BY Art Thiel 09:22PM 10/12/2014

Thiel: Baldwin says Seahawks need to ‘be real’

Seahawks’ failure to find a way to better use RB Marshawn Lynch just one of several failings that opened the way for the Cowboys to stun Seattle at the Clink.

Doug Baldwin had this red-zone pass only for a moment, then Cowboys SS Barry Church knocked it away. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In the bewilderment-free part of the Seahawks locker room, FS Earl Thomas batted away a question better than the Cowboys knocked away passes from Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

“I’m not frustrated,” Thomas said. “we got beat, straight up.” No truer words were spoken Sunday afternoon.

There was no 120-degree heat to blame, no hostile crowd, no surprising play calls, no referee conspiracy. The Cowboys had a great running game. They had a defense that can watch game film of an opponent. And they had a veteran quarterback in Tony Romo, who had a better day than Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

The Cowboys owned the line of scrimmage on both sides. The 30-23 outcome followed. The Seahawks have been found out.

No, they aren’t terrible. But at the moment, they are a little more than pedestrian. And Sunday caught a team on the way up. The Cowboys are a for-real 5-1.

On offense, the Seahawks have been living off Wilson’s remarkableness. On defense, they have been living off their reputations.

At least on offense, there are a few reasons: They missed injured TE Zach Miller and C Max Unger, and at left tackle they are playing with a sub-par Russell Okung, the most penalized player in the NFL entering Sunday, who added two more false starts.

And they are operating under the belief that RB Marshawn Lynch can be deployed only under certain circumstances. He had two carries for eight yards in the first half, and finished with 10 and 61.

“It’s because you have to get first downs and get more plays,” coach Pete Carroll said, repeating a refrain after previous weak efforts on offense. “The story is going to write itself every time that way. We just couldn’t get in sync and get the rhythm and connect it with third-down conversions.”

A better defense for Carroll would be success with other tactics. But the heralded jet sweep with the fleet Percy Harvin that scared so many is now defensible by smart teams. Harvin ran three times for minus-one yard, and had three receptions for zero yards. The Seahawks had only 48 offensive snaps, so about 15 percent were wasted on plays Dallas knew were coming.

A prime example of the failed Lynch deployment was the opening possession, overshadowed by the fourth-quarter drama, which ended in a field goal instead of a touchdown.

After Lynch went for five yards on the first play, the Seahawks passed on the next eight plays. From first down at the Cowboys 14, Wilson threw to Harvin for minus-1, to Harvin again for no gain, and an incompletion to WR Doug Baldwin.

The field goal seemed OK at the time, especially when the lead expanded to 10-0 after Baldwin blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown. But had they pounded Dallas with Lynch and scored a TD, the 14-0 lead changes strategy for both teams.

In a 0-0 game, there was plenty of time with the ball. Baldwin was blunt about it.

“No, f— that,” he said. “Man, we had plenty of time. We got too much talent over here not to be moving the f—— ball.

“We have to be real about it, actually pay attention to things and not blow smoke up our asses that everything will be all right.”

TV cameras caught Baldwin arguing along the sidelines with Wilson.

“I’m not mad at Russ at all,” he said. “It’s a collaborative thing. We all have to pitch in and do our part.”

Also needing to pitch in was the defense. The Seahawks lost CB Byron Maxwell mid-game to an ankle sprain, and MLB Bobby Wagner returned to the game with a sore toe that limited him, as did a hip injury to SS Kam Chancellor. The threadbare secondary had to use CB Steve Terrell, who just showed up Saturday.

But the injuries were little explanation for the front seven’s inability to maintain gap control for the cutback runs of RB DeMarco Murray, who had 110 yards doing exactly as he had for his previous five games of 100+ yards to begin this season.

“We just didn’t tackle well today,” said DE Michael Bennett. “They’re a gap-running team, not a blow-you-off-the-ball type of offense. We just didn’t get there.”

Players who did get to their assigned spots were the Dallas defenders against Seahawks receivers. They swatted away nine potential receptions, accounting for much of Wilson’s 14 of 28 passing day for 126 yards. Then again, Wilson had nowhere near the aim of his previous games this season, when he put balls where only his receivers could get access.

“I didn’t play my best game,” said Wilson. “For whatever reason, we were just off by a little bit. I’ll take the blame for it; I could have played a lot better.

“Not everything is terrible. We’re still a great football team.”

Well, he’s half-right. The claim of greatness seems a little thin. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen this season. But it’s plain that the Cowboys replicated the Chargers formula of short passing routes and screens to get the ball past the rush and in front of the secondary. And the Cowboys defense emulated the Chargers by making sure a linebacker checked in on Wilson’s read-option keeper to force him to the middle of the defense.

The Seahawks managed only one offensive touchdown, and that came in the third quarter after the Cowboys muffed a punt and LB Mike Morgan recovered at Dallas 14. After a pass to Harvin for five yards, Wilson faked the read option to Lynch, who collapsed the defense, and Wilson swung wide and left, going in untouched.

Lynch made the play work. As he has most of the time during his Seahawks tenure. Carroll and coordinator Darrell Bevell know that. But sometimes even coaches need habits and tendencies broken. Three-and-two for for the defending Super Bowl champs figures to do that.


YourThoughts

  • Jeff

    Misdirection and deception and supplement a good balanced offense, but it seems to define this team right now. They need more power, if they still have it, and fewer gadgets.

    • art thiel

      This game plan may have been a victim of overthinking.

  • Matt

    It feels like they’re trying too hard to work Percy into the game plan. Percy is the frosting. Lynch is the cake.

    • art thiel

      Cowboys saw Percy score three times Monday even if none counted. They weren’t going to let that happen.

      • Marcus

        But would it have happened using Percy as a (SHOCKER) receiver? The one route he ran he gained 5 yards. The guy can get open, but when he starts at negative 2 or 3 yards seemingly every single play it becomes very predictable.

  • Big

    Perhaps the Hawk offense should apply Occcam’s Razor to their play calling.

    • art thiel

      A preference for simplicity, Big? Agreed.

  • Ford

    Knowing the Seahawks spent their top picks the last two years on skill-position players who can’t make the box score on a team struggling this much on offense takes some of the shine off of John Schneider’s genius. The “too many good players” argument for why they aren’t contributing rings hollow after a performance like today.

    • Jeff

      Agree. Richardson and Michael being healthy but inactive is not a formula for lasting success. Those 2 not in uniform and Bryan Walters getting as many targets as he’s been getting, is very concerning.

      • Joe Fan

        I for the life of me do not understand the insistence on trying to throw to Walters. He is in there for special teams, but instead has played a role in the regular offense on several occasions. I would rather see Norwood in the office if at all possible.

        • Joe Fan

          darn spellcheck – “offense”

    • art thiel

      Would it be better to not give the ball to Michael, or not give the ball to Lynch? Same set of questions for Richardson. These guys aren’t better than those ahead of them.

      • Marcus

        Fully agree on Richardson, but who really knows about Michael. Is Michael really not better than Turbin? That’s not so much a compliment to Michael as a realization that Turbin is disappointing on many of his carries. But hey, Turbin can block…except when he can’t.

        • art thiel

          The guy who really should seen time is Norwood, a smart, reliable guy less likely to drop the balls we saw dropped Sunday.

      • kth2001

        The fact that Richardson isn’t better than Lockette or Kearse IMO does speak to Schneider a little bit. Quite frankly I don’t think Baldwin is scaring too many teams either.

        The Hawks faced alot of the same issues last year at times (bad O line play, WRs getting no separation) so it’s not like it isn’t fixable……but let’s be honest, outside of Harvin the Hawks WRs are basically 4th string special teams guys. On days when the running game is spinning wheels, that’s gonna be a problem.

  • PokeyPuffy

    This is piling on a bit, but what the heck. I think Wison’s height is showing its limitations as the season wears on. How often did anything happen over the middle today?

    • art thiel

      They’ve proven they can work around it. He’s not too short to hand off to Lynch.

  • ll9956

    Last week the Hawks were criticized for committing 13 penalties for 90 yards. Eight of those were “pre-snap”, which were declared to be “easily fixable”. Although they did improve to 9 penalties for 58 yards, those included two false starts on Russell Okung, a delay of game (on their home field!!!) and too many players on the field. This ain’t what I would call fixing it. Then there were the missed tackles and poor pass protection and allowing a first down with third and 20, which pretty much sealed their fate. I wish I could avoid feeling so frustrated when they play this poorly. OY!!!

  • RadioGuy

    Dallas was the better team today in part because they had an answer for most of what Seattle was trying on offense. The Seahawks have lost to two good teams, but part of being a champion in any league is finding a way to beat the good teams as well as the mediocre and poor ones…that”s what separates the rulers from the pretenders to the throne.

    Being 3-2 with eleven games to go is hardly time for self-doubt to set in, but neither is it time to be complacent. Opponents are figuring out the Seahawks’ tendencies on both sides of the ball and it’ll be up to the Seattle players and coaches to respond. I think they will.

    • art thiel

      Finding a fix is what their track record says, but DB injuries are so deep that no fix is possible but the return to good health. The offense has to carry the day, and that won’t happened with 10 carries by Lynch.

  • canyudigit

    Question…..how long has Okung been in the league?….cuz he doesn’t get it yet huh?

    • art thiel

      He’s hurting, but I don’t understand the false starts.

  • 3 Lions

    Lynch sets the table. Simple as that. Russell running & the passing game complement the mix.. When we focus too much on the later we become too predictable. Harvin should get the more ball on more vertical routes where he can utilize his speed up field as opposed to being picked off on sweeps running laterally. We forgot the recipe for a day.

    • art thiel

      Actually, the O-line sets the table. It was missing two starters and has a gimpy LT. It’s part of why the game plan was so awkward.

  • jafabian

    It seems to me the Hawks are trying to set the tone of the game with the pass and once they have a solid lead is when they start running it. I don’t see why they can’t do that once they get a lead,even if it’s just one TD. The offense wasn’t on the field much in the first half of this game. And the WR’s are having the same issues as last season: great hands but have problems getting open. I don’t see if Golden Tate was still here changing that. I want to see Harvin just go deep every so often. Seems to me Bevell loves using him as a RB instead and teams are aware of that now.

    • art thiel

      Well, Harvin did score three times last week, even if they didn’t count. The biggest issue for the passing game is the pressure on Wilson.

  • Effzee

    … and yet, for all the complaining and feeling crappy, we were still that 3rd and 20 away from probably winning that game. same with the san diego game. we still had a chance to win it late, on a day when we were playing terribly. it seems like we are trying to add so many “special players” that it ends up in us trying to do too many special things, instead of using these extremely talented guys just doing the simple things that win games. the coaches are just out-smarting themselves right now. i couldn’t possibly care less about watching Percy do neat things. he’s a WR, not a focal point. run the damn ball with Marshawn. its not rocket science.

    • art thiel

      It’s true they were close, just as they were vs. Washington, and even a win Sunday would have only masked the problem of not winning the line of scrimmage.

      • jafabian

        Chuck Knox used to say football games are won in the trenches.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    We have lost to what is now two 5~1 teams…nothing to be ashamed of. Its very likely both of those squads make the play offs. At this time of the year this may serve as a serious motivator. We arent the 13~3 team that won the SB….we are different. Last years team was your prime over achiever in some spots. They were down big to Tampa and Houston and found a way to rise above and snatch that game back for a W. There was none of that yeaterday and that is a wake up call Doug is complaining about. Stop the rooster strut and get down to serious business. They will need to for there to continue to be talk of being a repeat champion.

    • art thiel

      Fans are seeing the SB result and forgetting how difficult numerous games were in the regular season a year ago. The coaches are obliged to recognize the degree of difficulty provided by opposing defenses who know they can get past an average line.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        True. Add that to the added glitz/splash that a team gets by knocking off the SB champs…its a tough hill to climb and you wont find the Rams being in the least bit forgiving. As Baldwin has alluded to its time to get the picture and bear down before we end up being 3~3 after next sunday.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Our tricks aren’t new anymore. Everybody in the whole league has studied the film. The Jet Sweep is being run everywhere, now. It won’t fool anyone. Just like the read-option. Everybody (that’s includes the defensive coordinators for all the teams the ‘Hawks will face for the rest of this season) is going to line up to stop Beast Mode.

    The Legion of Boom also does not become invisible when filmed. Other teams have figured out the trick to beating the standard look.

    It’s time to figure out how to beat the Seahawks, and adjust to that before everybody else does.

    • art thiel

      Quite true that opponents have a plan to beat Seattle. But as long as the O-line is average at best, the offense can’t impose its will, in other words, get 4-5 yards on a blast even when the D knows Lynch is coming.

      • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

        If I were king, all the big money would be spent on offensive linemen. I remember the ’05 O-LIne with Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson that make Shaun Alexander’s life easy. I remember reading some wag who said Jason Alexander would have had an MVP year behind them.

        • art thiel

          Winner winner chicken dinner.

  • Sonics79

    It feels like they’re force-feeding with Percy, and don’t know what to do with him yet. They aren’t throwing the ball to him downfield. At least take one long shot to back the defense up a little. He’s getting the ball in the backfield and the entire defense shoots to him. Blocking assignments on the O-line aren’t making life easy for a speed guy. Marshawn has the muscle to cover a miss assignment, Percy needs a block to spring him, and isn’t getting them.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said today Harvin was open twice behind the defense but Wilson couldn’t get the ball to him. That’s an O-line problem not a play calling problem.

  • Eric K

    I had two thoughts after the game:

    1) the Hawks played about as bad as they have in any game in the last two years and it still took a patented Romo scramble away from a sack and 23 yard miracle completion for Dallas to take the lead

    2) at what point do people start holding Tom Cable accountable? He is supposed to be an O-Line guru, but you see lots of teams patch together decent O-Lines with far less than the Hawks have.

    • 1coolguy

      Okung: Hurt
      Unger, an all-pro center (which is the most important O-line position, regardless of what people think of the left tackle), Out
      Miller: Out
      The rest of the O-line is average.
      So take the above 3 out and there isn’t much left against a decent defense.
      Until the Hawks are back to full strength, it will be a long season.

      • art thiel

        The O-line injuries are significant. Can’t always be worked around. Who knew Seahswks would yearn for Paul McQuistan?

  • John M

    You can pick at it, but Art’s point is the best one: a great O-line covers up a lot of small mistakes and Will get you first downs. The line has been a question mark going into the season for years. Time to focus on it . . .

  • 1coolguy

    Miller: Out
    Unger: Out
    Simon: Out
    Lane: Out
    Okung: Hurt
    Wagner: Hurt
    Chancellor: Hurt
    Maxwell: Hurt
    Good luck winning in this league managing EIGHT STARTERS out or hurt.
    Also, Bevell: Lynch: 10 carries, no receptions. Harvin: No throws over 10 yards. Terrible use of talent.

    • art thiel

      Point well made.

  • Gerald Turner

    One can never have enough depth at corner back. They never did replace Browner. JL is better than Maxi, and now… Anyway, lets go hindsight! See anybody that would have been a more valuable pick than Richardson? 1. Dee Milliner | 6’1, 196 pounds | Cornerback | Alabama *
    2. Xavier Rhodes | 6’2, 209 pounds | Cornerback | Florida State *
    3. Logan Ryan | 6’0, 190 pounds | Cornerback | Rutgers *
    4. Johnthan Banks | 6’2, 185 pounds | Cornerback | Mississippi State
    5. Jordan Poyer | 6’0, 190 pounds | Cornerback | Oregon State
    6. Desmond Trufant | 6’0, 185 pounds | Cornerback | Washington
    7. Will Davis | 6’0, 186 pounds | Cornerback | Utah State
    8. Leon McFadden | 5’10, 190 pounds | Cornerback | San Diego State
    9. David Amerson | 6’3, 194 pounds | Cornerback | North Carolina State *
    10. Blidi Wreh-Wilson | 6’2, 190 pounds | Cornerback | Connecticut

  • Warchild_70

    I’m not ready to man the life boats however, the coaches better start to freshening up their playbook. Dallas isn’t a team to take lightly they have pride and now a little swagger. Hawks better be ready for the Rams and take it out on them. Give Marshawn the rock, can the jet sweep (even my great Grandson knows what’s coming) just pound the hush puppies out anyone too stupid to get in his way. I want to see No 10 out there and see if he has the blazing speed that has been mentioned. GO HAWKS, y’all!!