The Seahawks were justified in their bellyaching about officiating, but their junior varsity offense was responsible for putting Seattle in a hole requiring competent officiating.
No DE Michael Bennett, no SS Kam Chancellor, no LT Bradley Sowell, no RB Thomas Rawls, and a still-limited QB Russell Wilson. So the Seahawks were surpassingly ordinary Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans. Add in some sub-ordinary NFL officiating, and the Seahawks took a 2×4 to the head from a weak team.
Yet . . .
If field-goal holder Jon Ryan handled a snap better to get three points at the end of the first half, all the above reasons/excuses likely could have been ash-canned, because at the end of the game, the Seahawks would have needed only a field goal instead of touchdown to beat New Orleans.
Instead, the Saints’ 25-20 win was a fair outcome because the Saints did more with their opportunities than did the Seahawks. The poor game by the officials (the 11-2 disparity in fouls was particularly onerous) is, as always, a factor that each team is obligated to overcome. The Seahawks will always have more overcoming to do than most teams, because they play so aggressively on defense. They had 10 last week in the 6-6 tie with Arizona.
Teams have to overcome their weaknesses. The past two games, the Seahawks couldn’t.
In the final two minutes, the Seahawks had their best drive, as has happened many times under Wilson, covering 57 of the needed 67 yards without benefit of timeouts. But he can’t always beat long odds. The odds were so long because in the previous 59 minutes and 58 seconds, the offense produced only 13 points (FS Earl Thomas scored a defensive TD on a fumble recovery return).
The lone touchdown was set up by some walloping trickeration — a double pass in the second quarter from Wilson to WR Tanner McEvoy to RB C.J. Prosise. The rookie-to-rookie portion produced Seattle’s longest play of the day, 43 yards, which was followed by RB Christine Michael’s two-yard touchdown run — the first and only six-pointer from the offense in the past tw0 games.
Other than that, it was the same two-for-three field goal production of the previous week against Arizona, only the Saints’ defense was nowhere near the caliber of the Cardinals’ defense. Yet the Seahawks managed three yards rushing by halftime. That’s like the Beatles singing the first phrase of “Hey Jude,” then quitting for lunch.
Coach Pete Carroll always says you can’t win the game in the first, second or third quarters. It’s just as true that you can lose the game before the fourth quarter, especially when the first half has only 19 offensive plays.
With so many youngsters in the offense — George Fant did indeed start at left tackle, and played as you might have expected for someone fresh off the basketball court — the Seahawks are a junior varsity version of themselves. Wilson knows that better than anyone.
“I’m looking forward to getting in that rhythm again,” he said. “That’s really our hiccup right now.”
Rhythm is Wilson’s buzzword stringing together positive plays for a first down for four or five times in a row. The inability to do so is largely a function of the worst offensive line in football no longer being bailed out by the unusual talents of RB Marshawn Lynch, or Rawls, or a healthy Wilson.
Wilson played the full game Sunday. His ankles were no longer covered in tape that looked like spats. He reportedly was wearing a smaller knee brace. And, incredibly, he threw 34 times with a sore pectoral muscle.
So he again gets another participation ribbon and attaboys from all. He completed 22 passes for 234 yards and one killer interception. But his longest pass play was for 27 yards, and that was a catch and run by WR Doug Baldwin on the final drive. Wilson ran three times for 11 yards, which is 13 more than last week.
He insisted he was good to go, although is QB rating was a season-low 74.8.
“I felt great today,” he said. “I finally felt like I was really moving a little bit there. Didn’t have too many huge opportunities to run and move.
“(Full mobility) is another thing to look forward to.”
Meanwhile, all this forward-looking has left behind a draw and a loss, plus a defense that was left out on the field too long for the second week in a row. The Saints held the ball for almost 37 minutes.
“Our guys are fine,” insisted coach Pete Carroll. “They made it through. They bounced back well and played like crazy.”
But by the end, they were again on fumes.They allowed Saints QB Drew Brees, who remains brilliant at 37, to take a leisurely, 52-yard stroll with their final possession –11 plays over 4:41 — to get a field goal at 1:57 that forced the Seahawks, out of timeouts, to pursue a touchdown to win instead of a field goal.
Carroll was forced to burn a timeout on the Saints’ final drive when the clock kept running despite SS Kelcie McCray completing a sideline tackle by downing RB Tim Hightower out of bounds.
Carroll said he couldn’t see the play well enough to know whether his team was hosed again. They were. But he was already torqued with two Saints pass plays in which CB Jeremy Lane was picked, including one that went for a touchdown.
“If you illegally block a guy, it’s a penalty,” he said. “Those are plays that challenge officials. They were challenged today.”
So were the Seahawks, by a 2-4 team with a bad defense. In the NFL, there’s no recourse for bad officiating. Or rushing for three yards in a half.
Bennett to be ‘scoped; McDaniel hurt
Carroll confirmed that Bennett, hurt two weeks ago against Atlanta, will have arthroscopic surgery, the least invasive kind, on the knee that kept him home Sunday. He estimated a sit-out of two to three weeks.
“It should be a return,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to get him fixed up. But we are thinking long-term and way down the road. This is the best. He could have gone and gutted it out (Sunday) but that’s not the right thing to do. We will take care of him and get him back as soon as we can.”
The only other injury of significance was a ankle sprained late in the game requiring DT Tony McDaniel to be carted off to the locker room.
“He turned his ankle a little bit,” Carroll said. “Not serious but enough to keep him out of there.”