BY Art Thiel 10:27PM 12/24/2016

Thiel: Seahawks’ January options grow darker

Another dubious trial at the one-yard line helps blow another winnable game for the Seahawks, who lost another key player, Tyler Lockett, for the season. Are four good quarters in a row possible for these guys?

In twilight, wide-open WR Paul Richardson ties the game at 31 with this TD reception at 1:00. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

First, the good news for Seahawks fans: In the 2013 regular season that led to a championship, the Seahawks lost 17-10 to the Cardinals in December.

Now, the bad news. That year, both Seattle and Arizona were very good. No so this year.

Yes, the Seahawks are champions of the lame NFC West, with room to spare. But in losing a howler of contest 34-31 Sunday to the broken-down Cardinals at the Clink, they established that the defense and special teams can be every bit as spasmodically crappy as the maligned offense.

With one regular-season game left against the moribund, 2-13 49ers in San Francisco, all the Seahawks have to do is fix some of everything. The usual domination in December? It has devolved into desperation.

“This wasn’t good football,” said coach Pete Carroll. “A really disappointing ballgame.”

Not to mention heartbreaking. One of the team’s most popular and productive players, WR Tyler Lockett, injured his right leg so grievously that he was bloodied on the spot where he appeared to have scored a touchdown after a splendid reception.

“We were celebrating the touchdown, then I realized he was on the ground,” said QB Russell Wilson. “At first, I thought maybe it was his head because of how he hit the ground. Then I got close to him, and there was blood everywhere near his ankle.”

Surgery is imminent and Lockett is done for the year, Carroll said, but offered no other details. Nor did anyone want to own up to any emotional hangover from the grisly scene. But then the Seahawks had one of their worst sequences of the season immediately after the injury.

Ironically, the circumstance was weirdly similar to the one in the previous game against the Rams that caused CB Richard Sherman to launch a sideline rage against Carroll and assistant coach Darrell Bevell over playcalling, an episode that since grew notorious.

First-and-goal at the one.

Despite all the drama that followed in the second half, it was the final two minutes of the first half where the Seahawks may have lost the valuable No. 2 seed in the playoffs and its first-week bye.

They took four shots and came away with nothing.

RB Thomas Rawls, who didn’t play in the second half because of a shoulder bruise, went over RG Jermaine Ifedi for no gain. Wilson was stuffed on a sneak that had no shot. On third down, Wilson overthrew. And instead of going for a field goal, Bevell dialed up a pass play on fourth down that started with Wilson under center and ended with him on his back, a seven-yard sack by DT Rodney Gunter, who came unblocked despite a seven-man Seattle front.

“We made a big mistake,” Carroll said. “We airballed their defensive tackle.”

Good word, Mr. C. Line play rarely gets more embarrassing.

Instead of six or three, the Seahawks came away with zero points. Sherman would have been within reason to vent, but chose higher ground.

“That was a fun division game,” he said. “It’s not an opportunity lost. You would like to make the road easier, but sometimes you have to take the harder road.”

Actually, it is an opportunity lost. It’s clear that the Seahawks are operating on a very thin margin for error, so a playoff bye would be useful time to find a way to stretch one or two good quarters into three or four, generally a minimum requirement for playoff success.

Instead, Atlanta (10-5) is sitting in the NFC’s second seed ahead of 9-5-1 Seattle, which defeated the Falcons earlier in the season. But if they beat New Orleans Sunday, the Falcons get the coveted bye even if the Seahawks win. If third-seeded Seattle stays there, it would host the sixth-seeded team. If they fall to fourth, they would host the fifth seed.

But Sunday’s game against the team they tied 6-6 earlier in the season exposed enough cracks that even a win against the woebegone 49ers is no cinch.

On special teams, Stephen Hauschka not only missed the go-ahead PAT with one minute left, he had a field goal blocked. Jon Ryan, returned from a concussion, had a punt blocked.

“I need to do better,” said Hauschka. Not once, not twice, but six times he said the same thing to a group of reporters. Normally a willing explainer, Hauschka uttered no other words, no matter how the questions were asked. His demeanor reflected the tension in the locker room.

On defense, the Seahawks gave up two touchdowns and two field goals in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner at 00:00 from 43 yards by Chandler Catanzaro.

On that drive, they let QB Carson Palmer cover 50 yards in eight plays in one minute. Earlier in the quarter, he managed 75 yards in four plays for a TD that put Arizona up 28-18.

If it wasn’t clear already, FS Earl Thomas, out for the year with a broken leg, is missed like a fish misses water. His replacement, Steven Terrell, isn’t ready for prime time. Hard to blame him, but there’s no choice after he gave up an 80-yard pass play to J.J. Nelson, the season’s longest against Seattle.

“When you give up a post route, you don’t play very well,” Carroll said. “That’s not good enough. It’s pretty fundamental for us.”

Still, the Cards converted only one of nine third downs and averaged 3.2 yards per rush, both easily accepted benchmarks for defensive success. They stats are part of the story that says the Seahawks are not incompetent, just inconsistent. Just like the 297 yards of total offense and four TDs in the second half.

“It was so obvious we could do (well) during the course of the game,” Carroll said. “We can do that for the whole game too.”

That remains to be seen. But it is also true that most of the potential NFC playoff contenders are in various states of disarray too. Even No. 1 Dallas has to decide whether to play or protect their star rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott.

The Seahawks didn’t get disqualified from the playoffs Sunday. They just became disrespected.

That’s probably something they can work into a mad-on after an airball.



  • 1coolguy

    “RB Thomas Rawls, who didn’t play in the second half because of a shoulder bruise, went over RG Jermaine Ifedi for no gain. Wilson was stuffed on a sneak that had no shot. On third down, Wilson overthrew. And instead of going for a field goal, Bevell dialed up a pass play on fourth down that started with Wilson under center and ended with him on his back, a seven-yard sack by DT Rodney Gunter, who came unblocked despite a seven-man Seattle front.”
    An ofer from the ONE???
    Hey Pete: Tell Bevell he has a $9 MILLION, 6’7″ RECEIVER, would ya? Two steps, turn around and RW throws a high ball – am I missing something?

    • art thiel

      While Pete’s at it, he should tell the other team too. Oh, wait! They already know it. Hmmm . . .

      • 1coolguy

        i’ll take a high pass to Graham at the goal line over running those weak plays – Rawls over guard and RW on a sneak – behind their horrible line any day. And when was the last time we saw RW with the triple option around end? Pitch to the back, run it himself or pass?

        • art thiel

          Pitching on the goal line is a dead man’s work. And defenses are aware that Graham is 6-7.

  • MacPhisto92

    I hate this Seahawks team.

    • Effzee

      Sadly, hating this team is easy to do, even for a guy who has been bled blue since 1977.

      • art thiel

        No. Engage head as well as heart.

        • Effzee

          Maybe hate is too strong, or the wrong word. It is easy for the to turn off games in disgusted confusion. I’ve also been saying that I can’t take watching Bevell for years. And, I just can’t. Watching the offense is b-r-u-t-a-l. I’ve found myself running my errands and listening to Raible a lot this year. I don’t have time to sink into the TV for 3 hours, to watch Bevell’s nonsense, and this O-Line.

          • art thiel

            All OCs are whipping boys for fans when plays don’t work. But they don’t work largely because opponent defenses are better, especially vs. SEA’s O-line. Most of the time football comes down to talent, not schemes.

    • art thiel

      Save your hate for things that matter. Besides, they’ll win their next two games and you’ll be in love again.

      • Kevin Lynch

        They will win the next two games, more than likely. The problem is the two that follow those. Probably at Atlanta and then at Dallas if they win. Two troublesome and very different offenses. And I don’t believe the Hawks have ever won consecutive games on the road in the post season. Is that right?

        • art thiel

          They’ve won only four road playoff games in their history, none consecutive.

          • MacPhisto92

            0 under Mike Holmgren

  • Effzee

    Marshawn Lynch made this team go. Not RWIII. Not PC. It was all BeastMode. Granted, Schneider made a monumentally irresponsible miscalculation this season in thinking he could pay an O-Line less than half of what the next least-paid O-Line gets. But… We saw this same junk with a highly paid O-Line. And we often saw it with Lynch too. How many times did we wonder why the hell they weren’t feeding Marshawn. He was so great that he was going to get his, totally independent of who the play caller was. Darrell Bevell has to go. I’ve been saying it since his first season. There is literally zero continuity or apparent offensive philosophy. PC has always said they want to be run-first, yet Bevell is a dyed-in-the-wool passing game guy. Lynch was so good that he masked the fact that Bevell would, apparently, rather do anything than engage in smashmouth football. Don’t tell me about our overall rushing numbers under Bevell. Tell me about his rushing offense in Minnesota and Seattle sans BeastMode. He is freaking awful.

    • ss

      The Seahawks chose to save a few bucks on the snapper on the kicking unit, too. Unfortunately, the kicker has no confidence in the snapper and when his snaps come in high, the kicker’s rhythm is off and he pulls it. (compare the misses in the two Arizona games, as well as many of the others this season.) The game’s mental, too. The high snaps psych out Haushka.

      • art thiel

        Agreed. PK rhythm is off, which is why Hauschka stonewalled reporters. He took full blame to avoid saying critical things about teammates.

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    • art thiel

      Agreed about the value of Lynch, in ways you didn’t mention. His impact in the locker room was huge.

      Bhe fire-Bevell stuff is what fans love to jump on, but Sunday was purely an absence of NFL average personnel, having almost nothing to do with strategy.

      • Effzee

        I mostly agree with you, except for I clearly recall SO many games with Lynch that Bevell tried to lose. Don’t you recall the number of times we all screamed about just feeding BeastMode? And that’s not including the Play Which Shall Not Be Mentioned. I’m not just emotionally jumping on the Fire Bevell bandwagon. I’ve been driving it for years. Just like I did about Howard Lincoln. He left, and things got better almost instantaneously. Some things are just too obvious. Addition by subtraction is what’s required here. Bevell is an anchor.

        • art thiel

          If you’re saying Bevell tried to lose games, you lose your license to drive the the bandwagon.

          And there’s no analogy between the impacts of Lincoln and Bavell. Keep apples with apples.

      • Bruce McDermott

        While I don’t disagree about this assessment of our OL as a group, I think Bevel took too long to switch to a three-step drop, short passing game. When he did, the Hawks were able to “stay on schedule” much better. I also did not understand why, after Collins started running effectively, Bevel went right back to a pass-only strategy. Overall, though, I think Bevel is taking heat for problems that rest more with Schneider, Pete and Cable, in one order or another.

        • Effzee

          “… after Collins started running effectively, Bevel went right back to a pass-only strategy… ” – Thats exactly my point. It wasn’t just yesterday. It was during the whole Lynch era too. Bevell was a QB, he began his coaching career as a QB coach, he was Favre’s QB coach in Green Bay, and he will always be QB-centric. I’m not sure why Pete thinks he is going to have a run-first offense, with a pass-first Coordinator. That’s what perplexes me. These problems would have been exposed years ago, were it not for Lynch being Lynch.

          • art thiel

            You guys keep thinking that because runs work 2-3 times in a row, they’ll work 4-5 times. Not that simple. Defenses adjust, and play-callers are using some plays to set up others, based on down, distance and personnel.

        • art thiel

          The short pass option was not a choice; Rawls couldn’t play in 2nd half, OLs finally quit lunge-blocking.

          • Bruce McDermott

            The short-pass game is not all, or even primarily, about passes to the backs, Art. Most if it, in fact, as the Hawks run it, is rub routes in the flat to Baldwin, or short crossing routes to him, bubble screens, etc. The key is to keep Wilson’s drops short and release quick, since at the time the OL was doing their very best “Ole!” work. And it is one thing to run “4-5 times in a row,” and it is another not to run at all. And essentially, after that one drive in which Collins got it going, Bevell simply abandoned the run. Not surprisingly, the pass game sank again in response–until the last 3 to 4 minutes.

            I think you occasionally give your readers less credit than they might deserve for knowing football. Sort of like the journalistic equivalent of Richard Sherman, though with somewhat less obvious snark. :)

  • antirepug3

    “Didn’t look like ourselves” has become the new, old look…snatching defeat from the jaw’s of victory…again. Several weeks back I said the last six games for the Hawks were ‘trap’ games and the Hawks have lost 3 of 5 so far with one to go. The beating of NE was the ‘outlier’ this season. I won’t be surprised if the Hawks go one and done in the playoffs.

    • art thiel

      The only game that might have been a trap was Tampa after NE. The rest of them have nothing do with emotions/psychology and everything to do with the increasing absence of NFL-average talent.

  • Talkjoc

    Blasting the O-line is easy pickings, same with the Defense, who once again, couldn’t make a stop when the needed. My fury is,why in the h*ll did they continue to pound Collins when he showed a spark? Bevell insists on throwing the ball when every snap is rolling the dice to get Wilson’s head taken off. Jimmy G spent most of his day blocking. Why not bring bring in Vannett for blocking? After all Pete says he’s the best blocking TE and put Jimmy G outside? Easy pickings part 2, Shed is just plain horrible. I’ll stop now. Go Dawgs!

    • art thiel

      Right now, this team’s biggest problem is no Earl Thomas. the whole enterprise starts with him.

      • Effzee


  • notaboomer

    Broken legs? Time to end this carnage.

  • Gerald Turner

    Carroll Chaos, soap opera drama, As the Seahawks Churn. Let’s see if he can coalesce this injury riddled furball into a playoff run. Never underestimate Pete. The loss off the pass catching safety valve outlet rookie RB hurts most imo. PS, the Browns post win locker room speech video made me cry. Lucy did not pull the foot ball away for once. There is a Santa.

    • art thiel

      Prosise’s absence is noteworthy. He was helpful. But Thomas’s loss makes SEA defense closer to ordinary. Once the D loses its ability to deny the deep post route, dominoes fall on both sides of the ball.

  • woofer

    The reality is this outfit falls short of being a playoff caliber team. Too many key injuries; without Earl the defense is good but not dominant. And the Garage Sale Special offensive line is a joke, as is the idea that in a half season Cable can magically make a sumptuous feast out of leftovers. Until he demonstrates that he can walk on water, a more modest and realistic approach should be in order. Plus the body language of the quarterback suggests that he has grown weary of being the unwilling victim of this foolishness.

    A weak division will give the Hawks a largely undeserved playoff game. But bye or not, it’s likely to be one and done. If the Packers come visiting, it could turn into an embarrassment.

    • art thiel

      As I said above, Webb and Sowell were gambles lost. And the division wasn’t so weak that Seahawks lost twice in it.

  • tedsfrozenhead

    This is on John and Pete. They knew the o-line was thin and didn’t address it at the trading deadline. Plus the offense not showing up for the whole game is nothing new.

    • Effzee

      Trading deadline was too late. They didn’t do enough in the offseason, and they’ve missed on several high OL picks. Its been kind of an ongoing problem. Every GM has a weak spot.

      • art thiel

        This was a decision made in March free agency, when they hired Sowell and Webb with the limited funds available under the cap. They gambled, and lost.

  • Paul Harmening

    “I need to do better…” Twill be their theme song as they early exit the playoffs, starting at the top.

    • art thiel

      As it always is, for every team but the winner.

  • Dave Paisley

    The one saving grace is… can’t possibly lose to the 49ers, right? Get the 3 seed, hope we get Detroit, beat them, then have to go to Atlanta. If you get past them then maybe GB or the Giants beat Dallas and then you have a home NFC championship game. Still, as broken as this team is (bad talent in key places and injuries) I’m not really sure they *can* beat the 49ers or Detroit.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    This team has become ordinary on both sides of the ball, granted injuries have riddled the team on both sides of the ball. And the offense looks like it’s been running in mud uphill for a large portion of the last half of the year, but without Earl this team is getting wrecked by subpar QB’s. No pass rush and Terrell is lost out there. A deep run in the playoffs seems unlikely this year. The orginazation needs to step back and decide what direction they are going, lack of cap space due to signing a fistful of players at a kings ransom has come back to bite them. It’s not gonna get any better next year, Chancelor and Bennet are gonna want more $$ also. Much to do to get back on top.