BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 09/16/2014

Seahawks won’t say so, but heat hurt them more

The macho code of ball precludes coaches and athletes from saying the heat was decisive, but Seattle’s defense was out there for 75 plays to 40. We’re not stupid.

Rchard Sherman took fluids before the game and at the half, and managed to play the whole game. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Before the discussion begins about the Denver Broncos’ attempted advance Sunday from the kiddy table to the adult table, let’s clear up a little canard lingering from the Seahawks loss in San Diego (civic motto: “Hell’s Exhaust Pipe”):

When football is played in 118-degree heat, it is the same for both teams.

No — unless both teams play a relatively equal number of offensive plays.

The basic football fact is that defensive players are always more active than their counterparts on offense. That’s because the offense knows where it’s going, the defense doesn’t. Defenders always expend more energy on misdirection and pursuits of ballowners who have already been retired to the earth.

So when coach Pete Carroll says, “The heat was a factor, but it wasn’t the deciding factor,” that may be considered the high road in sports diplomacy, but when it comes to human physiology, it is magnum piffle.

Carroll can’t be heard to complain about the heat, lest he labeled a whiner, and his players also attempt to shy from the facts, lest they be seen as cowards.

But considering the Seahawks defense had 75 plays and the Chargers defense 40, it is preposterous to suggest it wasn’t decisive. But to do so violates the macho creed of sports, the same testosterone by-laws that prevent baseball players from rubbing the spot where the ball struck them.

Bygawd, it worked on the playground (“didn’t hurt me!”), so it still must work for millionaire businessmen.

“Well, there’s nothing you can do about you so you don’t find me talking about it,” said Carroll Monday, sounding a little indignant. “What am I going to do? It’s hot on their side as well. There’s nothing that you can do but hydrate really well during the week, which we did. We were well ahead of that.

“We had a lot of guys that were given the fluids beforehand and at half time to deal with it. When you lose your juice, you have to replace it. I’m sure (the Chargers) had to do the same thing.”

Then, perhaps recognizing deep down that he sounded a trifle silly, he came off his fastball.

“It does have an effect somewhat, if you’re really fighting to hold onto your juice and your energy,” he said. “Then you can make some mistakes, and there was some of that. We saw some of that. There were some things that were a little bit uncharacteristic. That’s just the way the game is. We did the best we could.”

That’s a little better. I mean, I get that Carroll and any good coach tries to prevent outside influences from cluttering up the tasks at hand. But 118 degrees is 118 degrees, and it was three hours in dark clothing. I also get that heat-stricken Seahawks defenders might see three of Chargers TE Antonio Gates at any time, and in the second it takes to separate him from his two mirages, a touchdown may happen.

All coaches apparently are trained by some cosmic deity somewhere to describe all adverse game developments as excuses. They cannot declare them reasons.

OK, that’s fine. Let them stick to the code. The rest of us don’t have to buy it.

By all that is meteorologically, mathematically and athletically sacred, it is a huge disadvantage in 118-degree heat to play 35 more plays than the opponent.

I’d ask to have an “Amen!” but I will settle for a “duh.”

The Chargers sure as hell knew it, and made it plain they knew: They wore all white uniforms and designed a game plan that valued the four-yard gain as if it were the Ark of the Covenant.

It was brilliant, and the Seahawks not only had no answers, they played right into it with their own relatively quick scoring drives that gave even less rest to the defense.

“We scored kind of fast,” Carroll said. No kidding: The three TD drives were one minute, 52 seconds, 52 seconds and 2:58.

“We weren’t able to execute the plan that we had gone in with because we didn’t have enough chances,” Carroll said. “We scored so fast on (Percy Harvin’s 51-yard first quarter run) that we didn’t have enough chance to develop the plan.

“Although we did OK in that situation, the ball went back to them and they held on to the football again. We were challenged to adjust in this game, and we did, and it wasn’t enough.”

Seattle’s plans were so fouled that Marshawn Lynch carried only six times for 36 yards. Contrary to some speculation, the Seahawks did not forget they had Lynch.

“That was just the way this game turned out — that’s the last thing we want to have happen,” he said. “The way it worked . . . that’s just what occurred.”

Acknowledging that the heat helped beat them doesn’t diminish the point that Carroll was outcoached and his players outplayed and that the Chargers richly deserved to win the game. As Carroll pointed out, QB Philip Rivers “played near-perfect football.”

But it does suggest that the panicky apprehensions surrounding a belief that the Seahawks defense is somehow more vulnerable than a year ago is overdone. Think about it: If Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell are in the locker room getting IVs, that means they’re not in the game. So the defense’s play is, by definition, diminished.

We can let the coaches and players play their macho games. We know better.

Forecast Sunday: Sunny with a high of 82. Or 36 degrees colder than San Diego. Brrr.

Notes

Carroll said the Lynch’s departure to the locker room before the game ended, caught by TV cameras, was of no concern because he was troubled by back spasms: “His back tightened up, or something like that. He went off with the doctors. I wasn’t worried about that” . . . Assistant line coach Pat Ruel flew back to Seattle Monday after he experienced an irregular heartbeat after the game and was taken to a San Diego hospital for an overnight stay. “Everything went well this morning so he’s in good shape,” Carroll said.

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    No surprise that the Chargers went with an all-white uniform for this game. When I saw the Hawks in their navy blue jersey I thought they might lose some players to cramping and it happened. (Chargers did lose some players as well) Not sure if the Hawks could have gone with an all grey uniform.

    With the Hawks playing behind all game not surprising Beastmode didn’t play much. When the offense did come onto the field they were great. They just weren’t on the field enough. I agree the heat played a huge role in the Chargers winning. Depsite the fact that Gates had a 3 TD game he didn’t have a large number or receptions or yardage. SD took advantage of LOB rotating the safeties. I noticed Sherman playing the opposite side of the field at times. I’m assuming that was out of necessity and not design.

    Fully expecting the Russell Wilson Victory Tour to get re-started vs. the Broncos.

    • art thiel

      Carroll’s right, nothing much to be done. But it was a more difficult obstacle than they care to admit.

  • Matt712

    Thank you, Art! SOMEONE of some legitimacy (meaning journalistic integrity as opposed to typical fan belly-aching) had to stand up and call the heat issue out. You even touched on the uniform colors. That’s a factor that can’t be overstated. Because of their dark jerseys & helmets, the Seahawks were playing in an entirely different 118 degrees than the Chargers. It’s a fact. It’s science. They were literally cooking – it must’ve smelled like Thanksgiving.

    Add to that: three Charger fumbles they got back; and two out of the three of Gates’ touchdown receptions were basically indefensible – damn near miraculous by two of the game’s best playing their best. And with all that against them, the Seahawks STILL had a chance to win it with 3 minutes left in the game! It’s hard to be too upset.

    Probably a few lessons learned, but the biggest one is: It’s tough to play football in Whale’s Vagina at the end of Summer! (Actual San Diego civic motto.)

    • art thiel

      Careful. We don’t want science to interfere with our mythologies about manliness.

      And thanks for the civics lesson.

  • poulsbogary

    Not buying the heat excuse. To borrow an old saying about the Apple Cups played in the snow in Pullman, with the Cougs usually winning and Husky fans blaming it on the white stuff:
    “It snowed on BOTH sides of the field!!”

    • art thiel

      For football, cold weather is a much different and easier prep than extreme heat. Common sense says 75 plays in 118 is significantly different than 40 plays.

      • poulsbogary

        My goodness, seeing the responses on this thread, just have to shake my head. Folks, THE CHARGERS HAD TO PLAY IN THE SAME CONDITIONS AS THE HAWKS.

        • art thiel

          Does 42 minutes for Seattle’s defense vs. 18 for SD’s defense help you get the point, Gary?

          • poulsbogary

            I get the numbers. This year the hawks are going to play in rain, sleet, snow, sun heat, mud, you name it. So will the other teams. I can see the trend already: blaming the weather every time they lose.

          • Chris Alexander

            The Hawks didn’t blame the weather. But as Art pointed out, common sense says that it was a factor. The Hawks wore dark unis while the Chargers wore white. Advantage, Chargers. The Hawks defense was on the field roughly 2-1/2 times longer than the Chargers defense. Advantage, Chargers.

            No one is saying the heat is WHY the Hawks lost, just that it was a factor that the Chargers took full advantage of.

            What’s interesting to me is that despite the Chargers advantages, the Hawks were still in the game with a chance to win at the end. They failed to recover any of the Chargers fumbles, scored too quickly, didn’t milk the clock on offense to give their defense time to rest, missed tackles, made stupid mistakes (especially on third down), gave the Chargers awesome field position numerous times, and basically got outplayed in every facet of the game – including coaching – and STILL had a chance to win with 3:00 to play.

            The Chargers EARNED the win and DESERVED the win. But the weather DID give them an assist.

  • canyudigit

    Well….ya know?….15 and 1 is really not that bad of a record. ;o)…. Go Hawks!!!

  • ll9956

    I’ll join those who say that the heat was a significant factor that affected the Hawks much more than SD. If SD didn’t think the heat was going to be a factor, they wouldn’t have opted for white uniforms! Apparently the home team always has that option.

    A technical point, which I’ll preface by acknowledging that I have no expertise: I noticed that on several occasions a Seattle pass rusher rocketed into SD’s backfield and the SD blocker took advantage of the rusher’s momentum to push or block him still further into the backfield, well beyond the QB, so that the rusher had little or no affect on said QB. Were I the coach, I would have had the rusher intentionally stop on a dime when he got even with the QB, do a spin move (probably counter clockwise if rushing from the QB’s right and clockwise if rushing from the QB’s left). I suspect the rusher might have had a much better shot at a sack or forced fumble. I realize that such a technique might not work more than once, but would be worth it. I also realize the defensive coaches are probably aware of this move, but I sure didn’t see any attempts to execute it.

  • Chris Alexander

    Four things that I took from the game: (1) It was the heat that ultimately sealed our fate; (2) If Seattle had recovered any of San Diego’s 3 fumbles, the result is very different; (3) 3rd downs were the turning point – Irvin’s penalty when we had stopped a Charger driver, failing to sack Rivers despite having him “dead to rights” on the 22-yard TD to Gates, etc.; and (4) Despite EVERYTHING, the Hawks had the ball, down 6, with a chance to march down the field and win at the end of the game; they just didn’t get it done.

  • Chris Alexander

    One other comment … I think it was LESS about the # of plays that San Diego ran compared to us and MORE about the Time of Possession. 75 plays vs. 40 plays is a big advantage. But 42:15 to 17:45 is MUCH more so. (Especially at 118 degrees)

    The reason I say that is this: In a “regular” game (meaning NOT 118 degrees on the field), the opposing team having 75 plays to our 40 may not mean anything in terms of the result. It could just mean it took them a lot of plays to score and it didn’t take us as many (as was the case in San Diego). But in ANY game with a Time of Possession difference of 24-1/2 minutes …. your defense is gassed no matter what the temperature is.

    Extrapolating further … if Denver runs 75 plays to our 40 this weekend, I’m not horribly concerned; Hawks will still win. But if Denver holds the ball for 42+ minutes ….. we’ll be in trouble.

    • art thiel

      Heat will drain a defense faster than an offense. So the defense that played more snaps will be more vulnerable.

      All five Seahawks OLs played every snap. Are they better conditioned athletes than the DLs? No. The DLs played more.

      • Chris Alexander

        Kind of a specious argument since the Hawks don’t regularly rotate their OLs but DO rotate their DLs. None of the DLs played more than 60% of the snaps last season while the OLs, ignoring games missed because of injury, played a far higher percentage of plays. There isn’t any question that heat was a factor but even in a snowstorm, the OLs would play every snap and the DLs would rotate.

        Doing the math, if a DL played 60% of the snaps in Sunday’s game, they would be on the field for roughly 42 plays. An OL who played 100% of the snaps would have been on the field for 40 snaps. To me, that seems pretty equal.

        Time of possession on the other hand …. 100% of the offensive snaps = 17:45 whereas 60% of the defensive snaps = >25:00. That is a HUGE difference. Especially at 118 degrees.

        Not trying to argue because I agree with 98% of what you wrote. I just think Time of Possession is a key stat that can’t be ignored when the discrepency is as large as it was last Sunday. Especially at 118 degrees.

        (Typed on my phone; sorry about any typos.)

        • art thiel

          ALL NFL teams rotate D-linemen, for the reason mentioned — it’s a more fatiguing position. The Seahawks put a greater emphasis on rotation because they invest more resources.

          Regarding time vs. snaps, that misses the point that DLs spend more energy per play than OLs, who actually assuming defensive, non-running, positions, when pass-blocking. And OLs can double-team a single DL. Over a game, it’s snaps that determine levels of fatigue more than TOP.

          Also, there is very little data for individual responses to playing a physical game for three hours in 118 degrees. Small sample size, so until a player leaves with cramps, you can’t really know his level of efficient operation.

          • Chris Alexander

            Fair points. Defense is reactive whereas offense is proactive (they know where they’re going and what they want to do).

            As to your last point, you KNOW the heat is an issue when Earl Thomas has to leave the game because of it. I swear his “motor” would let him play 120 minutes under “normal” conditions.