Marshawn Lynch had just ten carries in Sunday’s defeat to the Cowboys
Perspective and constructive criticism is the order of the day.
In truth this was a pummelling by a better Dallas team who are playing some excellent football right now. And yet the perspective tells you Seattle had two drives at the end to a.) win the game and b.) tie the game.
Last year’s Super Bowl run included four games that felt like a loss pretty much from the start: Houston (A), St. Louis (A), Tampa Bay (H), Arizona (H). Seattle won three of those, somehow.
After five weeks the Seahawks have already had two similar games. They’re 0-2 this time against San Diego (A) and Dallas (H).
It’s difficult to read too much into that at this early stage. Seattle’s three wins have all been relatively accomplished. Had they sneaked a win against the Cowboys the performance would be easily forgotten. The Seahawks would be complimented for their ability to win ugly, just like last season.
Is an 0-2 record in sloppy games an indicator of a lost edge? A decrease in quality or depth? A lack of fortune? Injuries taking their toll? Or is it just one of those things?
Are the Seahawks destined for a 9, 10 or 11 win season this year — still no mean feat and something no other recent defending Champion has managed?
I suspect we’ll learn quite a lot about the 2014 Seahawks over the next two weeks. A double road trip to St. Louis and Carolina will be tough. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they return home to face Oakland at 3-4. Come out of those games with a winning record (by splitting the games or winning both) and they’ll have an opportunity, with five NFC West games remaining, to win the division. And that has to be the ultimate goal every year, as much as everyone wants home field advantage.
This is an unpredictable NFL season. Who expected Dallas to not only play as well as they did today, but share the leagues best record after week six? There were no unbeaten teams remaining after week five. I suspect Dallas, San Diego and Philadelphia will lose games going forward. The home field advantage total this year might rest at 12 wins. It’s a very competitive NFC.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. Look at the Patriots and the way they responded after being destroyed by Kansas City. Today might help the Seahawks in the long run.
And with that we’ve got the perspective out of the way, now onto the constructive criticism.
Seattle is losing its identity on offense
Marshawn Lynch carried the ball twice in the first half, an unacceptable number even with Dallas dominating time of possession. Lynch started the game with a solid 4-5 yard gain and was immediately withdrawn. This was a game to challenge Dallas. They were going to run the ball and play ball-control against the masters on their own patch. Seattle needed to show them how it’s done. Instead, the Cowboys were the only ones teaching any lessons.
Russell Wilson is a terrific quarterback. Percy Harvin is a dynamic playmaker. Yet neither player is more critical to this team than Lynch. To leave a close game having given him just 10 carries is inexcusable.
Perhaps it’s an attempt to stay ahead of the curve? With teams around the league striving to emulate the Seahawks, Seattle has started to be too imaginative. It’s a strange way of putting it, but ultimately the cap fits. Jet sweeps, triple option, receivers at running back. If there was one play that summed up the offense today it was a broken pitch to Bryan Walters. Not only did the entire offense look confused trying to execute the play — why on earth were they pitching it to Walters anyway?
Dallas was so concerned about containing Wilson, Lynch made some key gains running out of the read option. That had to be the staple, particularly in the second half. And yet still we saw that bizarre pitch play, Percy Harvin in the backfield and what seemed like endless empty backfields.
Dallas entered week six with the NFL’s worst run defense. #32. And Seattle chose not to exploit it.
Pete Carroll walked into Seattle saying they were going to run the ball. Pete Carroll won a Super Bowl running the ball and using play action.
It’s time to recommit to the run at the expense of all the trickery.
Why can’t they get a stop?
Dallas converted on 3rd and 5-10 yards three times. They also converted on 3rd and 14 with a checkdown by Tony Romo and had the back-breaking 3rd and 20 conversion late on — the play of the game. Earl Thomas made reference afterwards that if they want to be the defense they talk about — that has to improve.
So what’s going on?
It’s no excuse, but injuries have to take some responsibility here. Kam Chancellor looked like an injured player today. He’s carrying hip and ankle injuries and it shows. Seattle’s corner depth has been obliterated. A strong looking group lost Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon. Now Byron Maxwell is out indefinitely.
Seattle lined up Marcus Burley at starting corner and Steven Tyrell in the slot. In other words, a player who spent an entire training camp and pre-season with the Colts and a safety taken off the practise squad only yesterday. This is more legion of doomed than legion of boom.
Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are perennial All-Pro talents, but they aren’t miracle workers. They’re not going to be able to compensate for an injured Chancellor and a dearth of talent at corner. The situation is becoming so desperate you almost wonder how resistant the Seahawks are to calling Bill Belichick and enquiring about Brandon Browner’s availability.
There are issues up front too. Seattle found a diamond last year in Clinton McDonald. His ability to rush from the inside even on early downs made life easier for the edge rushers. Seattle’s interior pressure appears to have travelled to Tampa Bay with him.
Several times today Romo didn’t even have to move to make his reads. The Seahawks aren’t collapsing the pocket. It’s forcing the DE’s to make plays off the edge against a quarterback who can see the whole field. Edge pressure works best when the QB is moving and trying to make a decision on his feet. More often than not they’ll scramble into trouble.
Even without the brilliant Chris Clemons, the Seahawks should have enough edge pressure with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin. Without someone collapsing the pocket from the inside, however, you can’t help but feel they’re fighting a losing battle.
Seattle force-feeding Harvin
When the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin, they acquired the most explosive slot receiver in the NFL. Yes he was multi-faceted. Yes he found numerous ways to make big gains. Yet the Seahawks don’t use him as a slot receiver.
Against Dallas he had six touches for -1 yards. Every touch was a run, a sweep, a WR screen or a bubble. They have to find ways to get Harvin the ball because he is such an explosive talent. The point being lost though is that Harvin, fundamentally, is a fantastic receiver.
On one third down play they had Ricardo Lockette lined up in the slot for a short gain on a Wilson quick-hitter. On another third down one of the two tight ends appeared in the slot as Wilson tried to jam a redzone pass into double coverage to Doug Baldwin. Not for the first time this season it seemed like the Lockette, Willson and Walters collection were trusted in the money downs more than Harvin.
He can be Welker. He can be Sanders. He can be Maclin. Harvin is superior to all three of those players and yet while he’s only getting carries in the backfield, it just feels like a total waste.
Harvin has 133 receiving yards from 22 catches after five games. They need to get more out of him. They absolutely must.
Teams have found a way to contain the trick plays. With the Seahawks hopefully re-committing to the run going forward, this will present an opportunity to use Harvin as a more orthodox weapon in the slot and downfield. They have to take that opportunity.