Blame it on the injuries, blame it on the offensive line. Blame the putrid offense or the crucial turnovers. Whatever your choice, this was bad.
It’s not unexpected that the defense would lose a step missing Earl Thomas, Deshawn Shead and Michael Bennett. That said, the ‘plan’ to handle Mike Evans at the start of the game was puzzling.
Pete Carroll’s mantra of winning games in the fourth quarter has aided this team so many times over the years. Their inability to defend Evans at all cost them 14 early points and put them in an immediate hole from which they never recovered.
Even so, the defense bounced back and made some plays. Frank Clark forced a safety, K.J. Wright’s stunning hit ended the half, they forced two turnovers and the Buccs ended the game without adding another point.
They gave the Seahawks a chance to claw their way back into it. They failed because the offense had arguably it’s roughest day in the Russell Wilson era.
The two competing games in terms of ineptitude are probably the 2013 Rams road game and the draw in Arizona this year. Against St. Louis, Wilson also had no time to do anything but still managed a couple of big plays (and two touchdowns) to secure a close win. Against the Cardinals, Wilson found some rhythm in overtime and moved the ball with relative ease.
Here — there was nothing. George Fant looked more like George Costanza trying to block Noah Spence. Bradley Sowell replaced Garry Gilliam almost immediately (why not just start Sowell?) and Joey Hunt matched up against Gerald McCoy for his NFL debut.
The results were not pretty.
— 1/11 on third downs
— 118 net passing yards
— Six sacks conceded
Wilson knew this line couldn’t block and it appeared to engulf him. He was antsy in a way we haven’t seen in a while. On a third down throw needing five yards he fired way above Tyler Lockett’s head and was nearly picked. He forced a throw to Paul Richardson and was intercepted. He doubled clutched several times and held onto the ball almost in vain hope that he’d get longer than a couple of seconds to find an open man.
His yardage at half time was a career low 20 yards — beating the 28 he had last time these two teams met.
Wilson didn’t play well — but an O-line featuring three rookies played just as poorly if not worse.
The offense consistently floundered. Even when they were given the opportunity to put points on the board — they turned it over. Wilson’s pick potentially took three points off the board before half time. Jimmy Graham’s fourth quarter fumble prevented them making it a one-score game. Wilson’s second interception ended it with a minute to go.
In a sloppy game they were in range to kick the nine points they required and turned it over on each occasion. They lost 14-5 with the offense scoring three points — just as they did in Los Angeles in week two.
Could they have done anything differently? Maybe some deeper drops from play action — but with no running game it’s not like the Buccs were going to bite on that. RB Screens? That’s often the go-to complaint from fans. The thing is, a good screen relies on the blockers not being tied up with a defender or on their backside. A badly performing O-line can actually be a major issue on screens because you’re dumping the ball off, hoping for YAC and downfield blocking.
Simply put — they had to find a way to block better and never achieved it.
Any hopes of a half-time adjustment were blown away with an immediate chop-block penalty on Hunt. 1st and 22. Three-and-out. Punt. Rinse and repeat.
They tried some WR screens and extended hand-off’s. It just didn’t feel like Seattle’s day. They didn’t deserve the win — and this time couldn’t find a way to get it done.
It ends more than just a three-game winning streak. Momentum was building. The talk of another fearsome late run was growing. This was a bit of a reality check in the sense that while key players will return soon — this team still has some flaws.
The loss almost certainly leaves the Cowboys with a free run to the #1 seed. With Arizona and Los Angeles both losing there was no damage suffered in the NFC West race. The key now is whether they can regroup, get healthy and get back on form against Carolina next week.
Is it a bad time to mention how resurgent the Panthers suddenly look?
On the plus side, K.J. Wright was sensational. His big hit to end the first half, his blowing up of an early screen pass and his TFL on Doug Martin at the start of the second offered hope. One of the more underrated players in the league was a rare positive today.
Frank Clark also had a handful of nice pressures on top of the safety.
It’s worth celebrating the defense in general. They battled and scrapped after the two early drives and at least kept Seattle in the game. If only the offense could’ve managed even an average day instead of an abominable one.