The Seahawks, often referred to as ‘unbeatable’ at home, are no longer invincible at Century Link.
They had been warned.
Seattle probably should’ve lost at home to Tampa Bay. They toiled with Tennessee. Now they fall against the Cardinals on a weird afternoon of football.
It was fitting that the game ended on a bizarre bicep interception.
A first defeat on home turf since the 24th December, 2011.
I’m not one for overreactions. Seattle still has a shot to go 13-3 next week and tie up home field advantage and the NFC West.
But this week is going to be agony.
Now they have to host the St. Louis Rams. The same Rams that under Jeff Fisher have played the Seahawks hard every single time they’ve met. And you just gave them the incentive of ruining Seattle’s dreams.
(assuming the Niners deal with Atlanta on Monday)
(and they will)
That is frightening.
And they have nothing to lose.
In the last three weeks Seattle has already lost to two different NFC West rivals. Both San Francisco and Arizona simply appear to be playing better football right now.
For the first time in a few weeks, Seattle showed serious signs of weakness.
The offense stank the place out. Russell Wilson was antsy all game — constantly trying to bail out of the pocket immediately and nearly always scrambling into problems. The game plan couldn’t slow down a vibrant Arizona pass rush. The running game never got going and the receivers didn’t make enough plays.
We do have to remember how good Arizona’s defense is. They’re #1 against the run and create pressure every week.
But that’s still no excuse for what Seattle did today. And there’s one great big white elephant of a problem that is becoming more and more of a concern.
What has happened to Marshawn Lynch and the running game?
Is he just dancing too much in the backfield? Or does he not look right?
He isn’t hitting the line with a purpose, he doesn’t look like the player we’ve come to appreciate. Is the blocking good enough? Or is Lynch starting to look like a guy who’s spent eight seasons playing the most physical brand of football you can imagine?
The stats back it up.
He hasn’t topped five-yards-per-attempt for five straight games. It’s one thing having a tough day against Arizona, but they haven’t played the #1 run defense in each of the last five weeks.
vs Minnesota — 3.2 YPA
vs New Orleans — 2.8 YPA
vs San Francisco — 3.6 YPA
vs New York Giants — 2.9 YPA
vs Arizona — 3.9 YPA
That’s an average of 3.28 yards-per-attempt for the last five weeks.
Lynch only has three 100-yard games in 2013 — against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. His best game (145 yards) came against the #29 ranked rush-defense (Atlanta). That was also his last 100-yard performance.
This is Seattle’s offensive identity we’re talking about here — running the ball with a purpose. Feeding ‘beast mode’.
Right now it isn’t happening. And it’s a big worry.
When you can’t dominate with the run, it puts more pressure on your quarterback. For so long Russell Wilson has been able to handle that, but he’s not a miracle worker.
Today the passing game was equally as bad as the running game. Part of it was Wilson, who played like he’d spent all week having nightmares about Arizona’s pass rush. Part of it was the receivers — who were given plenty of opportunities to make plays and failed.
The Cardinals did a great job taking away any ambition to use the read-option by putting a man on Wilson and hitting him every time he gave that look. They basically took it away from Seattle, whether they wanted to use it or not.
Did it impact the gameplan? Possibly. But the Seahawks couldn’t find other ways to hurt the Cardinals.
One solution seemed to be to take shots downfield when Arizona blitzed — but again, the receivers didn’t make any plays for the quarterback.
When the offense finally put together one drive at a crucial moment, the defense couldn’t make it count.
Having limited Arizona for so long, forced four interceptions and bailed out the team to the tune of three paltry field goals — they gave up an eighty yard drive to lose the game. That included a bizarre Carson Palmer (suffering with a high-ankle sprain) run-and-throw to a blocking tight end on third down and Byron Maxwell getting beat for a long score (although in fairness, Michael Floyd made a great catch).
Today is not on the defense. But Seattle lost games last year because they couldn’t close. That’s two out of the last three games where the defense has given up a big drive at the end to lose.
If you want to be considered the best unit in the NFL, that’s where you prove it.
Let’s get on to special teams — an unmitigated disaster this afternoon.
Steven Hauschka shanked an easy field goal to end the first half. He also had an extra point blocked and got away with it thanks to a dubious penalty.
John Ryan’s punts consistently failed to switch field position in Seattle’s favour. It was a pretty safe game plan against Patrick Peterson, focusing on not giving up return yards instead of really trying to flip the advantage (they lost the field position battle all day).
And then there’s Robert Turbin.
Pete Carroll was asked recently why Turbin was fielding kick off’s. “Ball security” was the answer.
So it was with some surprise to see him running out of the end zone waving the football around like he was shouting, “Cooo-eee!” and trying to catch somebody’s attention.
Why was he so loose with the football?
He was lucky to get away with one fumble — his forearm grazing the turf just as the ball came loose. No such luck on the second — a shambolic untouched drop.
I don’t want to pile on Turbin. He seems like a hard working guy. That’s probably the edge he has over Christine Michael — who had questionable work habits at Texas A&M, fell out of favour with his coaches and overslept through two arranged meetings at the combine.
But Turbin’s such an unspectacular player. He had one redeeming quality — reliability.
Not any more.
At a time when kick returns have drifted out of the game, the Seahawks have found a way to make it relevant by their own poor execution. Leon Washington was Mr. Consistent for three years — and good for the occasional big play. Seattle waved goodbye to him when Percy Harvin came in, but he’s never healthy.
The two stand-in’s — Jermaine Kearse and Turbin — have both coughed up fumbles this year.
Most kick off’s result in a touchback these days. I find it incredible that Seattle has turned the ball over twice now in an area of the game that is barely relevant.
Doug Baldwin’s smart returns late in the game will swing the job his way for next week. However, I feel like I’ve seen enough to judge Turbin now. He’s a very average running back and shouldn’t be returning kicks.
If only they’d spent a high draft pick on another running back who could maybe play instead.
Penalties were a major problem again, summed up by an idiotic retaliation flag on Tony McDaniel in the fourth quarter. That was the pick of the bunch, but there were others. Malcolm Smith had a big hold on a third down, a false start penalty led to Hauschka’s miss before half time and on Seattle’s first scoring drive — 3rd and 3 became 3rd and 8 in the red zone after a delay of game flag.
It was another 100-yard day for the NFL leader in penalties and I’m wondering if this will ever ‘not be a thing’ for this team.
You could sum up the game like this…. The offense was bad. The defense didn’t get a stop to win the game. The special teams was awful. Too many penalties.
That’s how you lose despite picking off the other quarterback four times.
I hope there are positives to take from this. The automatic response of a lot of people will be to say, “better to have this type of game now” and think there are lessons that can be learned.
I can’t think that way. Not today, anyway.
I find it frustrating as hell to lose an unbeaten home record stretching nearly two years with such a rank bad performance. I wanted to believe it was impossible to beat Seattle at Century Link. I wanted to keep the #1 record in the NFL and top all the power rankings.
Going 14-2 for the first time in franchise history was something to aim for.
I wanted to sit back over Christmas knowing that everything was tied up. I wanted to feel comfortable knowing they could pull Russell Wilson at any point in week 17 if the Rams pass rush got a little too hot for comfort.
The offense has only looked this bad in one other game in 2013 — in St. Louis. The Rams are currently on a nice little streak having beaten New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
Next week is going to be fierce. And it really needn’t have been.
I’m legitimately worried about Marshawn Lynch and the running game. Seattle needs to be able to run in the post season. Hell, they need to run to function as an offense. It’s what they do.
And we discovered what we all kind of knew anyway — Seattle is not invincible at home.
Today was as bad a day as you can have following a 12-3 football team.