Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Vikings, struggle with Peterson

Seattle's passing game continued to grow against the Vikings

Who would’ve guessed Seattle’s biggest problem would suddenly be the defense? Touted as elite just a few weeks ago, the Seahawks are now struggling a bit. The secondary continues to cover big guys pretty well, but the run defense is becoming a problem. Yes, Adrian Peterson is an incredible player. But it isn’t just Adrian Peterson. For the last three games this unit has not played well against the run.

We spent weeks deliberating over which receivers the Seahawks could target in next April’s draft, among other offensive positions. If the draft took place tomorrow, who’d bet against a defensive player being the pick? Is it the biggest need? Probably.

Russell Wilson improves with each performance and looks every bit the teams quarterback of the future. In fact he’s starting to look special. He is far better than a guy like Christian Ponder who had no business in the first round of the 2011 draft. What’s more, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller are getting involved. The run attack continues to prosper. Seattle’s offense has carried the team against Detroit and Minnesota. Nobody would’ve believed that a few weeks ago.

On the other side of the ball, the defense struggles to get off the field on third down, struggles to stop the run, has difficulty against slot receivers/check downs and isn’t even tackling very well. They get pressure, but it’s inconsistent (especially on the road) and the four man rush isn’t quite as effective as this scheme requires. Losing Jason Jones has been a bigger blow than a lot of people expected.

The draft is deep at defensive tackle which works in two ways. Either you dip into the talent pool early because that’s where the quality is, or you judge whether the depth is sufficient to wait a little. Jones and Alan Branch are both pending free agents so it’s an area we’ll have to keep an eye on. Getting a penetrative three technique appears crucial if Jones walks. Sheldon Richardson is by far the best pure three technique eligible for 2013 and should be an early pick. Sylvester Williams (see tape below) is also first round worthy and Star Lotulelei will be a high pick if teams buy into his upside. It’s worth noting that Alan Branch is a bigger-than-usual starter at the three. If they want to keep the size they could look at Johnathan Hankins or Jonathan Jenkins – both are very athletic for +325lbs.

There’s also the possibility a player like Alec OgletreeĀ – who looks ideal for the Seahawks’ scheme – is available and he’d add to the pass rush and offer genuine safety speed at linebacker. He can cover underneath to a high level and is adept at reading a quarterbacks eyes and breaking on the ball. He could be a top-15 pick but off field concerns might push him deeper into the first.

In the short term they have to deal with what they’ve got and first and foremost get Jones healthy to help the interior rush. This is a team that has proven they can shut down a run game and they’ll no doubt be studying the tape to work out what teams are doing to suddenly be effective against the defense. New York will run the ball a lot next week but don’t have a back like Peterson or Frank Gore. It’s crucial to the teams potential success this year that they sort this problem out quickly. Before people wondered whether a lousy passing game would hold back an elite defense. Now you have to wonder whether the defense is going to hold back a dynamic offense?

Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina) tape vs NC State:


  1. Brandon

    Still finding it difficult to get worked up over the defensive reality check. There are a few flaws, yes. Worthy of observation, yes. But this is still the defense that buried Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers and clamped down on Tom Brady, and it is way too simplistic to dismiss those accomplishments as mere home-field advantage or “Early Season Syndrome”. All three of those QB’s are good enough to win regularly on the road.

    There is a lot of quality to this defense, and when you take into context the opponents Seattle has faced the last three weeks – the NFL’s two best rushing attacks (1st and 5th best line performances via FO) and one of the most masterful QB performances this year (Stafford looked superior to either Brady or Rodgers when he faced us) – and then throw in the injuries to Jason Jones and KJ Wright, it reduces the urgency for me. We need health, and a bye.

    • Rob Staton

      I don’t think anyone is dismissing those accomplishments, Brandon. But as much as we shouldn’t ignore the positives, we cannot afford to ignore the negatives either. Some of the issues are repeating and that needs to be addressed.

    • Kip Earlywine

      It’s times like this I wish I could push a button for “+1”, “thumbs up!” or “rec.” Great points Brandon.

      • Rob Staton

        I’ll say again – it’s just as simplistic to dismiss clear issues in the last three games because of previous successes. By that token we should probably dismiss any offensive improvement because the passing game wasn’t very good against St. Louis, Green Bay etc.

        • dave crockett

          You know I’m ALL for drafting Sheldon Richardson, but let’s not overreact to a couple bad game.

          I say “a couple” here, not three, because Detroit rushed for 84 yards on 22 carries. That’s not even 3 yards per carry. So this has not been a three game problem.

          Obviously, the big games by Gore and Peterson deserve attention but they don’t even–in and of themselves–constitute a systemic problem.

          The Niners beat us on design (and of course the talent of their offensive line and back). Gore just wasn’t even touched on his long runs until he was 10 yards downfield. Peterson just beat us on talent, or by the mutant X gene he so clearly possesses. On *all* of his big runs, we had him corralled for a loss or smaller gain. Good defenders were where they were supposed to be, with the cavalry in hot pursuit. Not only did AP destroy pursuit angles he made good players miss in space. (I’ve NEVER seen ET whiff entirely on a tackle.)

          The Niners game is a bigger problem, though understandably the defense is probably more pissed about AP. A guy with that kind of talent can just go off on a given Sunday. The Niners, on the other hand, showed a design that has some success against our fronts. But that seems more like a technique and scheme fix. I don’t think it screams for a first round fix. For all we know, the FO may really love Jaye Howard and we haven’t even seen him play yet.

          • Bobby Cink

            That is actually just under 4 YPC.

    • A. Simmons

      I’m concerned. I think we should all be concerned. When you go from a top 5 run defense to getting gashed, you shoiuld be very concerned. This isn’t a one week phenomena any longer. This is getting moved on week after week with constant breakdowns. Now the red zone defense is breaking down. That was what we counted on when teams moved on us. They need to step up and get it right. Otherwise they might end the year hurting the team. They have a chance to get right against a weak New York Jets offense at home. I want to see them do it.

      • Meat

        I agree. We should be concerned. The last few games the defense have been really poor at tackling at times, and hence allowing huge runs. Speed be damned! If you cannot tackle what good is having the speed Pete wanted so badly. I remember way to many plays that had to do with a combination of poor decision making, misreads, and just bad tackling. Some of this is the KJ and Wagner biting on plays that they should read properly. I am hoping they learn this quickly. At least, this is what I am seeing. I think the 3rd down improvements on defense had more to do with Ponder at QB. I hope that is totally wrong.

        Shonne Green is not a bad back and I from the last few games I don’t think he would need to be AP to be succesful unless some things are corrected.

        Also, I am glad to see the bandit and more BLITZING. With the success, surprise, at blitzing this week I really hope we see MORE!

        • Brandon

          Shonne Green is not even close to the neighborhood of Adrian Peterson. We will not have any trouble with him whatsoever.

    • Attyla the Hawk

      I agree with the logic.

      However, I don’t agree with the conclusion. Romo was contained, but there were probably close to 170 yards worth of passes over the middle that a wide open Jason Witten simply dropped on multiple occasions.

      We shouldn’t rush to take credit for the gifts of other players unforced errors.

      Likewise, we bottled up Rodgers great. Until they worked our short middle pass defense in the second half, and stick with their interior running attack. That second half was essentially the preview for how San Francisco was going to kill us late in that game as well.

      In our wins, and our losses — the defense up the middle has been very porous. I’m not dismissing or diminishing those wins. But even in victory, we can see the exact same problems that ended up costing us victories later in the year.

      There is a lot of quality to the defense. But there is a great big donut hole in the middle of the scheme where teams have consistently found success against us.

  2. Colin

    I wonder if it is going to be time to end the Red Bryant DE experiment soon…. teams are scheming around him and he doesn’t provide a pass rush. Today we saw a ton of “3-4” looks with him off the field. It may be time to go back to more of a traditional 4-3.

    After KJ went down the run defense suffered greatly. A couple of the bigger runs we had AP dead to rights in the backfield and didn’t tackle.

    Ponder played his part of overdrafted rookie just perfectly, being as inept as everyone thought he would be.

    Russell continues to look like a QBOTF.

    They’re only gonna get better.

    • Alex

      Red Bryant is perfectly fine for his role. He plays in a 5 tech role that enforces the strong side. Pass rushing is not his suite. The issue- pass rush- needs to come from the 3 tech role that Alan Branch is currently filling. As it is, Alan Branch is essentially a 3-4 DE who stops the run. In Pete Carroll’s scheme, the 3 tech needs to rush the passer even when the defense rushes 3 or 4. As it is, that player isn’t on this roster. That said, the draft has some promising 3 Techs and it’s the deepest I’ve ever seen since I started following the draft.

      • Recon_Hawk

        I agree about Red. He’s doing his job. On the other hand, I disagree with Branch’s role being where the pass rush needs to come from. It needs to come from the Jason Jones role (and 1 tech role) in the nickle/dime package. Pete wants a rush-stuffing defense in the base D to hopefully create predictable passing situation and that’s what he’s done. The Seahawks’ defense lead the league in 3rd down distance-to-go.

        If we can find a 3-tech DT who can do both, than outstanding, but that 3 tech is still coming off the field in many 3rd down passing situations, which takes us back to the need to have the Jason Jones role filled with a quality pass rusher (assuming we don’t re-sign him)

        If we don’t re-sign him, there’s more pressure to re-sign Branch and find a pass rushing DT in the draft, hopefully after the first round (don’t see a pure DT in the draft, yet, who can excel in the pass game all three downs)

        Long story, short. One of Branch or Jones needs to be re-signed or else we risk having to draft 2 rookies to fill important roles going into next season. I’d prefer one or none and look to address needs elsewhere.

        • cliff

          you forgot we drafted a 3-tech DT in Jay Howard.

          • Recon_Hawk

            No, I considered him, but he’s yet to take the field or even make the 45-man game roster, so there’s no reason to believe he could take over either base defense 3-tech or that of a pass rushing DT, next year.

            • Bobby Cink

              Good eye, Recon. Howard was a 4th round pick. He is likely to be a backup until mounting injuries force him into the lineup. Until then, or even if that happens, we may not know too much about him. The FO can’t hit on every single late round pick.

      • Attyla the Hawk

        It certainly highlights the reality that this defense is a completely different defense with Jason Jones at the 3.

        This defense really does need to add quality at this spot. Beyond just resigning Jones, we need to add interior pass rush depth there as well. Scruggs may be that. It’s still very early. I was very disappointed to see us trade down in the first, as I felt like Fletcher Cox would be an ideal 3 tech talent to acquire.

        Irvin hasn’t transformed this defense like Jones has. But then I think Irvin is playing out of position and will thrive once he takes over Clemons’ spot. So long term, it may well have been the correct choice in the end.

  3. Fudwamper

    I believe off the top of my head the big runs had two things in common, Clinton mcdonald and Moore.

    • A. Simmons

      Opposing teams do seem to be looking for pass rushing line. When they see the pass rushing line across from them, they audible to a run. That’s another reason to get a quality, athletifc three tech so you don’t have to compromise your line when rushing the passer. The only way that works real well is if you get the lead early and force them into passing situations.

  4. Swamp_fox

    A little off topic, but after watching the Packers game I see Greg Jennings in Seahawks blue this offseason.

  5. kevin mullen

    If we dig deeper, after half time the coaching staff made the adjustment to stop the running attack, I believe they only gain maybe 40 or so yards in second half vs the 150 AP dropped on us in the first half. Credit PC and Bradley on that point. Side note – love seeing Wagner pressure on 3rd downs and getting a sack on Ponder. Dude shot in there like a bullet.

    If we are gonna be an elite defense for years to come, we got to create pressure from all levels, can’t be cute and think 4 guys in the trench is enough. I would love to see Kam blow up any QB in the backfield. Heck there were whispers of moving Kam to weak side and possibly drafting Barron to replace. I’m all for shifting guys around and the versatility. More element of surprise the better.

    • Meat

      Well, Some of it may have been good adjustments. BUT, for some strange reason they stopped feeding AP the ball in the second half. Lynch had double the amount of touches, give or take, than AP. The Vikes would have been wise with the success at running with AP to continue feeding him that ball the entire game.

      • Bobby Cink

        “Lynch had double the amount of touches, give or take, than AP.” The Seahawks were playing with a lead, and were able to convert on 3rd down to maintain TOP throughout much of the second half. That is, in large part, the reason why AP had a lot fewer carries.

  6. Michael

    One second half game down, five to go… If the Hawks end up going 10-6 on the year I think they at least get the second wildcard. The only team that really scares me is Detroit, since they are heating up and we failed to get the tie-breaker against them last week.

    However, with Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and two match-ups against Green Bay on their schedule, I have a hard time seeing the Lions finishing any better than 10-6, and more likely 9-7. Seriously though, anyone else we should be worried about?

    I have no doubt that Russell Wilson is the QB of the future/present and if the Seahawks D can return to Cowboys/Packers total domination form after the bye week (if not sooner, courtesy of Mr. Sanchez) then the Seahawks will be a playoff team.

  7. adog

    It’s safe to say that PC\JS will draft according to scheme and not need. That is they will draft whoever best completes their vision\ideal of a defense or an offense. I believe that when you draft for a scheme, you draft a player who fits, not a player who necessarily will excel at that position. Drafting RW at qb in the third round is the most obvious example of drafting for scheme and not need. If they were drafting for need, they would have grabbed a qb in the first round. Griffin comes to mind as a perfect “need” draft pick at qb last year in the draft. Even Tannehill is a good example of a “need” pick. However, on the opposite end, what makes a “scheme” pick? I think it is a simple combination of two football virtues; the first is experience…how steep is the mental learning curve? I think in the NFL, the athletic learning curve is more like a bunny run ski slope, yet the mental curve is one of great importance. The second is more complex and abstract, but i would say it is survival…as in survival of the fittest…what player has the physical and mental capabilities to flourish and …eek…reproduce in the approved scheme? By reproduce…i mean compete and compete and win. With all this in mind, in what looks like a deep draft on the D-line, i would predict they go there in the first round. Some repercussions might be…extending both Rice and Miller…especially if they continue to succeed with RW.

  8. A. Simmons

    Glad to see you focusing on the tackles, Rob. I think we need some first round talent on the defensive line. Need a guy that can hold against the run and rush the passer so there is no compromising our line. If we can get to the point where Red and Mebane are run stuffers and we have a hybrid three tech that is a true pass rushing threat with Clemons/Irvin, that will take us up a notch. We could also use a speedy coverage LB at the WLB position to replace Leroy. It seems right now we have three guys without ball skills judging from their lack of interceptions in college. I’d love to get a Derek Johnson type of LB like they had in Tampa Bay that fed on hot routes.

    • Meat

      My thoughts too. Additonally, you can never have enough pass rushers!

    • A. Simmons

      My bad. Derek Brooks type of LB like in Tampa Bay.

  9. Steve in Spain

    I’d love to see the Seahawks go after Giovanni Bernard. He can immediately be slotted into Leon Washington’s role as return specialist and third-string RB. Marshawn’s physical running style will take a toll, and so much of RW’s success depends on the run game that we need to go three deep in the backfield, I think. From there Gio could be gradually incorporated into the offense over the course of the season and developed into a Weapon X that Bevell can make use of to keep defenses off-balance. His draft stock seems to be aligning with where we may be drafting, as well. Thoughts?

    I’m feeling pretty good about the receiver corps lately, to be honest. I think we just need the patience to let this unit grow together along with their rookie QB, and watch Bevell slowly open the playbook. Obviously, if we have the opportunity to draft a prototypical WR of the Megatron or Fitz mold, I’m all in, but if it’s just drafting a first-round WR for the sake of it, I’m not sure we’re upgrading the roster.

    On the D I’m not seeing many holes to fill. We may want to exploit the depth at DT – we’ll probably only re-sign one of Jones or Branch and replace the other from the draft somehow. But a draft deep in a position can reward a team for waiting for mid-rounds (remember that Unger came out in a year with multiple centers with high draft grades and Unger was the last of the bunch – we got him in the second round and he’s turned into our best OL.) Hill and Truf are upgradeable, but those feel like less important positions.

    What do you think of Flynn’s future, Rob? RW’s got a strangle-hold on the starting QB job. I’d think the FO is happy to have Flynn as a back-up given that they’ve already swallowed his guarantees, but I can’t imagine Flynn is content to carry on like this and may welcome a trade. I count 6-8 teams looking for franchise starting QBs this off-season and significantly less prospects in the draft than that. Flynn could start elsewhere, don’t you think? Yeah, I know he didn’t attract much attention last off-season, but I think we can see with 20/20 hindsight that last off-season was one of the greatest off-seasons for QBs in recent memory, with Luck, Griffin, Tannehill, and Wilson among others in the draft, and Peyton Motherfucking Manning available in free agency no less – it’s pretty clear why Flynn was overlooked. Now I think he might catch some interest.

  10. AlaskaHawk

    Regarding the run defense. Our line is getting blocked well enough to open up holes. A new DL will be an improvement, but from the limited replays I’m seeing it appears that the linebackers are getting caught out of position, or getting blocked at the second level. Wagner wasn’t in the hole in one play. The first half was marked by the loss of KJ. How many running plays were in that direction? Fortunately we tightened up in second half but lots of tackles were made by the safeties.

    So now we need a DL and another LB. But we can’t neglect the offense. Our line was not opening the holes the the 49ers or Vikings were opening up. And yes we still need more receivers. I am willing to say we got 4 now, Rice, Tate, Baldwin, and Miller. But two have big contact years coming up.

    The good news is that Wilson looks like our QB and Wagner is playing well for a rookie.

  11. HighlandHawk

    How about Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), he’s a DE by position but check his plays against Boise and you can see he fills a very similar role to Jason Jones when BYU run a 3-4, he could easily play as a JJ DT and even as a heavier end than Irvin/Clemons if we need to drop Big Red out but don’t want to put a light front in.

    Able to give him a look over Rob and give us your insight? I believe he could be a Seahawks 1st or 2nd round pick.

    • Rob Staton

      I like him enough to project him as a top-15 pick. I just think if Seattle goes back-to-back on the D-line in R1, it’s probably going to be on a player who plays first down. Unless everything comes together and they make a deep playoff run, then they can maybe afford to go truly BPA. But by then Ansah’s off the board. But he’s more than capable of acting in the Jones role or as a pure, athletic 4-3 DE.

  12. Michael

    I think the best course of action would be to re-sign Jason Jones and let the draft come to us. Jones is still young enough for this front office to do a multi year deal with, and I think he has already proven that he fits the scheme and can be productive here. this injury will keep him from having a true “breakout” season that would have driven his price tag up too much.

    I would like to see that so we can truly go BPA in the draft as any team drafting in the 20’s should do. If the depth at DT ends up making the BPA on the board a D-lineman so be it. injuries are going to happen and you really cannot have to much depth on the line. at the same time, if someone unexpectedly falls into the hawks lap, having Jones inked already will make it easier to pull the trigger on that player.

    I would hate to see us pass on Ogletree or Warmack (seems like guard play is more important when your QB is <6') just because there is a bigger need to fill on the d-line.

    • Michael (CLT)

      I agree on Jones, but the deal would have to be team-friendly. Jones has shown himself to be fragile. Being great does no good in the tub.


      Captain Obvious.

      • Michael

        I think his fragility will make the deal team friendly

        • Bobby Cink

          A 2-3 year deal seems about right to me.

  13. LouieLouie

    Nice Article Rob. I thought that some comments made by Red Bryant in an interview hit the nail on the head about the defensive struggles; the guys were abandoning their post to try to make some plays. Hopefully they can correct that.

    I made no secret that I thought RW was the quarterback of the future for the Seahawks after seeing him play a couple of preseason games. He is starting to look the part.

    If the receiving corps can limit their drops, and our o-line high draft picks can stay healthy, the offense and the defense can play at a consistently high level, then when one unit has an off day, the other unit picks up the slack. I have high hopes for the Seahawks under Carroll and Co., both in the long term and for later this season.

  14. Barry

    It’s always nice to have more but watching that AP long run we had multiple chances to get in for no gain or a loss. Take that run away and it really changes the way our D responds the rest of the game and how they look after the game. I wonder if all the time on the field the D has spent in the first 8 games is starting to catch up. I hope the O can continue to develop and really put teams on their heels and change the opponents options in how then can attack us. We have some young LB’s that haven’t seen much playing time and have good speed. I’d like to see Pete and the rest of the D coaches incorporate some creative simple attack schemes and plays with that group to ensure the starters don’t get warn out.

  15. JC

    With all the shenanigans in Pullman, what do you think the chances of Marquis Wilson as a talent, Rob. In addition, do you think he’d last into the 2nd Round for the Hawks to have a shot at him?

    • Rob Staton

      I think he’ll last beyond round two unless he tests really well at the combine. He’s a bit inconsistent and while he’s capable of big plays, he’s not someone you’ll put your house on in a big game. I like his skill set but have concerns about is ability to deal with the bigger, taller corners we’re seeing in the NFL. Whether he’s an option or not will depend on whether it’s an area the Seahawks address in R1-2 before he becomes a legit option.

  16. Michael (CLT)

    What a refreshing new set of challenges to face. Finding the last bit of pieces and then keeping the ship together with a young QB with much promise is so fulfilling. I will gladly take another 2003 in 2012.

    Fun year. Fun to look a the draft with appropriate curiosity and non-attachment. Fun to root for growth in the guys you have. Fun year.

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