was confused when I saw the uproar after the game about David Moore failing to catch the final pass for a touchdown. First, people apparently have a much different expectation than I do about how hard it is to catch a rocket pass that gets tipped a split second before it reaches your hands. Was it possible for him to catch that? Absolutely. Was it likely? Nope. Give the Chargers safety credit for coming off his man and barely getting a finger on that ball. Second, did everyone forget the false start that moved the team back 5 yards after sitting pretty on the 1-yard line? While we are on that subject, I wish I could have hit pause before that penalty and asked every Seahawks fan whether they were hoping the team ran or passed. I was on #teamrun. How about you?

Either way, we never got to find out due to a brutally bad penalty from J.R. Sweezy, which was at least his second on the day. Everyone was upset that he got a 15-yard penalty earlier for sprinting and slamming into a scrum of defenders on a 3rd down completion. While I understand the reason folks were upset, I would have been shocked if a penalty flag had not been thrown. Yes, the refs should have blown the play dead earlier. Yes, it is admirable that Sweezy was rushing to help a teammate and push the pile. No, it was not wise and will be penalized every other time it happens in the future.

That was just one of a number of controversial penalties throughout the game. Chargers fans were livid about the pass interference penalty that led to the final touchdown chance for Seattle. Philip Rivers was upset pretty much every time his team did not gain 25 yards on a play, which was not often in the first half. Seahawks fans were upset about the offensive pass interference penalty against David Moore on a critical 3rd down conversion in the first half when the game was still close.

A first down there at the 28-yard line could have been pivotal. I can’t say I know all the intricacies of the offensive pass interference penalty, but Moore appeared to stop and occupy a space prior to the defender running into him. I do not understand why or how that is a penalty. But as with any game, there were plenty of chances to overcome the adversity of unfavorable calls.

The 3rd down play that followed the penalty was a perfect example of what was wrong with the offensive approach all day. Schottenheimer appeared to call a play designed to get into field goal range instead of trying to convert a 3rd and 13. The fact that Sebastian Janikowski donked the upright on his field goal try is besides the point. Why are we giving up on 3rd down there? The enigmatic Schottenheimer got even more conservative as the game wore on and the Seahawks fell further behind. Who does that?

No call was more confounding than the run play on 2nd and 24 from the Seahawks 19-yard line trailing 19-10. Every football analytic you can find will tell you that running on 2nd and 10 is a bad idea. The decision does not get any better if the distance grows longer. Maybe, just maybe, Wilson saw something at the line and checked to a run. That would be the only excuse for Schottenheimer. Even then, he should have rules in place that preclude his signal caller from making that decision in that situation.

It was almost comical to watch Schottenheimer deal with hurry-up situations. The Seahawks were driving before halftime and had three timeouts. They actually were at the Chargers 43-yard line with 2 timeouts and a first down with 43 seconds to go. Schottenheimer called a run play. A run play! What on earth could he be thinking? It can be acceptable to attack the middle of the field through the air in those situations because the defenses are allowing those completions to run the clock and you can grab chunks of yardage. Even there, those should be sprinkled in with concepts that at least give your receivers a chance to get out of bounds. Nope. A run play. It is not out of the question that the Seahawks might have scored a touchdown had they not wasted that timeout.

That was not even the most painful comedy of the afternoon. Seattle ran the ball three times and sucked over 5 minutes off the clock on the drive immediately after falling behind 25-10. It was a drive where Schottenheimer appeared completely incapable of opening up the offense and preserving clock, “I know we want to score, but I really like running the clock!” This was not a game the Seahawks offensive coordinator should be proud of. He was pretty bad throughout.

I would argue that Wilson was worse. He threw behind an open Tyler Lockett on a 3rd down early when the team was trailing just 12-7. He locked in on receivers and missed open players, perhaps due to Los Angeles getting more pressure than we have seen in recent weeks. His two most unforgivable and inexplicable plays were in the second half. After the defense forced the Chargers to punt on the first possession of the second half, Wilson had Jaron Brown wide open with nobody in front of him for what should have been a game-changing touchdown. I am convinced the game is completely different if Wilson makes that throw.

He had space to step up in the pocket. He had no safety behind Brown. All he needed to do was loft the ball up for Brown to run under, as he has done so many times in his career. It is a throw he excels at, maybe more so than any other quarterback. This time, though, it fell far short. Brown could not make the adjustment, and the ball fell incomplete. That is simply a throw Wilson has to make.

The second play should be obvious. The pick-six, Wilson’s second dagger interception of the season, was not just a bad throw but a completely confusing decision. I had a great vantage point for the play, and if the first Charger had not picked it off, the second would have. There were two players between Wilson and his target. I have literally no idea what he could have seen that convinced him throwing it there was a good idea. That is the kind of play you expect from a rookie quarterback in a preseason game. It was awful. I am going to mark it down as a regrettable decision that will not happen again because the alternatives are too aggravating or depressing.

I will be curious to see if all the, “Mike Davis is no slouch,” or “That’s why we drafted Rashaad Penny,” crew still believes there is not a massive gap between Carson and his backfield mates. Once again, Carson was the far superior back and his absence was clearly a big factor in the loss. People will say the Seahawks offense just stopped running effectively. That was not a coincidence. Carson is a really good back, capable or things his backups are not. This team simply is not the same without him.

Finally, the defense was slapped silly in the first half. Both Seahawks corners were abused. Shaquill Griffin made arguably the worst play when he let a receiver get way behind him on a 3rd and 15 play when the Chargers were pinned deep in their own territory. That ultimately led to the go-ahead score. Tre Flowers gave up multiple big plays, but did come back to make a nice deflection.

Overall, the defense redeemed themselves with a scoreless second half against an offense that looked unstoppable for the first half. This was a game where the Seahawks made a litany of bad decisions and bad plays and still nearly sent it to overtime against a team that most analytic sites have as one of the top five toughest. Seattle will be kicking themselves for losing this one, and the Chargers should feel proud of winning it. They certainly earned it with the way they played in the first half.

Seattle gets no break as they head to Los Angeles to face the Rams, and could be without Carson, D.J. Fluker, and Bradley McDougald. As much fun as this underdog season has been, this team is not setup to handle injuries to key starters. Hope for some good news on the health front, and don’t be surprised if the Seahawks give the Rams more than anyone expects next week.

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  1. This is gonna be a tough season to come back and make the playoffs. I still think it is time for Pete to retire. Yes he is great getting the most out of his player at time like the Rams game when they had no business being in the game. But he has a lot of flaws that cannot overcome anymore with lack talent on the team. He is a terrible game manager. His offensive approach is to conservative and outdated and his players had to many dud games like Denver, Chicago, Arizona and LAC.

    Also I still have reservations about Carson. He is a great back but has difficulty staying healthy. The great thing about was not only his playing ability but his durability. He was on the injury report a lot but always played. I think he had like 2 missed games before 2015. Carson missed over half of last season and has missed at least 1 and half games this season.

  2. I was surprised to see that Pocic, as well as both Poona and Naz, all on the inactive list prior to the game.
    I seems that Pocic is a valuable guy to have on the bench, as he is extremely versatile.
    I like Hunt, but plugging him into Fluker’s spot was frustrating to watch.

    It also seemed like we were thin at DT during the game. In retrospect, I wonder if Pete regrets those inactives.

    1. Totally agree, bmseattle. Pocic out when Fluker went down was a big problem. Joey Hunt may be an ok backup center but he does not have the mass required for a Guard. And one of Poona or Naz would have made a difference in the run game I would think.

  3. Brian, this loss is on Wilson I’m afraid. Given his history, I am willing to concede a mulligan but wow, that was a bad game from #3. The two plays you mention were the most noticeable but he was tentative in his decision-making all game, and the SACKS! Holy smokes those were drive-killers and they were all preventable.

    I know you really, really like Carson. I do too. But he has not demonstrated that he can be an every game, whole game, back. After 25 carries/105 yards vs Detroit he was banged up and maybe should not have played vs the Chargers.

    In any comparison between Carson, Davis, and Penny you have to look at what is going on for the OL, and there was a huge drop-off in OL play when Fluker went out. Had Fluker not been injured, would Davis/Penny have looked better in the second half? Unfortunately, we will never know. But the Seahawks NEED all three guys going–it isn’t and I don’t think will ever be Carson as the bell-cow.

  4. The outcome of the game is grim when you look at what ultimately matters for the season so far…………………a loss. And it’s a loss that was a give away no matter how good anybody thinks the Chargers are.

    Before the negatives let’s focus a moment on the positives that might help going forward. For all that the defense is being ripped, especially the secondary, they held a comparatively high powered offense scoreless for the last 31 minutes of game time. The only score in the second half by LAC was the int. And that was with Hill in for McD on defense. T2 is getting ripped for the Gordon touch down, but I just re-watched the game and notice that the normally stout Wagner went the wrong way at the line and wasn’t in position to fill the hole that Gordon exited. Flowers got beat a couple times despite being all over his man. So all in all the defense was only a little off. Yeah, crossing patterns make them look bad…………………………almost every game, it’s Pete’s scheme.

    What did the offense do well? They won the TOP by a few minutes. Usually when they lose it’s the other way, in addition to the things they did poorly too much yesterday; lousy 3rd down conversion, penalties, RW hanging on to the ball too long. To me it looked like he was responsible for 3 of the 4 sacks. Yeah, the play calling sucked in the second half, and a bit in the second quarter. Had the feeling of playing to not lose rather than playing to win………..too tentative. Not taking advantage of what the defense was doing. The turnover was the back breaker (how’s that for profound?) For those who have boasted of the home record, keep in mind they’re 5 and 7 in the last 12…………… much for home field advantage.

    Brian, I’m not crazy enough to argue against the effectiveness of Carson. When he’s able, he’s a stud runner. But he’s not, and never has been, durable. We need backups…………yes, plural. He’s not Procise fragile (thankfully……..guess they couldn’t find a trading partner last week eh?) Davis is the number two back in production, earned it, deserves it. But the negativity on Penny is a bit much. He’s number three, the best he’s earned so far, and maybe ever. But he produced over 3 per touch yesterday, so he’s not a complete slug. Does seem to have trouble finding the hole in the line, but when he does get to the second level he can get some yards (though not breakaway stuff so far). Not a shot to E. Dickson yesterday………..what’s with that? Their linebackers are their biggest weakness? O-line depth could be another issue. If Fluk can’t go, or go full on (no pancakes?), we got trouble. Hunt won’t cut it for a full game, and I saw some poor body language from Pocic last week in Detoit that might explain why he was a scratch. He didn’t look like a guy who wanted to be there.

    So now it’s on to the Rams. Which Seahawk team will make the trip? The one that played them tight last month, or the one that’s reverting to old, bad habits. The Saints laid out a pretty good game plan yesterday for others to try to emulate as well as their talent and coaching will permit. Will our prep guys get it? I guess we’ll see. The Lil’ General (McVay) was looking pretty pissed yesterday instead of his cock sure self, could be they’ll be loaded for bear from embarrassment. We’ll see.

    Ball for Paul

  5. John Gilbert has a different take over at Field Gulls. He basically blames Schottenheimer’s Air Coryell scheme. He warned before the start of the season that the scheme causes a record number of INTs and worsens the TD/INT ratio. Lo and behold Wilson has thrown two pick 6’s this season compared to 1 his entire career. Also, he said it would happen on the curl and both pick 6’s came on curls. So hard to argue with him.
    Which is a bummer really cuz after how long we saw Pete was loyal to Cable, we’re stuck with Schottenheimer for a long, long time.

    1. I’m not going to defend Schotty overall, he’s still got to prove himself over the longer haul. People were praising him the past couple weeks, now he’s a scape goat again. No, given player positions and the pretty clear view to the sideline, that int is all on Russ.

      Gilbert does some good stuff, but I’d remind that Norv Turner is from that same coaching tree……………….he’s helping Newton finally live up to the hype we’ve had to endure for several years.

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