BY Art Thiel 09:09PM 11/27/2016

Thiel: Inept Seahawks were out-coached, too

As Pete Carroll admitted, Seahawks were out-coached as well as out-played in Tampa. Getting away with three rookies on the offensive line went from dream to nightmare fast in the 14-5 defeat.

TE Jimmy Graham was upended after this fourth-quarter reception and fumbled the ball away to Tampa, ending Seattle’s best drive to that point. / Drew McKenzie, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Time after time, the Seahawks under coach Pete Carroll have walked the tightrope with an undermanned offensive line. Sunday in Tampa Bay, the Wallendas of pro football went too far. Starting three rookies, including one making his NFL debut at center, is operating without a net.

They fell. Hard. By the meagerness of 14-5. The sensitive needed to look away.

The Tampa Bay coaching staff seemed to understand the Seahawks’ weakness better than the Seahawks coaches did. On many, if not most, snaps, the Bucs’ rush beat the Seahawks’ linemen almost instantly, daring QB Russell Wilson to try his short-pass game with defenders in the grills of Seahawks receivers from the snap.

The Bucs reasoned: If Wilson doesn’t have time to throw short, he sure won’t have time to throw long.

Carroll owned up to the fact that he was out-coached, even if it was by first-year boss Dirk Koetter, whom Huskies fans may remember from six relatively undistinguished seasons coaching Arizona State. Koetter Sunday created a template that everyone in the NFL will try against Seattle until the Seahawks counter.

“We did not play like we play,” Carroll said. “That starts right with me. If everyone plays a little off, then that’s me. I got to do my part and they got to do their part.

“We got to get our game back and get a win again. It’s such an oddity to be that far off in the throwing game and  . . . fully shutting down on third down.”

The Seahawks converted their first third down (and a fourth down) on their last possession, when Wilson warmed up to complete five of seven passes before his second and final pick of the game. Prior to Sunday, he had two picks in 335 attempts for the season.

The Seahawks offense, 1 for 11 on third downs, mustered a single field goal after scoring in the previous three weeks 31, 31 and 26 points against defenses ranked higher than the Bucs’ outfit. The proximate cause would seem to be the substitution of rookie Joey Hunt at center for Justin Britt (sprained ankle), the only major personnel change.

But production was so bad that Britt would have to be in the running for league MVP, given the dropoff with his absence.

There may be a simpler explanation: Hunt, along with fellow rookies RG Germain Ifedi and LT George Fant, and “veterans” LG Mark Glowinski and RT Bradley Sowell, were physically beaten, time after time. It was startling to see a pass rush against the Seahawks be so overpowering simply by force of will.

Since camp, we’ve all known that the offensive line was the weakest link. But never was it so thoroughly pantsed. Even in the 6-6 tie with Arizona, Wilson was protected well enough to go 24 for 37 for 225 yards.

“They rushed the heck out of us,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t anyone in particular at all, but they did a really nice job. We didn’t protect like we needed to and they had six sacks. That’s just crazy because we haven’t been doing that at all.

“I can’t tell you how Joey did but we didn’t do very well up front. It wasn’t Joey’s issue at all.”

The suddenness and physicality of Tampa’s defense never let up. Nor did the Seahawks make second-half changes to play calls or protections. Only when Wilson put dread in the Bucs’ defense with a series of keepers on the read-option did things loosen up.

After Tampa’s offense staked out a 14-0 lead with long drives on the first two possessions, the Seahawks strategy of run-first behind RB Thomas Rawls faded quickly.

For one of the few times in his career, pressure far more often seemed to affect Wilson’s accuracy and timing. Besides six sacks, he was hit 11 other times, so the case for the yips is made. On the occasions when Wilson had time, he flat-out missed throws he usually makes. That’s how he ended up with a QB rating of 38.8, lowest since a game in his rookie year.

The other “oddity” is that this happened in the season’s second half, when the Seahawks were 31-6 under Carroll in November and December. It’s surprising to see the Seahawks in the season’s second half giving up twice as as many sacks as the offense had points.

There is no external personnel solution. They fired veteran J’Marcus Webb during the week and made the conscious decision to go with four rookies among the eight OL spots. They even benched RT Garry Gilliam Sunday, giving most of the snaps to Sowell, who was beaten out at left tackle by Fant, who hadn’t played much football since eighth grade.

Britt, Mr. MVP, almost made it back Sunday, but was held out in hopes he can play at home against fading Carolina (4-7). His return will help restore a little order.

The other factor that may help is that whatever smugness may have developed with three wins in a row has been knocked back to midseason 2015.

Even before the game, the trip to improving Tampa looked to be the toughest remaining game on the Seahawks’ relatively manageable schedule. So a loss is hardly shocking, especially with injuries on both sides of the ball.

But the way they whimpered about . . .

“The main thing,” Carroll said, “was to admit that this was not the way we want to play.”

Actually, that would be the minimum thing. As the Wallendas might advise, working without a net works until it doesn’t.


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YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    Thanks for telling it like it is, Art.

    This has to be the worst performance by the Seahawks’ offensive line in at least two years–or is it ten years?

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: This is what happens when you acquire your O-line at Walmart rather than Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s or even Nordstrom’s. Joey Hunt gets a bit of slack, given that this is his first game. But all the others deserve to be jettisoned, if only there was a source of decent replacements. There’s no question of what should be the Hawks’ top priority in the next draft or in making trades.

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    • art thiel

      They went Needless Markup with Ifedi. Isn’t working yet. Britt’s a second-rounder. That’s working.

      But the Seahawks had to sacrifice somewhere in order to pay the defense and Wilson. All NFL teams do the same. Most seasons are about hiding weaknesses.

  • DJ

    Art
    Like strong horseradish with my prime rib, your straight take on the Hawks makes my eyes water, but is greatly appreciated. Gotta tip my glass to the Bucs for effectively exposing our glaring weakness. Makes every other D-line that we’ve played so far this season look like JV.

    Amazingly, the D kept the Bucs within shooting distance, better than they’ve been averaging against opposing offenses:
    ‘Seahawks D’ – ’3 Starters’ = (14-2) = 12

    But,
    ‘Seahawks O’ – ’1 Starter’ = 3
    just ain’t gonna cut it.

    Counting on a second half seasonal surge just flew right out the window. The game plan should account for potential issues and make adjustments, which it didn’t.
    Why not add additional line protection? Saw the Raiders do that a few weeks ago when beating Denver (eight on the line, one wideout, and effectively pounded the ball).
    Why not move the pocket? – Heck, Russell is a great passer on the run, and moving the pocket helps defuse a pass rush, buying the time for receivers to get open.

    Cable seems to be determined, or perhaps too stubborn, not to admit weakness and make his line play their assignments without help – like it’s going to teach them better?
    Can’t base an effective game plan based primarily on teaching – too late for that.

    The alarms should have been going off when the franchise QB got beat up the first of the season. The din of sirens in the offensive coaching staff’s ears now has got to be tremendous.

    • art thiel

      They calculated the risks of under-investing in the O-line because of salary cap constraints. So far, Ifedi, Gilliam, Sowell, Webb and Odhiambo have underperformed. Fant came out of nowhere. Webb is gone, but the remainder still have a chance to get better. And yes, the alarms are going off.

  • ss

    Coach Cable is reputed to create respectably effective offensive line play with the rawest of talent. Has he lost his touch or does is the material he has to work with that raw?

    • art thiel

      I don’t think he suddenly became stupid. They took risks with talent, and were exposed Sunday.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Well, we’re not in 2013 anymore, Toto. Someone has got to go see the Wizard for a new offensive line or there’s not gonna be a yellow brick road running through the playoffs. The Hawks had four close wins earlier this year that easily could have split into two wins, two losses and a 5-5-1 record. The biggest difference between this year and 2013 is the loss of invinceability at home. No one had a prayer in 2013 of beating the Seahawks at Qwest Field. In fact, I believe they were 8-0 at home not just in 2013 but in their first Super Bowl season with Holmgren.

    • art thiel

      The Wizard has yet to produce a midseason O-line for anyone, Dorothy. Cable will dance with whom he brought.

      2013 team had the virtue of novelty/surprise. Teams are much more knowledgeable about beating Carroll teams.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Well I wouldn’t like it either if I had a nice fat family thanksgiving at home, then had to get on a plane and fly 3000 miles and then go out and perform. Not happening. Successfully anyway.

    • art thiel

      Thanksgiving happens every year to every NFL team, 16 of whom play on the road. Not buying that excuse.

      • 1coolguy

        For a few millskies a year, I’d play on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, etc, etc. This has no affect.

  • Matt712

    This was as close to ‘mailing it in’ as I’ve seen from the Seahawks in the Pete Carroll era. It was almost as if Seattle’s mentality, having so successfully making it through the gauntlet of ‘tough’ opponents and sustaining the injuries they have, was to just get through this one.

    Playing it safe with Britt’s ankle and starting Hunt there, knowing the disruption that it would cause to the O-line chemistry is telling enough. But to then pick that time to shake up the right tackle position as well – regardless of Gary Gilliam’s performance this year – sends a clear message from the top down that this was viewed (consciously or not) as a ‘losable’ game.

    In contrast, the Bucs came out with the playoff-level intensity of having circled this game on their calendar. It was a good recipe for an ugly Seahawks loss.

    • art thiel

      That’s a reasonable take. All teams have emotional valleys over the course of a season. The best ones find ways to minimize losses. The Seahawks have usually bounced back.

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  • woofer

    Tom the Cable Guy is a good coach but can’t work miracles, transforming untutored raw talent into a finished product in half a season. This is not yet a Super Bowl quality O-line. Anyone who thinks otherwise is quaffing the local Kool-Aid. Maybe next year the pieces will fall together — if they decide not to get rid of everyone once again and start over from scratch.

  • 1coolguy

    I am of the camp that thinks the Unger / Graham trade was a mistake and the continued dismal performance of the O-line supports this. Graham has a few good plays each game, while Unger was obviously the main cog of the O line on EVERY offensive play. Britt is good but he’s no Unger.
    That said, my concern after this game is whether every team we play going forward takes out the Buc’s playbook and beats us over the head with it.

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  • Kirkland

    Brings back memories of 1999, Holmgren’s first year here. The Seahawks started out great, then were throttled around Thanksgiving by Tampa, at home and by a Bucs team with journeyman Shawn King at QB none the less. The Hawks struggled the rest of the way and backed into the division title. Hope history doesn’t repeat.