BY Art Thiel 07:40PM 09/14/2014

Thiel: Rivers runs through Seahawks defense

Defensively vulnerable against Chargers QB Philip Rivers, the Seahawks defense melted from the temps and the pressure Sunday in San Diego.

Philip Rivers was a master of all he surveyed in San Diego Sunday. / Drew McKernzie, Sportspress Northwest

Why doesn’t everyone do this against the Seahawks?  Control the ball and the clock. Make fewer turnovers and more third downs. Pressure the quarterback. Stop the run.

The Chargers took copious notes on the Seattle methodology and shoved the notebook in the face of the Seahawks Sunday afternoon in San Diego, 30-21. Abetted by 110-degree-plus field temperatures and eight Seattle penalties, some acutely foolish, it was remarkable the Seahawks had the ball with three minutes left and a chance to win.

But the final possession collapsed amid errors — WR Doug Baldwin missed the key block on a Percy Harvin jet sweep, losing six yards, and Zach Miller was flagged on the final play for tripping — leaving the defending Super Bowl champions tattered and bewildered in their first road game.

So much for the extra four days of rest and prep they had over the Chargers, who played Monday night. The Seahawks defense never quite got an edge, and after the first quarter, the offense faltered more often than it flew.

“They had twice as many plays as we did,” coach Pete Carroll said, lamenting a 75-40 differential. “That’s a great job by their offense. They were more efficient than we were. They were able to get into manageable third downs and converted like crazy.

“Tough day for us. My hat’s off to them.”

San Diego QB Philip Rivers found a vulnerability in the Seahawks defense – a gap behind the rush and in front of the secondary – and exploited it with dump-off passes and short throws. The Chargers’ longest play was 21 yards, but they made 10 of 16 third down conversions, including a couple on the ground by Rivers, who rarely scrambles, but this day carried 11 times for 17 yards.

“Normally, our defense does a great job,” Carroll said. “And they kept us in the game to allow us a chance. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make the plays we needed.”

Rivers also found a vulnerability in the pass coverage around tight end Antonio Gates, an eight-time Pro Bowl vet who worked his way around SS Kam Chancellor for three touchdown receptions. He had eight catches for 91 yards and could not be tracked by Seattle’s secondary, which was breaking in two newcomers and felt the intense heat and humidity perhaps more than any unit.

“The heat got to a lot of people today, including me,”  Seahawks FS Earl Thomas told the KCPQ Channel 13 post-game show.  He was one of several Seahawks who needed to leave the field for fluids delivered intravenously.

Two mistakes were critical: WR Percy Harvin’s fumble on a second-quarter kickoff return that gave the Chargers the ball at the 26-yard line, which Rivers converted into a TD drive and 20-7 lead; and a foolish penalty on LB Bruce Irvin, whose incomprehensible shove of Rivers out of bounds drew personal foul. Instead of a punt, the Chargers had 15 yards and first down and what proved to be the winning score late in the third period.

The Seahawks led the NFL in penalties last season, and appeared to be on top of the problem in the opener against Green Bay 10 days earlier, being nailed for four. But the eight for 53 yards were especially costly in a game that the Seahawks had the ball for less than 18 minutes.

That deficit can be surmounted by scores from defense and special teams, but the Seahawks recovered none of the Chargers’ three fumbles, Rivers didn’t throw a pick among his 37 passes and 28 completions. He was sacked once.

Wilson, meanwhile was effective when he had time, completing 15 of 22 passes for 202 yards. But he was repeatedly hit and hurried, going down twice. RB Marshawn Lynch also had a modest day of six carries for 36 yards and four receptions for 27 yards and a TD.

Seattle’s offensive highlight created the first TD. Harvin, set up as a tailback behind Marshawn Lynch, took a pitch from Wilson and went 51 yards for the longest rushing TD of his career. But even that came with an asterisk: Replays showed clearly that he stepped out of bounds, but the play was neither challenged nor reviewed.

The Seahawks had some success with the hurry-up offense.

“We went hurry-up to put pressure on their defense,” he said. “We had some really good plays, very good ones for most part. It shows how much we progressed. We’ve always done a good job with it. We don’t usually try it too much because we try to (drain) the clock.”

Instead, it was the Chargers who controlled the clock by converting third downs where the Seahawks were weakest. And they did so in the game before the Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 24-17 Sunday.

Oh. So that’s how it works, say the Broncos. Much obliged, Chargers.




  • PokeyPuffy

    Much as i hate to see the hawks lose, i am happy for Rivers, who seems chronically unlucky in losing close games and not closing out opponents. They should have won on the road last week against the cards. Maybe this is their year!

    And it looks like the 9ers have joined the hawks in the loss column. that is probably the best news of the day.

    • Kary

      Guess which receiver the 49ers threw to in the end zone on their last play of the game. ;-)

      • art thiel

        Careful. Gloating can be hazardous to your emotional health.

        • Kary

          That’s already in the toilet. ;-)

    • art thiel

      Dorky as are some of his releases, Rivers is a very astute QB with as much passion for the game as anyone. It was no embarrassment to lose to a team he directs.

      Embarrassment comes when a personal foul is committed out of bounds.

  • jafabian

    I’ve always thought the TE is an undervalued position on teams. IMHO, Zach should be used more in the passing game and Sunday would have been a game to do it, though the problem with the offense was that they weren’t on the field enough.

    Great game on the Chargers part, they did their homework. Wouldn’t mind seeing them break out of .500 record that they seem mired in the past five years. If anything, good that the Hawks get a taste of humble pie now rather than towards the end of the season. Hope they apply the lessons they learned yesterday.

    • RadioGuy

      Agreed about tight ends and I’d add fullback to the short list. As long as these guys are eligible to catch, carry or throw a football, why not use them? I’m old enough to remember what a weapon John L. Williams was for his offensive output as well as his bone-jarring blocks, and Zach Miller has proven he can catch a pass.

      Not saying the Hawks or anyone else should change the basic precepts of the offense they’re running. but it’s a lot easier for a defense to prepare for you when they know you’re going to be taking one-third of your potential arsenal off the table.

      • art thiel

        Hawks have used FBs and TEs with great success. But it is situational, and their first job is pass pro. That didn’t work as well vs. SD

    • art thiel

      Seahawks need Miller to block because they rarely use FB any more. They have plenty of passing game options.

  • Kary

    On Saturday I was just telling someone who is new to watching football, and only watches the NFL games (mainly Seahawks), that their defense was suspect this year compared to last year. He probably now thinks I’m a football genius (which I’m not).

    • art thiel

      Don’t agree it’s suspect. They gave up 34 at Indy last year. A good game plan well executed can do wonders.

    • Bayview Herb

      There’s that “on” word again.

  • Gerald Turner

    I disagree with some of the comments, first the Seattle secondary feeds off the front 4 pass rush, its not a mix it up lots of blitz package D. And the pass rush did get to Rivers, was as good at getting to as ever, its just that he had the escapeability game of his life. What about that play in the fourth where the Dend hits the ball with his right hand, and riverman holds on and converts!?! Sherman got pulled from his side by the clever O formations, so was a bit confused by the receiver movement. That can be fixed with coaching. The NFL is like a virus, it keeps mutating, what worked last week is be prepared for and counter measured the next. The jet sweep is most effective when you got the D tired out and on the ropes, not the case Sun. Bright spot. Is Kerse going to become a prime time elite receiver? Seems to have that huge grab ability. Notice I restrained my self from calling for PR this time.

    • art thiel

      Run or pass, Rivers did well. He understood his scrambling could be a difference-maker in his game. Seahawks weren’t prepared for it.

      As for the jet sweep, that’s a play for midfield early, not in the final possession in the shadow of their own goalposts. There was enough time to rush or go short in passing for a couple of first downs.

    • Bayview Herb

      Kearse already is a prime time receiver.Almost every game features a fly pattern with him catching the football in traffic.

  • Kary

    Again, not a “football genius.” but I would imagine that you play closer with a lead than when you’re trailing and a TD would virtually eliminate your chances of making a comeback.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks lost an almost certain 3 on the first series when Wilson was sacked out of FG range. In hindsight, that was a bigger play than many realized. SD scored on first 3 possessions, which on a hot day was huge.

  • art thiel

    Short passes underneath will usually be completed vs. Seattle because priority is denial of the deep ball. SD’s longest play was 21 yards. Offenses have to be patient vs. Seattle, and SD’s was. That’s why Rivers is better than Kaepernick.

  • jafabian

    Sherman was used differently than how he was vs. Green Bay. He went back and forth from the left side to the right side whereas against the Pack he was exclusively on the left side. Not sure if that played a role.

  • Bayview Herb

    Perhaps the Hawks are reading their press clippings too much.