BY Art Thiel 04:12PM 09/30/2012

Thiel: Seahawks offense still liability, not asset

In 19-13 loss to one-time divisional doormat in St. Louis, Seahawks’ offensive failures start at top with playcalling and go all the way to tackle Breno Giacomini, the new Yosemite Sam.

Dubious play calling by Pete Carroll added to the Seahawks' troubles in a 19-13 loss to St. Louis Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The law of averages caught up to the Seahawks, although it was always right there in the huddle throughout the season.

Behind on the road, the Seahawks offense, with a rookie quarterback, a game plan more conservative than Rush Limbaugh and no game-breakers among the receivers, doesn’t play catch-up very well.

In fact, it doesn’t play well at all, particularly when the coaching staff makes choices that play to the team’s weaknesses — and operates without the benefit of replacement refs.

In a game in which the Rams offense didn’t score a touchdown, and needed field goals of 58 and 60 yards as well as a trick play executed by a punter from Bothell High School to win, it was plain even to coach Pete Carroll that the 19-13 defeat Sunday in St. Louis was self-immolation.

“Sure it is,” Carroll said. “This was all about us.”

Under new coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams brought in a bunch of new, mostly younger players — the youngest team in the NFL — that should not be ready to outsmart a team that had beaten them 13 of the previous 14 games. But they did.

They did it on the sidelines too, where despite strong evidence (180 yards) that the Seahawks would get five yards every time they ran the ball, the Seahawks coaches ordered QB Russell Wilson to throw on several critical third-down situations — nearly all for naught.

He’s not there yet. And the Seahawks are 2-2 because the offense is even farther behind the defense and special teams than most Seahawks fans imagined.

The offense converted only two of nine chances on third down. Reasons are varied but included everyone, especially the increasingly notorious right tackle, Breno Giacomini. In precariously tight road games with minimal margin for error, he had two more unnecessary personal fouls, apparently continuing his inexplicable march to make the world forget Yosemite Sam.

“He’s a total maximum-effort guy but sometimes it gets the best of him,” Carroll said. “If we get flagged, we’re wrong.”

Besides no-account foolishness, much will be made of Wilson’s total of three interceptions, but in all cases, fault primarily lay elsewhere. In the second quarter, ahead 7-3, Wilson’s slightly late pass went off the hands of WR Doug Baldwin and into the hands of St. Louis quarterback Tremaine Johnson at midfield.

Said Carroll: “Doug should have had it.”

A dozen plays after the turnover came Fisher’s most noteworthy trickeration: He bamboozled Carroll and the defense with a fake field goal attempt. Rookie Johnny Hekker, the Bothell kid via Oregon State and mostly the punter, stood up from his placement hold and threw a touchdown pass to WR Danny Amendola, who lined up along the sideline completely undetected by the Seahawks.

“We’re supposed to see it,” Carroll said. “We talk about it all the time and we just missed it.”

Wilson’s second pick came on the first possession of the third quarter after Leon Washington set up the offense well with a kickoff return to the St. Louis 36.  Wilson’s arm was grabbed mid-throw and his flutterball landed in the arms of LB Rocky McIntosh at the 18-yard line.

The final turnover was on the final Seahawks play, perhaps a karmic payback for the outcome on the final play Monday night against the Packers.

Moving the chains well in the final three minutes in pursuit of the go-ahead TD, Wilson had a second-and-five at the St. Louis 35 and and a wide-open TE, Anthony McCoy. Unaided by a defender, McCoy slipped and fell down. Wilson’s on-the-money pass zipped past him into the hands of cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Game over.

The turnovers were the sort of flukes that happen every game, but the Seahawks’ margin for victory is so thin that one moment of bad luck is enough, just as a moment of good luck was enough Monday. What the Seahawks needed to do was bulletproof themselves to flukes by building a lead, which they consistently failed to do on third down by throwing the ball instead of giving it to Lynch, who smashed the Rams with 118 yards on 20 carries.

Adding to the problem was the defense’s own vulnerability on third down. In an otherwise stellar performance, Seattle allowed St. Louis to convert four third-and-longs — just enough times to keep their offense alive to get within the considerable range of rookie kicker Greg Zeuerlin.

A sixth-round pick from D-II Missouri Western, Zeuerlin set the franchise record with a 58-yarder in the first quarter and beat it by two in the third quarter.  He’s 16-fo-16 this season, with seven beyond 40 yards.

In a way, the big field goals were the Rams’ version of Hail Marys, of which the Seahawks know. Can’t keep living on the edge, at least not in the NFC West.

“Third down was lousy for us,” Carroll said. “The game was right in front of us, and we didn’t get it.”

For different reasons, the same could be said of the season-opening loss at Arizona. While none of the fails in the Seahawks operations seem insurmountable — they certainly must be able to find a time-out corner at the VMAC for Giacomini to stand in next week –  they have reached the the quarter-pole in an 0-2 hole in a rapidly improving NFC West.

In a division that looks as if it can have three nine-win teams at a minimum, the Seahawks have burned up a lot of divisional capital already. And they’ve used up their karma for the year, if not for the decade.


YourThoughts

  • OffTheLows

    I’m sick of seeing people coddle Wilson. I don’t care that he’s a rookie. You have a capable guy behind him that isn’t. A guy who is not useless when in the pocket. Wilson can’t see downfield, receivers are routinely getting open and he either scrambles or throws to someone else because his vision is obstructed. Our pass blocking isn’t sufficient enough to keep the pocket from collapsing on Wilson and leading to failed drives and a QB that’s struggling for 150 yards passing a game. Every facet of our game is good except penalties, which improved today, I’ll give you coaching, and the QB. We wasted a terrific running game by Lynch and Turbin and a defense that gave up zero offensive points. Inexcusable the Seahawks couldn’t score into the 20s vs the Rams defense. Brees showed the Packers are garbage on D too today, though you’d hardly notice it with our 1″ shorter rookie QB.

    • art thiel

      The capable guy, we learn this morning, has a sore elbow. And even he would have the same problems lining up behind the current pass protection. But he would be quicker to check down.

  • OffTheLows

    I’m sick of seeing people coddle Wilson. I don’t care that he’s a rookie. You have a capable guy behind him that isn’t. A guy who is not useless when in the pocket. Wilson can’t see downfield, receivers are routinely getting open and he either scrambles or throws to someone else because his vision is obstructed. Our pass blocking isn’t sufficient enough to keep the pocket from collapsing on Wilson and leading to failed drives and a QB that’s struggling for 150 yards passing a game. Every facet of our game is good except penalties, which improved today, I’ll give you coaching, and the QB. We wasted a terrific running game by Lynch and Turbin and a defense that gave up zero offensive points. Inexcusable the Seahawks couldn’t score into the 20s vs the Rams defense. Brees showed the Packers are garbage on D too today, though you’d hardly notice it with our 1″ shorter rookie QB.

    • art thiel

      The capable guy, we learn this morning, has a sore elbow. And even he would have the same problems lining up behind the current pass protection. But he would be quicker to check down.

  • AaronNC

    Very disapointing to say the least. Im at a lost of words Seattle better come up with a new game plan soon, or Pete and Co. Will be jobless in Seattle! Looks like yet again another losing season, how many chances does Pete have 3 losing seasons. In the normal everyday world people performing at a bad level for there job would be fired. Where is Jim Mora

    • art thiel

      Mora is about the last answer, Carroll knows they’ve asked too much of Wilson, but barely. See answer above.

  • AaronNC

    Very disapointing to say the least. Im at a lost of words Seattle better come up with a new game plan soon, or Pete and Co. Will be jobless in Seattle! Looks like yet again another losing season, how many chances does Pete have 3 losing seasons. In the normal everyday world people performing at a bad level for there job would be fired. Where is Jim Mora

    • art thiel

      Mora is about the last answer, Carroll knows they’ve asked too much of Wilson, but barely. See answer above.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Having a strong run game is fine, but that alone will not cut it in the NFL. You win by scoring points, and i’ll bet i’m not alone in having zero confidence when late in the fourth quarter they had essentially the last possession and the possibility to secure a road win. I started planning my yardwork for the day at that point

    RW has had 3 late-4th quarter possessions in which he could get it over the top, he is 0-3 in those situations….(assuming we discount GB as we should, he looked equally befuddled)

    • art thiel

      Nothing about RW’s play should be a surprise, given his rookieness and physical limits. The coaches are responsible for designing a game plan he can win with. It’s close: they could 4-0 as easily as 1-3.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Having a strong run game is fine, but that alone will not cut it in the NFL. You win by scoring points, and i’ll bet i’m not alone in having zero confidence when late in the fourth quarter they had essentially the last possession and the possibility to secure a road win. I started planning my yardwork for the day at that point

    RW has had 3 late-4th quarter possessions in which he could get it over the top, he is 0-3 in those situations….(assuming we discount GB as we should, he looked equally befuddled)

    • art thiel

      Nothing about RW’s play should be a surprise, given his rookieness and physical limits. The coaches are responsible for designing a game plan he can win with. It’s close: they could 4-0 as easily as 1-3.

  • jafabian

    Wilson’s inexperience has really shown the past couple games. At some point Carroll has to wonder if Flynn would be any better, especially if they want to make the playoffs.

    • art thiel

      Stay tuned. Carroll said Flynn’s elbow is hurting. How convenient.

  • jafabian

    Wilson’s inexperience has really shown the past couple games. At some point Carroll has to wonder if Flynn would be any better, especially if they want to make the playoffs.

    • art thiel

      Stay tuned. Carroll said Flynn’s elbow is hurting. How convenient.

  • Josh

    A little over reaction on the play call last week. Funny how the pro refs nearly cost GB another win today.

  • Josh

    A little over reaction on the play call last week. Funny how the pro refs nearly cost GB another win today.

  • Bayview Herb

    I thought the Seahalws came out flat, perhaps overconfident even. No way the offensive coordinater was fooling anyone with his calls either. The Rams had our offense figured out perfectly and we didn’t adapt.

    • art thiel

      They went 80 in 8 plays in their first drive. That was not coming out flat. The OC has dumbed down the playbook for Wilson, so they’re taking a risk, and paid for it Sunday.

  • Bayview Herb

    I thought the Seahalws came out flat, perhaps overconfident even. No way the offensive coordinater was fooling anyone with his calls either. The Rams had our offense figured out perfectly and we didn’t adapt.

    • art thiel

      They went 80 in 8 plays in their first drive. That was not coming out flat. The OC has dumbed down the playbook for Wilson, so they’re taking a risk, and paid for it Sunday.

  • ryanvdonk

    bevell may be the worst play caller in the league, completely predictable 90% of the time, but the other 10% are headscratchers with a low chance of working. time to hand over those reigns to someone else on staff…maybe cable?

    • art thiel

      As far as Sunday, he wasn’t predictable enough. When Lynch is getting 7 a pop, don’t throw the ball on 3rd-and-2. Additonally, they’ve dumbed down th playbook for Wilson’s benefit, which makes sense on paper, but they’ve gone too far to benefit the team.

  • ryanvdonk

    bevell may be the worst play caller in the league, completely predictable 90% of the time, but the other 10% are headscratchers with a low chance of working. time to hand over those reigns to someone else on staff…maybe cable?

    • art thiel

      As far as Sunday, he wasn’t predictable enough. When Lynch is getting 7 a pop, don’t throw the ball on 3rd-and-2. Additonally, they’ve dumbed down th playbook for Wilson’s benefit, which makes sense on paper, but they’ve gone too far to benefit the team.

  • Pingback: That Was The Week That Was (Sept. 24-30) | Sportspress Northwest

  • Pingback: Seahawks.com Blog | Monday cyber surfing: ‘Hawks fall to 2-2 after 19-13 defeat at Rams; Quarterback thoughts

  • Matt712

    A major flaw in Pete Carroll’s “Open Competition” system (or any system, really) is simply that no ‘system’ can account for everything. I think it’s been a very good philosophy in terms of work ethic, personal accountability and self-improvement, but at key positions, particularly the quarterback position, ‘The Pete Carroll Pre-Season Open’ failed to take experience into account. So, now I’m finally gonna say it… Matt Flynn never got a fair shot. And here’s why:

    Pete, like many of us, simply got swept off his feet by a marvelous young man who played well in preseason games against lessor talent (taking the start against KC into account) and/or simplified schemes. I submit that if Flynn had faced the 2nd/3rd stringers in his pre-season games, the results would have been similar. Still, he didn’t look bad as a starter, he just didn’t look spectacular. Then, the sore elbow. And before the opening snap of PS game 4, the competition was over.

    Really? So, Matt Flynn got all of one half of 2 pre-season football games to not win the starting job. This, after several seasons backing up the best in the game and starting two regular season games spectacularly at Green Bay. And all that wins a guy is a shot at the job in training camp and a fat paycheck? That paycheck isn’t supposed to just compensate someone for past results. It was supposed to buy future ones based on proven performance. Matt Flynn proved himself prior to coming here. System fail.

    Someone had to say it.

    • art thiel

      Fair point to say Flynn didn’t get a full shot. You’re calling it a fail after four games, but now we learn this morning that Flynn supposedly can’t throw more than 15 reps in practice because of his elbow. There’s more going on, naturally, than we’re being told. So hold off on the fail.

  • Matt712

    A major flaw in Pete Carroll’s “Open Competition” system (or any system, really) is simply that no ‘system’ can account for everything. I think it’s been a very good philosophy in terms of work ethic, personal accountability and self-improvement, but at key positions, particularly the quarterback position, ‘The Pete Carroll Pre-Season Open’ failed to take experience into account. So, now I’m finally gonna say it… Matt Flynn never got a fair shot. And here’s why:

    Pete, like many of us, simply got swept off his feet by a marvelous young man who played well in preseason games against lessor talent (taking the start against KC into account) and/or simplified schemes. I submit that if Flynn had faced the 2nd/3rd stringers in his pre-season games, the results would have been similar. Still, he didn’t look bad as a starter, he just didn’t look spectacular. Then, the sore elbow. And before the opening snap of PS game 4, the competition was over.

    Really? So, Matt Flynn got all of one half of 2 pre-season football games to not win the starting job. This, after several seasons backing up the best in the game and starting two regular season games spectacularly at Green Bay. And all that wins a guy is a shot at the job in training camp and a fat paycheck? That paycheck isn’t supposed to just compensate someone for past results. It was supposed to buy future ones based on proven performance. Matt Flynn proved himself prior to coming here. System fail.

    Someone had to say it.

    • art thiel

      Fair point to say Flynn didn’t get a full shot. You’re calling it a fail after four games, but now we learn this morning that Flynn supposedly can’t throw more than 15 reps in practice because of his elbow. There’s more going on, naturally, than we’re being told. So hold off on the fail.

  • Kevin

    I was a big Wilson fan after the Kansas City pre-season game, but now I’m not as sold on him. Where’s the crafty QB who seemed a step ahead of everybody on the field? Yes, he’s young and learning. Yes, he’s kept the team in every game. Yes, he hasn’t made typical rookie mistakes by forcing throws into double or triple coverages. But still… this offense should be moving the ball better. With the best RB in the game, there should be plenty of opportunities to throw the ball downfield. I love the kid and I hope he does well, but how much shorter is the leash on him now (Flynn’s injury notwithstanding)?

  • Kevin

    I was a big Wilson fan after the Kansas City pre-season game, but now I’m not as sold on him. Where’s the crafty QB who seemed a step ahead of everybody on the field? Yes, he’s young and learning. Yes, he’s kept the team in every game. Yes, he hasn’t made typical rookie mistakes by forcing throws into double or triple coverages. But still… this offense should be moving the ball better. With the best RB in the game, there should be plenty of opportunities to throw the ball downfield. I love the kid and I hope he does well, but how much shorter is the leash on him now (Flynn’s injury notwithstanding)?