BY Art Thiel 07:28PM 02/03/2015

Thiel: Injuries knocked out Seahawks defense

Yes, final play was a brick. Before that, a defense weakened by injuries allowed consecutive 4Q TDs. First loss in 31 games in which Seahawks were up 10+ points in 4Q.

The play by Bobby Wagner in the third quarter of the Super Bowl was crucial in different ways: The interception set up a Seahawks’ touchdown, but on the return, DE Cliff Avril (foreground) was knocked out of the game. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Conventional wisdom is that the Seahawks’ final-play disaster was what did in their bid for a second Super Bowl win, and it will be remembered thus, forever. A more layered explanation is that the defense by the fourth quarter had broken down sufficiently to allow consecutive touchdown drives by New England, forcing Seattle into yet another late rally to win.

The comeback, as the cosmos knows, was a yard short of working. But as WR Doug Baldwin put it Tuesday on the team’s getaway day, “It should never have come down to that.”

It may not have come to that if DE Cliff Avril had remained in the game. But Seattle’s best pass rusher was concussed in the third quarter during teammate Bobby Wagner’s six-yard return of Patriots QB Tom Brady’s second interception.

Avril was apparently knocked cold. Team doctors ushered him off the field and ordered him to remain in the locker room for the duration, which would have included the field celebration, had the Seahawks won.

The loss of Avril, which followed the loss of CB Jeremy Lane (broken arm) in the first quarter, also on an interception return of his own, were major blows to a defense that was operating at sub-par levels with previous injuries to CB Richard Sherman (elbow), FS Earl Thomas (shoulder) and SS Kam Chancellor (knee hurt Friday in practice).

The upshot was that New England in the fourth quarter followed a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive with an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive. Against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, Brady completed 13 of 15 passes to create the a winning rally from the largest second-half deficit (10 points) in Super Bowl history.

Over the past three seasons, the Seahawks have had 31 games in which they held a fourth-quarter lead of 10 or more points. Sunday was the first one they lost.

“Two fourth-quarter touchdowns — that’s not like us, for sure,” Avril said. “I guess you could say (injuries were) a big difference. But again, injuries are part of the game.”

The injuries-are-no-excuse refrain was a common theme Tuesday as the Seahawks tried, mostly in vain, to re-gather themselves after the shocking 28-24 defeat Sunday that will live in national-sports infamy.

But it’s not an excuse if it’s a fact that DE O’Brien Schofield is not Avril’s equivalent, and especially true in the case of Tharold Simon, the second-year cornerback inserted into the lineup as CB Byron Maxwell was moved inside to replace Lane in the nickel defense.

Brady and the Pats picked on Simon, who sat out his rookie season with injuries, throughout.

In a press briefing Monday before the team left Phoenix, coach Pete Carroll made a point of identifying the defensive vulnerabilities.

“It was an extraordinary effort from guys who played through unbelievable issues,” he said. “You didn’t ever know it during the game. Earl and Sherm, to make it through this game and play with the problems they have, is one thing that was notable. For Kam Chancellor to play in this game was just like superhuman stuff. He shouldn’t have been able to go.”

Sherman will have elbow surgery, although it is not likely to be Tommy John surgery, as Carroll was led to believe Sunday. Thomas may have surgery to repair a torn labrum, but that remains undecided. Chancellor played with a brace and was obviously limited in his movements, although he had 10 tackles. Thomas had nine and Sherman three.

Avril said he understood the doctors’ decision to keep him out.

“The hard part was not playing,” he said. “It was the Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, they did the right thing. I think your brain is way more important than the game.”

Brains, and the Seahawks’ lack thereof, was a rich source of humor around the web Monday as mockery attended the Seahawks’ final-play choice to pass, which turned into a game-saving interception by rookie CB Malcolm Butler.

Everyone lamented the Seahawks’ choice.

Publicly, at least, the Seahawks were avoiding any further public dismay over the call to throw to Ricardo Lockette instead of giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch.

Predictably, Wilson is on to making something positive about it.

“You continue to grow — you continue to learn from the lessons I can use this for something else,” he said Tuesday. “I can use this for life, or I can use it for another game.

“You guys are probably going to be asking me questions for the next 15 years, hopefully, so hopefully, when you guys ask me this 15 years from now, hopefully, I’ll have several Super Bowl rings and you guys will ask different questions.”

Hopefully, Wilson might have seen something in the dozen or so times said he reviewed the game that suggested something different could have been done with the play. But no.

“I shouldn’t say wide open, but it looked open enough to get it in there (to Lockette) and make the play,” he said.  “When I threw it, I was like, ‘Touchdown, second Super Bowl ring, here we go.’ And it didn’t happen.

“You just learn from experience. That’s why you play the great game, because you look forward to the next opportunity.”

Probably the most honest assessment of the team’s attitude came from punter Jon Ryan, who recognized with others that the Seahawks have played more ball than any team the past two seasons.

“Football kind of always is an escape from reality,” he said. “Right now some guys are trying to escape football.”

Baldwin miffed at Bevell’s comment

WR Doug Baldwin was asked if he was bothered by Darrell Bevell’s remark that Lockette could have done more to catch Wilson’s fateful pass: “Yeah, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother us. He’s the coach. You take that criticism, look in the mirror and figure what you could have done. It’s harsh, but the reality is in the heat of the moment, people may say or do things they like to change. We’re going to stick together, so none of that matters.”

Notes

Carroll, who did not meet with media but spoke on his final weekly radio show Tuesday on ESPN 710, said talks are underway with Marshawn Lynch for a contract extension but did not illuminate: “We’ll see. We’ve been in the midst of negotiations for a long time for the future, so we’ll see how that goes.” . . .  He said the departure of DC Dan Quinn to become Falcons head coach means there could be a staff shuffle because other assistants are being interviewed for jobs with other clubs. Two in-house candidates that could receive a look to replace Quinn are DBs coach Kris Richard and LBs coach Ken Norton Jr. . . . Besides Avril, LG James Carpenter also came out of the game with a concussion . . . Lane’s broken arm horrified onlookers. Carroll: “It was a really nasty break. It will take some time.”. . .  Carroll said he was shaping a strong message as the leader of the team: “I’ve got to be clear about it and I am clear about it . . . We’re going to be stronger for this. Going to be better for this. But it’s just cruddy right now that we have to feel like this.”

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Author David Sirlin said “Losing is part of the game. If you never lose, you are never truly tested, and never forced to grow.” The Hawks faced a LOT of adversity this season, losing valuable depth in the offseason, the Harvin debacle and many, many injuries. They still got to the Super Bowl but it’s left a bitter taste in their mouths. I see them coming back even more energized for next season. The coaches and players use the same tactic Michael Jordan used to use on taking any sort of slight, no matter how small, to motivate them. And they’ve got a lot of motivation right now.

    Looking at the box score the weakness of the Hawks game was, surprisingly, the Legion of Boom. They gave up more yardage than they have their last 8 games. Losing Lane definitely hurt and it was painfully obvious that Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor were hobbled in the game. What’s also overlooked is despite his solid season Kevin Williams by himself couldn’t offset the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Then with Brandon Mebane out and losing Cliff Avril made for less pressure on Tom Brady. (No pun intended there.) (Oh, why not. Pun intended.)

    I did not like Bevell inferring that Lockette could have been more aggressive in his reception. First off, I agree. But it’s been established in the Carroll/Schneider era not to air such grievances publicly. Pointing fingers accomplishes nothing except hurt feelings and mistrust. Accountability is what’s needed which Coach Carroll has long established in his career. Bevell was but I don’t think Lockette should have been brought into it. You can also say Lynch should have lunged for the goal line or at least stretched out for it to get closer to the goal line. Carroll should haven’t called for a pass play. Bevell should have drawn up a play for the hot-handed Matthews. Wilson shouldn’t have led Lockette so much or looked at another option. Wilson should have run it in. See how easy it is to second guess? They just need to learn from this and grow.

    And next time give Beastmode the ball!!!

  • ollie swensen

    Thank you Seahawks players and personnel for a great ride. It was a tough loss. Seven draft picks for John Schneider to work with. Next year looks bright.
    Go M’s

    • art thiel

      Good to know you’re in recovery.

  • notaboomer

    whatever. coaches fucked up the call. epic stupid.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for advancing the discussion.

  • Sonics79

    The defense finally ran out of gas. I was really worried when I saw Avril go out, because the pass rush is what kept Brady at bay, and now he’s got more time, which all he needed to get those two TD drives. w/r/t Baldwin being miffed at Bevell’s remark (which was right BTW, Lockette got blown up), well I’m a little miffed he decided to use the ball as a prop in a display so tasteless and unfunny NBC had to cut away from it, that it cost his team 15 yards that they would need on the next change of possession to be in field goal range or having to punt, that it left us having to score a TD to win instead of kicking a FG to win. And if you ARE going to use the ball, do something funny. Pretend to pump it up with air or something.

    • art thiel

      Point taken on Baldwin. Foolish, costly gesture.

    • notaboomer

      you mean Dump Baldwin?

  • Dan

    If nothing else, this article made me feel a little better about Sunday. After all, the Legion accomplished truly historic numbers this year, especially in the last half of the season. But that has to take its toll, and these guys are still only human after all.

    I saw somewhere that the Patriots’ approach to the game was death by 1,000 cuts, but I suppose broken bones and concussions work just as well. I do believe that if even one or two of our key defensive players had been healthier, the outcome of the game might have been very different and we never would have had to try to come back from a 4-point deficit.

    Doesn’t undo anything that happened, but it’s good to keep in perspective that the entire game was more than that last terrible play.

  • ll9956

    For awhile I felt like I was beginning to recover, but every time I read another article, even good ones like this, it’s starts hurting all over again. DAMN!!! I often say that patience is not one of my vanishingly few, if any, virtues. Waiting 6+ months for more Hawks activity won’t be easy. I care very little about baseball, so that won’t help.

    As to Lockette not trying hard enough to make the catch, I’d offer that he likely didn’t see Butler, who (I believe) sort of came up from behind and had a good angle to bump Lockette and make the pick. Lockette outweighs Butler by 21 lbs., so if he knew Butler was lurking, the outcome might have been different.

  • Dewams

    Agreed. I cannot recall when the Seahawks D last allowed two
    touchdowns in a fourth quarter.

    Lane and Avril out. We now hear that Chancellor, Thomas, and
    Sherman should have been prepping for surgery, not prepping for a game.
    Basically half the starters out or sorely wounded.

    Injury is no excuse? Next man up? For the sake of esprit de
    corps, sure, whatever. In the world of muscle, ligament, bone, blood and
    football, nope. By the fourth quarter the D’s magnificent, razor edge was dull.

    On the final play: Aggressive? Yes.”Worst play call
    ever”? No. Art, I take your fine reporting at face value: the defender had
    been specifically coached up to jump the route on that alignment. It simply has
    to be scored Bellichick 1, Carroll 0. This game called for an aggressive plan
    and the go-long-young-men plan for this one was great. Congrats to Carrol and
    Bevell.

    To me the mid-aughts loss in Detroit was way tougher. I’d
    been watching the ‘Hawks for, what, 30 years or something? Would I have another
    30 years in which to wait? And, of course, there were the refs….Now I’ve seen
    two more. One a glorious blowout. The other hard fought to the, yes, bitter
    end.

    Thanks Seahawks.