BY Art Thiel 07:29PM 09/14/2015

Thiel: Defense’s changes costly for Seahawks

Eight Rams plays of 20 yards or more wiped out all the advantages held by the Seahawks. Several defenders were having first-time experiences, which now are over.

The looming presence of Kam Chancellor, here against the 49es, was missed in the loss at St. Louis. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the Seahawks’ 34-31 defeat Sunday in St. Louis was the fact that the Rams had eight plays of 20 or more yards. Those sorts of things do not happen to the Seahawks defense under Pete Carroll, any more than a hobbling goat gets past a lion.

But as you likely know, the lion is not present. So the goats of the Midwest romped.

In the absence of Kam Chancellor, all sorts of indoor savannas and pastures were available.

“This game, more plays got away from us than normal,” Carroll said Monday. “That was one of the differences in the game that was significant.”

So significant that the Rams’ big plays negated three developments that usually mean success for Seattle — a turnover advantage (3-1), a score by the defense and a score by  special teams.

“Any of those three factors generally will win the game for you,” he said. “They made plays at the right time and we didn’t.”

Carroll never conceded that Chancellor’s absence was the main reason. He didn’t have to. It was obvious. But there were other things in play besides the failure of Dion Bailey, Chancellor’s sub; the Seahawks managed to hide Bailey for 58 minutes, then the Rams garroted him in the 59th with a 37-yard touchdown pass in which he tripped over himself.

Among the other things: Besides being the first regular-season game of Bailey’s NFL career, it was Kris Richard’s first game as defensive coordinator. It was CB Cary Williams’ first game as a Seahawk. It was Richard Sherman’s first game as a part-time slot corner. It was FS Earl Thomas’ first game of tackle football in eight months, and first in a shoulder harness.

None of those are excuses for the defense tying for the most points allowed in a game since 2010. What can be said with a high degree of certainty is that they are legit reasons, and none will be true by Sunday evening in Green Bay, when the Seahawks meet the Packers in the Cheese Vengeance Bowl.

Whether all the problems will be fixed by the mere virtue of a second game isn’t yet clear. But it can’t be much worse.

Carroll denied  that communication was a problem in the secondary, but he did say this:  “Stuff snuck in on us that usually doesn’t happen.”

He did admit that on WR Tavon Austin’s 16-yard run in the second quarter that tied the game at 7, “We made an error. We weren’t positioned well in the formation. That was a mistake.”

The defensive call was sufficiently botched that Tony Dungy, before NBC’s Sunday night game, took to the telestrator to show the football nation three Seahawk DBs huddling moments before the snap, clearly confused about where to line up. Austin scored untouched.

Carroll also tried to praise the work of Bailey, but to the coach’s credit, wasn’t very convincing:

“He was working hard at it. He didn’t have a lot of action come his way. All in all, he did OK. There are things he can clean up, tighten up on alignments, things like that. The big play jumps out at you. That’s a situation he’s rarely in — one-on-one outside. He could have played better.”

Not too persuasive. Not to pick on the kid — he’s a 23-year-old undrafted free agent — he doesn’t yet belong with the No. 1 unit in the NFL. But he’s all the Seahawks have, thanks to Chancellor announcing in mid-summer his threat to hold out, after the Seahawks had used up most of the precious space under the cap to sign QB Russell Wilson and LB Bobby Wagner.

Speaking of Wagner, he appeared to have a lousy game, missing tackles and being a step late. In fact, much of the Rams’ damage came in the space between the safeties and linebackers.

“It depends on the call,” Carroll said of the LB’s (lack of) responsibilities. “(The Rams) didn’t get after us outside, they didn’t get behind (FS Earl Thomas). They got between us.”

The errors and misplays in the first game will linger, as will, apparently, the ghost of Chancellor.

“We never should have lost that game,”  Carroll said. ” We had plenty of chances. We didn’t seize those opportunities.”

Carroll explains the OT kickoff, handoff to Lynch

The Seattle plays that had tongues wagging locally and nationally were the first play of overtime and the last.

Regarding PK Steven Hauschka’s botched kickoff, the plan was to bloop the ball  over the first line of defenders in the direction of Ereck Flowers, a big tackle positioned around the 25-yard line who would be surrounded by five speedy Seahawks. The hope was for miscue. Instead, Hauschka mis-hit the ball for about 12 yards and it was fair-caught.

“That was not what we expected to see,” he said. “We game-planned it . . .  Obviously, it went really well (in practice) or we wouldn’t have done it. It’s been a kick we’ve worked on a long time.

“It’s part of our process to have shorter kicks available for different situations. This was one of those. Even if they get the ball first and kick a field goal, we can still win the game.”

Regarding the final play, a fourth-and-one run attempt by Lynch that was dead the moment Wilson handed him the ball on the read-option, film review diagnosed the obvious.

“They won the line of scrimmage,” he said. “They did a nice job of attacking and weren’t able to get a crease that we needed. It’s a good concept for us. It’s been successful for us for a long time. They played it better than we did.”

Carroll didn’t say it, but the choice to throw probably wouldn’t have passed through the prism of the similar situation in the Super Bowl. Nor was the play likely to have worked as a Wilson keeper, because the Rams dedicated LB Alec Ogletree for most of the game to discourage Wilson.

Asked whether Wilson’s lack of option runs were a product of the defense or his reluctance, Carroll said, “A little bit of both . . . a little gray area, if you don’t mind.”

You can bet the Packers defense will be exploring via film the Rams’ 50 shades of read-option gray.













  • MrPrimeMinister

    Is it time to press the panic button? A couple of observations–this game had a wierd feeling to it. It seems like the seahawks got “out-seahawked,” these are the games they have been pulling out for years. Not this time. The other thing is this proclivity for individuals to freelance. The last two games individuals have taken it upon themselves to enact strange calls above pete. i refer to bevell and the superbowl pass call, and then this kicker deciding to do the pooch kick. Didn’t pete say he had nothing to do with those?

    • art thiel

      Pete made both calls, not Bevell or Hauschka. No freelancing.

  • ll9956

    Thanks, Art, for another fine piece.

    It seems to me that the big question is whether the Hawks can fix up all the gaffes in time to have a fighting chance against GB in the “Cheese Vengeance Bowl”. GB will come in looking for blood.

    • art thiel

      I think a lot of defensive mistakes are fixable. And the GB front four is nowhere near the Rams’. I think it will be close, but GB wins.

  • jafabian

    I’m wondering how long it’ll be before Nick Moody is promoted off the practice squad. He was the 49ers special teams ace, played LB for them and was a safety in college. The team could use someone with those credentials right now. Kelcie McCray should be getting more playing time as soon as he gets more familiar with the schemes.

    The depth the LOB enjoyed two years ago is gone. And both Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman looked like average Pro Bowlers rather than HOFers on Sunday. (That’s how good they are) After the Rams games I can see teams testing the secondary more. They’ve got to be able to stand up to that and the D-Line needs to put pressure on the QB like they did in the first half on Sunday.

    • art thiel

      Haven’t signed Moody yet.

      Depth always goes when you play one player so much of the payroll. Inevitable.

      • jafabian

        They have him on the practice squad on their website so I assumed he’s been signed.

  • 1coolguy

    Art – Throwing to Graham instead of running Lynch on 4th and 1 was exactly the call that should have been made. We picked up Graham just for this reason: Last year the Hawks were very poor in the red zone and short yardage situations, therefore the reason they picked up Graham.
    I will point out the OC Bevell has not been picked up by other teams and we see it in situations like this too often. The guy is not among the top OC’s and that’s what the Hawks need.
    As to the D, I place this performance at the feet of Richard, who has a huge hill to climb after Bradley and Quinn’s outstanding performances. We should not expect Pete can make it 3 in a row and this average, somewhat confused performance was mostly due to coaching, not the absence of 1 player.

    • art thiel

      One game, coolguy. One game. Chill. They’re going to lose Sunday too. So let me say again — chill.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Isn’t that Aaron Rodgers line?Lets all Stay Calm~or chill (from last year when the pack wasn’t fairing well early season). That we rarely win in Green Bay is unsettling and 0~2 is a raunchy reality that might be faced.
        We had plenty of opportunities to say “Got your goat” vs the Rams but the Bailey stumble moved the goat to Seattle head honchos in the bad Kam drama.
        Alot of people were picking Sea to lose last sunday including Sports Illustrated who predict we also meet those guys in the play offs.They call the Rams a 11~5 team this year which is boldly optimistic but you never know.
        The Hawks had a tough hill to climb last year and rolled up their sleeves then did it. Its going to be every bit as tough this year. It makes the fact that the Bills made it to 4x SBs in a row that much more astounding.Repeats are amazing.Go Hawks!

  • Talkjoc

    The biggest issue, for me, continues to be the offensive line play. Is there any other NFL that moves guys from the defensive to offensive line? The Hawks put all of their $ on defense and left the O-Line with chump-change and IT SHOWS! Can you imagine Wilson with a O-Line like Dallas? The Hawks, because of the atrocious O-line play, will have to pass more from the shotgun. Why not line Wilson up 15 yards behind the center and use our long-snapper. That way he’ll have a little more time to throw without getting killed. I THINK I’m kidding. I also agree with 1coolguy on Graham and Bevell.

    • art thiel

      They trust Cable to coach up the line. It’s been the obvious weak link since early in FA period. They are confident the line will be much improved by December. Meanwhile other units have to pick up the slack.

      • Talkjoc

        Always appreciate this site Art because you take the time to respond. Much improved by December sounds like something WSU coaches would say on their way to another losing season. By December the Hawks will be out of the last opportunity to make the playoffs…a Wild Card berth. Hope not.

  • Jeff Shope

    Ken Norton should have been the D coordinator anyway but the rams loss was more about the seahawks continues bonehead playcalling than anything else

    • art thiel

      No and no.

  • bugzapper

    “But as you likely know, the lion is not present.”

    I blame that dentist.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      The Lion sleeps tonight…..outer perimeter of the Seahawks Facilities in a tent with a sign hung outside that sez “Will Work for Respect”……

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    Regarding Chancellor, Aaron Levine of Ch. 13 sports said last night that Chancellor’s demand was for $4 million (most of) his 2017 pay to be moved to 2016 and that the Seahawks are willing to move $3 million forward. That’s the hangup.

    Meanwhile, Chancellor faces about $2 million in fines and lost salary for missing training camp and the first game.

    • art thiel

      If true, that’s a decent move for the Seahawks. Sounds as if Chandler is being petty.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Chandler?From Friends? I think both the SEA Head Honchos and Chandler need to become friends again or Mike Bennetts bad marriage lecture today could be whats in store for both sides.

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