BY Art Thiel 05:46PM 10/11/2015

Thiel: Seahawks’ O-line again the weak link

Culprits were many and varied, but the Seahawks’ failures in the final minutes by the offensive line, which couldn’t sustain early success, blew the chance for an important road win.

Pete Carroll was bewildered after the come-from-ahead loss in Cincinnati. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

Nothing will top (bottom?) the Super Bowl loss to New England. But the Seahawks in Cincinnati Sunday offered a strong runner-up candidate for premium agony, when the Seahawks blew a 24-7 lead in a way that stumped Pete Carroll.

His smart, veteran team fell apart, bit by chunk.

“That’s why I’m so baffled; it’s startling that it’s happening,” he said after the Seahawks lost 27-24 in overtime to drop to 2-3 while allowing the Bengals to sneak off to 5-0. “All three losses are the same story at the end. We’ve been in this mode — about outlasting, and doing right longer — for three years. For some reason, that didn’t happen.”

It began not happening in NFC Championship against Green Bay, in which a string of near-miracle plays was required to overcome a 16-0 deficit to win in overtime. Then came the certain triumph/certain defeat from one play in the Super Bowl, in which Seattle led 24-14.

This season, the Seahawks have lost twice on overtime field goals, and a third time, in Green Bay, that was to a better team, but still was winnable. Sunday, after allowing a touchdown drive on the opening series, the defense for a long while smothered the Bengals’ No. 2-ranked attack, and on offense solved for the injury absence of Marshawn Lynch with a remarkable 169-yard game from rookie RB Thomas Rawls.

After the 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter that shocked a rare sellout crowd at Paul Brown Stadium, everything ground to to a halt. The Seahawks had one first down in the fourth quarter and OT, while Bengals QB Andy Dalton revived to move the Bengals 206 yards against a tiring defense in the final period and OT.

The depth and breadth of the collapse so stunned Carroll that he couldn’t pinpoint anything, offering up a generic buck-stops-with-me assessment.

“I look right to me when we don’t finish, across the board,” he said, referring to all three phases of the roster. “When everybody doesn’t get it done and finish like we need to, I’ve to  got make sure I’m calling it right.

“It was probably the best job we’ve done this year for three quarters against a good team in a tough situation. It’s really difficult to leave here not winning.”

He couldn’t even muster up the standard bouquet for QB Russell Wilson, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 215 yards, one TD and one pick for a rating of 91.8. He ran three times for 21 yards.

“I really can’t give an assessment until I see the film,” Carroll said. “This film is really going to be important to watch what happened.”

That’s because Carroll is bewildered. They ran the ball well (200 yards), had a 2-1 turnover advantage including a defensive score, and strangled the NFL’s most explosive offensive after its opening drive.

In fact, all the Seahawks needed was one less second.

The Bengals’ final drive in regulation to a field goal that forced overtime required every tick of the two minutes, 13 seconds Cincy had. After the last scrimmage play ended with 4-and-3 at the Seattle 13 with no timeouts and about 13 seconds left, the Bengals managed to scramble their special teams onto the field for PK Mike Nugent’s 31-yarder at 00:00.

Almost plaintively, Carroll asked, “Is there one more second in there for us?”

He meant one less second, but you get his drift. If the Seahawks had burned up a little more time, things might have been different. But the defense on the final series first gave up a 27-yard pass interference penalty on CB Cary Williams, followed by a 25-yard reception by Tyler Eifert to reach the Seattle 20. The Bengals could have kicked the game-winner then, but wisely chose to drain the final minute.

But before the hammer comes down on the defense, consider that it was on the field for 40 minutes.

The decisive culprit in the outcome was the offensive line, again. For three quarters, the unit was having the best game of its tumultuous time together. It helped resurrect the power running game, and actually gave Wilson occasional time to throw from the pocket, including a first-quarter 30-yarder to an undefended WR Jermaine Kearse that answered the Bengals’ first TD.

Yet that turned out to to be the lone Seattle TD drive of the day. Besides a Steven Hauschka field goal, the Seahawks scored on a single-play, a 69-yard run by Rawls, and a defensive scoop-and-score when LB Bobby Wagner picked up a fumble created by a tackle-for-loss by DE Michael Bennett.

The group is still mistake-prone and appeared to wear down as the game went on. Carroll promised last week that the group would be better, because it had to be. And it was better. Just not enough better.

Until it can deliver four quarters, too much pressure is on Wilson and the defense to be near-flawless.

In the big picture, losing to the hot Bengals on the road was little surprise to most, and the Seahawks at 2-3 can still rely on the fact that they were 3-3 a year ago and still made the Super Bowl.

The problem with that reliance is that if they lose next week at home to Carolina, 4-0 and coming off a bye week, they will be out of serious contention for the playoffs.

Disappointed as he was, Carroll expressed his usual rock-like faith.

“Look, we’re not dead and gone,” he said. “We just got to get things fixed up, and I think we can.”

For the Seahawks and their fans, the film study of the Bengals’ defeat this week needs to be Ph.D-level class entitled, “Hurry the Hell Up.”




  • PokeyPuffy

    Seems like we are pretending to be a power running team without actually having the pieces to make that work. Until the O line gets better can we maybe show a little more flexibility with playcalling? and take advantage of a certain tight end?

    As the great Rumsfield once said, you go to war with what you got.

    • Tha Creek

      Sure, let’s air it out with a team full of average wide receivers behind an o-line that can’t protect their QB. Not to mention the team’s QB doesn’t (or can’t) win the game with his arm. Makes a lot of sense.

      • Bruce McDermott

        There is a difference between “airing it out” indiscriminately, and using your All-World tight end correctly. And Wilson has won plenty of games with his arm. It’s not about yardage, it’s about timing. Recently, the timing has sucked.

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  • jafabian

    The defense was playing well until the 4th quarter. They just were on the field too much though I can’t wait for Jeremy Lane to come back. Cary Williams had a rough game today. Also thought the O-Line played respectably for the most part. But Wilson’s all-field scrambling makes protecting him more difficult. He really needs to stay in the pocket more and get rid of the ball quickly. He seems indecisive on his WR’s. He seems to have taken a bit of a step back in his development.

    When they line up in 4 WR sets Graham should be be the 4th WR and Willson the TE. Graham is not a sound blocker. Doesn’t help Wilson when he’s thinking that he’ll get a pass rush from Graham’s end.

    Rawls had an awesome game. He’s carrying the tradition of sound backup RB’s that the Seahawks have had over the years. Gave a good interview after the game as well.

    • John M

      Cary Williams had a rough day for the most part because two-thirds of the balls seemed to go at him. Sherman was also far from invincible. You can pick at it, but they held them to 7 points before coach went to “prevent the win.”

      I agree on Lane, his presence would help.

  • The O-Line might have been the culprit, but Russell looked like he was making some bad decisions in the 4th quarter.

  • Matt712

    It appears so far that the weakest parts of this team are too much for the rest of the team to make up for. I thought it was a huge tactical error to go full ‘ground & pound’ in the 4th quarter. The Hawks simply do not have a line capable of imposing its will on another team. I thought Bevel had called a good game until then and kept Cincinnati off balance. But to then remove any and all element of surprise after a seemingly comfortable lead gave the Bengal defense the edge they were looking for.

    On the other side, Cary Williams had maybe a worse game than the Dion Baily debut. In both cases, just so bad that their teammates couldn’t make up for it. But the real head scratcher for me is the two identical TD pass plays the Hawks gave up. It looked as if Cincinnati exploited a hole in a scheme that the Hawks were unable to figure out – like each player believed he was playing it correctly.

    NFL parody is a beautiful terrible thing. The Hawks are now being beat by the very model they created and with better players than they are able to retain.

  • ll9956

    I have to agree with other observers. In the fourth quarter both the offense and defense lapsed into a coma and simply never woke up. So far this season, against good teams the Hawks just can’t keep it together for four quarters.

    Michael Bennett is a great player, but is completely undisciplined. He committed yet another offside penalty and a completely inexcusable personal foul.

    Every time Bruce Irvin tried to rush the QB, the left tackle merely pushed him out of the way and he ended up way behind the QB. An expert I ain’t, but how about an inside spin move? Oh, I forgot. That would take a bit of thought on the part of Kris Richard or Irvin himself.

    Frustration reigns supreme.

  • Seattle Psycho

    When Troy Aikman figured out that “every time they line up in these 4 WR sets, they run the ball”, it meant that the Bengals had probably already figured it out and knew what was coming.
    Other than the Rawls run the offense did nothing in the 2nd half. It seemed we started trying to run down the clock at the beginning of the 4th qtr instead of going for the knockout blow which just tired the defense out. Take away that amazing throw and catch to Eifert and we probably leave with a victory.

  • Effzee

    When Bevell opened up overtime in the shotgun with Fred Jackson in the backfield, I knew they were not serious about winning the game. An integral part of not giving up a big lead is continuing to score points. You’ve got a rookie free agent going for 170 yards, and you have a 17 point lead, and THEN you start to fling it around the place? That was like watching a full-on Voluntary Sarkisian Offense Implosion, sans liquor.

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    For years Carroll’s Seahawks teams have stood out in one statistic that is coming back to haunt them in tight games against good teams: penalties. WTF??

    Yesterday they had 10 penalties for well over 100 yards and it helped Cincinnati win the game giving them key first downs and helping put them in field goal range to tie the game.

  • Will Ganschow

    Have been willing to give Kam Chancellor full credit for what he has done/meant since returning. So lets not overlook his blown coverage on the two TDs yesterday. Was he out late Saturday?

  • Will Ganschow

    Oh yeah. What were we thinking giving Unger away?

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Hate to bring up the dreaded “C” word. But how else to explain? Chokers.

  • coug73

    The law of averages attacks the Hawks. The inside tap of the goal post goes the Bengals way. And so it goes.

    • Lodowick

      Yes, the law of averages are coming into play. Good way to put it. But 10-6 will likely get you to the playoffs. I think they make it. Yet it might be on the road and that has not been good, statistically, for the Hawks.

  • Sonics79

    The empty backfield shotguns on 3rd and short are putting the O-line (and Russ) in a bind. They might as well scream to the defense, “Hey! Blitz!” And that doesn’t mean saying hi to our mascot.
    How many times have we seen an opponent’s D-lineman make it though his blocking and be in the backfield with no secondary help? And then the play is designed to leave Russ in the pocket instead of putting him on the move, where he clearly excels.
    Yeah, yeah. Play calling gripes. But making your O-line go 5 on 6 with no help isn’t working. Making Russ a pocket-passer instead of using designed rollouts isn’t helping. And they just do it over and over. I wonder if Darrell Bevell is familiar with Einstein’s theory of insanity.
    They need plays guaranteed to get 3-4 yards.

  • Warchild_70

    After a couple of Rolaids I can now cry out WHAT THE HEY?? Bam Bam went wiff wiff as the Bengals scored at will, the OC was mind numbing with the play calling and finally the OL was again out to lunch while Russell ate the turf. Thing’s better get back on track or this year may be a nail bitter. GO HAWKS!!

  • John M

    OK, I saw a different game than some of you. The O-line was much better, thanks to the extra blocking most of the game – whatever it takes. Everyone was really playing well, or at least better than I expected, and the defense (for the most part) was sharp and opportunistic. Bobby and KJ are a dream combo. And then they found themselves up by 17. And the bitch descended. We used to call it ground out; you’re ahead a bunch, you go vanilla and run the ball in obvious formations. And you drop your defense back and don’t blitz with any authority or need. They used to call that prevent defense. I call it prevent he win. And that change on both sides of the ball is on Pete. This is the NFL. And the Bengals have one of the hottest offenses and a very good defense in the league this year. So, Pete, you’re looking at an unexpected gift and you think you can go flat and obvious with a quarter and a half to play and they won’t come at you? The Hawks were playing hard, they were earning it out there as underdogs away from home. They needed to finish the way they started. They had them. And you took away the winning scheme. It wasn’t just the Hawks, everyone was tired. It was that kind of game.

    Frankly the fourth quarter made me sick. And I don’t blame the guys for this one.