BY Art Thiel 05:35PM 09/13/2015

Thiel: Surprise? Seahawks defense not the same

It wasn’t a surprise the Seahawks lost in St. Louis, but on final regulation drive, defense gave up 84 yards in 12 plays, the last 37 yards of which evoked ghost of Kam Chancellor.

Marshawn Lynch, shown here a year ago in St. Louis, had 74 yards rushing, but needed at least one more Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

One way to look at it: The Seahawks lost by three points on the road mostly due to a ferocious Rams defense that overwhelmed an inexperienced offensive line; on defense, the worst mistake was made by the player filling in for Kam Chancellor, Dion Bailey, falling down of his own volition to allow the game-tying touchdown.

Anything there that is surprising? No.

Yet after the 34-31 overtime loss in the half-empty Edward Jones Dome, the Seahawks should be aghast. Recovering three Rams fumbles en route to scoring 18 consecutive fourth-quarter points for a 31-24 lead, all the arrows pointed toward a Seahawks win.

You know, kinda like their last game, when they had a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.

But mistakes, misjudgments and missed tackles opened the door for the Rams, who made a field goal in OT and denied the Seahawks on their one possession. Seattle has lost three of its past four in its nightmare roadhouse.

“We had our shots,” coach Pete Carroll said. “In all three phases and the coaches, we all need to do a better job. Disappointed that, across the board, we weren’t sharper than we looked.

“There were times — we had our moments, but not enough. When we had to finish the game, we didn’t finish it.”

Failure to finish, especially with a lead and a 3-1 advantage in turnovers, is uncharacteristic of Carroll’s teams. For the first time in 24 games when they scored 30 or more points, the Seahawks lost.

So let’s deal with the room’s big elephant: Bailey, the undrafted free agent starting his first NFL game, made the biggest screw-up.

A dropoff was anticipated, but Bailey deepened the hole when he fell while covering a backup tight end, Lance Kandricks, down the sidelines. Foles’ 37-yard TD pass completed an 84-yard drive in 12 plays that tied the game at 31 with 53 seconds left in regulation.

Not only did the failure become the game’s pivot point, it made one of the biggest stories in the NFL preseason more acidic, because it highlighted Chancellor’s value. Chancellor could have fallen too, except nobody’s buying that idea.

Naturally, Carroll refused to buy publicly into Chancellor’s absence as the reason the Seahawks gave up 352 yards to a Rams offense with newbies in the O-line and operating with a third-string tailback, as well as Foles in his first game as a Ram.

“We had a lot of aspects where we could have played better,” he said. “That’s not where my focus is.”

It was certainly the focus of Foles to pick on the rook.

“It was a match-up I took,” Foles told reporters. “Lance gave a little move and ran right by him.”

Said Bailey: “I was just too flat-footed, tried to open up and fell down. At that point I’ve got to tackle him and live to fight another day.”

For purposes of leverage in negotiations, Chancellor couldn’t have asked for better. But it’s doubtful the Seahawks will cave; in fact, it may well embitter the attitude among coaches toward him.

But the defense has more problems than the absence of Chancellor. The Rams converted six of 11 third downs despite not having their top two running backs, rookie first-round draft choice Todd Gurley and veteran Tre Mason, because of injuries. Missed tackles were plentiful and coverage breakdowns numerous, perhaps owing to the first-time participation of Bailey and CB Cary Williams, as well as the shift often of CB Richard Sherman to slot corner duties.

On offense, despite six sacks of QB Russell Wilson through the newbie-heavy line, Seattle put up 18 points and 343 yards of total offense. But it required career highs for Wilson in attempts (41) and completions (32), many of them quick, short routes to beat the pressure.

The Seahawks moved the ball when they converted to a no-huddle pace because it thwarted the Rams’ situational substitutions. But the punishment of Wilson was game-long and perhaps affected his willingness to keep the ball on the read option. Not once did it happen.

Gun-shy?

Here’s how Rams DE Chris Long put it to FOX TV afterward:

“We kept pounding the rock, and the rock broke.”

The improved results with no-huddle, which has always been a Wilson strength, caused him post-game to break from his usual script of endless praise — ever so slightly.

“We may have to consider hopping into that when we have a little lull,” he said. It was hardly a shot at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s playcalling, but it was a hint. The problem is that no-huddle can be demanding for linemen, three of whom were playing their starting positions in the NFL for the first time.

That they fared reasonably well in no-huddle should bode well for Wilson’s idea. But it wasn’t enough help in the present, which now includes a trip to Green Bay. The Packers are itching for a shot at the Seahawks, who have won three in a row against the Pack, including the NFC Championship in January in which Seattle was largely outplayed but won.

The Seahawks did a number of good things, including weaponizing TE Jimmy Graham in the second half (six catches, including a TD) and getting a touchdown from Tyler Lockett on the first punt return of his NFL career.

But they didn’t do enough to win, nor take the spotlight off the man who wasn’t there.


YourThoughts

  • Tman

    If all KC is asking is to move money up a couple of years, what is the holdup?

    • ll9956

      Couldn’t agree more.

    • 1coolguy

      Then he’ll hold out in the last year for more money.

      • Tha Row

        That’s how the game works. If Kam broke his leg and couldn’t play again, the Seahawks aren’t going to help him.

        • MacPhisto92

          Then why sign a contract? Also, those millions he received for a bonus will take care of his broken leg.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Precisely. That bonus was guaranteed money, and insurance against injury. The Hawks have already “helped” Kam, by paying him a bunch of money before he started playing under the new contract. If he wanted more guaranteed money, he should have held out for it then. Now, he is simply trying to hold the Hawks hostage. They should let him rot before they reward that behavior with a trade. It’s too damn bad. Kam plays football the way it was meant to be played. Great fit for the team, and the team was a great fit for him. But all his talk about “loving his brothers”, etc. seems more hollow by the minute now. Seems instead that there is another love more important to him operating here. A damn shame.

          • art thiel

            Yes, a damn shame. Nothing has changed from my column in which I said he was the most foolish man in sports. He’s out $1.8M to date.

    • whoKarez

      Good question. He wants 2017 money moved up to 2016. Has nothing to do with 2015. He should be here.

    • art thiel

      If Seahawks give in, they are at risk to do so for all. You new to this topic?

  • Ryan Parrish

    John Schneider right about now…

    • Tha Row

      That was Schneider’s reaction after Seattle was up 31-24. Go F–K Yourself was Kam’s reaction after OT.

      • Ryan Parrish

        Nope, Kam put himself before the team, he can get bent. He’s already paid with the best at his position in the league. Schneider needs to put his foot down. He already set a bad precedent last year with Lynch. It needs to stop for the good of the team’s future.

        • Tha Row

          Explain why Kam should put the team ahead of himself. If he breaks neck, will the team help him out?

          • SeaRaays

            Yes the team would

          • MacPhisto92

            Who has a gun to Kam’s heading forcing him to put his body at risk? Doesn’t seem like you understand how professional sports/contracts work.

          • Effzee

            Its a team game and he’s under contract. What else do you need?

          • Tman

            A judge to throw the salary cap into the dumpster.

          • art thiel

            Should have thought of that 21 years ago when it was bargained.

          • eYeDEF

            Seeing how his salary for the season is guaranteed when he reports and he’s insured in the case of injury, if that were to happen the team would be helping him out, yes.

        • Marty Lee

          Sherm’s contract is worth twice what Kam’s is. Maybe Sherm could have his contract reorganized and put Kam back in the line up “for the good of the team?”

    • art thiel

      This thread is illustrative of the lose-lose outcome of this situation. Kam defenders cite the vulnerability of players after the guaranteed money goes away, which is true. Team defenders cite the refusal to re-do a deal so early as protecting the team’s long-term interests, which is also true.

      The team has the advantage of a signed, valid contract. Kam has the advantage of Dion Bailey.

      There’s no exit strategy that minimizes damage to both parties.

      • Lodowick

        Romeo and Juliet. “No exit strategy that minimizes damage to both parties”. Course, that was love. This is somethin’ else.

        • art thiel

          This is more important. Money.

      • Tman

        Pride. All the issues slip into the question of pride. Lose face if you back down. Is there a psychiatrist in the house that can turn this into a win win situation?

        • art thiel

          The value is everything in Japan, and large in American sports. It’s not a mental illness.

          • Tman

            a facilitator? Assumptions for sure, but it seems the Hawks want him, he wants to be with his team. The idea is to find the smiles, fun, passion and bravado again. Oh yes, and an offensive line.

      • John M

        Last couple years we could chuckle at the holdouts and confusion of other teams. Now it’s the Seahawks’ turn in the barrel . . .

        • art thiel

          Tru dat.

  • Warchild_70

    Can’t blame Kam we were out played by a Defense that had our number. No trick plays here a muffed onside kick, a “rug tackle” on a newbee Safety and our QB eating the carpet instead of ridding him self of the rock. Tough game and tougher next week, it’s not good at times to be number one.

    • art thiel

      In the big picture, this is what happens when you pay the QB under the cap. You start undrafted free agents at center and strong safety.

      • Effzee

        Also evidenced in the backup RB situation.

      • eYeDEF

        Especially when the starting strong safety under contract holds out.

  • ll9956

    Good article, Art.

    This was one of the most painful losses I can remember–just the kind of game that makes me wish I wouldn’t get so emotionally involved in Seahawks football. But I seem to be helpless to fight it.

    Seems like the weakest element of the Hawks team is the O-Line, but the D and the coaches sure aren’t blameless. The O-line gave up six sacks. Sweezy and Brit both completely whiffed on blocks.

    On defense Sherman got burned on a pretty long completion. Also they allowed the Rams to get first downs with third and at least 15 yards to go–not once, but twice.

    As to the Hawks’ last play of the game, I know I’m being a Sunday night quarterback and if Marshawn had made a first down, I wouldn’t be saying this. But the fact remains that everyone in the world expected Marshawn to get the ball and the Hawks obliged and did just that. Of course St. Louis was ready for it and stuffed him. Game over.

    All this makes me think that Art’s prediction of a 10-6 record for the Hawks may be right on or may even be a bit generous. I think the Packers are going to hammer them next week. OY!

    • Tha Row

      Everyone expected Marshawn to get the ball? So New England wasn’t?

      • art thiel

        As I said above, imagine if RW threw incomplete/pick.

        • bugzapper

          OTOH, what if Wilson had run it?

    • art thiel

      Hauschka honestly said he mis-hit the kick. Supposed to reach the 15 and hope for a scramble, or at least a zero return.

      Going 0-2 seemed clear to me weeks ago when they shuffled the line. Then I was certain when Kam didn’t report by preseason week 3.

      • ll9956

        Thanks, Art, for clarifying that the kick was a “mis-hit” by Hauschka.

  • Bittermelon

    Also, it seemed like Wilson uncharacteristically missed several opportunities to find open receivers — including Graham a couple times — and the call for an onside kick to start OT was just bizarre.

    • art thiel

      Wilson was in a big-ass hurry, for reasons understandable.

  • 1coolguy

    Good to know the onside kick was a blown pooch kick intended for the 15. That one had everyone questioning Bevell and Pete.
    The good thing about the Packers game is their defense isn’t as good as the Rams.
    The bad thing is they have Rodgers.

    • art thiel

      Don’t forget 80,000 pissed off cheeseheads.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Dayum that Nick Foles looked good today. He had an answer for every pickle the hawks tried to put him in. And no INT’s. With a superb D and a productive O, the Rams may have arrived at the next level.

    On our side of the ball the tackling was horrible and the LOB looked lost. Lets hope they can fix it.

    • art thiel

      The last point on LOB was the most important. Legion was assignment-incorrect too often.

      • Effzee

        Earl looked like he was looking for Kam half the time. They work really well together.

      • PokeyPuffy

        Thanks Art, unfortunate and true. On the bright side it would be very interesting if our next meeting with the Rams is for the division title!

    • MrPrimeMinister

      foles is a bum. the team had no business losing to this guy.

  • Topcatone

    Why has Wilson become a drop back pocket passer? Started late last year…he is no longer calling his own number and running or rolling out…are they trying to protect him now? His unpredictability was his main positive. That, and imaginative play calling. On that 4th down, he should have faked the handout of and rolled out, giving him several options. (and should have done the same thing on the final Super Bowl play..run defense was stacked against him, and no way would Lynch score. Instead, the threw it right into a group of 11 guys the line). Roll out, the run or pass.

    • SeaRaays

      Other teams have solved that keeping the edge and not over pursuing…thus boxing him in.

      • art thiel

        D can’t take everything from Wilson, but St. Louis set the template for taking away most things, especially behind this line. Almost no 7-step drops, and almost no 5.

        • Effzee

          I think Wilson should work with Wilson on developing a new cleat with “risers”…

          • art thiel

            I recommended a footstool.

    • Effzee

      Yeah, some of these old coaches like Fisher and Williams utilize the Short QB-D really well. Simply make it so the dude can’t use his speed to get outside by plugging up the middle and bum-rushing him. He can’t see over or thru the wall in his face, and there’s nothing he can do about it. The only way to combat this is with an amazing offensive line, which we obviously do not have right now.

      • art thiel

        Rams D may achieve this year what Seahawks D has the past three years.

    • art thiel

      Defenses, including the Rams Sunday, are committing to stop Wilson’s run on the read option. And the Rams’ front seven is fast enough to catch Wilson as he starts from the pocket, especially behind the current O-line.

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    I was appalled at the reaction by all of the so-called experts after the interception that lost the Super Bowl for the Seahawks. Everyone was SO sure that it had to go to Lynch. DUH!! It was the worse kind of pack mentality. EVERYONE agreed it was the worse play call in the history of the NFL.

    None of these “experts” took the time to look at Lynch’s statistics on short yardage near the end zone (not good), none considered the mis-match of assets that had the Patriots with an advantage against the run vs. the Seahawk’s personnel, it was just a given that Lynch should have gotten the ball.

    Fast-forward to the last play of the game against the Rams and you see exactly what the problem is when everyone is waiting on Lynch on a short-yardage play: he went nowhere. Game over.

    • art thiel

      I agree. I argued that the SB pass was a reasonable call, given circumstances and Pats’ goal-line D. My contentions were the type of pass and the receiver were wrong. A play-fake and a throw to Baldwin or Kearse, probably a fade.

      • bugzapper

        To massage your syntax, you argued that *A* SB pass was a reasonable call, not “the.” I argue that there was enough time and a time-out left to try a pass (or anything else) if Lynch had not punched it over.

        Sometimes Bevell and Carroll remind me of that boob Les Miles. (See the Comments if you’re bored: http://theadvocate.com/sports/lsu/13430299-128/lsu-beats-mississippi-state-after)

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        The play was telegraphed by the formation according to what the DB that made the interception said and he was absolutely ready for it. Also, Lockett telegraphed his move (again according to the DB). Seems like that very play could have worked if the Hawks had other plays – including run plays – that used that formation to keep the defense honest. And, Lockett could have kept the DB honest if he’d forced him to defend a fade route as well as the slant but seemed to telegraph the slant. As it was, the DB knew the play, the route, and was there before Lockett.

        Anyway, love that Carroll stood by his call and said they’d do it again (hopefully with a little better execution).

        • Bruce McDermott

          Actually, Carroll standing by that call (mostly by setting up a straw man argument about pass vs. run, instead of that pass vs. another pass) is explicable ONLY as a coach taking the bullet for an assistant. If he really still believes that THAT pass–with that personnel on the field, on offense and defense–was the right one, then he is revealing a flaw of some sort in his make-up.

          • art thiel

            Carroll is taking bullets for all, as he usually does, because he views public shaming as senseless and destructive. As a columnist, that’s too bad. As a human, good for him.

      • John M

        Hearing my own echo, Art . . .

    • bugzapper

      Gee, this is Monday morning so you must be the QB with 20-20 hindsight? Maybe you need to clean your glasses.

      Everyone on both sides of the ball yesterday knew Lynch was getting the ball. No f’ing way the Hawks were NOT going to give it to him after the Super Bowl’s now-legendary idiot play call. But the SB play was not a 4th down. There was time on the clock and a time-out in hand.

      Courtesy of Bob Kravitz: “We could be talking about a Re-Pete, about
      dynasty-in-the-making, about Kearse’s ridiculous catch, about Chris
      Matthews, who was one play away from going from a no-name to the Super
      Bowl MVP. Instead, we’re talking about The Call, and asking this
      elemental question: “What were they thinking?”

      Yesterday’s question is more like, “What were they doing?” Or more accurately, what WEREN’T they doing?

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        So, your argument is that, thanks to the hordes of sideline QB.s (like you) that mauled the SB call, the Hawks had no choice now but to give the ball to Lynch on a play when . . . (wait for it) . . . everyone knew they would have to give the ball to Lynch (or face another torrent of outrage)?

        You’re not even very good as a Monday-morning, side-line QB.

        • bugzapper

          That’s pretty much what I’m saying, alright (my mm QB rating notwithstanding). But I’m contrasting it with the SB call when there was still time on the clock and a time-out in the bag. The logical play then would have been to give Lynch the ball. If that didn’t work, you still had options. Sometime this coaching staff defies logic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

        • eYeDEF

          You really don’t see the difference between a 2nd and short and a 4th and short?

          Regardless, Nowak missed his block against the best DL in the league. You can’t make mistakes like that and expect to come out ahead against the St Louis line. New England didn’t have anywhere near that sort of run defense, in fact they were horrible in short situations all year. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

  • Effzee

    Despite it all, we had a chance. It was there for the taking. And just like against the Pats, Darrel Bevell out-stupided the whole room. He yet again kicked this one to the curb. Not just on the drive in overtime. I’m talking the whole game. His offensive plans drive me mad. My heart can’t take a whole season of games that feel like that Super Bowl loss.

    • art thiel

      Imagine if Wilson instead threw a pass that was incomplete/intercepted. The NFL for a moment would have ground to a halt.

      • Effzee

        *shudder*

    • eYeDEF

      I don’t see how you can blame Bevel for Wilson’s poor play in this game. He was generally terrible and out of sync, in spite of his high completion rate. He was missing wide open receivers and mismatches all over the field.

  • bugzapper

    That Laurenitis guy again. Geez…. At OSU he tormented the Huskies, now he gets to do it to the Hawks twice a year. That’s what you get from someone whose father is a semi-retired WWE pro (Road Warrior Animal), and whose uncles are former professional wrestlers.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    The team didn’t play 4 quarters’ worth of good football. Maybe only a quarter and ahalf.

  • 3 Lions

    Dion’s “coming out party”

  • whoKarez

    I hardly recognize our team. Even the familiars played out of character. Screen passes were never successful against our D in the past and yet I saw too many wide open fields. Where was our D? Everyone played like they had gained an extra few pounds. The aggressive play calling from Richard cost us a few first down conversions. etc etc.

    • John M

      Richard is doing fine and he’ll only get better. They had a couple good series, a few more good snaps where everything worked. But yeah, they were out of sync for too much of the game. I couldn’t figure out why some guys were where they were before the snap – and then after the snap looked like they ran the wrong way. They’ve got some problems, and next week they’ll be going against one of the best teams in the NFL that hates ‘em and is at present laughing over game tapes . . .