BY Art Thiel 02:23PM 12/23/2013

NFC West foes have Seahawks figured out

Arizona’s defense Sunday joined those of NFC West mates San Francisco and St. Louis in finding ways to stop Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense.

Whether it was blitzes or in coverage, the Arizona defensive backs, including backup Javier Arenas, bottled up the Seahawks offense. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Regarding the Seahawks offense, the ooga horn sounded. QB Russell Wilson reported for work at 4:30 a.m. Monday, ahead of coach Pete Carroll. They met in the film room to re-watch a game that neither saw coming, but exposed an offensive vulnerability for the world to see.

“We’re struggling – there’s no doubt about that,” Carroll said on his weekly radio show Monday on ESPN 710. “We’ve not been as good as we’ve been.”

Carroll cited a symptom – the Seahawks converted two of 13 third downs. Over the the past three games, he said the rate was 26 percent, after a five-game average of 54 percent.

That’s the problem,” he said. “We were great for awhile – 10th or 11th in the NFL. We struggled through the last few weeks.”

More specifically, the Seahawks have been slowed by those who know them best — the NFC West opponents.

The Seahawks had 192 yards of offense against Arizona, only 71 on the ground from RB Marshawn Lynch (11 in the second half). In the first game against Sunday’s opponent in the final regular-season game, the Rams, in St. Louis Oct. 28, the Seahawks finished with 135 yards after Wilson lost 54 yards on seven sacks. Marshawn Lynch had 44 yards rushing.

And in the 19-17 loss in San Francisco two weeks ago, the Seahawks had 264 yards, with Lynch gaining 72. See a pattern here?

All were close, tough contests against three of the NFL’s best defenses. The Seahawks lost two of three, and only because the Rams broke down on a single play, an 80-yard pass-and-run touchdown from Wilson to WR Golden Tate in the third quarter, did the Seahawks avoid being swept in the division matchups.

The NFC West defenses have figured out the Seahawks offense – stack the box to stop Lynch, confine Wilson to the pocket and take the chance that cornerbacks can stay with the Seahawks’ middling group of receivers.

It’s exactly why the Seahawks spent so much treasure in the off-season to acquire WR Percy Harvin, whose absence this season after hip surgery can now be called a serious blow.

After reviewing the game film, Carroll acknowledged that the ability of Arizona’s  cornerbacks, Patrick Patterson and Jerraud Powers, to stay with Seattle’s receivers was decisive in thwarting third downs.

“We pass-protected pretty well – he had time to throw,” Carroll said. “We got covered up quite a bit. We tried to get down the field on them (because) they played quite a bit without a safety (defending against Lynch). So we had some shots at them. We took them, and (the cornerbacks) played really well. They won the one-on-ones.

“The ball was there on time, and they knocked it away. We didn’t drop the passes; they defended them better than we thought they would. They kinda had us on that, unfortunately.”

Wilson completed 11 of 27 passes, with a long of 18 yards, and was nearly bereft of explosive plays. Meanwhile, the Cardinals, to the surprise of no one – they came into the game leading the NFL in run defense – stuffed Lynch.

“Dominate the line of scrimmage,” said Arizona DT Darnell Dockett after the game. “You have to beat the guys up front and give him no lanes, no full-speed ahead so he can cut out of the gaps.”

That’s what happened on the decisive sequence at the end of the first half. Set up at the Cardinals 3-yard line after an interception by Malcom Smith that he returned 32 yards, the Seahawks came away with no points after Lynch was twice denied, Wilson threw incomplete on a naked bootleg pass, and Steven Hauschka missed a chip-shot field goal.

Carroll said after the first dive gained two yards, Lynch misread the second-down play.

“That was a walk-in play for us,” he said. “We had a good play called, we blocked it well, we just didn’t read it properly, and bounced (to the right for no gain).

“On third down, they knocked us around pretty good and couldn’t get the ball cleanly to (targeted FB Michael Robinson). We blocked well on the naked bootleg.”

What should have been a 10-3 lead at halftime remained 3-3 and gave the Cardinals belief that they had a shot at the big upset that would rock the Seahawks and NFL.

Afternoon update: Thurmond back, Okung OK

Carroll told reporters at his presser Monday afternoon that LT Russell Okung will play Sunday despite a sore big toe that caused him to miss some play Sunday. It’s apparently a hangover from the problems that caused him to miss eight games earlier.

Carroll was terse about WR Percy Harvin, saying he won’t practice this week as he continues to rehab from hip surgery. Asked if he was ready to declare Harvin done for the season, he said, “We’ll figure that out.”

CB Walter Thurmond returns to practice this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, reportedly for marijuana.

“We’ll see how it goes this week,” Carroll said. “No big statement; he jumps back in. It’s a real boost to get Walter back.”

Carroll also praised Michael Bowie, who made his first start at right guard in place of J.R. Sweezy (concussion). Bowie started several games at right tackle in place of Breno Giacomini.

“He was real physical, he seemed very comfortable,” he said. “There were a couple of plays he could have done better, but he did well.”


YourThoughts

  • Marcus

    This might be a shocker…but yesterday’s game was not tough. The Seahawks lost on the offensive plays they called. You can see it in this article. Deep shots down the field. How about quick passes for 4-6 yards? We tried it once to Golden Tate and it was an easy 6 yards on 1st down. What about mixing in the TEs more? Oh yeah, that was our one touchdown pass. Arizona is a good defense, but we made them look great by continuing to go for the big DRAMA play. That will help sometimes, but that’s something you do when you’re up by at least a TD. Because at some point the other team will make 3 great plays to break up passes that change the game. The odds are low, but it can happen. Mix in some passes for 3-6 yards and they can focus on Lynch, Wilson, and covering deep all they want. This offense is talented enough to crush yesterday’s Cardinals team. Just mix in short passes.

    • Marcus

      And by “not tough”, I mean it wasn’t tough to beat the Cardinals defensive plan. We just called much of the same plays the ENTIRE GAME, because we’ve been getting away with it.

      • art thiel

        Seahawks coaches might admit privately that it was their worst game. They know they need a better mix. Their pattern has been to burn an aggressive rush with deep shots, but they weren’t counting on Az DBs to be so good.

        And yet, they were a yard from a 10-3 halftime lead, which would have changed the second half.

  • ss

    On that naked bootleg with the pass intended for Robinson, wasn’t Wilson pressured and rolling on the ground after that throw? He was hurried to squeeze the ball in there without that much field to work with.

    • art thiel

      Robinson told me today that he couldn’t get clear for the reception. His legs were tangled by blockers as the ball whizzed by his head. Wilson probably threw hastily because of the pressure.

  • poulsbogary

    The conceit and entitlement have gone far enough. The local tv station has entitled its coverage as ‘road to the super bowl’. The slurs all over facebook about the opposing team. The hired airplane flying over candlestick. The golden tate bridge.

    I am lifelong seattlelite, I love the team. But hawk fans, is it too much to ask?

    Act like you’ve been there before.

    • oldfan

      Right with you, Gary. It’ a game, enjoy and have fun. But a little less hype and mean-spirited crap would make the whole thing less cringe-worthy.

      • art thiel

        Some people get carried way, of course, just like in the House of Representatives. But I think most are enjoying the hell out of this without stepping on others’ sensibilities.

    • RadioGuy

      No argument. I’ve been a Green Bay fan since the endtimes of Lombardi/Starr, but I don’t think Packer Backers overdo it the way Seahawks fans and the local media have been (it could be just me, but I don’t think so). Seattle may be the only NFL city where the fans cheer for themselves as much or more than their team.

      Enjoy the games and enjoy the season…the Hawks ARE a Super Bowl quality team and those don’t come along often so it’s cool to make noise. Just don’t be afraid to show a little class along the way.

      • art thiel

        The Packers are more Green Bay than Green Bay. It’s the only thing the town has, so they are more reverent. Hell, it’s the Midwest. They’re always polite.

        The fans here are praise worthy because they impact the game more than anywhere else. As far as class, I’ve always been leery of the word because no one can agree on who and what fits which definition.

        • just passing thru

          I find myself agreeing with all three of you. What I think is done in fun, but is low rent (IMHO), in effect, is stuff like the scoreboard comparison of 2 cities putting down the other locale. Appealing to the drunk guy pretending he’s still in grade school does not portray class.

    • art thiel

      Nice sentiment, Gary, but unrealistic. Fandom is not based on logic and propriety, it is based on irrationality and exuberance. And they haven’t been there before — favored to win a championship.

  • oldfan

    Upon further review, and a couple of days to calm down…
    To all the people bashing the Seahawk offense (including me), the fact is in all three losses the offense has gotten us the lead late into the fourth quarter and it’s been the defense that can’t get off the field in the end.
    The offense has to get over these slow starts and produce points, the stupid penalties have to be eliminate, but the D has to get late game crucial stops too.
    Close losses to three playoff calibre teams is not the worst thing. A little improvement all-round can still get it done.

    • art thiel

      Late in games, the offense typically has an advantage because of defensive fatigue. Deep as Seattle is, the main guys are a step slow at game’s end. The offense owes it to them to stay ahead by more than a score. Seattle would have a fourth loss if the Rams had properly finished off that 96 yard drive at game’s end.

      • PokeyPuffy

        Agree, and not to pile on but the D played great and has all season. The O held the ball just over 20 minutes against the cards, benefited from 5 turnovers and scored a lame 10 points. That is totally underperforming and i put that on the Bevel/Carol axis of leadership.

        If one were making baseball analogies, we had great pitching with very weak run support. 1 or 2 points is not enough offense to win games in baseball, likewise 10 points is certainly not enough to win any game whatsoever in pro football.

        Last on my holiday rant: Carrol (rightfully) preaches the toxicity of turnovers to his offense. Likewise he should view failure on 3rd down conversions as essentially a turnover. Giving (i.e. punting) the ball to the opponent on 11 of 13 offensive possessions, while being given the ball 5 times as a gift, is just unreal. Gosh darnit it is like being in the twilight zone for us fans. lets hope they turn it around, sheeeeeeesh!

      • oldfan

        My point was not to blame the defense, but merely to point out that the D has had chances to seal the deal in the losses (as they have done in many of the wins). The offense, bad as they played at times, has gotten us a lead when we needed it (all due credit to the defense for keep us in it to that point).
        The road ahead is filled with the same sort of teams we’ve lost to. Both sides of the ball will need to play better.
        The question in my mind is: Are we a great team that’s three plays from perfection, or a suddenly struggling team that’s lost 2 of its last 3 limping towards the playoffs?