BY Art Thiel 05:27PM 11/16/2014

Thiel: Seahawks are little threat to go long

Seahawks red-zone failures point to the absence of tall receivers who can win jump balls, seemingly a small thing that loomed large in Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

Doug Baldwin, here against the Cowboys, can catch a lot passes, but not every pass. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

Asked what he thought of the Seahawks passing game Sunday in Kansas City, coach Pete Carroll’s pause seemed longer than any pass QB Russell Wilson threw.

“We need to do better,” he said after a few beats. “We had plenty of chances. We protected well enough . . . We’re still working on it.”

In the wake of a 24-20 loss in Kansas City in which the Seahawks (6-4) were twice denied on fourth down when it mattered in the fourth quarter, a winnable game was lost mostly because the passing game couldn’t deliver enough to be decisive – another dubious development in a season fading further from resemblance to 2013.

Wilson was 20 for 32 for 178 yards and two touchdowns, good for a respectable 98.2 QB rating. He also kept drives alive with 71 rushing yards. As he said, “A lot of our games last year came down to the wire too.”

But this year, absent WR Golden Tate as well as TE Zach Miller, and with a less accurate Wilson, the downfield threat is negligible, meaning defenses can take more chances. The passing game overall isn’t terrible, but in a league of minimal distinctions between most teams, any falloff is exploitable.

Asked if he thought Wilson played better Sunday, Carroll said, “I thought he played solid. I don’t know what you mean by better.”

Well, better would be winning a game in which the Seahawks had the edge in possession time, rushing yardage, passing yardage, third-down conversions and turnovers. But the Seahawks failed to close the deal because in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs defense could afford to hunt down Marshawn Lynch, knowing that the Seahawks receivers could be covered one-on-one.

The crucible came after Seattle ground out a 75-yard drive over more than six minutes to reach the Kansas City red zone with less than seven minutes remaining. With a first and goal at the KC nine-yard line, the Seahawks had runs of five and two yards from Lynch and a no-gain completion to Baldwin in the flat.

On fourth-and-2, the Seahawks skipped a chance for a field goal on the reasonable premise that they may not get a similar chance.

“Either we get the touchdown or (the defense) gets them at the 2,” said Carroll.

Knowing the Chiefs were ready and able to stop Lynch between the tackles, especially with C Max Unger out with a sprained ankle, Wilson from the shotgun lobbed a fade route to Baldwin in the end zone.

Except Wilson threw it where a 6-foot-4 receiver may have reached it. Baldwin is, and will always be, 5-10. The Seahawks have no tall receivers who can out-jump smaller defensive backs. Baldwin screamed that CB Sean Smith interfered, but the bump from behind was arguably incidental contact.

In any event, the pass was uncatchable. Teams should not rely on officials to bail them out of a poor play call poorly executed.

In the red zone where defenses have a better chance to stay crowded up to receivers, the Seahawks don’t have the personnel to play jump ball, and now they may lack the personnel to pass block. Besides missing Miller, LG James Carpenter and FB Derrick Coleman, the Seahawks likely will lose Unger again, two games after his return from a foot injury sparked some hope.

Because backup Stephen Schilling was put on injured reserve with a knee problem, the Seahawks are down to a third-string center, Patrick Lewis, 23, a second-year player from Texas A&M signed Oct. 8 off the Cleveland practice squad. He started one game.

The passing-options problem became acute Sunday because the Chiefs offense put so much pressure early on Seattle’s defense that the margin for error, already small, became minuscule.

“Because we didn’t tackle well, we had to make most of (offensive) opportunities, and we didn’t,” Carroll said. “I don’t know why we tackled so poorly on the perimeter.”

Asked about the injury absence of NT Brandon Mebane, Carroll said he wasn’t sure it made a big difference because so many of the Chiefs’ 190 yards rushing came on the perimeter, not up the middle. And the defense recovered two fumbles, which normally covers for many shortcomings.

“When we go two-plus on turnovers, we always win,” he said. “When we go two-plus and don’t win, that’s a real rarity.”

Causes were multiple, but settling for field goals twice in the first half’s final 100 seconds, leaving a 14-13 deficit, were bad outcomes to great opportunities to cash in at a most difficult place to win — cold, loud Arrowhead Stadium, where the Seahawks record goes to 5-21.

With six games left, the Seahawks in the NFC West are three games behind the 9-1 Arizona Cardinals, who beat Detroit Sunday 14-6. The teams meet Sunday at the Clink, where they could have met with the division lead on the line. Now, it’s for Seattle playoff survival.

But the Seahawks’ critical 2013 ability to win close games at the end is much diminished. Wilson is right that the Seahawks this season have had a chance to win on the final drive of all four defeats. But they no longer have numerous talents that helped them work late-game magic.

It’s asking Wilson to be perfect, which is like asking Baldwin to be tall.


  • lewis

    Where was our 285 pound fullback when Lynch got stuffed down by the Chef’s goal line and on that 4th down towards the end? Isn’t that why we picked him up, to blow open holes in those exact situations? Also, to think we coulda had someone like Jordan Mathews (6-3, 215lbs) with our first pick and instead took Richardson is baffling…

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    There are some pretty good rookie wideouts having good years…ours aren’t. But its all we have.Since they were obviously the contingency plan should the Harvin experiment fizzle Its suffer with the rookies and that’s not going to win the NFC West. Seattle did have their chances in this game and I felt good about it when they went ahead 20~17 but what is suppose to be our strength~defense …let them score in what seemed like a blink. Charles had his best day of the year.That is not Seahawk D.

    Plenty of concern to go around.
    There will be no problem getting up for AZ from these guys. In their hearts they probably feel they are still the big dogs in the West. Cardinals are playing amazing…kind of like last years Seahawks. Moral could receive a boost by a win vs the Red Birds next week but I think its becoming apparent the Hawks will have to claw their way into the play offs via Wild Card.With no real go to guy in our wide out corps its going to be an uphill battle indeed to achieve and then navigate back to AZ in February.The Baltimore Ravens caught fire 2 years ago at the end of the season and rode it into the SB as a wild card. I hope the Hawks do just that.

    • 1coolguy

      Wagner getting back next week is huge – he plays sideline to sideline and even though Mebane is out, there will be a difference with Wagner back.

    • Eric K

      yeah I think they underestimated how important Red Bryant was to the Run D. Then losing Mebane and Wagner ceraintly doesn’t help

  • Matt712

    The 4th & goal at the 2-yard line was the play of the game and possibly a defining moment of the 2014 Seahawks. Sadly, they chose not to define themselves as a hard-nosed smash-mouth running team. Bevell went for the finesse play. Again.

    You can argue the box being stacked all you want, but in that situation where they could have finally taken command of the game, it should have been #24 or #3 either crossing the goal line or not crossing the goal line. I would’ve been fine with the outcome, successful or not.

    What I’m not fine with is that in two different goal line situations, the Seahawks declined to even try to impose their will. Ending KC’s rushing TD shutout streak could’ve payed huge dividends mentally. And even though one of those series resulted in a TD (pass to the new TE), it was the least satisfying touchdown I’ve seen all season.

    Definition: Seahawks not all that tough.

    • 1coolguy

      Without Unger at center the middle was no option. We all saw what happened later on 4th when we did try Lynch up the middle: He got crushed. You cannot run the middle with a 3rd string center who has next to no experience. Apparently Bevell doesn’t realize that. Ugh……….

      • Matt712

        Not saying ‘up the gut’ was the play I was looking for, coolguy, as you’ve pointed out elsewhere on your posts. But just about anything would’ve been better than the “I’d rather trick you than beat you” kind of situational football I’ve seen all too often from the Hawks this season. I was hoping for a down blocking option play off right tackle (Sweezy and Brit’s) side with Marshawn running out wide.

        I was also hoping to see at least one ‘go’ route for Richardson or Lockett (or both at the same time). It keeps the safety honest and the corners from jamming as much. A completion would just be a bonus. But I think I’ve only seen one designed deep ball all season. Part of the reason Kearse and Baldwin aren’t getting enough separation is because their DBs know we aren’t going deep, so they can press with impunity.

        Overall the game was called pretty well (37 rushes to 20 passes is Seahawks football), but situationally – particularly in the red zone – they couldn’t get it done on either side of the ball.

        • art thiel

          32 pass attempts is not Seahawks football. 17 passes vs Giants was Seahawks football. The Seahawks all season have had short-field troubles (No Giacomini, Miller, Coleman, etc).

          • Matt712

            32 attempts/20 receptions. Right… Not Seahawks football.

          • Matt712

            Not being smart, I read the stat wrong.

          • art thiel

            Got it. Thanks.

    • mtd9904

      I’m guessing Carroll didn’t think the defense would hold them which explains why IMO they went for it. I agree they should have run it.

      • Eric K

        going for it makes sense, you figure even if you don’t score they have the ball on the 2 so you can stop them and get it back in good field position. Which is exactly how it played out. They even almost got the defensive TD when Smith tipped the pass on 3rd down. They just failed to get the yard they needed on the next 4th and 1…

        • mtd9904

          The way KC was moving the ball, I don’t think Carroll had that in mind.

    • art thiel

      You’re right about imposing will: That isn’t this year’s team. No Clemons, no Bryant, no Browner.

      Neither Lynch nor Wilson would have scored on 4th and 2 against KC D.

      • Matt712

        Neither would Baldwin… and neither did Kearse.

  • 1coolguy

    I agree that we are in a bad position without tall receivers, and it makes the absence of Miller even more glaring. Even so, on 4th from the 2, why Bevell called a fade to a 5.10″ receiver blew me away. With Unger out, we couldn’t try the middle, so given we have Wilson, why not run the option around end? First option: Lynch, 2nd option: Crossing pattern 3rd option: Wilson runs it. I was just stunned when I saw Wilson drop back and throw the fade.
    THEN on 4th and two Bevell runs Lynch UP THE MIDDLE, with a THIRD STRING CENTER??? Needless to say Lynch got crushed. Yet another chance to run the option.
    It would be interesting to know how many rushing yards the Hawks picked up after Unger left. I will bet it wasn’t much.
    Finally, I do not renew Bevell’s contract: There are plenty of talented OC’s the Hawks can being in that can exceed his talent.

    • mtd9904

      Bevell won a SB as an OC, do you honestly think there’s another OC out there that can substantially improve the offense?

      • 1coolguy

        Yes. Apparently you have not seen the uninspired and unimaginative play calling the rest of us have, especially this game. If you re-read my post concerning the 4th down calls, KNOWING Unger is not in the game, then there is nothing else to do other than conclude the Hawks OC position needs new blood. The 4th quarter playing calling was an absolute failure.

        • mtd9904

          I think you’re missing a larger point: unless you can drastically change personnel, I don’t think another OC would call things differently. Us fans love to think that a simple change in coordinator will drastically change the team’s fortunes. Only a select few coordinators can do that and most of those are head coaches. Outside of Wilson, Lynch, and maybe Baldwin, do you think the Hawks have any skill players on offense other teams would truly covet?

          • art thiel


        • art thiel

          They kick a FG at 7 min, then trust the D to hold and get back the ball. That’s Carroll’s choice. Bevell didn’t have good options with the talent he had vs. KC D.

      • Joe Fan

        I believe we won the Super Bowl in spite of Bevell. I’ve never liked Bevell at OC and I think he finds himself to be darned lucky to have Lynch and Wilson on his offense to bail his ass out of the bad play calling. If he gets another gig with another team it will be addition by subtraction.

        • art thiel

          OCs are “lucky” when they have talent, “unlucky” when they don’t have talent. Every market, every team, every time.

      • art thiel

        To your point: All OCs make decisions they regret. Bevell was better when the Seahawks talent was better. Might be a correlation.

    • RadioGuy

      I know it’s easy to blame an OC when the offense doesn’t score against a good team, but let’s face it: Bevell has lived the last 2+ years off Wilson’s mobility and good TD-INT ratio plus Lynch’s ability to either batter or blow past opponents, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of trust in the offense as a whole, some curious decisions on critical downs are happening (those two you mentioned had me shaking my head, too, 1coolguy).

      Bevell is the guy who went away from what worked last year to build his offense around a brittle wideout whose skills far exceed either his durability or willingness to be a good teammate, a guy Bevell no doubt pushed bringing to Seattle although he had to have known what the Hawks would be getting. The result has been a dump-off trade and an offense that’s trying to reinvent itself in the middle of the season.

      I’d can him, too.

      • art thiel

        Schneider and Carroll were Harvin’s biggest advocates. Bevell endorsed. But fire all of them if Harvin’s the pivot point.

        • poulsbogary

          Whoa. Had to read this 3 or 4 times to make sure I wasn’t missing a nuance. Art, it sounds like you are calling for the dismissal of the head coach of the seattle seahawks.

          • art thiel

            I think my light sarcasm was missed. Bad as the Harvin outcome, it’s not a fireable offense, certainly not for Bevell, which radioguy was suggesting.

    • art thiel

      A run on 4th and 2 vs. KC’s front 7 wasn’t going to work, even with Unger. The option is also vulnerable because it’s easier to cover WRs man to man with only 12 yards of space. In hindsight, kick the FG.

      Bevell was good enough to help win a SB. He didn’t get dumb in eight months.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Russel and Beast played a great game, unfortunately the rest of the team is just not adequate this year. Looks like the Harvin thing was just too seismic for this organization to overcome

  • ll9956

    Art, I have to respectfully disagree that “the bump from behind was arguably incidental contact”. It seemed pretty clear from the TV replay that Baldwin was deliberately pushed and that the push altered his path enough that he had no chance whatsoever to make the catch.

    Regarding the absence of tall receivers, all the Hawks’ WRs and TEs are over 6 feet tall (Willson is 6-5), except Baldwin. If they wanted to be creative in their thinking they could even have Sherman (6-3) play WR once in a while. Sometimes thinking outside the box (no pun intended) is called for.

    • mtd9904

      Play Sherman at receiver? There’s a reason he got moved from WR to DB while at Stanford.

      • art thiel

        Ask UW’s Petersen about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    • art thiel

      I disagree. Sherman frequently has more contact on such plays, and if he were flagged, Seahawks fans would throw up lungs. Baldwin bogarted the bump, which didn’t help his case.

      • ll9956

        I don’t mean to beat this issue to death, but here’s another opinion from Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks:

        “That was a no-brainer of a push-in-the-back pass interference in the
        end zone by Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith on 4th-and-2 in the fourth
        quarter,” Banks wrote. “But no flag was thrown, and Seattle didn’t
        overcome that blown call, which came with Kansas City leading 24-20.”

        • art thiel

          Don and I disagree. Hugh Millen agrees with me. It looks like we may have a 50/50 division on that penalty. That makes it too close to call definitively. So it’s not a reliable fact upon which to register a complaint.

          • ll9956

            OK, I’ll admit it. I’m breaking my promise to drop it. But if we’re counting votes, here’s PC’s response when asked if he was going to send that play to the NFL (admittedly PC, like some of us, is biased):

            “I’m sending that one in, sure, because the push kept Doug from getting to the ball,” Carroll said. “He had a track on the football and he didn’t get there because the guy pushed him. How is that not pass interference?”

  • notaboomer

    “Either we get the touchdown or (the defense) gets them at the 2,” said Carroll.

    or, duh, you kick the fg and have 7 minutes to get another fg and win the game. this is textbook nfl decisionmaking and the coaches muffed it. and the fade play call was stupid. also.

    • art thiel

      The FG was the smarter option. The fade was the poorest poor choices in that situation. A blast wouldn’t work, nor would the read option on a short field.

  • jafabian

    Depending on Unger’s injury, qualifying for the post-season is now in question. Losing Tate and Harvin has been too much for the team, making the WR corps….pedestrian. The Pete Carroll system doesn’t allow a Paul Richardson to develop as quickly as the Panther’s Kelvin Benjamin has for Carolina so both he and Kevin Norwood really can’t be counted on until the earliest next season. You take away the single pass that Lynch, Moeaki and Helfet all caught Wilson connected with only 4 receivers yesterday. He does better and the offense plays better when he spreads it around.

    Though I like Carroll’s support of his players and positive outlook I’m wondering if now would be the time to say “What’s happening right now is not acceptable. We’ve been in every game we’ve played in this season and could easily be undefeated right and should be.” There’s times when some bluntness is is needed and for all I know that’s what happens at the VMac.

    Now they’re in 3rd in the NFC West and the Cardinals seem to have a stranglehold on the top spot. Russell Wilson seem to have one series every game where he looks like a HOFer and he needs to make that happen more often, more consistently. Sure, the line is patchwork right now but excuses are just that: excuses. The D-Line sure could have used Red Bryant yesterday. I knew letting both him AND Clemons leave would haunt the club. Frustrating football weekend with this game and the Dawgs. Why in the world couldn’t the Sounders play to get this bad taste out of my mouth?

  • Effzee

    I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I got optimistic. I should know better. Yeah, I’m worried now. Its just a matter of making the big tackle, interception, or big catch, like they seemed to all of last year. They do it most of the time now, instead of all of the time. Losses in free agency hurt more than they usually might because of the ongoing injury situations, too. Also, there was counting on Harvin to be a professional. That turned out to be something that a person should just not do.

  • Raymond Meyers

    It was a great football game that went the wrong way at the end. The problem nobody is talking about is that the Seahawks could not stop number 25 – a Mr. Charles, I recall. At all. Ever. He ran our defense into the ground. Everybody wants to blame the offense. KC scored 24 points. 24 is a lot. KC’s offensive line won that game. It’s going to be hard to beat any team that scores 24 points, but if they score those points running the ball and eating the clock in nine-minute scoring drives, they’ll be about impossible to beat. We need more effective run defense. Now.

  • poulsbogary

    Inuries are part of the game. They are a given. The Hawks are not special in terms of the count of team injuries. Every team has them. Please, nobody blame injuries. A coaching staff earns its keep just as much for the backups it chooses to retain on the team, as for the stars and starters.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks did that very thing with injuries last year. But once you have to pay stars (Sherman, Thomas, Bennett) you run out of cap space for quality backups. Injuries are part of it, yes, and they are reasons (not excuses) many of the 31 losers don’t survive. The Seahawks were lucky last year, unlucky this year.

  • steve51

    The Hawks continue to struggle with a mediocre receiving corps. Last year it was Kearse, Baldwin and Tate, along with Zach Miller. Now it’s Kearse and Baldwin and two rookies, plus second and third string TE’s. None of these receivers would make a top 10 or even 20 list. They don’t have height or the speed to create separation on a consistent basis. They’re not bad, they are just average. I don’t understand the unwillingness to invest (free agent or draft) in a top receiver. That was never going to be Harvin.

    • art thiel

      Harvin sucked up a lot of $ resources for the WR position. That’s why Tate knew he was going to be leaving probably the day Harvin signed. Richardson is having the same slow start Tate had his rookie year. The problem is they need Richardson to be Tate now.

      • steve51

        Tate’s doing well in Detroit because he’s on the same team as Calvin Johnson. Our guys would do well if we had a similar top caliber WR. Not sure that’s Richardson. I guess we have to hope so – next year. And, yes Harvin was an incredibly costly mistake. In the meantime, can you imagine this offense without Lynch? Neither Turbin nor Michael have shown they’re the complete player that Lynch is – running, blocking and receiving. The Hawks better hope they can persuade Lynch to stay, I.e. sign him to an extension. I don’t care if he is going to be 29. i haven’t seen any signs of him slowing down – just the opposite. He’s at least 50% of the offense.

        • art thiel

          The Lynch situation remains fluid because seasonal results aren’t in yet. Which Seahawks are injured, or in decline, or too expensive, are all to be determined.