BY Art Thiel 11:55PM 09/17/2018

Thiel: Carroll ‘tried too hard’ in Seahawks loss

In a 24-17 loss to Chicago, QB Russell Wilson and coach Pete Carroll made critical errors that helped waste a surprisingly effective performance by an undermanned defense.

TE Will Dissly turned upfield with a reception that went for 34 yards, the Seahawks’ longest play of the game in Chicago. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Nortrhwest

Looking at chances for the shorthanded Seahawks against the Bears Monday night, I was reminded of the trenchant mission assessment provided by Dan Aykroyd’s character in a parallel bit of cinematic theater set in Chicago, The Blues Brothers.

“There’s 106 miles to Chicago,” Elwood told John Belushi’s Jake as they sat in a car. “We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Said  Jake: “Hit it!”

The Seahawks hit it.

Only the engine snapped its bolts and fell to the pavement. No rescue. No completed mission from God. No Aretha singing about respect.

The dark glasses never came off the offense until it was too late.

After the the 24-17 loss (box) on a warm evening at Soldier Field, the Seahawks are 0-2 and hardly the darlings of Monday night anymore.

“Very difficult to take, last week and this week,” said coach Pete Carroll. “We ain’t used to this.”

Yet . . . as far back as spring, when the NFL schedule was released, road losses in Denver and Chicago for a team churning its roster and coaching staff seemed understandable to the point of near inevitability.

It’s the way they reached the bottom of the early NFL season that is so surprising: A heavily invested offense is often helpless, while the defense, eviscerated by departure of stars, is punching above its weight.

QB Russell Wilson, still having moments of greatness (a 99-yard scoring drive, as well as a perfect teardrop touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett), nevertheless seems stifled by indecision that makes for more frequent ineffectiveness.

He’s been sacked six times in each game, partly because he’s trying to stay put in the pocket instead of following his instincts to flee. The resulting 12 sacks in the first two games is the most in the NFL since Detroit’s Joey Harrington in 2007.

Part of it was the quality of the opposition. Chicago DE Khalil Mack and Denver DE Von Miller might be the two best rushers in the game. But Wilson also seems to be feel pressure beyond the opponent.

In pursuit of a tying touchdown inside the final seven minutes, he stared down RB Rashaad Penny on the left sideline before throwing a pass intercepted by CB Prince Amukamara, who returned it 49 yards for a back-breaker of a touchdown and a 24-10 lead.

Afterward, Wilson wasn’t owning up to error.

“He made a great play,” was all he said. Added Carroll: “Prince took a shot at it and stole one. That made the difference.”

The pick six was his first since 2012, his rookie year.

Also feeling pressure was Carroll, the architect of the remodel that would restore order and silence criticism from some of his former players. Carroll took responsibility for some poor playcalling that pulled away from the promised restoration of the run game.

Over a stretch of the second and third quarters, the Seahawks called pass plays 14 times in a row despite the fact that the running game showed up better than in the opener in Denver. The Seahawks were trailing just 10-3 when Carroll apparently panicked and overrode his playcaller, new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

“My fault — I tried too hard,” he said. “We wanted to do better than we did. In the third quarter,I got us to take a couple of shots and look at a couple of things and it got (Schottenheimer) out of rhythm a little bit . . . I shouldn’t have done that.”

After a smart, two-minute drill that necessarily was all by air to produce at halftime a 56-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski, the Seahawks went three-and-out on the first two possessions of the third quarter.

In the next possession, down 17-3, Carroll calmed down, calling five runs to go with five passes that covered 75 yards and concluded with the 19-yard dream throw to Lockett into tight coverage at the back of the end zone.

But even that drive was odd — they did it without starting RB Chris Carson, who had 24 yards on six carries in the first half and never lined up for a scrimmage play again despite no injury. They went to rookie Rashaad Penny four times and once to Mike Davis because Carson was over-used on special teams filling in for injured starters.

“He was a little gassed working on special teams,” Carroll said. “We had several guys out, so he had to double-dip.”

Results on the defensive side were unexpectedly better. The Bears rushed for only 86 yards and second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky had a rating of 56.6 after throwing interceptions on consecutive series to CB Shaquill Griffin. Trubisky threw little but short routes and screens, his longest completion only 17 yards.

In the absence of injured linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, making their first career starts for Seattle were MLB Austin Calitro and WLB Mychal Kendricks. Another newbie was CB Akeem King, subbing for injured Tre Flowers, himself a third-stringer due to earlier injuries to Byron Maxwell and Dontae Johnson.

Wright and Wagner have a good chance to return next week for the home opener against Dallas.

“We’re excited to see some of our guys come back next week; we need them,” Carroll said. “We need to get better. The second half, we got a lot better, but it was too late.”

It’s not too late for the season, but since 2007, teams starting 0-2 have made the playoffs only 11 percent of the time.

Unless the Seahawks find a way to unlock the old Wilson, they may fulfill the cockeyed wisdom long ago expressed by Yogi Berra: Iit gets late early here.

 


YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Seahawks will beat Dallas and Arizona and be even at 2-2. But a loss to either will ensure less than five wins this season.

    • art thiel

      Got it, Nostradamus.

  • jafabian

    Overall the switch in offensive philosophy from Bevell to Schottenheimer seems to stil be a work in progress. Odd that the Hawks seemed to really try to establish the passing game for the first 3 quarters then when time became a factor in the fourth quarter they began to run the ball more. Usually it’s the other way around. Also seems as though Wilson is being asked to stand in the pocket more or at least he isn’t rushing as much as he usually does. Like Kaepernick he’s at his best when he freelances. Makes me wonder if Russ will eventually go through what Kap did when Harbaugh left SF now that Schottenheimer is the OC.

    The defense was good, just on the field too much which had been typical the past few seasons. Again getting only two sacks and giving up six is a problem. The kicking game is a plus but Dickson needs to be aware of the dangers when you punt further than your coverage. Right now it’s almost like exhibition season the way the Hawks are playing. Still learning. Maybe Coach Carroll would be better off not saving the starting players during exhibition season so that way they’d be more prepared when the season starts.

    • art thiel

      Lots of transitions are being made, and most are slow on the uptick. But there’s a good chance that a healthy Baldwin would have made everyone happy at 1-1.

  • Effzee

    I sent this text to my buddies before the game last night “the game plan tonight should be easy: run Carson and Penny 30 times, possess the ball, control the clock, keep the injured defense off of the field.” What is so hard about that?

    The offense performs exactly like Pete Carroll speaks: in manic, stuttering, fragmented sentences, often skipping entire words. How many times now have we heard Pete say that he got “hormonal” or that he “tried too hard?” Someone needs to get Pete some ADHD medication. There was absolutely no reason to throw the (supposed) game plan in the fire and try to get back in the game quickly, down 10-3. For three years now, Pete utterly refuses to help his defense and live up to his own stated philosophy of “getting back to the run.” He just won’t do it. Someone needs to ask Pete what “committing to the run” means to him, and exactly whose responsibility is it to make sure it happens. Someone needs to ask Pete if he believes shortening the game by possessing the ball is a good idea. Does he actually believe these old football tenets he spouts off about, or is it just lip service to sound like he knows what he’s doing? Even going back to the season before they brain-farted the Super Bowl away by passing at the 1 yard line, I recall screaming at the TV about not giving the ball to Lynch enough.

    I’m losing faith in the Carroll/Schneider duo. With each passing game, it seems more and more like they got lucky with that first draft, trading for Lynch, and harnessing Russ’ momentary magical abilities before there was years of game film on him. Pete seems like a terrible game-day decision maker. Russ can play QB exactly one way, and its not by being a pocket passer. I wonder if this year’s draft could end up being their worst one yet. Dissley is a gamer, but there is much still to see from Penny. They absolutely threw two picks straight into the garbage with the one-handed linebacker who should probably just be cut, and the punter. I’d lean towards calling those two picks idiotic. This team needed so much more help than that. Any time you hear your team talk about what a great weapon the punter is, you know there’s a problem.

    • WestCoastBias79

      In fairness, except for a shank yesterday, the punter is money, and Griffin looked like a stud in preseason. Right now he’s having issues with diagnosing plays, but that will come, it’s game 2 of his NFL career.

      • art thiel

        Agreed on both.

    • Howard Wells

      NOOO don’t give up on the Seahawks! They need your season ticket money! Don’t have season tickets? Well…the Seahawks don’t care about you. It’s all about revenue!

      • art thiel

        Thank you, Mother Teresa. Glad to hear your life is dedicated to the downtrodden.

        • Howard Wells

          Lol, that’s me with my tongue glued to my cheek

    • art thiel

      A lot of fair points here, especially about the 14 passes in a row.

      Keep in mind that absent Baldwin, Wilson lost his passing-game safety net.

      I disagree with the criticism of Griffin and Dickson. They will work out, Other draft failures are many, especially McDowell/Ifedi. Lots of pressure on Penny to deliver.

      • Effzee

        To clarify, I wasn’t criticizing Dickson, I was being critical of the pick when this team had so many other needs. Did Shaquem even play on special teams in Chicago? I’m not meaning to be critical of him personally, but I’m afraid it’ll be another wasted pick. I’m also dubious on Seabass. He already kept us out of overtime in week one, with two shots at tying the game. That’s already halfway to Blair Walsh territory.

        They’ve spent first round picks on Graham, Harvin and Ifedi. Second round picks on McDowell, Christine Michael and Sheldon Richardson, and a 2nd and 3rd on Brown, covering up for the misses on Ifedi and Odhiambo. No players left from 2013 draft. One from 2014 and two from 2015. So many resources misused!

        I don’t even want to look at who was available at spots they traded out of in order to draft the guys who mostly aren’t with us anymore. :/

  • DJ

    Thanks Art – tough game to watch and later explain. Great play and game plan on Defense. Poor Offensive plan and/or decision making. A loss is so much more painful when you know you didn’t put your best foot forward.

    Missing from the offense are these necessary elements:
    – Run the ball first – get the defense to honor the run and free up the pass, wear them down, and allow special things a chance to happen, like Carson to break a long one. If there’s going to be a three-and-out, let it be by rushing three times.
    – Get the ball out quickly – passing plays have been taking way too long to develop. Even throw the ball away, fed-crying-out-loud. Also, they need to infuse some quick dump passes – maybe that’s what is missing along with Baldwin.
    – Move the pocket on passing downs, so that you can…..
    – Free up Russell to do his magic. Our greatest threat on offense is his ability to create.

    Aside from poor play calling, and playing against a defense that understands the basics with containing #3, I just don’t see where any effort was taken this off-season to develop an offense that catered to Russell Wilson’s unique abilities. In 2012, Wilson hit the NFL and surprised everyone. He did “mobile quarterback” in a great way, and better than most. Over time, the NFL has adjusted to him. Doesn’t it make sense to continue to adjust the way you use him to maintain his threat and divert attempts to stymie him? I thought that moving to a new OC would allow for that.

    • art thiel

      Part of the problem is they want to curb his instincts and make him better from the pocket, where he remains 5-foot-11.

      • DJ

        Insane. They’re not going to get the best out of Russ unless they honor what got him to greatness.

      • 1coolguy

        But so is Brees. Of course, Brees is a sure-HOF player, so that may be unfair. When RW had a decent, not great, OL his first 2-3 years he did fine when he was in the pocket more.

  • Ken S.

    Lets face it, a 5’10” Qback is not the ideal pocket passer. add the couple of inches of helmet to an already taller than #3 Oline & Dline, and you have an effective screen, preventing the (shorter) Qback from cleanly seeing possible targets. Hey! I know! Teach the Oline to put their heads down.?.?.? Err, maybe not.Wilson was good in his first few years because he was/is a roll-out passer. As defenses normally do, they concocted blocking schemes that forced #3 to play from the pocket. Without an Oline that can spring him free he’s become a pocket passer. Either get him some elevator shoes or find a Qback that can see over those helmets. It really is that simple.

    • 1coolguy

      Drew Brees’ career refutes your premise. It’s all about QB skills, play calling and an O line. RW did very well the first few years before they lost their O line starters. Trading Graham for Unger was the final nail in the coffin. Bottom line: JS needs to go.

  • antirepug3

    JMO, It looked like a Bevel offense and a Richard defense…and those guys are gone. Seattle faces tight pass coverage and can’t pass against it. The defense has gone soft and everyone passes against it.

  • Matt712

    No one expects to get a 100% straight answer from a coach’s presser after after a loss, particularly not from Pete Carroll. But, man, is he spreading it on thick to stand there and proclaim that his #1, chiseled from marble, running back was “gassed.”

    • art thiel

      As you probably know, Carroll owned up and said “misread” and “my bad.”

  • coug73

    No surprise that Russ Wilson is not comfortable in the Seahawk pass pocket. He’s been terrorized two games now. At 5′ 10 5/8″, with happy feet and movement in the pocket he can’t get a good look down field. Also, who is his go to receiver? I suggest a congressional investigation on why Seahawk management has not produced an above average offensive line. Stop Russ Wilson abuse.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Clearly, with so much in a state of flux, this is not the time to look at an enormous contract extension for Russ. They have to play out this season and see where they are at. But with an offensive line often overwhelmed it hardly makes sense to break the bank for a terrorized QB. The money will likely be needed elsewhere. Like the O line. And then the Mahomes and Fitzpatrick’s of the world get you thinking about maybe coupling results and affordability once again.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Three years of no O-Line is seeming to finally break Russell Wilson. The defense looked great, or that could be just because Mitch looks terrible. That said, play calling is just killing me. A one legged Aaron Rogers shredded them with quick passes and draws. I don’t know if it’s Russ always going for the home run, or if the receivers underneath can’t get open, but get the friggin’ ball out quicker. Yes, Ifedi sucks, but help the O-line out. Half the sacks from this week and last were Russ not getting rid of the ball. And if you’re going to commit to the run, run the ball, and don’t play your best RB on special teams. Also, just like always, tempo with Russ works, do it, play to his strengths. I know that scoring quick exposes your defense, but I’d argue that constant three and outs are worse for them.

  • 1coolguy

    Art – Thank you for the Blues Bros memory – that is one of the classiclines of all time, and possibly THE classic in a comedy. When I read this is brought a smile to my face and recollections of a great movie,
    Having read the comments below, I add a couple things:
    – JS finally made a draft pick that shows serious upside in Dissly, he of the longest play of the game and one of our 2 TD’s. A great position upgrade over soft Jimmy Graham. Now people see what is possible from a decent TE.
    – The Hawks are 0-2 but both of these games were VERY close and winnable, even given the league’s worst O line.
    – Janikowski’s 56 yarder showed us who he is and the 46 yarders missed last week are not representative of this guy’s’ value – he will win games for us.
    – The two TD drives were up-tempo, allowing RW to release quickly and negate the pass rush – possibly we will see more of this. We saw his top 5 QB skills in these and after the dime he dropped to Lockett, as pinpoint a pass if there ever was one, reminded everyone of his skills.

  • Husky73

    Looking ahead to the Dallas game, “Get out, and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.” (Sister Mary Stigmata)

    • art thiel

      Redemption is in the eye of the beholder. I await your punishing judgment.

      • Husky73

        As a recovering Catholic, redemption is one Act of Contrition away.

  • Howard Wells

    One of the most fun movies of all times…The Blues Brothers! One of the least enjoyable NFL teams…the Seattle Seahawks! BUT….they are my team. I’m having qualms about the Seahawks….just like my FAVORITE team, the UW Huskies. I’m confused this season….which is NOT what i want about a football season!

    • art thiel

      Confusion is standard for a sports season. Look at the this year’s Huskies, Sounders and Mariners.

      • 1coolguy

        Do I HAVE to look at the Mariners? It’s just too painful

  • 1coolguy

    This year will be a very interesting “controlled experiment”, about what the true value is of whether a team should put its money into the defense or the offense. I have maintained defense is easier to play and find players for than offense.
    I believe the Hawks went overboard with their defense in terms of commiting payroll dollars, much to the detriment of the offense.
    Taking the lines for instance – It is much harder to find high skill players for the O line than it is for the D line. Linebackers are much more common and available than are O linemen.
    So this season will be very telling, where the Hawks have only 3 well-paid defensive players – 2 LB’s and a safety – and have pared tens of millions in payroll on the defensive side, via retirements and players going to other teams.
    So if this defense, which on paper should be middle of the pack at best, performs and allows say, 3-5 points more than the Hawk defenses allowed with their loaded, high paid rosters, I suggest the money needs to be rebalanced with more dollars devoted to the offense, with its many high-skill positions, than the defense.
    A well-stocked offense will be worth at least 7 more points than this current group.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks are spending $64M on offense, $38M on defense. That’s why the crappy start is so galling for management.

      • 1coolguy

        Good point Art – Does it even out after RW’s salary?

  • Bruce McDermott

    Actually, and maybe at least as disturbing, Carroll “clarified” this morning that Carson was NOT gassed from special team duty. He was on a grand total of two special teams plays all night.

    So…we have a coach supposedly insistent on establishing the run instructing his OC to throw about 14 times in a row in the third quarter (an effort that resulted in one net yard), and benching a running back he had JUST said was his lead back because Penny wasn’t properly ready–based on a false impression about that “lead back’s” special teams workload that ONE question to his special teams staff would have been able to dispel.

    Russell isn’t the only Seahawk who struggled.

    • art thiel

      Bad game for the ballcoach.

  • Chris Alexander

    In my opinion, the issue with the offense is – and has been for years – the fact that Russell Wilson is not a game plan or a system player. Think about it. We always struggle in the first half and never really start clicking until the coaching staff essentially says, “well none of what we’ve tried is working; okay, Russ, let it rip.” I can’t even count the # of times I’ve told someone that our best game plan would be to simply tell Russ to treat every series like we’re down 7 and there’s 3 minutes to play.

    I understand that you can’t play professional football like you’re on a playground but …. I really wish the Seahawks would try that for a couple of games.

    Sigh.

    • art thiel

      Wilson’s biggest issue is his reluctance to throw into tight windows early in the game. Doesn’t want a turnover. But down in the fourth quarter, he has no choice.

      • 1coolguy

        Interesting and accurate point Art. That’s why you get paid the big bucks!