Kam Chancellor punches it out!! pic.twitter.com/SMpma58q0o
— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) October 6, 2015
With Seattle’s season on the line, Kam Chancellor came to the rescue.
Of all the people. Of all the possible storylines.
Chancellor, fresh from an elongated and controversial hold-out, kept the Seahawks alive tonight. It’s that simple. Blowing a ten point lead at home against a winless Detroit team before heading to in-form Cincinnati trying to avoid a 1-4 start?
It would’ve been mighty tempting to put a fork in these Seahawks.
Instead they hold serve — and it’s why the reaction to Chancellor’s incredible moment is more relief than jubilation.
It wasn’t just a season-saver. It’s one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see in any game. Ever. Calvin Johnson is inches away from breaking the plain (see the video above). That’s how close the Seahawks came to 1-3. Chancellor’s timing and execution was perfect.
Much of the talk this week will center around Chancellor’s value to the team in light of the hold-out. The Seahawks will also be described as something of a paper-tiger and a long way off looking like a contender in the NFC. It’ll be a real disservice if the focus isn’t planted firmly on the greatness of Chancellor’s forced fumble.
It’s one for Century Link Field folklore.
Seattle wins 13-10.
It really shouldn’t have been that close.
The Seahawks were messy on offense and gave up six more sacks (now 18 for the season). They didn’t run the ball with any authority. They turned it over three times.
Somehow they were also coasting to an easy win at 13-3 in the fourth quarter.
Russell Wilson had for the most part a terrific game. He was under constant duress, flashed some of the usual Wilson magic and drew comparisons to a “Terminator” (hat-tip Jon Gruden).
He also had two ugly sack-fumbles and shares as much blame as anyone for his night on the run.
Seattle’s offensive line will be pummelled this week and let’s be right — they were awful. Drew Nowak false started twice and tossed an errant snap leading to a sack. Russell Okung had an off-night tussling with guys he should be dominating (such as ageing former Seahawk Darryl Tapp). Justin Britt struggled to set in pass protection all night and eliminated a nice Thomas Rawls gain with a holding penalty. Garry Gilliam so far isn’t securing the right tackle spot any more than the guy he replaced.
Only J.R. Sweezy came away with a modicum of respect from the game — delivering a nice cut-block to send Fred Jackson clear on a well choreographed screen-play.
It’s been a tough four games for the new-look Seahawks O-line but this felt like the worst performance so far against a Lions pass-rush no longer boasting Ndamukong Suh.
It’s not just an O-line problem, mind. The key play that made it a game came from a Wilson error. Nobody would describe blitz-pick-up as one of Wilson’s strong points. Yet when he called the blitz, didn’t seem to adjust and took a sack/fumble from a rushing safety (ran back for a touchdown) — suddenly it was game-on.
The full-backs and tight ends also offered very little protection on a miserable night for pass-pro across the board. Slate the O-line as much as you want — but it’s not the only problem here. Wilson has to do a better job sliding protection and the backs/TE’s need to step up to the plate too.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks already know their off-season priority — to rebuild the offensive line. It might take some seasoned stop-gap veterans to fill it out, plus some early draft stock. Just ploughing more rookies into the competition isn’t the answer. There’s a lack of experience, savviness and, unfortunately, talent. It’s a line built for upside. The early growing pains might lead to some success later in the year. However, lines need consistency. With Okung and Sweezy free agents next year, they might be back to square one in a few months. Okung and Sweezy are also the two more accomplished linemen.
Basing an offense on controlled chaos has led the Seahawks to two Super Bowls. They have an ideal quarterback to deal with the constant pressure. As a staunch defender of the line play in 2013 and 2014, it’s increasingly difficult to muster a defense in 2015. This line is just bad and needs major, major improvement as the absolute #1 off-season priority. They may regret not finding a way to add Evan Mathis before he joined the Broncos.
It’s not just the pass protection either. The Seahawks aren’t running the ball effectively. Thomas Rawls ended with 48 yards from 17 carries on a frustrating night. It’s hard to be overly critical of the running back though — on first viewing the line didn’t get much push at all.
It still seems like a waste trying to incorporate Jimmy Graham into Seattle’s offense, instead of featuring him without straying too far from their identity. Especially on a night without Marshawn Lynch and a struggling running game, it was strange not to see Graham utilised more. Even so, Wilson really needs to see his tight end on plays like this. Graham ended with four catches for just 29 yards.
Defensively there are issues too. The secondary suffocated the Lions pass-catchers until the final Detroit drive but the pass rush will need to be better next week. Was Matt Stafford touched apart from the near sack/fumble by Cliff Avril? Let’s not forget, the Lions also struggled mightily in pass-protection coming into the game.
As well as the DB’s played here (special note for Cary Williams’ display) — they’re still without a single interception in four games. If they keep forcing fumbles it won’t matter too much — but it’s strange to see this defense without a pick after a quarter of the season.
There are positives too. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright excelled. Aside from Chancellor’s majestic fumble — he delivered a trademark bone-crunching hit to Calvin Johnson too. Tyler Lockett made some nice plays in the passing game (even if he did fumble a return). Jon Ryan and Steven Hauschka were both excellent. Wilson — fumbles aside — looked like the playmaker he can be at his best.
So onto to Cincinnati. In order to have any chance at all, they’ll need major improvements to the running game, pass protection and pass rush. This still doesn’t feel like the usual Seahawks offense that can grind you down, beat you up and win in the fourth quarter. That has to be a slight concern because when is it going to click?
I don’t know if Pete Carroll drinks at all — but he might indulge a stiff-one tonight. This game very nearly got away but for Kam Chancellor. John Schneider might want to share a glass too — because Seattle’s tone-setting strong safety just gained the biggest leverage play possible in any future contract dispute.