The Morning After: Seahawks Dominate Everywhere but the Score, Rise to 9-2

The NFL season is a series of questions posed and answered. Some of these questions can be answered by a single performance. Some require the player, the coach, the team to sustain a level of play against multiple and varied opponents. Seattle is in the midst of a midterm exam. Can they beat a dominant team? Yes. Is their defense capable of playing a great game? Yes. Are they capable of doing it two games in a row? Yes. How about without Jadeveon Clowney? Affirmative. The questions will not stop. They just get more interesting the rest of the way as the Seahawks dispatched of the Eagles on their way to a gleaming 9-2 record.

Any review of this game has to start with the suddenly surging Seahawks defense. A crew that appeared to be a millstone around the neck of Russell Wilson and this offense, has now taken the role of propellant. Not only have they played better the past two games, but they have been the primary reason for victory.

The degree of difficulty was increased this week without the tumbling ball of butcher’s knives known as Clowney terrorizing the opposing offensive line. It was fair to wonder whether this Seahawks pass rush could even be a little effective without the only player who has created problems for the opposition throughout the year. They made an emphatic case that there is more to this pass rush than one player.

Shaquem Griffin was terrific off the edge, creating chaos with his speed. Ziggy Ansah flashed for the first time all season with 1.5 sacks, that would have been 2.5 if not for a penalty in the secondary. Rasheem Green had a sack and forced fumble. Jarran Reed and Poona Ford and Al Woods also pushed the pocket.

Carson Wentz looked uncomfortable all afternoon. The pocket was rarely clean or large. He was operating in tight quarters and it contributed to him throwing two interceptions in this game after throwing just four in the previous 10 games.

You may point out that the Eagles were missing right tackle Lane Johnson, but the Seahawks have struggled to create pass rush against far less qualified offensive lines.

This was a team that went back-to-back weeks without a sack not so long ago. Two weeks of encouraging play does not mean all the woes are behind them. It does indicate they are capable of producing a championship level pass rush. Evidence also suggests they could continue to get better.

Griffin has played exactly two games in this role. Reed left this game with an ankle injury. Clowney was out. Ansah had his best game. The status of Reed and Clowney are huge, but let’s dream a little and hope they can participate the rest of the way. That front line might wind up being what we all hoped it would be when the season started.

Pair that with a delightfully disciplined secondary that looks like it went through an extreme makeover since the addition of Quandre Diggs and the exit of Jamar Taylor, and you have something that resembles a Pete Carroll defense.

This defense was 30th in the NFL allowing 6.2 yards per play over the first eight games of the season. They are allowing 4.8 yards per play over their past three games, and 4.3 yards per play over their past two. The Patriots lead the NFL allowing 4.3 yards per play this year. In other words, the Seahawks defense is playing as well as any in the NFL over the past two weeks.

They have created 8 turnovers in the past two games, and could have easily had more. They have created 12 turnovers in the past four games. Only the Steelers (13) have more during that time, and they played one extra game.

Diggs has been a revelation at free safety. He has started two games and had two takeaways. He is allowing Bradley McDougald to simply do his job instead of needing to try and make up for deficiencies of his safety partner. Seattle has gone from the worst safety play in the NFL to at least adequate. That is huge. We may find that they are better than adequate, but let’s give it some time.

Shaquill Griffin has been good all year. Now we had the chance to witness Tre Flowers best game as a pro. He had three passes defensed and an interception after never having more than a single pass defensed in a game to this point in his career.

He appeared to make some of those plays in zone coverage where the defender needs to play with some anticipation and break on the ball from behind the receiver. This is significant because Flowers has been struggling to be tight enough in zone coverage much of the year. He has been so focused on keeping players in front of him that he has given up easy yards.

It has to be a balance. Carroll prioritizes limiting big plays, but that doesn’t mean he wants his secondary to give receivers so much cushion that offenses can comfortably complete passes. Flowers toed that line beautifully on Sunday.

The Ugo Amadi move to nickel corner was delayed at least a week. Akeem King took the snaps there, but I believe that was matchup related. The Eagles had no receivers to speak of and are very tight end heavy in their pass game. King is larger and has had some success against TEs. Last year against Travis Kelce and the Chiefs was one example.

I continue to believe Amadi will get his chance to be the primary nickel back.

Seattle’s veteran linebacking crew did their part as well. K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks had a whopping 20 solo tackles in this game. It is usually a great sign when your linebackers are leading the team in tackles. When your safeties or corners are leading, it tends to indicate a lot of passes were completed or players were getting past the linebackers.

Wright flashed some of his classic read and react prowess to blow up a screen pass. Kendricks was all over the field tracking down tight ends and did not seem to miss a single tackle.

It was a shame to see the Eagles be gifted the final touchdown when the Seahawks switched to a prevent defense. They deserved a shutout yesterday. The only true points the Eagles scored came after Michael Dickson shanked a 27-yard punt and gifted Philly the ball at the Seahawks 43-yard line.

Even after Chris Carson had his 4,534,232,343,663,112 fumble of the season, the Seahawks defense stuffed the Eagles offense to keep them from scoring.

So let’s talk about running backs for a sec. I remain a huge Carson fan, but here have to be consequences at some point. He has seven official fumbles on the season, but two that have been attributed to Wilson could have been given to him. Fumbling does not mean you are a bad back.

Adrian Peterson, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, Franco Harris and many more of the best runners ever have had fumbling issues. A couple things though:

  1. Carson is not quite in their class
  2. Rashaad Penny is earning more snaps

Penny was the best player on offense in this game. He finished with a career high 129 yards rushing and sealed the game with a 58-yard touchdown.

He has had remarkably few carries in his career. The 14 carries he had in Philadelphia were the most he has ever received. There have only been four games where he had even 10 carries. He is averaging an eye-popping 7.2 yards per carry in those games.

The evidence is mounting that he should at least be splitting time with Carson. There is a lot more to the position than simply rushing performance. Carson is a good blocker in blitz pickup and a very good receiver.

Penny came into the league with a reputation as a bad pass blocker. One missed assignment could mean a big hit on Wilson. It matters.

That said, Carson is opening the door and he is busting through it. He has far more big play potential than Carson and has shown significant improvement in running tough between the tackles for the less sexy gains for 2-3 yards.

The Eagles defense is very good, and their run defense is fantastic. Seattle put up 174 yards rushing against them. They will get another test this week, and plenty of others the rest of the way. The success for Penny is nothing but good news.

Wilson had one of his less impressive games of the season. He missed a chance to either run in a touchdown or hit a wide open Jacob Hollister. He threw his third pick of the year. More troublesome were the hits he took when there was time to throw the ball away and avoid the lost yardage or toll on his body.

Some of that is attributed to Brian Schottenheimer who seemed to have a game plan heavily dependent on deep passing. There were a lot of five-to-seven step drops and long-developing routes. I would have hoped for some more quick passing and misdirection in the form of screens.

Tyler Lockett was clearly not himself, which put a lot more pressure on Metcalf who is not ready to handle that load. Josh Gordon got more snaps but he was not a factor.

Malik Turner had a great touchdown catch, and has made the most of his chances with 10 catches in 12 targets. As much as I am cheering for the guy, he is not a game-changer.

The offense shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with penalties. They cannot play behind the sticks (e.g., 1st and 15, 1st and 20) and hope to have success against elite defenses like the 49ers, the Eagles, and the Vikings.

Ironically, the team heavily leaned on passing in this game as all the analytics experts have wanted them to do, but it was the return to the run that keyed the victory. That is not to say the team should go back to huge emphasis on the run like last season, but they do best when there is a mix.

Mostly, they need to stop the silly penalties and Wilson needs to step forward again.

The defense is looking like it could be a component of a championship team. Wilson was playing at an MVP level to start the season, but has fallen off a bit the past few games. Seattle will not navigate through this crucible of quality opponents with Wilson being just okay. If he can finish his season playing his best football, Seattle should be in position to win 13 or even 14 games.

The competition around the NFC is crazy. New Orleans looks like the most complete and consistent team and has a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. They are facing some serious injuries on their offensive line, however, and nearly lost to the Panthers.

The 49ers are 10-1 and are absolutely in the conversation for best team in football regardless of what some Seahawks fans will tell you. They have a killer end of the season.

Green Bay just showed their true colors in getting whooped in San Francisco. Minnesota could very well be the class of that division, and are coming to Seattle next Monday with bad intentions.

There would have been legitimate reasons to doubt Seattle’s ability to hang with this group a few weeks back. Their defense was one of the worst in football. That is no longer the case. The offense was rising to be one of the most dynamic in the NFL. That progress has stalled. The special teams was a blight on humanity. They have found their footing.

It feels like this team is coming in and out of focus. We can see what looks like a championship-caliber group, with glimpses of greatness, but then it gets fuzzy and we wonder if it is all a mirage. These victories, against these opponents, led by the defense, have provided more certainty that great things are possible. Nobody in the NFL wants to see this offense, defense, and special teams come into focus at the same time or for a sustained period, but that time could be coming and there will be no force that can stand against it when it arrives.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. “This team is coming in and out of focus,” indeed. Yet another flawed victory. 9-2—ho-hum, but what would Bill Parcels say?

    Meanwhile, the plot thickens: The Vikings are coming! The Vikings are coming! They mean to pillage the village. Here’s to grabbing ye olde Battle Ax and cleaving them purple.

    (Every year, Wilson has 2 bad/mediocre games in the course of an otherwise remarkable season. Time for him to shine again.)

  2. Ps. Let’s give Joey Hunt his due. Sure, there’s been some drama and trauma. But he’s helped on many plays. If Pocic and others can beef up and pump more iron, so can Joey.

  3. After this weekend, I really think the Seahawks and the Niners (currently) are the best 2 teams in the NFC and it would not surprise me one bit if that’s the NFC championship game match-up right there.

  4. So………what’s the ominous sign? Did ja watch the GB/SF game last night? The final score is about what the Seahawk/Eagle game should have been if our Hawks hadn’t screwed the pooch as much as they did…………………while still winning handily. The Eagles were a bit short handed as many will point out, but the Seahawks earned that win…………… spite of themselves.

    The difference between the two enumerated performances above are in the number of self inflicted errors by the winning teams. Twelve penalties for nearly a football field length of yards, six sacks, key drops by wide receivers, fumbles, and the most inexplicable miss on an endzone pass to a TE with not a single defender in sight. Most of that stuff is avoidable (easier said than done apparently), and hopefully will be fixed as the remaining games are against league upper half defenses, and respectable offenses. How they’re fixed is another matter.

    Many are throwing the O line under the bus for the six sacks. If you limit the corrective measures to that, you won’t be properly solving the issues at hand. One of those sacks is on Penny (he had a great day aside from this fubar) when he whiffed on blocking a blitzing safety while looking completely lost on what his assignment was. Three of the sacks were more attributable to Russ hanging on to the ball too long. This is an old Russ trait that looked to have been corrected earlier this season by getting his passes off quicker. Again, nothing happens in a vacuum, as he is usually waiting for a receiver to open on this kind of sack. Some will blame Schotty for making an inappropriate call, some, as stated earlier, will lay it off on the line play, and others on Russ. In this case I’d surmise that one or two of them probably are related to Lockett not being 100%. He is that key to the success of this offense…………….at least until he either gets healthy, quickly please, or they figure out how to adjust to compensate. Almost no mention of Moore and Homer being the receivers on kicks/punts……….another sign of just how hobbled Lockett likely is. So, the O line is directly responsible for only two of those sacks……not too bad.

    I’ve mentioned before that I believe Schotty has been given almost full autonomy for offensive scheming/play calling, and for the most part he’s done a fine job. The balance of run/pass has been respectable and reasonably unpredictable for the most part. Russ has been doing a good job of adjusting on the fly and taking advantage of what’s been given him. I don’t have any idea how they can get the receivers (outside of Lockett, Hollister and maybe Gordon) to do a better job of hanging onto the ball, but they better figure a way. In season end games Russ gets real selective about who he trusts and narrows his options for targets. If an opponent catches onto that he gets easier to defend downfield. Hopefully DK pushes himself to improve, and Gordon catches up with the playbook or whatever he needs to do to become relevant.

    Similarly, Carson dropping the rock doesn’t look like it’s going to heal. Unfortunately the trade offs aren’t there to justify benching him at this point in the season. Not enough recovery time for a game loss as it factors into playoff positioning. Yeah Penny had his one good game (admittedly, so far) this season. Remember, he had just one last season. He might have more to offer, especially if this is a confidence boost that is meaningful to both he and the coaches. I suspect though that he’s a matchup quantity. His obvious strength is the wide run with rarer, occasional blasts in the middle. Some teams will give you that advantage others won’t. It’s about game prep and figuring out what the opponent can be exploited with. To me that was a positive sign on Schotty’s part in this game. They saw something that prompted them to get Penny into the game. It wasn’t just Carson having a tough time as Penny came in pretty early. The ability to take what’s advantageously available it a good sign. Again, kudos to Schotty.

    Which brings me to the defensive performance. This was a game that offered a lot to be happy about, and hope for the upcoming slog. It’s come about for a variety of reasons, some we can see, some we might have to guess at. Diggs is a definite improvement, and has likely helped both McD at SS, and a bit for the linebackers. Flowers might be maturing in his game and gaining the confidence to play closer to his assigned receiver. The line play is especially gratifying in the face of Clowney being out………………hopefully that’s not a long term problem as they will need his game to continue very good play. The Doc he’s consulted specializes in scary stuff, so my expectations are guarded. The question comes to mind as to why this unit that disappointed so much earlier is now working better. Part of it I would guess is becoming accustomed to one another. Late arrivals like Clowney, Reed off suspension, and Ansah late in recovery have an impact. And, as I’ve contended since last season, I don’t think Norton is as good as we need at DC. Some might challenge that by saying something along the lines, “well, he’s getting the job done now, so how does that fit?” Getting past binary thinking, I’ve said he’s good………but not great. We need great to get to where we the fans think we want this team to go. But we’ve got a way to help Ken along. I mentioned Schotty having more autonomy, which might also mean that PC can take most of his focus off the offense and concentrate more on defense. Now, I’m not saying nor advocating he’s taken over the job of DC. Quinn showed us in Atlanta how dubious that idea is. The HC is management not labor, and shouldn’t forget that. However that doesn’t preclude focusing attention on critical. correctable areas of concern. Maybe you’ve seen the reports that Quinn realigned his assistant coach responsibilities. The media focused on one of the coaches, but there were actually three that were involved. The result was an obvious improvement as they’ve won two of three since. No dramatic change in players, just in coaching approach. It’s a team sport, it’s more than just one or more “special” athletes. I’m not in the VMac, not in the loop on the sideline headsets, so don’t know specifically. But by observation there have been some changes, not just the add of Diggs, but also the add of Griffen as a pass rusher. Sure they talked about it in pre-season, but never did it. Norton has a tendency to rely, by his own statements, on having the best/most experienced athletes on the field. But in the last few weeks there’s been a shift working in younger guys. They tried Blair at FS, though the acquisition of Diggs changed that, and they’re going toward Amadi at Nickle if commentary is to be believed. Those are risks Norton hasn’t been fond of. I suspect that Pete is more focused on imposing his calculated risk taking in these realignments. So far, not bad.

    I still think we’re in for a wild ride the last 5 games, and I have no idea if we’ll end up happy or not. We’ll just have to see what happens. It would be a mistake to take any of the upcoming opponents lightly…………….any of them.

  5. December. What’s our record in December again? I think we beat Minnesota and I think SF beats NO. I think Baltimore beats SF but that it doesn’t matter because the winner of our division and HFA throughout will be decided in week 17.
    In Seattle.
    In December.

  6. Penalties on 1st down after a bye week are inexcusable IMHO- That partly has to be on coaching. Another issue ( other than fumbles) is Blocking for our backs ( both of them ). It almost cost the hawks the game against San Fran ( Carson missing two easy ones and a half whiff on a third.) Those attentions to detail Must be at the forefront moving ahead ! Not sure what is up with he O-line penalties But again DETAIL !!! Fix those two issues and Seattle walks away with a relatively easy Victory with substantially larger win margin ( even with the pass Faux paus). Coming down the home stretch the hawks can lose one more game and still win the West and either a #1 or #2 seed. They do that and they will probably be in the Super Bowl !!! One more thought – Diggs has been a godsend , and it is more being done with Tedricks then Taylor making a difference .

  7. It must have been hard for you to write those sentences about Penny. You know, the man you wanted to dump for a third round pick two weeks ago.

  8. Great write up Brian. No one wants this team to succeed. Or has confidence in this roster. The 8-2 Seahawks were even underdogs entering this game against a banged up .500 team. The defense have found their identity and are slowly showing the rest of the league their worth. You can just see the expression on these guys faces the frustration when reporters compare them to the LOB. Or even mention LOB. I was at the game in Philadelphia and it was quite refreshing not hearing the “Fly Eagles Fly” song until there were 20 seconds left in the game. Kendrick’s was on a different level and this game was more than personal. Looking forward to seeing seeing brother versus brother on Monday night. Which Kirk Cousins will show up on Monday will be the best question of the week. Still no one believes in this team, with half of the sports analysts picking the Vikes in an upset.

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