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.