I’m struggling to think of a recent Seahawks performance quite as messy as this. There were games in the Mora era where the Seahawks just flat out bailed after going behind early, and there were some heavy defeats in the early Carroll days. This is much more frustrating. The team should be beyond the kind of basic errors we saw today. The Rams didn’t score an offensive touchdown, relied on long-range field goals and surrendered a big touchdown drive to start the game. And they still won comfortably.
This is a defensive unit that consistently flirts with elite status. Man for man, it’s a group that matches up to any in the league. So why can’t they defend third and long? Time and time again, drives against the Cowboys and Rams have been extended after the opponent reached 3rd and 10 or greater. It’s a complete head scratcher. Without going through each play today or against Dallas, it’s hard to work out what the problem is. It’s not an issue defending the screen, something we saw regularly in 201 to extend drives on third and long. It isn’t a draw play or underneath throw that is gashing the team. It appears to be pretty basic – Bradford/Romo dropped back and found open receivers in man-to-man coverage. Are the Seahawks using extra guys in the secondary? You presume so. What’s happening here? If the defense is going to live up to rising expectations, they have to get it done on third and long.
Penalties are killing the Seahawks. The coaches’ stress discipline so much, so why is this continuing to happen? Breno Giacomini is a walking 15-yard penalty. It seems like certain players are taking risks pretty much on every drive, chipping after the whistle or making unnecessary moves towards an opponent. The false start issues didn’t re-appear today but they were replaced by a few other costly flags. The message isn’t getting through here. Some are blaming the coaches, but they preach it so much. Eventually the players are just going to have to engage their brains or take a seat on the sidelines. It’s far too costly and Seattle remains one of the most penalised teams in the NFL.
I’m not going to blame Russell Wilson too much for this defeat. There is a ‘but…’ however. Of the three interceptions he had, one pass should’ve been caught by a receiver and a tight end tripped up leading to another. The other pick came on a cornerback blitz that he really should’ve done a better job handling. Janoris Jenkins moved inside and left a receiver open to the left, but Wilson checked to two options on the right, was hit by Jenkins and the ball was picked. React, get the ball to the left quickly and take what’s on offer. The concern I have with Wilson is a pretty big one. In four starts so far he has really struggled to sit in the pocket and make plays. On the penultimate drive he had pretty good protection on third down, but still panicked too quickly and left the pocket. He was sacked scrambling around trying to find space to throw.
Time and time again he’s leaving the pocket too quickly. If Wilson is ever going to make it as a long term starter, he has to be able to sit in the pocket and make reads. Right now he simply isn’t doing that. I’m not sure whether replacing him is the answer because you might end up switching one issue for another. For every play Wilson gets panicky and leaves the pocket, there’s a play where his superior mobility is a factor. It’s harsh to judge a rookie too early but I think we’re moving into the territory now where we don’t assume Wilson is the answer. For me, the Seahawks have made their bed and need to keep rolling with the guy and hope he improves. But for the first time this season the thought of going back to scouting quarterbacks crossed my mind.
Play calling is still a frustrating issue. Seattle ran the ball well all day and with the score at 16-13 were in the red zone at 3rd and 2. They called a QB draw. If you’re going to run, then run with Marshawn Lynch. If you’re going to throw, then throw the ball. Calling a QB draw was beyond getting cute. It reminded me of the option play on Monday against Green Bay (also on third down). Why get so intricate like that? It’s not a trick play, it’s not just solid football and let them stop you. I don’t understand either call.
On the whole the Seahawks are playing a brand of football that basically compensates for a total lack of a passing game. When the defense, special teams and run game click – they look like a very good team. Yet if one area doesn’t quite have a great day, another unit has to compensate to make up for it. The passing game cannot do that yet. What’s more, they don’t score cheap points. Getting a touchdown seems like a chore for this team – the red zone a place of dread. The passing game needs a complete overhaul and review in the off-season – it cannot be a complimentary piece. By all means create a dominating ground game – but it cannot be your entire identity. Balance must be found.
In 2010, Matt Hasselbeck had only 12 touchdowns and ranked way down the list for QB rating. He had 17 turnovers. Taravaris Jackson had just 14 touchdowns, 13 picks and again was way down the list for QB rating. Russell Wilson appears set to make it an unwelcome hat-trick of bad production for the position.
The Seahawks are a fortunate 2-2 but look more like the 1-3 team they probably should be. This could be a frustrating year overall, with some annoying defeats like this one and some equally tense victories down the road. But it still looks like a team that is going to be around eight wins. Maybe they go 7-9 again, maybe they edge to a winning record at 9-7? Everyone can see that the team is improving in certain areas, but if it’s going to break from mediocrity and become a contender the Seattle Seahawks need a passing game. The front office has to make it as much of a priority as the running game, offensive line, pass rush and secondary – all areas that have improved since the Pete Carroll era began.
List of priorities for the off season:
1. Passing game