BY Art Thiel 04:59PM 10/06/2013

Thiel: Weak 3rd-down plays end Seahawks’ run

Seahawks did a lot of things right, but few occurred on third down, when the game was decided. Diminished offensive line puts too much pressure on Wilson to save games.

Golden Tate had a 10-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter Sunday in Indianapolis. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

SCOREBOARD, BABY

At Indianapolis Colts 34, Seattle Seahawks 28.

TERSE TRUTH

Settling four times for field goals instead of touchdowns, the Seahawks’ offense, missing four starters, didn’t have the firepower to win another road game in the late going, ending their nine-game, regular-season win streak and club-record 4-0 seasonal  start. The absences of OLs Max Unger, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, and TE Zach Miller cost the Seahawks inside the 30-yard line.

Wilson’s brilliant scrambles were less a function of plan than desperation, due to mediocre pass protection and failure of pass catchers, notably Sidney Rice, to gain separation.

A 12-0 first-quarter lead slowly crumbled under Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck’s increasing prowess and 17 second-half Colts points, supported by a rare field goal attempt blocked and returned 61 yards for a touchdown — a potential 10-point swing.

Russell Wilson passed for 210 yards and ran for a career-high 102 yards, same as RB Marshawn Lynch, but the offense failed to convert 10 of 12 times on third down. Meanwhile Luck, after a slow start, helped Indy convert seven of its final nine third downs.

But Seahawks fans should be thrilled that after five weeks, Seattle’s one loss came only after it had a chance to beat a good team on the road with its final possession.

FISTS TO SKY

  • The Seahawks scored on their first three possessions — field goal, 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Golden Tate and a safety that should have been a touchdown — while the defense forced the Colts into 3-and-outs on their first three possessions.
  • Former University of Washington star WR Jermaine Kearse broke through to block a punt in the first quarter that turned into a safety. In the second quarter, he hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass with a leaping grab to put Seattle back in the lead, 19-14.
  • RB Marshawn Lynch had his first 100-yard game (102 yards on 17 carries) as the Seahawks had the edge in controlling the line of scrimmage for running plays.
  • LB Bruce Irvin returned to the starting lineup after a four-game suspension to a new position, strong-side linebacker, and had a sack and a tackle for loss among his four tackles, as well as a quarterback hit.
  • Wilson had seven scramble runs for 10 or more yards, including his longest one for 22 yards that put the Seahawks near midfield on their final possession.
  • DE Chris Clemons strip-sacked Andrew Luck and forced a fumble the Seahawks recovered at the Colts 39-yard-line. But Clemons’ swipe at the ball hit Luck hard on the helmet, yet no flag was thrown.

PALMS TO FOREHEAD

  • The blocked punt was recovered in the end zone by SS Jeron Johnson and initially called a touchdown, but after the mandatory replay review of scoring plays, officials said he failed to control the ball before he slid out of the back of the end zone, reducing the score to a safety. The lack of ball control appeared impossible to verify from the replays shown on TV.
  • PK Steven Hauschka was four-for-four on the field goals that cleared the line of scrimmage. But his attempt early in the second quarter was blocked as the Seahawks interior line protection failed and lineman Lawrence Guy made the deflection. Delano Howell caught the ball on the fly and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
  • Targeted four times, WR Sidney Rice had one catch for eight yards. On the first possession of the third quarter, Seattle’s drive stalled at the 18-yard line when Rice appeared to stumble at the goal line, unable to reach Wilson’s pass, forcing a field goal.
  • After Indianapolis took the lead 29-28 following a touchdown with 8:55 left in the game, the Colts lined up to go for a two-point PAT. But the Seahawks were in the wrong personnel grouping and had to burn their last timeout to get right. The Colts scored anyway, on a pass to veteran Reggie Wayne, for a 31-28 lead.

CARROLLING

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on the outcome: “The game was there to be had for us. We gave up some big plays. We didn’t get touchdowns on several drives. We had opportunities to capitalize and we didn’t . . . We gotta go home and get back on track.”

On the failure to convert more than two first downs in 12 third-down tries:  We didn’t close out drives. We ran for a lot of yards, Russell ran for a lot yards. The front did the best they could. We had plenty of chances to win the game.”

On the replay call that turned a recovered blocked punt from a touchdown to a safety: “I was sure they would overturn it. (Johnson) had the ball to his chest, and we saw it well. They saw that the ball wasn’t secure. (The touchdown call) would have been a much different margin then (17-0 instead of 12-0). Not seeing that was a huge swing for us. When you lose, all (missed) calls get magnified. There were a number of calls in question, unfortunately.”

On the two big Colts TD passes to WR T.Y. Hilton: “We busted on the first one, and the second one he just ran by us.”

On the Colts’ second-half offense: “Andrew Luck made some fantastic plays, some incredible throws. Reggie Wayne made a couple of great catches. They were right on their guys.”

WILSON!

On the outcome:  “I thought we controlled the game in terms of moving the football. We didn’t capitalize. We’ve got to score more touchdowns. It’s something we can fix. We were so close We just fell short. They made one more big play than we did.”

On the first loss:  “Nothing was too big for us. There’s been only one perfect (season). The  Dolphins, right? We had a lot of situations we could control, and for whatever reason, we didn’t make them.”

On the lack of timeouts for the final drive: “We weren’t worried about that. We had a great scramble to start (Wilson went for 22 yards). They made a nice play one pass. We weren’t scared by the situation; coach Carroll puts us (in practice) in these situations where we have two, one or no timeouts. He said today, ‘Don’t hurry.’ That situation will come up again. I love that.”

On the hit after he released his final pass that was intercepted: “He made a good play and hit me pretty good. I was hoping there was a flag. An automatic first down would have been nice. But I don’t expect that.”

On the frequency of his runs: “I want to hand the ball to Marshawn every single chance I get. My running is a is added dimension. I go through my progressions, and then try to get something positive. The key is being smart, understanding the situations.”

On the lack of third-down conversions:  We struggled on third down last year at this point and we fixed it. We’ll find a way to get first downs.”

THE CLOSER

In a complete reversal of the previous road game in Houston, the Seahawks started fast, then faded in the second half. The good news for Seahawks fans is the team can play well around the game clock. The bad news is they lost their first game after a franchise-record start.

Before the season, even optimistic fans would have circled the game at Indianapolis as the toughest place in the first half of the season for a win. Luck and his teammates, who routed the 49ers in San Francisco, were true to form.

The Seahawks have some obvious and significant protection issues with their diminished offensive line that also operated without TE Zach Miller. They attempted to compensate by rolling out Wilson and encouraging him to take off running. But his accuracy was affected; there were times when, unpressured, he flat-out overthrew receivers that were open.

Carroll has to find a way to deal with his inexperienced line that also doesn’t burden Wilson. The loss was an ooga horn that the current shortcomings leave Wilson vulnerable. It is time to let a playmaker such as Kearse see more scrimmage daylight than Rice, who seems on a fade.

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    That pic is from an SF game a few years ago. FYI.

    Indy had a better kick return game than the Hawks. And that was a huge breakdown when they blocked the FG. Even though there were five starters out on offense (including Harvin) the defense was inconsistent even with Irvin back. And it looked like the Colts assigned a player to “spy” on Wilson almost the whole game. Despite his rushing yards I think that threw him off his game somewhat. Where’s the FB in that instance?

    A frustrating game because it was winnable for the Hawks.

    • sportspressnw

      Thanks for the note about the pic. We label old images with “file” at the end to indicate that it is not from a recent event.

    • art thiel

      The photo credit says “file.” That means it wasn’t current. Couldn’t swing a photog that game.

      As far as frustrating, that’s what Carroll said Monday too.

      Defenses are planning for the read option, so surprise no longer works. Wilson’s rushes, and his worries about protection from so many second stringers, definitely impacting his game.

  • Mike G

    I like winning better

  • Matt712

    Things we can’t control:
    I know it’s bad form to blame the officials, but wow, there were some really terrible calls on all 3 units in crucial situations. …Golden Tate missed a couple of tough catches but ones we’ve become used to seeing him make. Sydney Rice might want to have his jersey spray painted on him next game. Andrew Luck is as advertised — he made some absolutely spectacular throws.

    Things we can control:
    3rd down efficiency was a problem for the Hawks the entire game, but this loss is really on DQ’s Defense. 31pts says it all. Zone coverage gave up big plays, allowing Indianapolis to stay in the game. Then, they seemed to be flummoxed by the Colts’ switch to the hurry-up offense with which they took over the game. If the Seahawk offense can get 28 points and have two 100-yard rushers, that should be a win.

    • jafabian

      Can’t control crowd noise. The Indy crowd was too loud! ;)

      • art thiel

        Bet they were meanies, too.

    • art thiel

      Good point about the hurry-up. Seahawks didn’t get in D-line rotations. And Luck can process game-long info into something in the 4Q that is effective. Already has 9 4Q comeback wins.

  • bugzapper

    In less than 15 hours, two undefeated Seattle teams were beaten by Stanford. No wonder I still hate Plunkett and Elway!
    Special teams, baby. That’s what cost the Dawgs and the Hawks these two games. Everything else is academic. Though once again, it’s patently obvious Sidney Rice is no Jerry.

    • art thiel

      Ironic that Carroll and Sark put a big emphasis on special teams. First time since 1988 that Seahawks have had a FG block/TD. Not exactly a frequent weakness. So I don’t imagine the house is falling in.

  • Roslyndawg

    So…after so much hype about the Legion of Boom, opposing quarterbacks have had a pretty easy time of shredding them in the first half against Houston and when he needed to in the second half against A Luck. I know they’ve had great moments, too (RS last week) but they should have done less blabbing about how great they are and concentrating on doing it on the field. I never like to see athletes get “in your face” with opponents. RS should not be applauded for his “you mad, bro” moment last year and I for one will never respect “the Glove” for his famous mouth. Anyway, there have been times the past few weeks where the Seahawks secondary could have been called the Legion of Gloom!