BY Art Thiel 09:02PM 09/18/2016

Thiel: Seahawks defense has to make it easier

With QB Russell Wilson limited and the O-line overwhelmed, it falls to the defense to shorten the field with turnovers to give the Seahawks a chance.

Alex Ogletree had one of the two sacks of Russell Wilson Sunday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

LOS ANGELES — When a defense permits only nine points in an NFL game, it stretches credulity to ask the unit to do more. But that is the request of the House of Twelves — get a turnover to provide an itsy-bitsy portion of the field so its limpy-skimpy Seahawks offense can score a touchdown.

Scarring the heralded event of the NFL’s return to Tinseltown Sunday after 22 years was the astonishing choice of participants from 1930s football, unable to create the fundamental reward of the game — a six-point score.

For the Rams, well, the failure was sort of understandable — they were shut out in their first game and have been looking for a premium quarterback almost since Roman Gabriel flung it about the fabled greensward in the 1960s.

But the Seahawks?

This is the team with the hottest offense is the second half of the past season. They had QB Russell Wilson, albeit diminished by injury. And it had a good receiving corp bolstered by the active return of TE Jimmy Graham.

If you were startled at the Rams’ 9-3 triumph, you should have heard coach Pete Carroll, whose flabber was gasted as much as anyone’s.

“I never could have thought that we would go the first couple of weeks and not score one touchdown,” he said. He was so flustered — and likely embarrassed in the return to his former kingdom — he forgot that the Seahawks won the opener against Miami on a two-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin with 31 seconds left.

But they still have 15 points to show for two weeks’ work. That is weapons-grade enfeeblement.

Two things stood out, and neither was surprising: The offensive line was no match for the Rams’ ruthless defensive front, and Wilson won’t admit his sprained right ankle bothered him, but it clearly did.

He was asked a half-dozen questions about his limited mobility, and refused to concede the point. But it was plain that he couldn’t push off the ankle normally on throws, and was simply a slower runner.

“I think it wasn’t that difficult,” he said. “I was able to find ways to extend the play on a few plays . . . I felt really good out there. Just being smart. I just got down a few times.

“I had one run, it was third-and-13 or something like that. I almost got the first, but had to get down there because they were about to come and hit me.”

Carroll was a bit more honest.

You could see he was a little bit limited,” he said, “but I thought he did great under the circumstances.”

The Rams were counting on Wilson’s reluctance to run intentionally and ganged up on the rest of the ballcarriers in the first half — 14 yards on 14 attempts, including a minus-seven yards for starting RB Thomas Rawls.

Not since before Marshawn Lynch heard of Beacon Plumbing has Seattle looked so inept at doing what it does best.

Carroll deferred any criticism of the line until he looked at the video, but it was plain that J’Marcus Webb, an injury replacement for first-round draft choice Germain Ifedi, isn’t working out at right guard, and tackles Bradley Sowell and Garry Gilliam are struggling in the first two games against powerhouse pass rushers.

“I thought we protected better today than we have in past games against these guys,” Carroll said. “We’re going in the right direction, but we have a lot of work to do.”

In fact, Wilson was sacked only twice for 15 yards, and he did complete 22 of 35 passes. But they were mostly of the quick-release variety. And as happened against Miami, they had few explosive plays. Only one, in fact — the final-minute, 53-yarder to WR Tyler Lockett that gave brief hope to the Seahawks that another miracle comeback was in the offing.

That was thwarted by a skill-position mistake — a subsequent pass to RB Christine Michael that he fumbled over to the Rams with 45 seconds remaining. That turnover went along with another lost fumble and an incredible three offensive pass-interference calls — a team can go a whole season and get just three such calls — to kill five of Seattle’s 10 possessions.

So it wasn’t all on the O-line. And the three PI calls were of the extremely dubious variety.

But such mayhem is typical in any NFL game. Which brings us back to the defense.

Holding the Rams to nine points and 283 yards of offense, while generally thumping on QB Case Keenum and RB Todd Gurley, is a commendable day’s work. But the defense has yet to get a turnover this season. Carroll was baffled.

“A couple of minus turnover (differentials) in the first two games is not the way we play,” he said. “It’s not our style at all. It’s hard to overcome that — and that’s why the score is so close. Defensively, we can’t be playing football better than we are.”

Turnovers are likely to show with this defense, as they always have. And the offense may get itself together as it did a year ago. But the line’s learning curve cost them games early, including one in St. Louis in the first week.

It leads to the Rams’ curious domination of the Seahawks: They have lost four of the past five to a team that hasn’t had a winning season practically since Merlin Olsen was in diapers.

“I wouldn’t call it domination,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “I would just call it what it is. You know, we match up well against them and strange things happen in these games too.”

The strange thing in this game wasn’t a special-teams trick play/return, or other shenanigans. It was Seattle’s inability to find workarounds to its problems.

The solution may be as simple as Wilson’s return to full speed, or getting Ifedi into a game. But none of it will bring back Sunday’s loss of a winnable game.

Unlike Hollywood, when you mess the audition in the NFL, there are no call-backs.

 


YourThoughts

  • PokeyPuffy

    Life in the NFL is far from optimal, there will always be injuries, unfair penalties, etc. With as much talent as we have Seattle needs to find a more robust formula for success. Its easy to say Wilson is hobbled, or that the o line needs another 8 weeks, its how you play with the team you got. The coaches should have been more creative, there’s plenty of talent to mix and shape into some kind of offensive production. As our great (ahem) former Sec of Defense intoned, you go to war with army you have, not the one you wish you had.

    • http://www.travelimages.com MisterNeutral

      This.

  • ll9956

    Another good piece, Art. Thanks for telling it like it is. Regardless of what coaches or Wilson himself says, today he was significantly less than 100%. Hopefully that will improve. A lot. Normally I try to be an optimist, but if the O-line can’t also improve a lot, it’s going to be a dismal season. Its definitely downsies for the Hawks’ power ranking this week.

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    • MrPrimeMinister

      Guts, grit, guile, greatness, for all the superlative used to describe Russell these past years, we can add a new one. Gimpy.

  • Talkjoc

    Outside of first round choice Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks get their O-line from Costco and it’s biting them again. Monday morning quarterbacking but would the Hawks have better off going with a mobile Boykin, despite his inexperience? Last but not least, Graham is on the field, why not THROW HIM THE DAMN BALL?

    • Effzee

      It does seems a bit irresponsible. You’ve got a jerry-rigged offensive line, a slew of scrub RBs, and no legit backup QB on the roster. I feel like we are at risk of Shanahan/RGIII’ing this thing, except RW is a legit Super Bowl winning, MVP-caliber QB.

  • Effzee

    For about a season and a half now, many teams have found it super easy to keep the ball and avoid turnovers against us, using that annoying short to mid-range passing game. I forget who did it first, was it Tom Brady? Someone laid the blueprint, and teams have been following it. We’ve made a bunch of mediocre QBs look way better than they are. This is a trait of all Seattle teams, actually. We seem to make hero’s out of zero’s with regularity up in these parts.

    But I’ve been watching the same kind of offensive struggles for years, back to when the defense was one of the greatest ever. The D is definitely not what it was, but I see things in a different way. We put *too much* pressure on the D. The offense needs to freakin’ DO SOMETHING. They need to keep the ball. The offense needs to live up to what they claim to want to be. I think Bevell’s terribleness has been hiding behind BeastMode this whole time. No matter how crappily Bevell called a game, BeastMode would do something amazing to make the offense look good, and to give something for Wilson to play off of to get the freedom to run around that he had. Now that Mashawn isn’t around to bail him out, Bevell is going to have to beat people with his brains, and I have no reason to think he can do that. See: Super Bowl XLIX, or, as I like to call it: The Super Bowl Darrell Bevell Singlehandedly Lost

    I’ve said “I can’t take this any more” countless times in this exact forum. I don’t think Bevell should have even seen the tarmac at LAX after the game. He needs to be gone, yesterday. Near as I can tell, he has no, how you say… Offensive Philosophy. Didn’t Doug Baldwin basically call Bevell out last year, going “What the hell are we doing out here?” Why doesn’t Pete do the same thing? What is it that Bevell has Pete convinced of? I am not seeing anything resembling a cohesive plan out of the offense, and I never have under Bevell. Even when we were leading the league in rushing, it was almost reluctantly. We seem to pass and run the ball in the exact opposite game situations as one would intuitively think. I don’t get it.

    The philosophy of the Seahawks seems to be: Rely on the defense to completely shut the other team down at all times, while Darrell Bevell searches for answers in a deep, dark cavern of his own creation, until finally Russell Wilson has to try to harness the Power of Jebus to pull off a miracle in the end.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Disagree, the offense must carry its weight.

  • Warchild_70

    This is the first game I couldn’t watch, Chaplain, VFW District 4 meeting, When I got home and saw the the last Quarter I thought maybe the Wizard of the Emerald City was going to come through again. With late hits on Russell, a shove out of bounds and some very questionable PIs I couldn’t stomach any more. We need a wee bit of tough decision making like looking for someone that can bench press an Electra 225 and toss the caber near 40 yards. Russell isn’t healthy he’s at best 70.1%. Jimmy is back can’t Bevell start thinking with his dipstick, Jimmy! The D is doing fine got to get past this who’s the blame for missed assignment and focus. I’m not calling for the crew to manned the lifeboats just yet but maybe a drill or two to insure they are working properly. GO HAWKS!!

  • 1coolguy

    2 thoughts:
    - The miserable start to last season followed by a remarkable last few games, and the miserable start to this season has ONE common thread: Whether Graham is in the lineup. Get rid of this $9 million bust ASAP. We don’t need him.
    - If Fisher has another losing season and is fired, HIRE him as DC immediately, as he has the Hawks number like no one else!

  • Sonics79

    Fargin’ Rams.
    With as many times as we’ve played them, you’d think the Seahawks could devise an offensive scheme to beat their front 7, because that’s all they’ve got. And typically that’s passing to the tight end. It sure works against us.
    But starting every drive at your 20 — in 90 degree heat — doesn’t help either. They did back the Rams up when they needed to at the end, but Marsh had his hand on the QBs facemask.
    Oh well, they’ll get well next week against the Niners.

    DID YOU KNOW: Jeff Fisher has been the head coach of two teams, in five different cities.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Despite a piece missing that is normally a defensive strength in TO ratio/defensive scores they are still in a 4 way tie for division lead. Strong performances vs the 49ers and Jets will Quell this talk that the sky is falling. That will go a long way in pulling them out of the perceived quagmire.
    Not a lot had gone Seattle’s way thus far. When the D turns in a few monster games in the aforementioned discrepancy that should get the law of averages tiled more on the blue and green side….If they enter the bye 3~1 there will be a whole lot less bellyaching I would think.