The Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1) lost to the Green Bay Packers. The Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1) lost to the Miami Dolphins. The Los Angeles Rams (4-9) lost to the Atlanta Falcons. The San Francisco 49ers (1-12) lost to the New York Jets.
Despite having the easiest final six games for all division leaders in the NFC, the Seahawks are 1-2 at the midway point, highlighted by pretty disastrous outings against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Packers. Earlier in the year, when the Seahawks turned in a stinker against the Los Angeles Rams, Pete Carroll said, “We’re better than that.”
He’s not wrong.
Let’s Workshop This Offense
As a disclaimer: I see hope for this offensive line. Ifedi has put in a good freshman season. Justin Britt has found his natural position. As weird as this might sound, I like George Fant. I love what this line can be, but I don’t like what it presently is. How the Hawks got so lean on the line is a mess of circumstance and poor decisions, but to win a Super Bowl in 2016, for better or worse, this is the line they’ve got. So how can we help these guys out?
Thomas Rawls Is The Transcendent Athlete the Hawks Need
Utilizing speed, brains, instinct and brute strength, Thomas Rawls set a menacing tone that only five interceptions could undo. Assuming the turnover bonanza is a freak occurrence, Rawls should be able to A) keep the chains moving, and B) keep the clock moving, thereby limiting opponent’s offensive possessions.
It’s 1st and 10 and the second quarter is waning. The offense has brought in an extra lineman and a tight end. [Left to right: George Fant (74), Mark Glowinski (63), Justin Britt (68), Germain Ifedi (76), Bradley Sowell (78), Rees Odhiambo (70), Luke Willson (82)]. Initially, defensive-tackle Mike Daniels (76) gets a double team from Britt and Glowinski. Daniels is momentarily contained, but Glowinski must disengage to block linebacker Joe Thomas (48). These two blocks, in conjunction with the block Fant puts on linebacker Julius Peppers (56), should create a running lane. For a tenth of a second, it does. It collapses because, without Glowinski’s help on the double team, Daniels tosses Britt aside like a tackling dummy. This is a broken play. For many NFL running backs, the result is a tackle for a loss or no gain. With Rawls, it’s time to put on the hardhat. He cuts inside and across so quickly that defensive tackle Kenny Clark (97) cannot get hands on him. Outside of Clark, Rawls lowers his profile and finds the tiniest of creases between Clark and safety Micah Hyde (33), picking up four yards.
For 2016, this is the type of running the offensive line will need when things go SOS.
Russell Wilson Needs To Be Bullet-Proof
Poor throws likely cost early touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, but Wilson’s Sunday–let’s keep in mind, the only Sunday he’s ever had like this–went beyond accuracy.
Wilson (3) is in the shotgun with Jimmy Graham (88) high and (center-to-sideline) Doug Baldwin (89), Tyler Lockett (16), and Jermaine Kearse (15) beneath. As Wilson steps up into the pocket, Graham is open underneath. It’s not an attractive option, but with three time-outs, it moves the ball closer to field goal range and closer to a potential touchdown. Wilson bypasses Graham to go for the home run to Doug Baldwin (89). Cornerback Demarious Randall (23) steps in front of the pass for the interception. Bad luck? Nope. Wilson should’ve known Baldwin would never be open on that route. Prior to the snap, Randall is set with no direct assignment. His only potential assignment could be Graham going up field, but when Graham cuts across field, Randall knows he’s free to head downfield and track Wilson. By the time Wilson releases the ball, Randall is already in stride.
This begs the question: What would happen if Graham did not cut across the middle and Randall got trapped in the zone on Graham?
The play before the interception is the same formation–Graham outside and Baldwin, Lockett and Kearse opposite him, with Randall up-top having no one to cover. This time, Graham does go upfield, which forces Randall to stick with him, leaving Baldwin wide-open. Wilson never looks for Baldwin. He locks in on Kearse and heaves the ball into traffic.
On these consecutive plays, mistakes on the pre-snap read led to a missed touchdown and an interception. Quite simply, if Graham is going to pull Randall down, you can pull the trigger on Baldwin. If he isn’t, you go underneath to Graham. Russ had a tough day, but for this Hawks team to function, he’s got to be near perfect on his throws and his reads.
Nice first impression, dude.
How The Defense Can Help
Yesterday, Aaron Rodgers continued a trend of better play against the defense. In every game since the Fail-Mary, Rodgers has thrown one more TD pass, leading to three on Sunday. His completion percentage has also gained since the 2014 NFC Championship upset, up to 78%. The story here is partially Rodgers learning the system the defense uses, but Sunday was not only Rodgers. The Hawks experienced a collapse at all three levels, the defensive line, the linebacking core, and the secondary. The low hanging fruit is Steven Terrell and his first week replacing injured Pro Bowler Earl Thomas. Purely from the aspect of doing only what he is expected to do on any given play, Terrell did not have a terrible day. But this defense requires a free safety to have both great physical tools and be somewhat psychic. When Terrell was not misdirecting the defense (Kam Chancellor overruled him on a critical goal line down), he wasn’t making reads. His entire game was waiting and reacting, and those precious milliseconds cost him the opportunity to be special.
For a series of plays in the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers (12) repeatedly went at Deshawn Shead (35) down the sideline. Though, Rodgers was not testing Shead. He was testing Terrell. In this example, Rodgers wants the one-on-one matchup high. He signals Randall Cobb (18) in motion, isolating Adams on Shead. At the snap, Rodgers goes through the same progression he has for every deep look. He passively looks south, mechanically going through two reads, hoping to turn Terrell’s feet into cement blocks. It works, so Rodgers takes the one-on-one shot to Shead. As the game went on, instead of attacking Shead deep, Rodgers started going underneath, which was exactly how quarterbacks beat Shead in 2015. They’d spook him early and then bring out the fade stops, the comebacks, etc. It was Earl Thomas who stepped up and provided backdoor support for both Shead and Jeremy Lane. This is a responsibility that, at least on Sunday, Terrell could not replicate, leaving a big question mark as to if the Hawks can allow Shead and Lane to continue playing press coverage.
That said, blame does not fall solely on Terrell’s or Shead’s shoulders. In the above play, Shead is man along the sidelines with Terrell in a tough position to decide to go deep or cover a potential crossing route because the defense sent six after Rodgers and the blitz did not get home. With Thomas sidelined for the year, the pass rush is about all that can cover up Terrell’s inexperience at leading the Seahawks defense.
Slip And Slide
Several players on the offense and the defense were slipping. Jimmy Graham had a slip and fall, so did Thomas Rawls, KJ Wright had two, one on a touchdown, and on the fourth touchdown for Green Bay, Ahtyba Rubin (77) had a small window to pressure Rodgers, but instead his feet came out from under him. In these bad weather games, the smaller receivers can struggle to get separation since they cannot get up to full speed. And if it’s cold out, Wilson showed in the 2015 NFC Wildcard game that he may float throws and then compensate by chucking it harder. The Seahawks are built around speed, but when traction becomes an issue, this team can look about as unathletic as an NFL team gets. For a team that plays and practices in Seattle, they don’t seem very comfortable in the rain and the cold.
Maybe an outside scrimmage with the Washington Huskies wouldn’t be such a bad idea. (Rimshot!)
So it’s December 13th and the Seahawks are 1-2 over their last three games. It’s not ideal, but does this automatically have to be a bad thing? This season, the Hawks may find out what happens when they enter the playoffs as an underdog instead of as the mighty Seahawks on a major winning streak, cannon-balling competition left and right. This team values emotion and emotion comes paired with a psychological component. Maybe these guys understand being underdogs better than being front-runners. Maybe the big winning streak doesn’t start in November this time. What if it starts this Thursday? If the Hawks cannot be the best team in the NFC, let’s hope they are the team with the largest chip on their shoulders. Let’s hope they hear the doubters. Let’s hope the chorus is loud and saturating.
It may be a situation these Seahawks can respond to better than anyone else.
In case you missed it…
Week 1, On One Leg | Week 2, The Spread Will Save the Seahawks, Exactly Like It Did Last Year | Week 3, Could Trevone Boykin Be The Future? With Doug Baldwin, He Might. | Week 4, Kam Chancellor’s Modified Role Improves Entire LoB, Takes Defense to New Level | Discombobulated But Still Dangerous, The Cardinals Lie Ahead – Seahawks Bye Week Special | Week 6, Seahawks Defense Comes Up Strong, Team Passes First Test | Week 7, Defense Wins Championships But This Vanilla Offense Needs An Attitude | Week 8, As Injuries Mount, Seahawks Still Poised For A Super Bowl Run | Week 9, The Hawks Deal Blows To The AFC East, Real Test Comes This Sunday | Week 10, Bam Bam Kam Is Prosise-ly What The Hawks Need, Finally Time To Put The Hurt On The NFC | Week 11, Seahawks Dash Eagles Playoff Aspirations, Red Hot November Continues | Week 12, Seahawks’ Offense Was Outgunned and Outcoached, Did Buccaneers Call Psychic Hotline? | Week 13, Redemption Win Against Panthers Proves Bittersweet; Minus Thomas, Team Must Overcome Greatest Challenge Yet