The Morning After: Seahawks Have Fallen, And They Can Get Up

If you came here looking for fire and brimstone and doomsday cliff diving, you are going to be either disappointed or infuriated. The Seahawks played a stinker. The Rams played a very good game. Sean McVay out-coached and out-schemed Pete Carroll. The offense, and Russell Wilson, remain stuck in a lower gear. The defense was throttled for the first time sine Quandre Diggs entered the lineup. And yet, everything is going to be just fine. Better than fine.

I made the mistake of checking the playoff scenarios in the hours between the end of the 49ers game and the beginning of the Seahawks affair. What I found was that the outcome of this game barely mattered. Had the Seahawks won, and won the next two games as well, they would still need to beat the 49ers in week 17 to win the division, assuming San Francisco also beats their next two opponents (vs ATL, vs LAR).

If the Seahawks lost to the Rams, but still beat Carolina and Arizona, they will win the division if they beat the 49ers. The main difference that came with winning or losing was Seattle has no more wiggle room. They must beat these next two teams for the final game to have meaning. More on that in a bit.

But what about the #1 seed in the NFC? Well, the bonus truth I found in the playoff scenarios is that the Seahawks would win the top seed if they lost to the Rams, but won their final three games, as long as the Packers and Saints also win their final three, as they both will be favored to do. That would create a three-way tie at 13-3, and the Seahawks would win the tiebreaker.

Yes, the only certain way to get the top seed was to win against the Rams and win all the remaining games. Yes, it is always better to win than to lose. Yes, there were things to hate about what happened on Sunday night. All those things are true, and it was as close to a meaningless loss as you will ever find this late in a season for a team competing for the top seed in the conference.

You say, “Screw the playoff seeding mumbo jumbo! Focus on the way the team played! That was awful.” You won’t like my answer their, either. The Seahawks did not come to play Sunday night. It was one of the rare moments in the Pete Carroll era where we did not witness a team ready to match or exceed their opponents intensity level.

Every team has those games. The Rams had one a couple weeks ago. The Patriots had one last week. The Saints had one at home against the Falcons. We are fortunate to have a coach who has managed to get consistent effort nearly every week from his team.

Fans who remember the Chuck Knox, Dennis Erickson, or Mike Holmgren days know that these used to be commonplace, especially on the road. There was a whole thing around 10AM games because the team had a history over many coaches to just sleepwalk through those games. Carroll has mostly solved that issue.

The things in this game that mattered are few. Rashaad Penny being lost for the season with an ACL injury is a big deal. He has become a central part of the offense, and was even more important while the passing game continues to scuffle. McVay thoroughly outcoached Carroll on offense. Whatever fantasy Carroll had about how to slow down the McVay offense was blown up last night. He needs a new plan.

That was about it. The defensive line looked like they were running in molasses all night. That seems at least as related to the motivation level as it does to any issue to be concerned about.

Coverage was awful in the first half. I attribute that mostly to scheme and coaching, but Shaquill Griffin did get beat deep.

There were some dropped passes. I don’t think the outcome would have been different had those passes been caught. The Rams were far and away the better team last night.

Here’s what I expect to happen from here on out. The Seahawks are going to play two teams in a row who are not in the hunt for the playoffs and have fatal flaws that make them very inferior teams. That will be the first time since they played Atlanta that has been the case. Seattle will win both games.

They will then play what is arguably going to be the most important regular season game in the history of the franchise in week 17 against the 49ers. San Francisco should be favored to win that game, even in Seattle. It will take a performance we have not seen since the first game against the 49ers to win that one.

I continue to believe the 49ers are the best team in football. Beating them a few weeks ago was as thrilling a win as Seattle has had in a long time. Beating them twice, with the division and possibly the top seed on the line, would be pandemonium.

Seattle is not currently playing well enough to win that game. Wilson must return to MVP form. Tyler Lockett must regain his zip. The pass rush must reawaken. That is what these next two games will be about: finding their championship level of play.

Look at what a week against the Cardinals defense did to the Rams offense. Look at what having your backs against the wall did to that team. Some would say the Seahawks lost their wiggle room last night. I say they gained their edge.

You will read and hear many folks wringing their hands all week about this loss and trying to convince others to worry. Bobby McFerrin had it right in this case. Be happy the team is set up for a thrilling end to the season. Prefer Marley? Everything’s gonna be alright. Maybe you’re more a Stones person? You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need. Flush this one, Seattle. As Eddie would say, we’re still alive.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. I hope you are right, Brian. From watching the earlier games (Saints/Niners and Pats/KC) it was noticeable that teams were busting out the playbook to get critical wins. We certainly did not see that from the Hawks yesterday.

    After keeping the Rams running game under control in the earlier meeting, it appears McVay might have found a way to beat the box, or maybe it is just better execution with Gurley–that was a bit surprising.

    Still, agree that this game is not going to define the Seahawks’ season in any meaningful way. Everything is still lined up for the Hawks but they have used their mulligan.

    1. In a 3-way tie, the head to head goes out the window and it drops to a different tie breaker between the 3. The key there is having the Packers also win out — which I don’t think is going to happen because Minn is good enough to beat them at home.

  2. If you recall in the first Jurassic Park movie the resident game warden had an ominous line about the raptors…………”They’re learning”. Going into yesterday both the Niners and the Hawks had roughly the same motivations/stakes…………fight for top of division, potential top of conference, and bye weeks in play offs. The Niners had the added “burden” of two Eastern road games in a row, so much so they stayed away from home to lessen travel and time zone change impacts. Just on the optics alone, even though the motivations and potential rewards were nearly the same, which team looked like they wanted the desired outcome? The Niners are learning…………….how to win when they want/need to. Our guys are doing what they do too often………….no show when they can build a cushion. The Cardiac Hawks seem incapable of not putting themselves in a position of dire necessity. When you play too close to the edge you risk falling off. If the Rams game were the only weak offensive showing of the season it wouldn’t be as much of a concern as it should be. Russ hasn’t looked sharp since the SF game. He hasn’t forgotten how to be a winner, but something(s) is/are out of whack. The defense is doing the “bend not break” thing, with too much slant to bend too early/easily. Theories abound as to what, but it doesn’t matter what outsiders believe needs fixing, it’s whether or not the team figures it out. I don’t see how people are fairly confident that SF will be beatable in the season ender. They’re learning how to win, the Hawks are just being scrappy. Scrappy might be entertaining at times, but it’s too close to the edge for comfort.

    Word has it that the team was overly confident they could beat the Rams…..uh huh. Now the talk, by fans anyway, is that Carolina is an easy beat. Yeah, that worked so well as a belief of the Rams game. Just because the head coach was fired doesn’t mean the team will roll over. Even the pitiful Redskins haven’t done that. Last night the Hawks had problems with an effective running back and tight end, even with the qb who’s “just as awful as we always knew he was”. Sound familiar? They should beat the Panthers handily………………..but it’s not an automatic. Stop that silly thinking.

    The Seahawk defense stiffened some in the second half, which would have been good if the offense had shown up. I have to wonder about a sign of concern though. It looked like Pete was doing a lot of defensive coaching on the bench, much more than a hc is supposed to do. It’s not a secret that I don’t have the highest of opinions of Norton as dc, and seeing that effort by PC only reinforces my cynicism. There was a reason(s) PC passed on Norton for dc when Quinn left.

    When Lockett’s leg injury was initially reported as “compartment syndrome” I was driven to the research query. One of the causes listed was a reaction to a prior bone break. That caused some concern in my mind. Since then the level of reportage has been less ominous, but Lockett continues to play at what appears to be a lower level of execution for him. I can understand the strategic reasons for being cryptic about a player malady, but can’t help but wonder if Tyler is going to be impacted for the balance of the season with an injury more serious than believed. If so, Schotty better figure some alternatives.

    Ya gotta love Clowney playing through what is likely some degree of “sports hernia”. The guy is ballin’, even though the pass rush still is way below what we’d like to see. And that concerns me as well. Athletes have a higher level of motivation/drive than your average human. That’s part of what makes them “elite”. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still human, and subject to, eventually, succumbing to human reactions. If whatever carrot is dangling out there to drive Clowney to press on beyond normal behavior were to be diminished or removed, will he make a “business decision” to throw in the rest of the season. He is also motivated by working for the most favorable contract on the open market for next season. Minimizing his physical injury potential is a factor there.

    I certainly hope that the rosy scenarios that Brian and others project will occur………..but reality isn’t nearly as favorable from a probability standpoint.

  3. “Chinatown,” indeed.

    Yeah, flush this one.

    I wonder if New England, Dallas, PIttsburgh or GB had an away game scheduled after a Monday night game this year. I don’t wonder if anybody else in the NFL is going to play a soft zone against the Rams. Penny out is a killer.

    “Good luck and good night.”

  4. As usual, I think Brian’s analysis is spot on. I put myself in the realist camp about this Seahawks team, although I have been a little more optimistic than Nathan on your podcast. I thought they would lose this game, possibly badly, even though on paper they looked better. This is just how the Seahawks have been under Pete Carroll. They are capable of beating anyone, but sometimes they look quite beatable by anyone.

    This is not as good a team as the 2013-14 squads, yet a lot of the fanbase seemed to think they were better. Why do I say that? Because I heard all these folks last week suggesting we should WANT the Niners to beat the Saints and that we can just go 14-2 anyway. Did people really believe that to be likely? I sure didn’t. A lot of fans forget the December 2013 home loss to an inferior Cardinals team, our Superbowl winning season. I sure haven’t. It ruined our perfect home record that year (which they have not achieved since 2012 despite their supposed advantage). Or how about this, our divisional record since they got good in 2012:

    2012: 3-3
    2013: 4-2
    2014: 5-1
    2015: 3-3
    2016: 3-2-1
    2017: 4-2
    2018: 3-3

    So even in their best years, they didn’t go undefeated in the division. And the Rams have usually been doing a lot of the damage. They still have a chance to go 13-3 and post their best divisional record since 2014. I find that remarkable considering this is easily the strongest division in the NFL. However, I also think rematches favor the loser, psychologically and schematically. We will be incredibly lucky to go 2-0 against this juggernaut Niners team, and if you think they can go 3-0 with a playoff rematch I’d like to try what you’re smoking.

    For those who have now lost all faith in the team, I suggest they look around at the rest of the NFC. Outside of the Niners, who’s clearly better? New Orleans allowed 48 pts. At home. We just beat the Vikings convincingly a week ago. The Rams look good but probably won’t even make the playoffs. Green Bay has been underwhelming. I think the Seahawks have a great shot at winning the NFC, the best since maybe 2014.

    Also, nobody should assume the Niners are going to sweep this Rams team. It’s a rematch of a home embarrassment — the Rams will show up.

    1. to be precise, since 2014, 7 of our 11 division losses have come against the Rams, not counting this season.

  5. Maybe some of us don’t want a “thrilling” end to the season? Maybe some of us want Russ and these receivers to show up every game? Maybe it would just be nice for this team to be the team they should be EVERY GAME.

  6. Great analysis and writing, as usual, Brian, and the rest of you. The best blog around. I really want to believe, I do, but I must be suffering from PTSD. For me it was deja vu all over again. The return of the swiss-cheese zone defense combined with the EZ-collapse pocket under a wilting Rams pass rush did us in. The Rams are our kryptonite when they get that pass rush going, they always have been, and it looks like Russ starts anticipating it before it gets there and looses his vision downfield. Even six and seven lineman weren’t enough, and it didn’t help that Ifedi continued his very bad habit of starting all pass plays by instantly backing into Russ before the pressure even starts no matter who is across from him. He definitely does forward better than reverse. Oh well, it’s only one game, and everything is still on the table, but it was a troubling return to times I thought the Hawks had outgrown. The good news is we will have time to reset without Penny and with a hopefully healthier Lockett, and an easier Panther pass rush to get our confidence back, just like LA did with Arizona. And the experience under our belt of what happens when you start taking things a little for granted. Can’t wait for redemption.

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