BY Art Thiel 12:36AM 11/16/2015

Thiel: Wilson, Graham are Seahawks’ mysteries

The offensive line is in over its collective head, which everyone knew in training camp. Harder to explain how Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham can’t function on a basic level.

Harassed repeatedly, QB Russell Wilson completed 14 of 32 passes against Arizona’s pressure. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The Seahawks defense did a lot to win the race — cleaned the stables, fed the horse, saddled it, rode hard and went to the whip. But when the race becomes a mile and a half instead of a mile, the best thoroughbreds wear out.

Asked what it was like to spend 40 minutes chasing around one of the NFL’s best offenses, DE Cliff Avril, the star of Seattle’s comeback, was blunt.

“That sucked,” he said.

It sucked because, well, the offense sucked.

The Seahawks’ season-long gamble to try to make a respectable line out of ordinary guys reached the crucible. On the Sunday night national game against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals in front of another rabid sellout home crowd, the gamble failed spectacularly.

After the 39-32 loss, they are 4-5, requiring a miraculous combination of events to get a wild-card playoff berth.

At halftime, the Seahawks had seven points, six first downs, 62 yards in penalties and 89 yards of offense in 18 plays. They looked like a small college team at spring practice instead of a team coming off a bye week knowing the season largely rested upon a successful outcome.

Yes, the Seahawks whooshed back to take a 29-25 lead with 13 minutes remaining. But just as they had in their four previous losses, they couldn’t hang on to a late advantage. The five games lost after a fourth-quarter lead is the NFL high.

Coach Pete Carroll, who likes to think he has seen about everything, bordered on shock.

“It was really disappointing that we put out such a miserable half of football,” he said. “We don’t play like that.”

They did Sunday. Fourteen penalties for 131 yards, including critical O-line blunders in the first half, is characteristic of a young team on the come, not a two-time defending NFC champion. At least RT Garry Gilliam, LG Justin Britt and C Patrick Lewis can claim to be new on their jobs. It’s not their fault they are in over their heads.

Much more mystery attends two veterans, QB Russell Wilson and TE Jimmy Graham. So much was expected of them. Delivery, however, has been spasmodic.

Wilson’s good-play/bad-play ratio has dwindled this year. Graham has never quite caught on. Or simply caught.

The tandem’s futility was captured after the defense performed its final rescue, badgering Arizona QB Carson Palmer into a sack-fumble on a hit by LB K.J. Wright, followed by a 22-yard scoop-and-score by LB Bobby Wagner with 13 minutes left.

The Seahawks attempted to pad the 29-25 lead with a two-point conversion. Having looked bad on a previous deuce attempt, this time they pushed out 6-foot-7 Graham wide to the right, where he had a one-on-one matchup with Tyrann Mathieu, a good safety who is nevertheless is 5-foot-9.

The formation fairly screamed for a rollout pass, which is what Wilson did. All he had to do was loft the ball softly almost anywhere in the right quarter of the end zone, where a desperate Mathieu was fronting Graham, like a basketball point guard stuck after a defensive switch on a bigger post player.

Instead, Wilson inexplicably threw the ball low, where Mathieu couldn’t have asked for better. Graham had no chance to use his height, and Mathieu batted away the attempt.

A cynic might suggest that Wilson must have left his game on the Mexican beach where he and beau Ciara spent the bye week, flaunting it on her Instagram account. That probably isn’t true, but a 14 for 32 passing performance, including a brutal miscommunication with Doug Baldwin on a throw that was easily intercepted, is hard to explain at this stage of his career for so significant a game.

“I misjudged it,” Wilson said. The play, not the vacation.

Asked to evaluate Wilson’s play, Carroll was vague.

“He’s subject to what happened in the first half — we were so far behind the sticks that you can’t tell,” he said. “The second half, he made some things happen . . . there’s always some throws in there that he could do better.”

Certainly, Wilson is a bit of a victim of the expectations he helped create. It’s also true that after the battering he has taken behind what is likely the NFL’s worst offensive line — two more sacks pumped his league-leading total to 33 — he is entitled to some yips. But it doesn’t take a lot of will to throw a ball where a 6-7 guy can reach it.

Then again, after three drops, Graham isn’t the guy he’s supposed to be either. He was targeted eight times and made three catches for 41 yards. That doesn’t have much to do with the line.

Offenses can be complicated things; certainly it seemed so in the second quarter, when Wilson dropped back from Seattle’s 12-yard line for a screen pass and suddenly found himself  in a jailbreak pass rush.  In the mayhem, he bumped into his own man, LT Russell Okung, and ball squirted free into the end zone, where Wilson jumped on it to surrender a safety instead of a touchdown.

But offenses are not as complicated as the Seahawks made it look Sunday night; like a small college in spring ball.

The race isn’t necessarily over for the Seahawks. But having to avoid losing to themselves as well as the opponent makes a playoff hard to see from here.



  • dingle

    At this point in the season, the Seahawks are what their record says they are: average, more or less.

    That was horrific.

    • art thiel

      Lots of teams now are average; the question is how to get to good by the Jan. 3 rematch vs. AZ. The path is not obvious.

  • ll9956

    You nailed it, Art. The Hawks simply didn’t deserve to win this game. Allowing Larry Fitzgerald 130 yards and Michael Floyd 113 yards in receptions, blown coverages by Sherman and Williams, a whiffed block by Gilliam, which, if I recall correctly, led to a sack, a total lack of discipline resulting in a whopping 131 yards in penalties–especially when the D had held to Cardinals to 3rd and long, all adds up to a recipe for losing the game. The Hawks chances of going to the Super Bowl are near zero and the chances of making the playoffs aren’t much better.

    • art thiel

      The most pathetic moment was Cary Williams being blocked away from the sideline as the game-breaking TD blew by. Where are you Brandon Browner?

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Williams is flat a liability…. it has been painful to try to enjoy what they are getting for their 6.4million from that guy.

        • art thiel

          He’s had trouble, and the Seahawks lacks the CB depth they had with Thurmond/Maxwell/Lane.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            And even hard hitter Brandon Browner as you alluded to.
            On the CB depth~Completely agree.

          • ll9956

            Isn’t Jeremy Lane due to return? In fact wasn’t he eligible to play yesterday?

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            He is and it was explained that they generally have a policy of 2 weeks practice before they activate a player and Lane still had a week to go.

      • Eric K

        Getting burned for a long TD run on the Saints:-)

        He’s having a really bad year.

        • art thiel

          True. He’s not the same as 2013, just like the Seahawks.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        I thought that “block” really looked like holding.

        And, oh yeah, every time I looked at Fitzgerald – working from the slot – blocking on Kam Chancellor, it looked like holding, sometimes blatantly so and way beyond anything that the Hawks actually got called for. Tight penalty calling is Ok if it’s equally applied, it wasn’t yesterday.

      • Skeezix

        YES…I felt sick as i watched that….he is horrid…and at SIX Million per year?….a waiver guy….are you kidding me?

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          My point exactly… 6.4m is not getting value from a liability.

  • Rj Smith

    The Hawks are done. They will not/cannot win out like they need to. Gilliam was whiffing blocks all nite, pushing pass rushers right into Wilson, he is beyond terrible. The OL line has been dreadful the past 2 years, but now it is the worst in the modern history of the league. All those moronic penalties cost them also & will continue to do so. This is not a smart group of guys, they make the same idiotic mistakes over & over, 9 games in that will not change. Forget home field advantage, forget playoffs, these guys will be lucky to finish 9-7.

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    • art thiel

      OL worst in modern history? That’s a high aspiration, but if you say so. Might want to check the Seahawks’ 2-14 team in 1992. Or take a deep breath.

      • eYeDEF

        Kelly Stouffer. Nuff said.

  • 1coolguy

    “At halftime, the Seahawks had seven points, six first downs, 62 yards in penalties and 89 yards of offense in 18 plays. They looked like a small college team at spring practice instead of a team coming off a bye week knowing the season largely rested upon a successful outcome.”

    This is an indictment of the offense.
    The OC is Bevell – he owns it.
    In 2015 he is a failure and simply needs to be replaced.
    Let’s remember of the 32 points scored, the D essentially scored 12.

    As for teh D allowing 39 points? Two things:
    1 – They were on the field 38+ minutes, thanks to the offense.
    2 – Richard is no Bradley or Quinn.

    • art thiel

      As with most athletes, they won’t admit to fatigue. But thanks to Avril for being honest.

    • Eric K

      I wonder how much the coach churn has hurt. Not only is Richard a rookie d coordinator, he also isn’t the DB coach anymore so there is a new one. How often does it seem the DBs are confused about the coverage after long gains?

    • Bittermelon

      Saying the D gave up the most points since 2010 because they were gassed from being on the field so long is fine as far as it goes, but remember they gave up more points in the first half (22) than they did in the second (17).

  • MrPrimeMinister

    As spnw is still hawking a book on the qb, I have to admire the piece as it clearly calls into question the effectiveness of this qb. As this season progressivley goes down the drain, one can only wonder how much longer the other large publication in this town will continue to devote a full page spread and separate section to a team going down in flames. Pull the plug I say. In any case, our qb got outplayed by an aging immobile qb with bad knees that have been surgically repaired. This is uncomfortable proof that a team does not need a mobile qb to win. What is most disapointing is right after these players get paid(i.e sign the big contract), they go down the tubes–wilson and sherman.

    • art thiel

      They could win the next seven, you know. They are not being blown out.

      And the book is an honest rendering of his first two seasons. As the column is honest about current dealings.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        Any thoughts on the premature and un-necessary decisions to go for two pt conversions? Cost them very needed points.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          That was a travesty. Despite that crazy last minute score by AZ they could have been only down by 8 had they had the 2 extra points instead. We will never know now how that drive may have turned out.

          • MrPrimeMinister

            i am a cheapskate. If you can get free points, take’em.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            Obviously Pete is treated like a god from ownership but sometimes Coaches lose their jobs by NOT taking the sure points…. the thing about this was…it was a crazy game and NOTHING was going on script. How did he know he could afford to squander a point or two?
            Answer:He didnt.
            I think the free points could have in hindsight given them a chance to win a strange game that in the end they had priced themselves out of….by not taking the gimmees.

          • MrPrimeMinister

            The fact of the matter is Green Bay tried it this weekend, Stanford tried it against oregon, and the seahowks tried it twice. None of them worked. It’s a low percentage play. I am sure the coaches, with all of their brilliant computer programs giving them the percentages and probabilitites, would tell us otherwise.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            If Pete keeps a diary I hope fergawdsakes his entry last nite was note to self: Next time actually think about the ramifications of going for two with a TE that doesnt always seem to be in sync with my QB or vice versa.

        • Eric K

          Yeah I noted when ARZ got the late TD run with 2 simple xp made It would be an 8 pt game. My theory is never go for 2 until you have no choice, or put another way with a lot of time left you don’t know how many scores will still come

        • Matt712

          Speaking of points, what about the 3 points gifted to AZ because suddenly the NFL no longer knows what a catch is?

  • Just Another Bullwhip

    Poor, poor Hooterville. Hootervillians were looking forward to a holiday of celebrating a team they consider almost a dynasty, the one-time Superbowl champion Seahawks. Now, well . . . . But look at the upside. SOMEDAY the Mariners will win the World Series, and then you also can call the Mariners a dynasty. And in the meantime, console yourself this holiday season by listening to the lip that is Richard Sherman, and also contemplating how much of the Seahawks’ salary cap is dedicated for the next century to “uber-quarterback” Russell Wilson. In fact, you can contemplate that latter fact while you watch Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers lead their teams, once again, close to, or actually to,
    the promised land. I also must say that, even living currently in Hollywood, I do not know the real center of Wilson’s life–beside Jesus of course, just ask him, or ask his first wife–from Adam. I must be out of it. I did see their vacation pictures somewhere, however.

    • rosetta_stoned

      Your mom shouldn’t let you use her computer.

    • art thiel

      I recognize the tone of this missive from the acid dripmarks; from someone who used another nom de plume.

  • steve51

    For the second time in three years the Seahawks brain trust (Carroll/Schneider) went out and got a high priced receiver – remember Harvin – instead of investing in the offensive line. Graham was great in New Orleans, but he hasn’t really distinguished himself here, and we could have had a couple of solid o-linemen for what we’re paying Graham. Did the offense really need Graham? After all, we went to the Super Bowl two years in a row with “average” receivers.

    The lack of investment in the offensive line and over investment in two high priced receivers has resulted in a lost season. If I’m not mistaken Okung and Sweezy will be free agents next year. Neither is a star, but they’re a solid foundation to build on.

    • MrPrimeMinister

      they went out and got him beacuse of the super bowl play at the one yard line. all they had to do was hand it off to Lynch.

      • art thiel

        True. Didn’t fix the red zone problem.

    • art thiel

      Eight targets and three catches by Graham underscores that point. Harvin-esque production.

    • bugzapper

      Okung? You mean the guy who ran into his own QB and forced him to fumble into his own end zone? That Okung?

  • Eric K

    Maybe I’m not a coaching genius, but I think at some point maybe they should consider drafting college tackles to play tackle, guards to play guard and centers to play center.

    • art thiel

      You’re out there, pal.

      • Eric K

        Here is my real radical plan, next year draft an o lineman in every round, just take the highest rated guy on board with each pick

  • Bill Potter

    A Seahawk lead late in the game is about as safe as a Christian at an ISIS convention.

    • art thiel

      Not amusing, Bill.

      • bugzapper

        Okay. How about as awake as Ben Carson at a Sleep Train sign change-over? Ooh, ah, ee, ah, ooh, ah.

  • David Michel

    Offensive line has been a joke all season. Stupid penalties. Wilson is not making the plays he has the last 2 years. Defense cannot make a stop with the game on the line. It all adds up to a crappy team.

    • art thiel

      Wilson is diminished, even when he has a clear view.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        I knew there would be a decline, but i thought it would be gradual and they would remain competitive at a high level. But they are falling off the proverbial cliff.

  • Matt712

    While the glaring and, probably by now, insurmountable problem with this team is the O-line, one gets the feeling that, as a child, Darrell Bevel broke a lot of toys trying to force square pegs into round holes. Over and over again, the Seahawks offense looks as though they are not playing to their strengths, but rather to some forced formula of which they simply aren’t capable.

    Whether it’s individual play selection or an overall shift in offensive philosophy, Wilson looks like a rookie trying to learn a new system – as if he’s been told not use his legs as much, and instead, to stand tall (which he isn’t) in the pocket (which there isn’t).

    Furthermore, if I – the consummately average armchair quarterback that I am – can correctly predict a string of four offensive plays in a row – and do that several times throughout the game – then, I’m reasonably certain that NFL defensive coordinators are almost snickering as they call in their next play.

    It’s been a grand experiment – the O-line. And it could prove to be worth it in the long run. But man, what a tall order for one season. I think it’s pretty safe at this point to call the Unger-for-Graham trade marginal at best (if not quite a bust). Basically, it was like trading one’s spine for an extra arm.

    • art thiel

      Spine for an extra arm? I like that.

      The decision to spend most of the salary money under the cap on defense has consequences. Then to pay Wilson and Lynch so much leaves little to invest elsewhere.

      Again, every championship team is forced into these kinds of decisions. Through nine games, it hasn’t worked.

      • Tman

        what is the upside to the salary cap?

        • art thiel

          Controls labor costs to keep owners wealthy.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    The Men of Mystery…..and not mystery in a good way.
    I have a friend that has been saber rattling all season about how much Unger and that 1st round Draft pick (to perhaps snag another OL to help the listing ship) would have helped the cause esp since for most of these games you cant help but feel they could have at least done OK without all world Graham on the team.
    As far as Wilson? Last night he just didn’t look crisp. Meanwhile AZ worked their tush off to prepare for this game and wanted it worse. He just wasn’t going to be the winning QB in their minds and they were right.

    • art thiel

      Defenses have figured out how to corral Wilson to keep him sackable, or at least off-balance. With this line there is no counter-move.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        All off lines allow sacks. All qb’s get sacked. Wilson has the unique ability to turn a 3 yard loss sack inot a 15 yard loss sack. How many times has he taken us OUT of field goal range? Alot. You can’t run Marshawn on 2nd and 23. Then there is russel’s inability to protect the football. How many times have we seen him running around with one hand waving the ball around?

    • bugzapper

      Gah-ROOOY, baybay! This team is so awful it could be taken out by 11 Fembots and a white pussy cat coach.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Yah Well if we had Austins time machine I doubt Pete would set it to 1969. Maybe it would be back to last March to undo the Graham trade or Keep Zach Miller or not let Carp go…. If the OL is the Failure of Wilson this season they are probably rethinking alot of moves right now.

  • notaboomer

    pc needs to hire bill nye the science guy and fix things.

    • art thiel

      Bill had a habit of blowing things up. Is that what you mean?

      • notaboomer


        • bugzapper

          Sorry, but I’m going with Gallagher. It’s more fun to smash things, especially when the first six rows of people in the high-priced seats get splattered.

  • Nads

    One of the basic tenets of football is that the war is won in the trenches. Meaning that a team can go a long way if your offensive line can dominate their defensive line and vice versa. It’s disappointing to think that a football team with as seasoned a head coach and offensive line coach have allowed the current status of the Hawks O Line to get to where it is. Dismal.

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Dismal does indeed sum up many efforts by our HAWKS this year….

      This game we spend so much time lamenting on is just baffling. Atlanta
      had all of the 4th qtr luck in coming from behind early in the season.
      He has those guys playing out of their minds. Overachieving if you will.
      With our OL there has been none of that overachieving to buy a game or
      two we should have won. Its a huge hole.A struggle and maybe more than
      they can now overcome. Just heard a stat on ESPN. Seattle is the 1st
      team to lose 4th Qtr leads in all 5 of their losses. Indeed a strange

      • art thiel

        You actually could have read that fact in the column.

        Many seasons are strange around the league. Denver, GB, ATL, SF. That’s part of why the game is so popular — you never know what you might see.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          Sorry Art…. I’m lefthanded. Seem to go back to front alot. Finish the article after the comments. Just read that…. its a dubious stat on our guys.

    • art thiel

      They knew the shortcoming. That’s how the team was built. They gambled on coaching around the shortfall. They lost.

      Drew Nowak wasn’t even active Sunday. Lewis/Jeanpierre handled center. Didn’t work too well.

  • coug73

    There is now such thing as win for ever in football.

    • art thiel

      Or anywhere, except in inspirational book titles.

  • bugzapper

    Here’s my take on it. I lose interest when the game isn’t fun to watch. These guys are no longer fun to watch. They make repeated, idiotic mistakes. They come up with new and inventive ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Apparently, the term “teachable moment” applies to everything now. They go backwards more than they go forward. They have a confederacy of dunces calling the offensive plays and cuing the cream puff o-line.

    This is a waste of my time and all the punky beer and months of Cheetos I laid in, expecting a team on a mission to avenge The Pass That Won’t Go away. These guys are as boring and predictable as a Cleveland-San Diego game.

  • COskier99

    In stead of thinking about football 24/7 like he used to, now he’s thinking about Ciara most of the time. Since they’re not having sex, he’s probably sexually frustrated. He needs to have sex with Ciara, so he can go back to focus on football like he used to

    • art thiel

      Excellent football analysis.

  • ss

    Does anyone know where we can find stats for each Seahawks game? I read somewhere Lynch had 8 carries for 42 yards against Arizona. Only 8 carries, plus 2(?) for Rawls, for this run-first team? Want to confirm these numbers/trends somehow. Anyone know a good source? Thanks.