The Seahawks were certainly in a festive mood today.
Atlanta and Detroit, Merry Christmas.
With two wins against slumping opponents, the #2 seed would be Seattle’s. First round bye, home game in the divisional round.
Now they’re left hoping the Saints upset the Falcons in Atlanta (not likely) and the Cowboys defeat the Lions on Boxing Day.
It’s tempting to say it doesn’t really matter. The Seahawks are not playing well. Do they deserve the #2 seed? Over someone like Atlanta or Detroit?
You don’t need me to tell you the answer.
Two straight forward wins against Carolina and Los Angeles — both mired in dysfunction — didn’t mask anything. The defeats in Tampa Bay and Green Bay were ugly and this was a home clunker.
This latest loss was arguably more galling than the ones in Green Bay or Tampa Bay. Seattle wasn’t facing an in-form opponent, red hot and making a run. They were at home. They controlled the #2 seed and just had to handle their business. And the rally at the end made for an unlikely slice of Christmas agony when Arizona marched downfield to kick a game winning field goal.
All three units played poorly at various times. The offense didn’t function in the first half, largely due to the struggling O-line. Quick passes, read-option, running the ball, play action. They tried everything and nothing worked. The early turnover by Marcel Reece led to seven crucial points. The late, desperate comeback shouldn’t gloss over how inept the offense was in the first half.
There shouldn’t be any grandstanding from Richard Sherman this week. The defense gave up the last minute drive to lose the game. They conceded 34 points overall and had the four-play touchdown drive straight after a Seattle score made it a three-point game. The pass rush continues to be streaky and it often feels like they can’t create pressure without blitzing the two linebackers. That’s despite having Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on the field.
The special teams had another miserable day. A blocked kick, a blocked punt and a missed extra point. The two missed kicks cost four points — inevitably crucial given the margin of victory for Arizona. On the missed PAT the snap was slightly high and there was pressure off the edge. You still expect the kicker to make it. Questions have to be asked about Steven Hauschka given his disappointing season in a contract year and the decision to change long snappers.
The game also highlighted Seattle’s three consistent problems:
1. The offensive line is not good enough. There are probably reasons for that — three of the five are starting for the first time this year, Justin Britt is a first year center and there’s a game of musical chairs at right tackle. But it was impossible for the offense to function in the first half with the way this O-line played. It’s hard to imagine this is a situation that will be improved by yet more inexperience (aka rookies) in 2017. You want to believe this unit will grow over time but it’s hard to invest faith in that happening after today.
2. They can’t run the ball how they want to and they know it. They came out throwing again today because they can’t establish the run. They’ve become thoroughly one dimensional and the old glass cannon theory was accurate once more today. Impact the pass and this offense shatters into pieces. They’re relying on a passing game and can’t pass protect. It’s not a good combination. Plus Thomas Rawls picked up his latest injury today (shoulder) and you have to ask — is he ever going to be able to stay healthy?
3. The Cardinals O-line has struggled for weeks, it’s banged up. The Seahawks didn’t exploit it at all. Arizona on the other hand had Seattle’s O-line for dinner. It’s a truly confusing and baffling situation given the talent in Seattle’s front seven. Why do they so infrequently smother opponents with pressure? Why are they so often dependant on the blitz?
You can list other things too — but I focus on these three because they’re consistent. And they generally lead to other problems such as red zone woes, backup defensive backs getting burned for 80-yard scores, Russell Wilson missing throws he’s made for years and Jimmy Graham being a non-factor.
This loss also didn’t just cost the Seahawks a straight path to the #2 seed, they also blew the opportunity to go unbeaten at home in the regular season.
The Seahawks will be in the playoffs as the NFC West winners but sadly there aren’t many reasons to believe this will be a Championship season. It’s not unheard of for a team to stumble into the post season and catch fire. Yet it feels like there’s just too much work to do and not enough time to do it.
This team needs an off-season to try and get right and get healthy. Unfortunately that might come sooner rather than later.
I’ll end with this — some things are more important than football, like enjoying time with family and friends and having a nice Christmas. Try not to let this game ruin your holiday, enjoy yourself and I’ll see you in a few days.