BY Art Thiel 09:09PM 01/14/2017

Thiel: Seahawks’ rookie asked to do too much

When Germain Ifedi went down in the second quarter, the Seahawks put in a rookie who had never played right guard. The long gamble with the O-line finally failed and ended the season.

QB Matt Ryan’s quick release kept thwarting the Seahawks defense. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

ATLANTA — So many cigars exploded in the faces of the Seahawks Saturday that it was difficult to see through the figurative smoke in the Georgia Dome locker room.

We could see DE Michael Bennett cursing out a reporter. CB Deshawn Shead was picking his way carefully on his new crutches after a knee injury took him out in the third quarter. And there was big RG Germain Ifedi hobbling on a left ankle injured in first quarter, which may have been as significant a development as anything.

Next to him sat Rees Odhiambo, the rookie guard who replaced Ifedi and made a big mistake.

However, the little-used kid from Boise State offered a moment of clarity that was rich, particularly in view of the oratorical haze of the Seahawks talking a better game than they played.  In summary, they said the pieces were still there for continued playoff contention. It may be true, but what Odhiambo said made it a little hard to accept right then.

“I stepped on his foot,” he said of the play that caused QB Russell Wilson to tumble into end zone for a safety, a Kramer-like plunge into daffiness that delighted the rowdy sellout crowd and stunned the NFL world used to thinking of the Seahawks as a high-efficiency outfit. “I was a little too tight on my alignment. Too close to center. I dropped my foot back and hit him.”

How did that come to be?

“I never played (right guard) once besides tonight.”

There you have it. On the national stage of an NFL divisional playoff game against the favored Atlanta Falcons, when nearly everything needed to go right for the Seahawks to get just the fourth road playoff win in franchise history, the Seahawks were forced to trust a player who had never played the position into which he was thrust.

It wasn’t the lone reason the Seahawks’ season ended 11-6-1 with a 36-20 thud to the impressive Falcons (12-5), but it epitomized the principal weakness that has gone on without solution.

For two seasons, wails over the insufficiently staffed offensive line have dominated the conversation regarding the Seahawks’ ability to return to Super Bowl. Most people are tired of hearing about it.

But after the mortifying safety that not only cut the Seahawks’ lead to 10-9 but then gave the Falcons a fresh possession, which they turned into a field goal and never looked back, the Seahawks were compelled to put training wheels on Odhiambo.

“I was working the sets on the sideline,” he said. “It got easier as the game went along.”

That’s supposed to get done in training camp. Not in January in the hostility of the playoff road.

Odhiambo make a mistake of inexperience and should not be criticized. He was put in position he couldn’t handle by the coaches, who were working with a roster loaded with highly paid veterans, leaving little room under the NFL’s hard salary cap to hire competent backups.

After the Super Bowl win, the real struggle began, as it does for every NFL champion. They must pay top-of-market for veterans while the rest of the team stays around the NFL average of competence with youngsters hopefully capable of absorbing intense training.

The Seahawks at right guard ended up starting a rookie in Ifedi, a first-round pick who never justified his draft spot, and backed him only with a rookie, and an untrained one at that.

The Seahawks became the epitome of the famous proverb, “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost . . .”

As CB Richard Sherman put it, “Guys who haven’t played have to come in. It’s difficult to come in cold turkey like that in the game. Guys played as well as they could. Sometimes it works out like that.”

Perhaps one of those errors can be overcome. Not two.

Odhiambo’s mistake was preceded by another one more epic, but only because of the yardage involved. After the defense forced a three-and-out, punt returner Devin Hester flashed his historic brilliance with an 80-yard dash to the Atlanta seven-yard line. But it was disallowed after backup LB Kevin Pierre-Louis on the punt-return team was busted for an obvious hold.

Possession was rolled back to the Seattle 7, one of greatest real estate giveaways since the Louisiana Purchase. From there, the Seahawks offense went backward to the safety, and never recovered.

“It was, unfortunately, where the game hinged,” said coach Pete Carroll. “We weren’t able to get back on top. I felt like that was time to take command of the game at 17-7 and make them fight their way. It was a huge change, as obvious as you can get.”

The Seahawks have been down in playoff games before, such as three years ago in the NFC championship with the Packers, 16-0 in the third quarter. But it took several near-miracles to pull that one out.

This lopsided team lacks the depth for near-miracles. But Carroll was strident in his claim that Saturday was merely a loss, not an end.

“We’re in the middle of it,” he said. “We’re right int he middle of it. Everyone in that locker room feels it. It didn’t happen this time. But we did some good stuff. We’re still in the process. We’re not at the end of anything.”

He may be right. The team still has great players, including Wilson at quarterback. They have almost no key figures heading into free agency. The have systems of operation and belief that work.

But all of it can tumble for the want of a nail. And each year, it gets harder.



  • ReebHerb

    The Seahawks had a good and interesting season. That Devin Hester fellow gave a heck of an effort for a last minute replacement. Suppose we won’t see him again. Going forward, I hope the players do less yapping. It distracts from mostly good play.

  • Sam Base

    As painful as it was to watch it almost seemed fitting for the Seahawks season to end like this. It was that kind of season, one that seemed destined to sputter and fall apart. The Mariners would love a season like this: win the division and advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. I’ll take that right now for 2017! But the Seahawks expect more. I expect the Seahawks to come back strong.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Very few teams have won 10 straight playoff games at home. It’s 10 and counting now. But the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde glitch surfaces on the road. They won only 3 of 9 games played away from home this year. They are 3-11 all time on the road in the playoffs. They have a hard time replacing the energy of the 12’s.

  • 1coolguy

    – Trade Graham – he’s not a true, tough guy Seahawk. As the Hawks called him when he was playing with the Saints, “he’s soft”. In the second quarter, inside the 10, RW hands off to Rawls and he gets HAMMERED by a Falcon who wasn’t even blocked – Graham missed his block. What was he in the game anyway? Why weren’t Vannett and Willson in, as we needed blocking?

    Then, in the second quarter, he catches a pass to the right side about 5 yards, then pulls a Shaun Alexander – instead of using his body and a stiff arm to gain extra yards, he runs out of bounds, untouched. He Is a BEOTCH and needs to just go. the Hawks then save $9 million!

    – Draft a great CB to play opposite Sherman in the FIRST ROUND.

    – Draft a great OL in the SECOND and a good OL in the THIRD round.

    – I watched the second and third quarters and not ONCE did I see Reece, after he had a great game last week as the lead blocker for Rawls, who got HAMMERED almost every time he had the ball. I could no longer stand to watch.

    Lack of an OL has lost us one SB and kept us out of last year and this year.

    When will the COST of a crappy OL sink in with Pete and John??? The cost is simply too high and no, a great D by itself is not enough.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Yup, this is the correct analysis. Done in by poor OLine play which in turn was a result of poor planning and happy-talk thinking by the brain trust. I would say that Pete’s optimism is a net positive, but the OLine problem reveals its Achilles heel. You can’t talk talent into a player. You can’t talk skill into a coach. You can’t want results into reality. The Hawks have been doing all three for awhile now on that line. On paper, going into a season with the “plan” they had for the OL was not positive thinking. It was myopia, and they should have known better. Their back-up plan of Sowell and Webb was if anything worse than their Plan A. Their line coach is not the answer, or certainly not the sole answer. I hope this is a Tell the Truth offseason for Carroll and Schneider. The line was bad enough that it fundamentally changed the character of the offense, and thus the team, for the worse.

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  • Effzee

    Blaming it on the Boise State Rookie and the O-Line that was irresponsibly ignored is the obvious answer, and missing the larger point. Its kind of like blaming Jack Z, Bill Bavasi, etc., instead of seeing the problem was the overriding Howard Lincoln philosophy all along. In my view, the problems with the ‘Hawks offense have been there with a highly-paid O-Line, and a terrible O-Line.

    The missing ingredient is Marshawn, who made the whole thing go by making lots of something out of nothing. BeastMode covered up for the main flaw in the whole design over there. Even when at his best, there were more games than I can count that left 12’s screaming “Feed the Beast!” The shift towards a QB-Centric Offense began before Lynch left the building. Hence, we get memories like the play which shall not be named. The Big Mistake here is that they think Russell Wilson is Favre, Brady, Manning, etc. He is not.

    Even going to back to his rookie season and the Super Bowl year, many of the things RW did seemed like magic. He had the ability to make a broken play look like a secretly planned thing of genius. Most of his successful plays look like amazing mistakes. One could even look at the number of come from behind wins he has as alarming instead of impressive. Most of his magic moments have been in Garbage Time, after the other team has had their natural let-up from having controlled a lot of the game.

    What everyone over there in Seahawk-land is forgetting is that the whole thing only started to work when Lynch arrived, and the Run-Option was the tool they used to the most success. Now Lynch is gone, and they don’t use the run-option (granted RW was injured a lot of the year, but the shift away from it began long before this season began). They have shifted to a whiz-bang, let-it-rip style of offense, only committing to the run when Pete really, really insists upon it, and really, really means it this time. Bevell is an ex-QB, and a true-blue passing game guy. A zebra doesn’t change its stripes.

    Obviously, the offensive line was unforgivably offensive this year. I think some of those guys probably laid awake at night staring at the ceiling wondering how in the hell someone thought they should be starting for an NFL team. But, the problems that need addressed are philosophical, and did not begin this season. I will be excited to see what they do to to line in the off-season, and to see if they can recapture some of the magic of the past with a healthy QB and a line that can protect him.

  • d3s

    We still have a very nice core. With a more experienced OL it will be a fun season next year! Keep your heads up!

  • Losing Unger to New Orleans was their biggest mistake. Especially since Graham has not been used as he was in New Orleans and Seattle’s O line is playing missing links.