The Seahawks constantly find ways to play really stupid, crazy, stupid, glorious games. More often than not, they somehow find a way to win them (apart from that one).
This looked so much like it was going to be a crushing loss. With a trip to New England next week, there was a genuine risk of falling to 4-4-1 and enduring a three-game losing streak.
And just as that thought was starting to manifest and become reality, the Seahawks won a football game in the fourth quarter again.
So now they’re 5-2-1, still in control of the NFC West and currently the #2 seed.
If the NFL has a ratings problem, they should put this team on primetime every week.
That said, this strange 31-25 victory highlighted some major problems that will almost certainly prevent the Seahawks from winning a Championship unless they are addressed.
Their identity for years has been defense and running the football. They did neither well tonight.
The defense struggled to get a stop on third down, the tackling was poor, they struggled to get off blocks and they regularly lost contain.
The running game was ugly from the start, was never established and played no part in Seattle’s offense other than to waste a down.
So it was up to the passing game to keep this one close. Fancy that — after years of doing the opposite of NFL’s pass-heavy trend, suddenly the Seahawks became Green Bay.
Like Dom Capers’ often befuddled Packers unit, a spate of trickery up front (different O-line combinations, looks) seemed to work all night.
Like Mike McCarthy’s current offense, Seattle had a non-existent running game. At least the Packers have the excuse of lining up a legitimate receiver at running back instead of a guy who made the conversion in college.
And like Green Bay — a creative quarterback was the only solace to make anything happen.
At least they found a way to adapt and win.
The third down conversions by Buffalo were incredible. They managed 12/17 (!!!!!) for 70% (!!!!!).
When they needed to make a one-yard run they could do it. They were often in manageable situations due to their balance — running, passing, mobile QB (sound familiar?). And when they needed the quarterback to make a play he often had the time (or just the one man to dodge in the backfield to extend the play) to find an open receiver.
Michael Bennett is always going to be a miss — he’s one of the best players in the league. I think we’ve seen in the last two weeks how vital he is. Bennett’s ability to impact snaps and disrupt even when he doesn’t record a stat or a splash is highly underrated.
It’s hard to say whether communication was an issue again in this game. It felt that way but is it just a lazy answer to turn to after the problems in the Atlanta game?
The tackling was a strange issue all night — so to was the inability of Seattle’s D-line and linebackers to get off a block. Buffalo executed their assignments well — but it didn’t feel like there were many 1v1 wins for the Seattle defense tonight. Kelcie McCray dodging Cody Glenn with about four and change to go to tackle LeSean McCoy was a rare moment (and a vital one as it turned out).
It’s incredible how one-dimensional Seattle’s offense is. This will be of most concern. At least the defense is capable of playing a great game (see: Arizona on the road). There’s very little excuse for the running game short of Thomas Rawls being injured.
Even with Russell Wilson looking a lot healthier, they got nothing on the ground. No balance. No production. Absolutely nothing. Christine Michael and C.J. Prosise combined for ten yards on eight carries.
That’s unheard of for this team since the 2010 rebuilding year. They are officially back at square one in trying to establish the core identity of their offense.
It would be easy to watch Wilson dealing, Graham and Baldwin catching passes and the Seahawks finding an explosive element and assert that the offense ‘was back’ or is ‘fine’. Not true. They want to run. Seattle’s offensive identity will never be right when they’re this poor running the ball.
Running the ball is as important to Pete Carroll’s philosophy as the defense.
They are not now a ‘passing team’.
They are a team that is struggling to run the ball.
And we saw in the second half why you don’t want to rely solely on the pass. When the easy completions weren’t there or the big plays — drives quickly stalled. A penalty or a sack can immediately kill a drive. You need to be able to run the ball.
What’s the issue? It’s really hard to say without a long, close look at the tape. It never felt like there was any running room. It equally never felt like either Christine Michael or C.J. Prosise were hitting the hole with any venom. It was hard to watch McCoy — dodgy hamstring and all — looking so much more vibrant, breaking ankles all night with some terrific cuts.
Is Rawls going to be the answer? A more pertinent question right now would be ‘can Thomas Rawls stay healthy?’
Unless things change dramatically there is no doubt at this stage what Seattle’s needs are going forward. Better run blocking up front and an playmaker in the backfield. I wrote another piece earlier about Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, check it out.
The good news is Wilson looked so much more like his old self today and is clearly getting healthier. I also don’t want to read any more about Jimmy Graham’s position on this roster. Imagine what they’d be without him right now?
It was also another really good day for Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. Add Bennett again in a few weeks and that should give the defense a real jolt for the run-in.
We’re half-way through the season now and barring another major upturn in performance, we have a grasp on what this team is.
It’s very similar to 2015 without a running game.
The defense is capable of really good football — but they’re also capable of giving up long, unforgiving drives at crucial moments.
The offense relies on Wilson and when healthy he’s as good as anyone in the league. But they are not bullies. So far they haven’t achieved that off-season goal.
The 2015 Seahawks were a weird animal because they finished 10-6 and blew several games and could’ve been 12-4 or 13-3 and yet they never felt ‘that’ good. The 2016 version has a nice 5-2-1 record but doesn’t quite feel like a great team yet (that could change as it did in the second half of 2014).
This was a stressful win but here’s a thought to finish. Imagine how stressful it was for the Cardinals and Rams fans to see it end in a Seahawks win, sensing a genuine opportunity to open up the division snatched away for at least another week.