BY Art Thiel 12:35AM 09/21/2015

Thiel: Seahawks making mistakes of unusual size

The Seahawks secondary is a mess — thanks, Kam Chancellor — and until they learn to trust one another, mistakes are going to keep them playing from behind.

As his teammates watched, QB Russell Wilson finally put his running game in gear against the Packers. / Jonathan Nesvig, Sportspress Northwest

No freaky finishes this time. Just a plain old revenge beat-down. As much as the Green Bay Packers denied it, they had to have the game. As much as the Seahawks might be ashamed to admit it, they gave it to the Packers.

Penalties. Turnovers. Missed tackles. Missed runs.

Winning at Lambeau Field — which held the largest regular-season crowd in its storied history — with QB Aaron Rodgers in charge required near perfection. The Seahawks weren’t close. They weren’t terrible. They just weren’t close.

“We got to get out of our own way,” coach Pete Carroll said after the 27-17 loss in which they had a fourth-quarter lead, but for the third time in a row (including the Super Bowl), gave it up. “Really disappointed in the finish. We were so good at finishing, something we’ve taken great pride in.

“We had a chance to win both these games (including a 34-31 overtime loss in St. Louis) with a lead and we didn’t protect it properly.”

Among the many errors, two mistakes loomed as especially uncharacteristic, for different reasons — a second-quarter pass interference call on CB Richard Sherman, and a fourth-quarter ejection of LB K.J. Wright.

On a second-and-17 play from hia own 13-yard-line, Rodgers dropped deep and launched a pass that traveled 60 yards to WR Ty Montgomery. Sherman was covering, then released, presumably to FS Earl Thomas. But Thomas only belatedly responded, and Sherman hastily ran after Montgomery, who slowed to catch the under-thrown ball. Sherman bumped him before the ball arrived.

The immense 52-yard penalty set up in five more plays a Mason Crosby field goal that extended Green Bay’s lead to 13-3 at halftime.

With the Packers ahead 24-17 halfway through the fourth quarter, Wright was ejected for a fight with Green Bay TE Richard Rodgers after a running play. Both players were penalized but only Wright was ejected, further diminishing a defense run ragged chasing the elusive Rodgers. The drive led to Crosby’s last of four field goals with 4:54 left that made it a two-score deficit.

“We were chasing him all over the place,” said Carroll of Rodgers, “but we couldn’t get him.”

What was unusual was that Sherman and Thomas rarely mis-communicate, and Wright rarely behaves so foolishly. These two unrelated plays prompted an irresistible thought — would the episodes have happened with Kam Chancellor in the game?

Much of Chancellor’s reputation is built on his ferocious hits. But other aspects of his play are just as valuable, including experience and leadership.

Primarily because of his holdout, the Seahawks are a mess in the secondary. The Seahawks benched Dion Bailey, who filled in for Chancellor in St. Louis, and started in Green Bay DeShawn Shead, who practiced little at the position recently, spending more time at corner.

Both players’ inexperience plays out in coverage responsibilities. As well as their own jobs, Sherman and Thomas have to make sure the newbies are assignment-correct, and help cover for them if they are not.

What happened on the Montgomery pass isn’t clear, and the players probably wouldn’t be honest about it anyway. But if Chancellor were holding down his end, the chance for epic errors such as that are greatly reduced.

Chancellor’s influence on the Wright episode is speculative, but tensions were building between the teams all game long. It was a time when leadership was everything, and Wright did the worst thing he could do — he took himself out.

“I talked to him,” Carroll said of Wright. “He was disappointed that happened. He didn’t want to do that. He apologized for it.”

Being sorry doesn’t quite cut it.

Around the Seahawks, the concept of trust has high value. As it pertains to game-plan execution, the defenders, because of the inexperience of newcomers, can’t trust one another sufficiently right now to do their jobs. So, as is often the case with human nature, overcompensation happens.

The Seahawks in their past three games have given up 28, 34 and 27 points. Many circumstances and personnel issues were unique to each game, and all were against quality opponents, but it’s clear that the defense is giving up chunk plays and missing tackles at a rate unprecedented in the Seahawks’ previous three years of dominance.

But Chancellor’s return is not imminent, so the Seahawks are going to have to develop an internal fix fairly abruptly.

“We were not not right last year for some time, too,” Carroll said, referencing last season’s 3-3 start. “We’re fortunate we’ve gotten through (0-2) healthy, and we need to clean up things and get right.

“Both of these are hard to take, because we could have won both.”

True. Green Bay was beatable at home. During the week the Packers lost their starting middle linebacker and right tackle to injury, and during the game lost starting RB Eddie Lacy and WR Davante Adams to ankle injuries. And the Seahawks offense finally figured out in the second half how to get Wilson to run the ball when the Packers were piling up on RB Marshawn Lynch.

But until the Seahawks defense learns to trust one other and not the ghost of Kam Chancellor, they’re going to being playing from behind all season.

A rare moment Sunday when the Seahawks converged on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. / Jonathan Nesvig,Sportspress Northwest

 


YourThoughts

  • Topcatone

    I don’t give into $ bullies who won’t stick to contracts. I hope Chancellor never comes back. Let him sit for three years(?). Seahawks refuse to rush five, giving Rogers (or any good QB) plenty of time to throw. Seahawks have a still weak offensive line or just need more time together, and continue to try and force the running game early. Opening the passing game makes the running game better. They played that way during the first Super Bowl run, but no longer do for some reason. And, the play calling is mostly unimaginative. I hope for things to improve, but team has a lot of work to do. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      I’ll tell Chancellor you think he’s a bully.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Interesting comments. In the writer’s refernce of uncharacteristic mistakes, he did not include Wilson throwing an INT in crunch time.

    • art thiel

      I was talking about defense, which is where the greater problem lies.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        They had 3 points in one half. I thought I was watching a mariner game there for awhile.

  • Joe_Fan

    Was Graham even in the game? Playing as poorly as we did on offense in the first half was inexcusable. We have this incredible weapon in Jimmy Graham and we essentially don’t even use him. It absolutely makes no sense to me. How many times did we throw to Luke Wilson when we should have been throwing to Graham? Under the circumstances I really wasn’t expecting a victory, but the first half was a joke for a team with an offense of this high caliber.

    • Lodowick

      Well, that’s the question. Is this a high caliber offense? Only if Russell runs 12 to 15 times a game. Not if he stays in the pocket. How long can you survive with your QB running that often?

      • art thiel

        The way he runs, he’s been careful to go down. At 5-11 it’s Wilson’s main weapon that distinguishes his work.

    • Obi-jonKenobi

      Graham draws double coverage. Unfortunate for him but it also aids the other receivers and opens up scramble runs by Wilson.

      But, Graham probably has drawn double coverage for years and still caught a high number of passes so I think it will eventually arrive there as Wilson – famous for protecting the ball – learns to trust throwing into tight coverage around Graham.

      • art thiel

        What I don’t get is the times Graham drew one-on-one coverage by a small CB. Mandatory throw.

        • Obi-jonKenobi

          Ok, I missed the one-on-one coverage (too bad the TV cameras don’t see everything).

    • jafabian

      Luke Wilson was targeted 4x for a pass and Jimmy 2x. Against the Rams Graham was targeted 8x and Luke only once. Looked to me the Packers played Jimmy pretty tight. Jermaine only 2x yesterday when he led the team against the Rams with 10 targets. I also find it interesting that Chris Matthews hasn’t been involved much so far. Russell is still finding his way in the offense with so many new faces it seems.

      • art thiel

        Too small a sample size. Two different defenses.

    • art thiel

      Carroll claims the calls were made, but coverage dictated plays elsewhere. Wilson did throw to him once in the first half, but he wasn’t looking.

      • Bruce McDermott

        My sense, which has to be a sense because neither Brock nor Salk could bring themselves to ask Pete, is that Russell is not seeing Jimmy open, as that word would be defined in the case of a 6’7″ freak athlete with hops. All Pete would say, over and over, is that “we’re just not getting him the ball, even though we are calling plenty of plays for him”. Since the question was, essentially “why aren’t we getting Graham the ball”, this answer was not much of one, except by implication. But, in any event, there was no assertion that Jimmy has been covered, either, or is running bad or incorrect routes.

        That pretty much means it’s Wilson, I believe. And I think THAT is a function of two issues: 1) A TE’s routes are often in the middle of the field, where Russell only occasionally throws on rhythm because he can’t see that middle very well in the pocket, and 2) Pete wants a mistake free QB, and Russell has to learn that throws to a tightly covered Graham, as opposed to our other receivers, are more likely to get caught, and less likely to get picked.

      • Joe_Fan

        I thought one of Graham’s claim to fame was his ability to catch passes in coverage. He can out leap and out muscle the average DB. Russell needs to start looking his way starting on Sunday. When it’s 3rd and 3 yards to go I want to see them throwing to Graham.

  • Gerald Turner

    Trust in the Process… Pete is the zen master, see, you start the season with a lot of chaos and drama, and then due to the Process you have a unified team coalescing out of the initial soap opera maelstrom. The hold out is somehow part of his master plan. The scruffy play of the DB’s also. We are not the Browns, an eternal vortex of sadness, we are Seahawks, with this coach out of chaos comes order.

    • art thiel

      Well, that’s been the template. But they’ve never had a player suck up so much cash under the salary cap, so the talent level is diminished.

  • Mayrock

    Mistakes of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist. [as the Seahawks battle the three terrors of the Lambeau Fire Swamp]

    • art thiel

      Inconceivable. (If you haven’t seen “Princess Bride” . . . never mind).

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Crosby kicked 4 field goals. The game was close to blowout territory.

    • Pixdawg13

      Until Russ threw that pick in the middle of the line, it was a one-score game, and the Hawks were in position move down to score.

    • art thiel

      Not close.

    • Eric K

      it isn’t like they drive and then say ok we’ll let up now and just kick FGs, the D does have something to do with holding them to FGs

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    The combination of Shead and Burley seemed to be an improvement and with a little settle-in time, maybe the pass defense arrives without Chancellor.

    Ironically, it was the highly-paid veteran, Richard Sherman, that was out of synch getting a YOOOGE penalty (as Trump would say) on the pass interference and then a holding call RIGHT AFTER that??? WTF? It was also Sherman that gave up the TD pass on a crossing pattern he trailed too far behind.

    And give another veteran, Michael Bennett, a big assist on both the 50-yard pass interference penalty and the TD that Sherman failed on by once again jumping offsides and giving Aaron Rogers free plays which he exploited by throwing long or into coverage.

    Re: Wright’s ejection, I replayed that several times and the fight between Wright and Richard Rogers came after Rogers held Wright while blocking him and then kept holding after the play ended. Wright was outraged and pushed Rogers to the ground, shoving his head down by his facemark. And the two had already gone at each other after Bobby Wagner was (inexplicably) called for pass interference on a pass in the end zone a few minutes earlier.

    Where were the freaking refs during the holding call? I saw more holds by GB that weren’t called, too. Add to that the fumble “recovery” given to GB and you have plenty of grounds for a conspiracy theory.

    • art thiel

      Any intentional grab of the facemask is high crime in the NFL, as it should be. Ejection deserved. Rodgers may have gotten away with the first episode, but Seahawks defenders have to be smarter than that. Get him later, quietly.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        I understand the need to protect players and the concern about jerking someone’s head around but that didn’t happen in this case. Rogers was on the ground when Wright used Rogers’ face mask to pushed him after he was already down. Rogers then grabbed Wright’s face mask as Wright backed off, pulling him down and into a scuffle that was then joined by other GB players. I think that’s when Rogers’ helmet came off.

        Anyway, bad call in my book (as was the specious “interference” call on Wagner in the end zone, the numerous non-calls on holding by GB, and the Miraculous Fumble Recovery awarded to GB).

    • Eric K

      I think if you ask Det, Minn and CHI fans they’ll all say you just go to GB knowing you aren’t getting any pressure on the QB, the Lambeau aura seems to make holding calls vanish

      • SeaRaays

        GB had a lot of holds in Seattle during NFC game.

    • Tha Creek

      Yes, the NFL was just completely out to get the Seahawks. Geez, a player holding that was missed by the refs?!? My gosh, I’ve never, EVER seen that happen before, it must just only happen against the Seahawks.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        The sarcasm indicates that the refs aren’t just missing holding calls against the Seahawks which may well be the case. Being a Seahawks fan, I’m noticing what I think are non-calls or bad calls against the Hawks, maybe you can enlighten me if there were missed calls or bad calls against the Packers?

        My short list from the GB game of missed or bad calls on are missed holding calls against GB including the one by Richard Rogers that caused Wright to go ballistic, bad pass interference call on Wagner, and, of course, the Big Kahuna of bad calls, the Miraculous Fumble Recovery by GB. Where’s your list?

  • Pixdawg13

    Art, one thing you don’t mention about the long PI play–Bennett was once again offside at the beginning of the play (as he was on Rodgers’ long TD pass), so AR had a complete freebie. He couldn’t lose, whatever happened.

    MISTER Bennett needs to learn how to line up onside and to not jump offside.

    • Obi-jonKenobi

      It’s even worse when you consider what Carroll said to the press after the game about how they had practiced and prepareded for Rogers’ use of the “hard count” technique which he uses to draw teams offsides.

      • art thiel

        He did say that, and I would agree that Bennett really hurt them, especially on GB’s opening drive that would have been a punt until GB was awarded a first down by Bennett.

        • Eric K

          no the punt would have been earlier but 12 men on the field on 3rd down got reviewed (good catch by the Packers in their booth), Avril was sprinting off and didn’t get off fast enough, then GB got a couple more first downs and they threw the TD when Bennett jumped offsides for a free play from about the Hawks 29 I think

    • art thiel

      Carroll says Bennett didn’t move, but a GB lineman did, and went undetected. Play should have been nullified.

      • Eric K

        or even if Bennett was off sides and then the O line moves before the snap it’s supposed to be a dead play at that point isn’t it with just a 5 yard penalty on the Hawks?

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  • Eric K

    I think there is a little bit of schedule quirk makes things look worse than they are. GB is something like 37-3 at home under Rogers the last however many years and the Hawks always have a tough game at St Louis (who once again seemed to think beating the Hawks was their SB and promptly laid an egg at Washington)
    Roll off 3 or 4 wins in a row and things look ok again.
    Biggest concern now is GB needs to lose 1 more than the Hawks or SB goes through GB in January (see their home W-L record above again…)

  • 1coolguy

    Bradley and Quinn are gone to head coaching positions and assistants have left also, including Norton. Richard has never been a DC and the new assistants are just that, so I expect part of the defenses’ lesser performance this year is due to this turnover. Richard has some very, very big shoes to fill.

  • Tha Creek

    How exactly did the Seahawks give it away? The Seahawks commit lots of penalties each game and as far as turnovers go, in the big scheme, the margin was pretty much even if you consider the fact Jackson’s turnover occurred when they were down 10 and under 40 seconds (he wasn’t going to score on that play and they didn’t have any timeouts).

    Green Bay won despite missing a top OL and their top RB. Some of you act like Green Bay was completely healthy and made no mistakes. You act like the Seahawks committing a bunch of penalties is an anomaly. Get over it, Green Bay was better, let’s get ready for Chicago.

  • ll9956

    It seems to me that the Hawks’ coaches have a formidable task ahead of them. I think PC’s words that “we need to get right” represents his acknowledgement that the team at this point is in disarray. With Michael Bennet’s inability to keep from jumping offsides, 12 men on the field penalties and way too many other penalties, things are a bit ragged at this juncture. With Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell and Kam Chancellor gone, there is a significant risk that the Legion of Boom will become a distant memory, unless things shape up quickly. When you lose players like Max Unger and James Carpenter on the OL, there is bound to be adverse consequences–like Marshawn being held to 41 yards. I hope the coaches can figure something out to stop the hemorrhaging.

    On top of all that Richard Sherman so far is arguably having the worst year of his career. The stats speak for themselves. I’m hoping things get better.

  • Cory

    Art,

    I don’t see your logic with the impact to the game that the KJ Wright ejection had. This occured on the series following the interception by Wilson. The game, probably the season and most likely the cycle of this great Seahawks run was over at that point. (See latest Steve Ruddman article) If anything Wright’s anger and frustration is an excellent reflection on the current mentality of this team. Their inability as of now to recover from that night in the desert has to be clear to everyone in that locker room after last night.

  • Bayview Herb

    Convert Irvin to SS