BY Art Thiel 07:36PM 12/18/2017

Thiel: The first 9 minutes of Seahawks’ hell

The first nine minutes of Sunday’s game flashed what has been wrong with the Seahawks offense all season. It was also another bleak day for Jimmy Graham.

LT Duane Brown appeals unsuccessfully to referee Ed Hochuli over a holding call in the first quarter Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In the first nine minutes, the game was over.

The Rams needed just 91 scrimmage yards and 13 plays to go up 13-0. Given the ruthless pass rush, and a Los Angeles offense never needing to risk throwing downfield because RB Todd Gurley was free to party on a defense missing LB K.J. Wright and operating with a limited LB Bobby Wagner, no comeback was possible.

“Anywhere in there, if we could put a drive together and get on the scoreboard, I think it makes a big difference,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday in the post-mortem of the worst defeat of his Seattle tenure. “We needed an (offensive) response, and that didn’t happen.”

What did happen with the Seahawks offense in its first three possessions?

A fumble was lost after a 22-yard completion (WR Tanner McEvoy), each possession had a sack, LT Duane Brown was twice called for holding and and a 23-yard reception by TE Jimmy Graham was reversed to an incompletion because replay showed he dropped it.

In the two passes not messed up by receivers, Wilson was one for two for 10 yards.

Then the punt coverage team allowed Pharoh Cooper to return a Jon Ryan kick 53 yards to the Seattle 1, from where a Gurley touchdown that made 13-0.

If anyone needed a sequence for the tombstone on the 2017 season, that was it.

The three possessions had all the mess-ups that characterized the season, and the defense was left to hold off Rams drives of 50, 40 and 1 yards.

Permitting only 13 points was a feat, but it also was for naught because the offense in week 15 still does not have its compost together to rally against a defense the caliber of the Rams.

If one were to choose one thing from the incorrigible incompetence of the first three possessions upon which to unload the forward torpedo tubes after a 42-7 defeat, the vote here is for Graham.

Not only was the drop of a caught ball inexcusable, it would have been his only positive yardage of the day. His other catch in three targets produced minus-1 yard. The results followed the loss in Jacksonville when he had no catches.

Graham has a team-high nine touchdowns — also tops in the NFL among tight ends — on 53 catches in 472 yards. But the pending free agent gets little done between the 20-yard lines to inspire the Seahawks or any other club to come anywhere close to matching the $10 million salary he’s been getting. Any cash he may get won’t be for his blocking.

“It’s really disappointing,” Carroll said bluntly Monday. “We really expect to get him involved. There were other chances. We missed one, a really big one that we might not have seen, so we were trying to go (to him) and it just didn’t happen.

“It’s frustrating because he’s a big part of us, and he carries a lot of juice and energy for us when he makes his plays. We need him active. We certainly would like to get him active earlier.”

As the three-year trial with Graham, 32, as the offense’s missing ingredient nears its dubious end, it’s increasingly obvious that, despite some splendid games and moments, Graham is likely to be where the Seahawks begin their off-season cost savings.

He’s averaging a career-low 8.9 yards per catch for an offense that Sunday managed 149 yards, 59 in the first half, at home. Obviously, many others failed to contribute, but Graham is the oldest starter and the least likely to respond to any requests for improved engagement or effort.

It’s true that Wilson and Graham have struck up a strong friendship — he was in the quarterback’s wedding in England — but that comes in tied for last as far as Seahawks priorities to improve an offense that eight times Sunday faced 3rd-and-11 or longer, converting none.

“It was a combination of a couple crucial penalties and the negative plays,” Carroll said of the offense. “They keep us from getting on schedule. When you get off-schedule against a group that can rush like they can, we just made it easy for them. They took advantage of it. It’s really hard to overcome that.”

The Rams also managed to keep Wilson from destroying them with his legs. His 39 yards on five carries again led the Seahawks, but his longest was 15. He took a steady battering — seven sacks and nine quarterback hits.

“We bottled him up,” said DT Aaron Donald, who had three sacks and two tackles for loss.  “He tried to roll one way and a guy was in his face. He tried to go another way, somebody was in his face.

“Any time you bottle him up and not give him a lot of space to do things, it’s good.”

Before the Seahawks contemplate the look of their future roster, they have to find a way to muster some emotion for the 8-6 Cowboys on Christmas Eve in Dallas. The Seahawks are not eliminated from the playoff race, but they have to beat the Cowboys and then Arizona on New Year’s Eve, and hope for many losses among NFC contenders to have a shot.

Carroll hopes public humiliation will have some positive effect.

“I know it may seem difficult for those out there to understand how we can do that,” he said. “But we will. That’s how we operate.”

Wright likely back, Wagner status quo

Carroll said Wright will likely be out of the concussion protocol Wednesday and play Sunday. Wagner’s sore hamstring apparently was no worse for wear, although he was pulled with out five minutes left in the third quarter.

Explaining the pre-game decision to start Wagner, who is having an All-Pro-level season, Carroll said, “We had to rely on what he felt like. He had to tell us. That was what the workout was for, so he could see for himself how far he could take it.

“He had to convey to us, not in an emotional way, what was making sense to him. Which he did. I was right, it worked out. There’s a lot of trust there.”

But SS Earl Thomas post-game said Wagner was not himself and probably should not have played. “Backups could have done just as good,” he told reporters.

Via Twitter, Wagner strongly disagreed, writing, “E keep my name out yo mouth. Stop being jealous of other people success. I still hope you keep ballin bro.”

On his ESPN 710 weekly program Monday, Carroll dismissed the potential feud.

“Emotions and all that,” he said. “Guys say something that they maybe shouldn’t have said, or wish they would have said it to each other. But that’s social media. Your thoughts go out. Those guys have been together a long time. They will work everything out. I’m not worried about anything.”

Carroll said he felt that Wagner at even less than 100 percent was worth having on the field.

“Bobby can play (injured),” Carroll said. “Some players can do it. They can play when they are injured a little bit and still play football. “I went up to him, really nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye: ‘Are you OK? ‘You’re probably not going to be able to do everything that you normally do, do you feel good? ‘Yeah.’

“So he was really wanting to do it and he did it.”



  • Ron

    Six days ago you wrote that you wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks offer Graham a contract extension. Curious, how much you would offer him if you were GM?

    • art thiel

      I don’t know that I wrote that. But if he wanted to stay around for a little more than Luke Willson is getting this year, $1.8M, that would be possible. At 32, I think the Seahawks figure his prime is past.

      • Ron

        art thiel SportspressNW Bayview Herb • 8 days ago
        eligible for a contract extension, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he
        gets it because he’s a red-zone target the Seahawks otherwise do not

  • Kevin Lynch

    Cut or trade Graham, Avril, Chancellor. Guys who don’t show up or play competitively need to move on. Keep Sherman. Keep Thomas. Bennett? Tough call.

    • Michael Galey

      Y’all said what I was thinking. those guys are too fragile now that they are aging and need time to think about their health vs another season. As for the offensive line maybe Coach Cable needs to see about new territory? Got to say though these past 5 years have been a hell of a ride.

      • art thiel

        Good that you allow players to think of their lives first. Many fans simply look at them as fantasy points.

    • ss

      Avril’s career is likely over. Chancellor’s might be, too. Graham, what would anyone trade for him? Too many drops.

      • art thiel

        Unless the Seahawks extend his contract, he’ll be a free agent.

    • rosetta_stoned

      Keep Bennett?
      He’s the Seattle Seahawks’ Walter Payton Man of the Year.

      • art thiel

        As he should be. Unless you want me to write you in on the ballot.

    • art thiel

      Are you lumping Graham with Avril and Chancellor, who have career-threatening injuries? Really?

      • Kevin Lynch

        Art, I’m only saying bring back players who will show up to play 16 games and play hard. Graham just hasn’t played as competitively as this team requires and at $10 million per year that’s not a good fit. The other guys played hard and well but just weren’t there for half the season. That wouldn’t be the problem it is if they weren’t paying them so much. Would New England keep them at the price of their current contract? No.

  • ss

    Art, you mentioned Graham’s catch for -1yard. Was that on third down? Can you help me understand why on third downs we don’t even throw the ball past the line of scrimmage, let alone past the first down marker? McKissick caught a third down ball behind the line and I think a later attempt was incomplete behind the line to someone else. It’s happened numerous times this season with unsuccessful results.

    • art thiel

      When there is no run game, short passes are the alternative. The plan is to get a quick pass to a receiver in motion away from the line to escape a fierce rush. It’s a decent alternative that is rarely recalled when it works, but always remembered when it doesn’t.

  • Husky73

    Graham has not been what the Seahawks had hoped. However, the real key to the Graham trade was losing Max Unger. Unger was the lynch pin of the OL, and when he left the entire OL fell into chaos, crushing the running game and creating the Russell Wilson backyard football dance. It was really losing Unger that started the Seahawks’ downfall, followed by the cascade of injuries, weak drafts and the sideline rants. Time to clean house and retool.

  • Husky73

    Graham has been somewhat of a disappointment. But, the real key was losing Max Unger. Unger was the lynch pin of the OL. With Unger gone, the OL cratered, as did the running game, and the Wilson “backyard football” dance became a necessity. Add in the number of injuries, some weak drafts, the sideline antics…and the Seahawks are a team on the down side of the bell curve. It is time to retool– not to blow up. A good core remains. It’s been a great ride for about 5-6 years, but that era is over.

    • art thiel

      It’s true that Unger was a hard guy to replace. It took three position moves for Britt to find he was an NFL average center.

      But no could have foreseen career-threatening injuries for Avril, Chancellor and Sherman at almost the same time.