BY Art Thiel 09:41PM 09/24/2017

Thiel: Seahawks run down, in several ways

The already fragile Seahawks were out of sorts Sunday in Tennessee, with 11 penalties and assorted errors. The Saturday meeting to discuss a response to Trump’s insults didn’t help.

Richard Sherman had four penalties Sunday, three on one play./ Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

Can’t run. Can’t stop the run.

Who thought that would describe a Pete Carroll-coached Seahawks team?

Tennessee’s 33-27 triumph in stifling Southern humidity Sunday was more complicated than that simple reduction, especially on a day that was a benchmark in the history of the intersection of American sports and politics.

But there’s no getting around the 195 yards pounded down Seahawks’ throats by the Titans’ quality offensive line and power backs Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, nor the paltry 43 yards in 15 carries by Seahawks running backs.

At times the Titans looked a whole lot like the 2013 Seahawks. And the Seahawks looked a whole lot like their 2011 version, pre-Russell Wilson, pre-Marshawn Lynch, pre-success.

“I was really surprised to see uncharacteristic big plays (against us),” said coach Pete Carroll. “We had some last week and a few today. We gotta get right. We’re not there yet.

“Hopefully, we have enough time to get going. We gotta show we’re connected. Right now we’re kind of spotty.”

Part of the discombobulation was the heat and humidity of one of the warmest kickoff temperature (88 degrees) in the Titans’ history in Nashville. But perhaps a larger part was the distractions caused by a flurry of meetings that took place Saturday in the wake of President Trump’s reckless denigration of the anthem protesters among NFL players.

The Seahawks are unlikely to concede either point, but their play — 11 called penalties plus several others declined, numerous missed tackles, early wildness from QB Russell Wilson, whiffs by O-linemen and the bizarre episode in which the Seahawks’ most volatile player, CB Richard Sherman, drew three penalties on one play — suggested otherwise.

In a pregame radio interview with ESPN 710, general manager John Schneider described a series of unplanned meetings in the team hotel to devise a response to Trump as long and emotional.

“It’s been an interesting 48 hours here since we landed,” he said, referring to “trying to keep 53, really 70-some players, together, right?

“Pete had a long meeting with some guys, and we had a long team meeting last night that was pretty emotional.”

After the game, Sherman, Wilson and teammates Doug Baldwin and Michael Bennett described intense feelings in the Saturday meetings that discussed a variety of potential public responses among players.

Apparently, it became clear some did not want to kneel or sit during the anthem. So they devised an alternative all could accept — staying in the locker room during the anthem as a show of unity that put no pressure on individuals to do something counter to their beliefs.

“We didn’t want to put anyone in the position of being uncomfortable,” said Bennett, a leading national voice among African American players seeking awareness of, and action on, racial injustice and inequality.

“We wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys,’’ Sherman said. “Allow them to feel welcomed and not really make them uncomfortable. That’s the worst thing you could do is put your teammate in an uncomfortable position.

“If the whole team doesn’t come out (for the anthem), then it’s easy for him to defend himself and say, ‘Hey, it’s a team decision. I just did what the team did.’ You’re a good teammate. Perfect. Fine.’’

Shortly before kickoff, Seahawks players released a statement. A similar one was issued by the Titans, who also remained in the locker room for the anthem.

“As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all.

Respectfully, the players of the Seattle Seahawks.”

While it was likely that 31 other teams were going through some similar meetings and decisions, the Seahawks are thought leaders around the NFL because several of their best players are unabashedly outspoken and take their outside responsibilities seriously. It is hardly a stretch to imagine that the response to Trump created more distraction for this particular team.

“I’d be remiss to say it didn’t feel different,” said Baldwin, who had a career-high 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, but strained a groin muscle and sat out the final drive. “It’s hard to separate what we do in our daily lives from the game.

“Yes, this loss feels different. I think it was an opportunity to, again, unify.”

Instead of unity, the sides on the field diverged.

The offense, which punted after its first six possessions, gained some coherence for the first time this season. They had touchdown drives on either side of halftime, and scored again in the fourth quarter as the Titans defense sagged in the heat and could not catch up to Wilson. He threw for the second-highest total of his career with 373 yards on 29 of 49 passing.

In contrast, the defense faded. The Titans, who did not get a first down until the second quarter and that was on a penalty, scored on seven of their last eight possessions. The Seahawks defense gave up the most rushing yards since the Rams had 200 in 2013.

Sherman, one of the leaders, was in poor form.

In the second quarter of a scoreless game, Sherman’s tri-penalty eruption not only cost 19 yards, it nullified an interception by SS Kam Chancellor. Battling star WR Eric Decker, Sherman was called for pass interference, holding and unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet while on the field.

During his intense argument with officials, teammates had to pull him away and tried to calm him down. The revived drive produced Tennessee’s first field goal of the game.

Carroll was notably irked.

“It was energy we didn’t need to be expending, that’s for sure,” he said. “Sherman was trying to get an explanation for the call and he got too hot. He made a mistake, we got a penalty (and lost) field position.

“We run pretty hot, but on a day that was challenging day for both teams with the temperature, he didn’t need to waste energy. We might have done some of that.”

In the third quarter, Sherman picked up his fourth penalty for a late hit as QB Marcus Mariota was going out of bounds after being grabbed by Bobby Wagner. Sherman said Mariota told him “good hit,” but numerous Titans players disagreed, surrounding Sherman in a large confrontation that resulted in two penalties for each side, nullifying punishments.

The source of Sherman’s unusually contentious play can only be speculated, but the Seahawks’ irregular apoplexy will likely mark this day in club chronicles as “the Trump game.”

That doesn’t mean their football problems, which are numerous, are going away when Trump fixes his eyes on another industry to pointlessly disrupt.


YourThoughts

  • wabubba67

    I understand that it’s the NFL and you are not allowed to even brush up against a QB (see Rodgers, Aaron), but take a real close look at that late hit penalty on Sherman. When I saw it live I thought that it was a ridiculously late hit. After viewing the replay, neither of Mariota’s feet had touched out of bounds before contact with Sherman. His left foot last touched in bounds and was in the air, while the right foot was just about to (but had not yet) touch out of bounds as contact is made. An unnecessary, but LEGAL hit by Sherman.

    I believe that late hits are not reviewable, but since the deciding factor is footwork (akin to discerning whether a WR is in bounds or out of bounds while making a catch) why couldn’t late hits be subject to replay review?

    • 1coolguy

      It was a dumb play by Sherman – the guy was running out of bounds and Wagner had already taken him out. Sherman could have avoided him.

      • wabubba67

        Dumb in terms of yardage, but every defensive coordinator in the league wants his players to legally hit the QB whenever possible. The replay suggests that Sherman pushed it to the edge of legality (as he has a penchant for doing).

        • Effzee

          I saw it as an obvious 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty. It really wasn’t close. I figure Sherm knew as well, and took the 15 yards to send a message to Mariotta. Clearly, it didn’t have the desired result.

          • wabubba67

            The footwork disagrees with both of our first impressions. That’s why I’m curious about replay in this instance.

          • Effzee

            His body had crossed the plane of the sidelines, he was in the air having clearly taken his final in-bounds steps. It was a good and obvious call to make.

          • wabubba67

            I agree with your first sentence. However, in the air is not the same thing as out of bounds. Mariota had yet to actually establish himself, with either foot, as being out of bounds. Therefore, by rule, an unnecessary but still legal hit.

          • art thiel

            No way Sherman planned it. He made a split-second mistake.

          • Effzee

            I don’t think it was premeditated plays beforehand, but I do think that just as someone can make a break on the ball in a split-second to make an interception, Sherman, in a split-second, was able to decide he was going to nail an obviously going-out-of-bounds Mariotta and take the 15 yards.

        • art thiel

          No split-second decision can be considered dumb. But reducing it to a bump would have been smart.

    • art thiel

      It’s asking a lot of defenders to pull up in that situation. But Sherman had enough time to make it a bump instead of a collision.

      As far as a subject for review, really? Games aren’t long enough for you?

      • wabubba67

        A bump and Mariota goes flying would still be a penalty…might as well hit him hard and get your money’s worth.

        What did you think of the replay, Art? By rule, was the hit legal? I’m all for more replay on objective (feet in or out) but not subjective (what is s catch) calls.

  • Matt Kite

    When the Seahawks struggle on offense, I don’t necessarily worry. Lest anyone forget, they had some rough games on offense in 2013 leading up to their big Super Bowl win. Even with Marshawn and Golden Tate on the roster, they sometimes were asleep at the wheel. But when the defense plays as poorly as it did today, I can’t help but fret. They just don’t look like a good team — and haven’t so far this season. I also wonder if letting Ahtyba Rubin go was a huge mistake. Their run defense has been spotty in two of three games so far. We might be closer to a rebuilding year than anyone realizes…

    • dingle

      Based on what we’ve seen so far, you do have to wonder if that “window” has already closed. The defense is another year older and maybe a half-step slower, and the offense continues to be, well, offensive.

      It’s early, but so far it doesn’t look like the results this season are going to meet expectations. Given that the Rams are no longer the Jeff Fisher Mediocrity Experience, and the 9ers don’t suck quite as hard as they have the last couple years, Seattle may not even win the division, which has been a foregone conclusion for a while now.

      • art thiel

        The defense is the second-oldest in the league, which isn’t necessarily dangerous this season — 28.2 years. But I do think the heat and the politics took a toll none will admit.

    • art thiel

      The defense has all the talent to be as successful, or nearly so, as the past. I think yesterday was something of a one-off.

      • Matt Kite

        So hoping your’re right, Art! :)

    • Steed

      The defense had some bad halfs in the 2013 season too, people just don’t remember it that way. They were down to Houston 21-0 and Tampa Bay 24-7 when the defense failed to show up for the first half of those games.

  • ll9956

    Somehow I have trouble agreeing that the decision process about not participating on the field for the national anthem was enough of a distraction as to have an adverse effect on the team’s performance.

    What stands out for me is that the Hawks, for the trillionth time, insist on stabbing themselves in the heart by committing almost 100 yards worth of penalties, six of which resulted in Titans’ first downs. Repeated off-sides, false starts and especially, for the second time in three games, being called for having twelve men on the field is totally inexcusable. However small the probability of a Wilsonian miracle occurring in the final seconds was, this display of extreme stupidity snuffed it out.

    In addition, the ” . . . numerous missed tackles, early wildness from QB Russell Wilson, [and] whiffs by O-linemen . . .” didn’t help. I sure hope things improve going forward.

    • art thiel

      Staying inside for the anthem wasn’t the problem. It was the Friday-Saturday run-up of meetings and emotions that cost them the standard rest/prep time. Pro football players are creatures of routine. Disruptions are costly.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Actually, in pure coverage, Sherman had a very good game. Passer rating against him was poor, and catches correspondingly minimal. He wasn’t getting beat athletically. Just overwrought mentally….

    • art thiel

      True. I don’t think anyone questioned his coverage work, but the three-penalty eruption was inexcusable, and a somewhat similar repeat of the emotional outbursts of 2016. Those moments are costing the team. Some of his teammates resent it. These pens are not the same as Bennett jumping offsides.

  • Kevin Lynch

    A few thoughts on this gray morning. One, there doesn’t seem to be a truly elite team in the league at the moment. So the Hawks have time to catch up. 11-5 could potentially earn a bye this year. Two, regarding the activism, which I support, can’t there be a separate platform? We separate church and state. Why not separate game and state? Remove the anthem, the flyovers, the military bands, all politics and nationalism. I’m a veteran. Let ’em in for half price. That’s a nice nod and gesture for a very deserving group. While believing in activism I don’t believe your employer, who may be paying you millions of dollars, should be the launch point. Thought three, the Tennesseeans, who may be tough and scrappy, are an average team. That was a bad loss. There’s time still but there’s much to fix.

    • Effzee

      Bravo. Well said.

    • art thiel

      Good thoughts. Regarding a separate platform, no. African Americans have tried conventional methods, protocols and forums, and they still keep getting shot dead by police while unarmed. They seek a bigger stage to get the national attention of white people. The anthem protest is silent, peaceful and non-disruptive. It has been deployed by generations of Americans feeling promises (“liberty and justice for all”) have been broken, including by many Vietnam vets. And it works to the extent that you and I are discussing it.

      I agree with you regarding all political/military trappings at sports events, at least until we have flyovers for the opera, kids’ soccer and church picnics.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I hear what you’re saying. The anthem protest has not been disruptive. So perhaps it should continue. And maybe the strong activism will kick start the great fights on the other great issues that are hopefully coming. Each is going to need a stage.

  • Diamond Mask

    It was a strange day of football yesterday that’s for sure. The Seahawks showed a lot of signs of improvement over the previous 2 weeks imho, It was good to see Wilson leading Baldwin again. It was the big plays by the Tennessee offense that killed us. I don’t think anybody should forget that the Titans are a good, good team and going on the road on a hot day like yesterday and beating them is a big mountain to climb. The fact is that we played them nose to nose all day. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      D-line play was the most unexpected falloff. And TEN’s QB/RBs are better than I knew.

  • Effzee

    Brett Favre and Marshawn Lynch are the only reason Darrell Bevell has a job today. He is beyond terrible. Since coming to Seattle, everything that hasn’t involved Lynch and a handful of flash-in-the-pan performances from Rawls has been unwatchable garbage.

    • wabubba67

      You think the offense is to blame after this one? Really?

      • Effzee

        I’m not blaming the offense or defense. It’s indisputable that the offense puts undue and excessive pressure on the defense to keep games close. I’m just saying that, on the whole, the offense continues to be the consistent weak point on this team. Minus Lynch and those handful of games by Rawls, the offense has looked bad, in the same way, throughout all the personnel changes. It’s not that I just don’t like the results when they struggle. I don’t like the way it looks when they succeed. Even when they “look good” it looks like luck and smoke and mirrors. There’s no clear philosophy or identity, and it’s just fugly to watch.

        • art thiel

          Second half of 2015 was not luck, nor smoke and mirrors.

          • Effzee

            Because Beast Mode.

    • art thiel

      Lynch and Wilson are any coordinator’s dream. The O-line personnel so far as een a coordinator’s nightmare. The OC is a slave to his team’s talent level.

      • Effzee

        I agree completely! However, it does not sway my opinion. Even when it was working in 2015, I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what the hell Bevell was doing. The team’s success rode on Lynch’s ability to single-handedly make the offense work. Even Wilson can’t seem to conjure the magic he once did without Lynch there to absorb the attention of the defense.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Late to the party here, but if the Seahawks play a road game and it’s 100 on the field, they’re going to lose and the defense is going to look like butt, then they go to the Super Bowl and lose. It happened in 2005 against the Jags, and in 2014 against the Chargers. Science.

    In all seriousness, I thought they would lose the game, I just thought it would be 12-9. My takeaway is that the offense put up 27, could have put up 30 if they kick that FG, and if they play to their strength on offense, which is Russell Wilson and the hurry up, they can score. I realize that it’s harder on your defense than a dominating time of possession slug fest that gives them time to rest, but the bottom line is they aren’t built for that, and the hurry up with a score at the end is a hell of a lot easier on a defense than constant 3 and outs. Good coaches design schemes for the talent they have, not the talent they wish they had.

    Fortunately they’re playing the Colts next week. if they lose to them, then I’m panicking.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks were 3-pt underdogs and playing in smothering humidity, which also impacted the Titans D when the Seahawks offense was moving late. A loss was expected.

  • Trade Bennett and Sherman they have become liabilities not assets.