The Morning After: Seahawks Scrape Out Tenth Victory, Eye Playoffs
This has not been an artful 2018 season for the Seattle Seahawks. Fun? Surprising? Exciting? Yes to all of those. Artful? Not so much. They are a team that can slug it out with the most powerful offenses in football, and muck it up with the worst. Arizona brought a historically bad offense into town, and Seattle managed to allow 24 points. The main culprit was a blindingly awful special teams performance. Truly, though, not much mattered in this game other than it finished without any new injuries and Seattle found a way to win.
Seattle finished the season 3-3 in the NFC West, with only one game decided by more than five points (Seattle’s 43-16 win over San Francisco). People continue to argue that the Seahawks play down to their opponents. What most will find is that division games across the NFL just tend to be close more than not. Rams fans could certainly use the same logic to say they played down to the Seahawks twice this year. This game was certainly ugly.
The Cardinals longest drive of the day was 38 yards. It came on their final possession when they kicked a 55-yard field goal to tie it. Their other scoring drives were:
11 yards for a field goal after Russell Wilson’s interception
27 yards for a touchdown after a partially blocked punt
-11 yards for a field goal after big punt return
a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
Seattle’s defense did their job. The offense struggled all day. Injuries along the offensive line left the Seahawks largely incapable of making any plays through the air. Arizona does not do many things well, but they entered the game 2nd in the NFL in sack rate.
They feasted on the Seahawks line. This was not a game where Wilson was holding onto the ball too long. The pass rushers were in his lap before he got to the top of his drop.
Ethan Pocic was awful. Germain Ifedi at right guard was not much better. As someone who really wanted to see Ifedi at guard so we could see George Fant at right tackle, I came away concerned the team is going to lock in Ifedi at right tackle in seasons to come.
It makes some sense for him to shift back for the playoffs so the team can return to the group that performed reasonably well earlier in the year. However, Fant and Jamarco Jones need to really be given the chance to push Ifedi next year. He’s a huge part of why the team feels the need to run so often. He simply cannot hold up in pass protection.
Finding a right tackle they can rely on would make a huge difference in the types of plays the team can call.
In this game, Brian Schottenheimer had few options. The Cardinals were doing everything they could to stop the run, and Seattle was unable to find the minimal time needed to create space for throws. It may have also been a situation where Seattle wanted to stay relatively vanilla on offense so the Cowboys did not have much to dissect on film.
Even with a decimated offensive line, zero pass protection, a turnover, and inefficiency in the run game, Seattle scored 27 points. That made this the second-highest scoring offense in Seahawks history, and 6th-best in the NFL this year.
It didn’t feel that way, did it?
The only teams to score more than Seattle this year were the Chiefs, Rams, Saints, Patriots and Colts. Tom Brady and New England scored a whopping eight more points than Seattle, and the Colts scored five more.
What many of the run haters out there will struggle with is Seattle throwing more touchdowns than all but four teams, and only one of those team had a sizable lead in that category. Wilson reset his own Seahawks record for passing touchdowns with 36 on the year.
Is it possible he would have thrown more had the team passed the ball more often? Sure. It’s also possible he would have been injured given he was sacked a career-high 51 times despite passing less than any team. I would argue the offense would have scored less and the team would have won fewer games had they passed more often.
Make no mistake, Seattle leading the league in rushing offense is the only reason we are talking about a playoff game next weekend. Wilson was here last year, and led the NFL in passing touchdowns. They even had a better defense last year.
What masked a truly bad Seahawks defense, and kept the offense out of negative plays they are ill-equipped to overcome, was the steady drum beat of the run game.
Chris Carson finished with the fifth-most rushing yards in the league despite barely playing in the first two games and missing two others. It is a shame he played so much in this contest. I was hoping the score would be lopsided enough to allow him to rest in the second half.
The good news for the Seahawks defense was the pass rush that resulted in six sacks, including two each for Frank Clark and Jarran Reed. Jacob Martin also notched his third sack of his rookie year. I’m bullish on what Martin could become. It is not hard to imagine a guy capable of eight sacks or more.
It was good to see K.J. Wright make it through the full game, and to have Poona Ford continuing to make the most of increased snaps.
Seattle moves on to face the Cowboys in Dallas. The two teams played in week three of the season, but both have undergone substantial changes in the months between then and now. I will be spending some time breaking down those changes on the blog this week, as well as what to expect.
Seahawks fans are playing with house money. This season has already provided more pleasure and less pain than any reasonable person could have hoped for. There is no team they are incapable of beating and no team they clearly should beat. Each game, each series, each snap is going to be a learning experience for many of the new faces. What happens this year will help to set up what will hopefully be higher expectations in the years that follow. We all get at least one more week of Seahawks football this season, and that is worth celebrating.