BY Art Thiel 08:13PM 11/04/2018

Thiel: Seahawks can’t indulge errors by Wilson

The Seahawks had a dramatic chance to force OT. But the 25-17 loss was created by early defensive failures and a two-touchdown swing due to Russell Wilson errors.

WR David Moore had a chance for a final touchdown, but couldn’t grab Russell Wilson’s pass. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The best sports teams are able to do over and over that which they do best. Which explains how the Seahawks are 4-4 at the seasonal midpoint. A week after they were running with BMW smoothness for a win at Detroit, they came home Sunday for the first time in a month and blew gaskets, threw rods, overheated and under-performed.

Yet, the jalopy was right there at the finish.

“It’s heartbreaking, especially at home,” WR Doug Baldwin said. “We’ve got to do better.”

And do it quickly. After losing to the Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) Sunday 25-17 (box), they face the varsity Los Angeles team, the 7-1 Rams, next Sunday at the Coliseum knowing they are mortally agitated after soiling their unblemished record with a 45-35 loss at New Orleans.

The Seahawks don’t yet have enough experience with each other, especially on defense, to be consistent. Which doesn’t mean that can’t happen by, say, December. Unfortunately for them, November’s intimidating calendar comes first, which could well kill this season’s playoff aspirations.

On the Chargers’ first two possessions, they went 94 and 83 yards for a pair of touchdowns. The drives basically won them the game, despite the late Seahawks rally that made the outcome more uncertain than the preceding 58 minutes established. The Seahawks had to play well to recover, and instead fell victim to self-imposed errors.

Misalignment and missed tackles allowed the Chargers a large number of explosive plays that looked unfamiliar to Seahawks fans used to the glory years, when ground was given by the handful, not the wheelbarrow.

“Yeah, I am surprised,” said DE Frank Clark. “I feel like we have a great defense, and great defenses don’t give up that many explosive plays. It was a poor effort on our part.”

Coach Pete Carroll put much of the blame on penalties.

“The game felt sloppy because of the penalties — ones that we could avoid,” he said,  “and just gave them free yards. That’s not the way we’ve been playing.”

It’s true the Seahawks committed 10 penalties for 83 yards. But the Chargers had 12 for 105, so the flags weren’t necessarily decisive.

Perhaps most pivotal Seahawks errors were two plays from QB Russell Wilson, fresh off the first perfect-passer rating (158.3) in the franchise’s regular-season history.

One was obvious: A 42-yard pick-six by CB Desmond King with 6:44 left that put the Chargers up 25-10. The second came earlier, on the first series of the third quarter, when Wilson at the Seahawks 39 ran up in the pocket to see a wide open WR Jaron Brown 25 yards downfield. A completion almost certainly would have gone for a 61-yard touchdown. Instead, he short-armed the throw by several yards.

“I didn’t realize he was as deep as he was,” Wilson said. “He was just right, and that was on me. I stepped up and it was just barely too short.”

Of the pick six, he said, “I made a bad read. He bolted underneath of it and made a good play. It won’t happen again.”

It’s happened to Wilson only twice before in his career. But big mistakes from the vets become acute for a team still on a learning curve.

The two young cornerbacks, Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, were each torched for long gains, the latter a 30-yard touchdown pass from QB Philip Rivers to WR Tyrell Williams, and the former a 54-yarder to Keenan Allen.

Those burns are inevitable when a team decides to swap out expensive experience for affordable youth. That’s why it is incumbent upon Wilson to avoid two-touchdown swings, especially against a team led by the savvy Rivers. He was a modest 13 of 26, but the 228 yards were massive, especially paired with 160 yards on the ground, including 113 from Melvin Gordon.

“When we give them the turnover for the touchdown,” Carroll said, “that really winds up being the difference in the game. It’s unfortunate. It’s too bad.”

In the final two possessions, Wilson labored valiantly to make up. Absent top rusher RB Chris Carson, who missed the second half with a recurring hip injury, as well as RG D.J. Fluker (calf), the Seahawks trudged 54 yards in 14 plays to close to 25-17 with 1:53 left after a six-yard TD pass to Nick Vannett.

After the defense forced a three-and-out, Seattle took over with 1:10 left and no timeouts and reached the Chargers’ one-yard line with one last play at :00, untimed because it followed a Chargers penalty.

Regular-season games don’t get much more dramatic: A chance in the final two minutes for two touchdown drives and a two-point conversion to force overtime.

But another mistake, a false start by a veteran, LG J.R. Sweezy, pushed the Seahawks back five yards. Now absent a run threat, Wilson had to throw. WR David Moore flashed open at the back of the end zone. Wilson fired. CB Jahleel Addae lunged horizontally and appeared to get a fingertip in the ball, altering the flight just enough to cause Moore to misjudge it.

“We had a chance,” Carroll said. “We were right there.”

By the thinnest of margins, they failed. But the NFL is all about thin margins. The Seahawks did all the tough-guy stuff, not enough of the smart-guy stuff.

“It’s not enough to be physical,” said LT Duane Brown. “You have to be clean, you have to play smart football.”

Based on a half-season of evidence, there’s a good chance it will happen for these Seahawks. The problem is the Rams and the second half may happen faster.


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YourThoughts

  • Ron

    Props to the receiving corps for outstanding choreography in a touchdown celebration. See you at the ESPYs.

    • Talkjoc

      I’d rather they catch passes. It’s the ONLY post-season event this team is headed for. Admit it folks,it’s a rebuilding year regardless off what Carroll and Schneider say.

  • Bruce McDermott

    On the ball behind Griffin, I’m pretty sure that was zone, and Griffin thought he’d have safety help. Looked like he gave him up…without seeing that there was nobody there to give him up to….

    • art thiel

      That’s how it looked, but Carroll indicated vaguely Monday that Griffin bore responsibility.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    The Seahawks got a heaping helping of reality check. It didn’t help that key contributors were ailing. Still, everyone was just a little off, so it appeared. The attacking on both sides of the ball was done by the Chargers, and the reacting was done by the Seahawks. The game seemed to be won at the line of scrimmage – dominated by the Chargers. Those running lanes, were impressive, as was the protection for Rivers – who is right up there with the best on his speedy ball release. Not so the other way around. Lots of pressure for Russell and not so gaping were the running lanes.

    This young team will certainly learn from the experience. You’re right though, while they really want another chance to make amends for losing to the Rams in Seattle, the Rams will be bent to make amends for their loss to the Saints. Next week is another lesson awaiting. Should be one hell of a game, if some of our key players can get healthy and the young ones can continue to learn and show their maturity.

    • art thiel

      Chargers had five explosive plays (12+ yard rush, 16+pass) in the first half half, none in the second. Norton finally got Wagner lined up right.

  • ll9956

    It’s especially painful to lose in this way. I’m not criticizing Russell, given all he’s done for the Hawks. However, it hurts to realize that but for the pick-six, we could have won it with an easy field goal on the last drive. A definite OY VEY!

    • Kevin Lynch

      Of course, there was also the Chargers kicker, who gifted you five points. And the Chargers certain interception that was tipped away by one of their own players. And so on…when playing at home, don’t allow the opponents three touchdowns in the first half of the game.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Sigh .. While it was one of the most exciting finishes I’ve ever saw from a purely football fan perspective , as a Hawk fan I’ve rarely witnessed a more frustrating game . I was at the Superbowl loss to the Patriots and saw that live in front of my face too , so that’s clearly the most frustrating loss ever , but this was a close 2nd .

    First off – and I have to say this though I don’t blame the loss on it – the officiating was atrocious . Just terrible , and that’s true for both teams . William’s foot stepped on the line , that was no touchdown , and it was clear on the replay in the stadium . Coleman committed PI on the 3rd down throw by Rivers , and probably should’ve been called for a facemask . It was Hoculi’s kid , and that guy was a known Hawk killer as an official so I’m not surprised . But literally the worst officiating I’ve seen all year . It seemed to me like there we’re flags almost every 2nd or 3rd play ; the field was constantly littered with yellow and made It impossible for any flow to the game .

    Hat tip to the Chargers ; Keenan Allen & Melvin Gordon both had over a 100 yards I believe and just killed us . The lack of run defense was especially surprising to me . But let’s be honest ; the pick-6 was the haymaker that knocked us out . Russell sure didn’t have his best game and seemed to zero in on Baldwin and Vannett all day ; I’m not sure Tyler Locket had a single catch .

    Ultimately , the team as it sits looks like the team most pundits predicted before the season – a middling 8-8 group . They can still get 9 wins optimistically , and if they were to somehow beat the Rams next week I’d say they could still win 10 . But those are big “ifs” ..

    • antirepug3

      I noticed the officiating too. Questionable calls + missed calls…I was not impressed.

      • art thiel

        Chargers had 12 pens, including that dubious PI at game’s end.

  • antirepug3

    Two things stand out to me. First, the inexperience of the defense against a battle hardened QB like Phillip Rivers. Second, this is the first time the Seahawks have played an actual winning team in a while and it revealed the weaknesses.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Frustrating for Hawk fans is that the Chargers really didn’t do anything on offense in the second half. Couldn’t even burn a lot of clock. But on the other side the Hawk offense burned TOO MUCH CLOCK. A little more time and they would have tied it or at least had the 2-point conversion opportunity. But my main takeaways are this: Seattle has an improved offensive line but San Diego has a SUPERIOR line. Also, the Seahawks can get to 10-6 if Kansas City does not need to win the late game in the season and if the Hawks can take the Packers at home, and I believe they can. So a playoff run is still there for them. San Diego has won five straight. They are tough. Rivers is tough. And you caught them at a tough time.

  • Matt712

    As with any NFL team, the Seahawks went as their quarterback went. Atrocious refereeing withstanding, Russ just had a bad day. Looked like he somewhat regressed to the form he showed in the first two games – holding the ball too long, lacking decisiveness, skittish in the pocket, etc. It’s not surprising considering he was going up against his old DC. I think Gus called a great game for the Chargers and probably was in Wilson’s head a bit. LAC as a whole just seemed to play Seahawks football better than the Seahawks.

    What’s far more disconcerting is the apparent disappearance of Century Link’s home field advantage. Used to be, the Clink seemed to give the Hawks an legit advantage. Turns out, that advantage is probably only as good as the team itself.

    • John M

      I agree that Bradley was one of the stars responsible for this win by the Chargers, They anticipated us too well, and when Russ did change a play at the line, it generally wasn’t the right one. The foot out of bounds should have negated the reviewed touchdown play by the Chargers. A pretty sad day for Mudvillites . . .

    • art thiel

      Seahawks have lost six of the past eight at home.

      Sunday, Seahawks offense killed several drives with pens. That wasn’t Gus.

      • Matt712

        “To me, it really kept the crowd from getting too crazy. It wasn’t as loud as I’ve experienced here consistently. There were spurts, but it wasn’t as consistently as loud as it has been. I had everybody prepped for it to be crazy and the guys that had their first time here were like, ‘you hyped it a little too much.”
        – Phillip Rivers (On Century Link)

        https://www.seahawks.com/news/what-the-chargers-said-following-their-win-against-the-seahawks

      • Mark Thurston

        OMG!. . Its True!. . 2 and 6 in their past 8 home games. . My lunch just came back up.

  • Alan Harrison

    The good news about a progressing running game is that it’s a great way to hold a lead, which the Seahawks hadn’t been doing. It’s amazing that they almost did, but that’s why the drive was so lengthy. The bad news is that it’s a difficult way to come back, especially with Fluker out. I had no idea he would be the keystone to the offense, but he seems to be, because when he’s not there, the offense’s wall seems to fall down and Russ makes mistakes – or blames his receiver trying to catch a tipped pass (to be fair, he might not have known it was tipped).

  • jafabian

    I don’t get why they had Janikowski do an onside kick when he’s never had a successful one his entire career. If they had him kick it off the Chargers wouldn’t have passed because they wouldn’t want to risk turning the ball over. With the Hawks still having 3 time outs they could have gotten better field position than starting on the 80 with Lockett or Penny returning and possibly have as much as 2 minutes to work with.

  • Husky73

    Phillip Rivers does not get a lot of love from the myopic “Brady or Rodgers?” debaters. OK, he does not have a postseason resume (a 4-5 playoff record), or a ring. But, he has been a VERY good quarterback for a long time. 52,584 yards, 112 wins and 361 TD passes are pretty darn impressive. He’s a leader– tough and fiery. His throwing motion is odd, but he can make every play. In most NFL games, the team with the better QB wins, and that was the case on Sunday.