BY Art Thiel 09:14PM 12/22/2019

Thiel: Absent 3 RBs, Seahawks fall hard, hold faith

Absent LT Brown, losing RBs Carson and Prosise along with Penny, the Seahawks offense fell apart against Arizona. Now all they have to do is fix everything in a week.

On the first series of the third quarter, WR David Moore caught his only pass for a 21-yard gain, but moments later was stripped of the ball by Arizona LB Chandler Jones. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

For the entire season, the Seahawks were on a tightrope, swaying in the breeze, an almost unprecedented 10-1 in games decided by a single possession. They nearly made it across. Sunday, they fell.

Because there’s a minimum of two games left, it can’t be said they have hit the canyon floor. But it has certainly grown cold and breezy, and the ground is coming up fast.

“We were ready to play, and jacked up,” said coach Pete Carroll, astonished. “It’s just really a surprise.”

Wretched as was their play in the shocking 27-13 loss (box) to 5-9-1 Arizona — a team they beat 27-10 in September — the post-game health news was worse.

RBs Chris Carson (hip) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) are done for the season, and likely so is LT Duane Brown, who didn’t play Sunday and will have arthroscopic surgery Monday on a knee.

The injuries came after after two players, WR Josh Gordon and DT Al Woods, were lost during the week to NFL drug suspensions, and three defensive starters, DE Jadeveon Clowney (core muscle), CB Shaquill Griffin (hamstring) and FS Quandre Diggs (ankle) were held out because of injuries. During the game, LG Mike Iupati missed time with a neck stinger.

The copious casualties looked like a pile of wasted bad guys in a Jackie Chan movie.

“We have to get to scrambling,” Carroll said of their personnel needs. “Johnny (GM John Schneider) has got to get to work and figure out what we’re doing next.”

Pursuit of a running back(s) is priority 1, because they are already missing backup Rashaad Penny (torn ACL). Priority 1A is not to let the shock of the loss bleed into the practice week.

“It’s important for us to be disciplined about this, so we can turn our focus and not be affected by what just happened,” Carroll said. “We do that really well.”

That salutary history faces its ultimate test in recovering from a season-worst defeat to face Sunday arguably the NFC’s best team, the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers.  The start of the much-anticipated game was flexed to 5:20 p.m., so the football nation can savor a clash fraught with rivalry, stakes (the division title) and drama, with both teams already guaranteed a post-season berth.

As large a task as Carroll faces, the 11-4 Seahawks are still in position to stand at the summit: By beating the 49ers, they have a small chance to finish with the No. 1 NFC playoff seed. But if they lose, they could fall all the way to sixth and last. The only one of the six spots they can’t hold is No. 4, which belongs to the NFC East winner.

Playoff scenarios entering week 17 are here.

As much as the Seahawks need to look forward, they cannot un-see two absurd developments Sunday.

  • The Cardinals played all but one series of the second half with their backup quarterback, former Seahawk Brett Hundley, who replaced star rookie Kyler Murray (hamstring), and
  • Despite the fact that the Cardinals entered the game statistically with the worst pass defense in the NFL, Seahawks wide receivers caught just three passes.

Of the two, the second was the more egregious, because the pathetic pass protection — compromised by the first career start at left tackle for second-year lineman Jamarco Jones against NFL sack leader Chandler Jones — was a clear and present threat to the health of QB Russell Wilson.

“We had a terrible time today,” Carroll said of the pass pro. “We weren’t able to keep (Chandler Jones) out of of there. He just had a huge day.”

Wilson appeared battle-worn and afterward said he was fine, but did acknowledge that someone stepped on his ankle.

Jones had four of Arizona’s five sacks (for 36 yards in losses), six quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

“I was winning clean early, so I knew I was fixing to have a big game,” he said. “After my second sack, my coach said those sacks aren’t good because you’re not getting the ball. He said, get me the ball.”

So Jones in the second half knocked the ball free twice, from Wilson and WR David Moore, to kill two possessions.

With the first-half departures of Carson and Prosise, the running game devolved into rookie RB Travis Homer. He was valiant, but managed only 16 yards on five carries, and 26 yards on six receptions.

With no rushers, and no pass protection, that’s how a team gets to a season-low 224 yards of offense in 25 minutes of possession, while converting one third down in 12 tries. The Seahawks’ opening drive of 89 yards in nine plays for a touchdown looked near-brilliant, but the rest of the game, they gained 135 yards.

“We weren’t able to get the ball out (to the wideouts),” Carroll said. “Russ couldn’t do anything about it. It was really a hard day, protection-wise.”

On defense, the game turned on Arizona’s second possession, when RB Kenyan Drake, a mid-season trade acquisition, took a first-down handoff and went 80 yards untouched to tie the game at 7.

“We were on a blitz,” LB Bobby Wagner said, “and they caught us.”

On Seattle’s next possession, a brain-fart ruined a chance for a field goal. When the drive stalled at fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 33, Carroll didn’t want to go for it, despite Carson’s success to that point.

Jason Myers came on to attempt a 52-yarder, only he paused before the kick, perhaps bothered by wind velocity. Instead of calling timeout, he allowed the play clock to run out. The five-yard penalty for delay pushed Myers out of field goal range. The Seahawks were forced to punt.

“They got messed up, up front,” Carroll said of the blocking assignments. “Jason felt it would be better to take the delay than to take the timeout, and I couldn’t tell what was going on. We were supposed to kick there, but didn’t.

“We were out of whack with what was going on. I think I will leave it at that.”

Carroll’s description applied to many things Sunday. The Seahawks often are out of whack when Arizona comes to town — the win was the Cardinals’ fifth in their past eight visits here — but Sunday was especially perverse, given the personnel trauma.

Wagner recalled a similar circumstance. In the next-to-last regular-season game of 2013, Arizona showed up and bounced the heavily favored Seahawks, 17-10. The Seahawks responded by beating the Rams 27-9 in the finale, then went on to win the Super Bowl.

But as Seahawks fans know, 2013 was a special group. The 2019 team has been a fortunate group. All of their good fortune seemed to run out in a single week.

FS Marquise Blair returned a blocked field goal 46 yards, but the Seahawks earned only a field goal. / Drew McKenzie, Sporspess Northwest


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YourThoughts

  • Matt Kite

    I would be surprised if they manage to win another quarter, much less a game, but this team has defied expectations all season, so I guess all we can do is watch with our eyes (mostly) covered. Go, Seattle Backups, go!

    • art thiel

      Lots of bad juju in one week. It does catch up.

  • Alan Harrison

    What happens when you say “Next man up,” and all you see are tumbleweeds?

    • Husky73

      “I know when the night has gone. But I’ll just keep rollin’ along. Drifting with the tumblin’ tumbleweeds.”

    • Kristafarian

      Well, I always say, ‘Marshawn.’

      • art thiel

        Apparently, you’re not alone.

      • coug73

        All we want for Christmas is a RB. Bring back the Beast seems to be a meerschaum pipe dream.

      • antirepug3

        Well, he and Robert Turbin were signed for the rest of the season. Kinda wonder what kind of shape they are in.

    • art thiel

      Head back to the saloon. Order red-eye. Tell the piano player to play a rag-time tune.

  • Chris Alexander

    Losing your top 2 RBs and being down 1-1/2 starting offensive lineman (Brown + Iupati for half the game) …. that was downright brutal. The key to the rest of the season is going to be what JS does this week (i.e can he get us a couple of backs?) and what Pete and the coaching staff can do with what remains of the line. Game planning can make up for some of it but the clash with San Francisco may look an awful lot like today’s game if JS and/or Pete and crew come up short.

    I’m not a huge Robert Turbin fan but word is that the team had him in recently for a workout and he at least knows some (much?) of the playbook. I wouldn’t want him to be the only player we sign this week but I wouldn’t mind if he was ONE of them.

    Fingers crossed that the stars align and we manage to beat the Niners next Sunday night. Even better if Green Bay loses at least one of their next 2 (Monday night and/or next Sunday afternoon) so the Hawks can get a 1st round bye with a win. The Hawks could definitely use a week off before hosting a home game in the playoffs.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      The week off suddenly becomes a much larger asset for the Seahawks. Turbin was in last week, and now NFL.com is reporting Lynch will be in for a visit.

  • bevdog

    Ineptitude in every phase of the game: offense, defense, special teams and coaching decisions especially offensive play calling.

    Best of luck to John and Pete in their attempt to put the broken pieces back together again before kickoff next Sunday.
    GO HAWKS!!

    • art thiel

      Lots of dubious decisions piled up at once.

  • Effzee

    Can’t help but notice Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are leaders on the top seeds of the AFC and NFC teams. Meanwhile defenses continue to easily neutralize Wilson by using the proven template (for which there appears to be no counter), and all of the guys with drug or injury issues continue to have those same issues. From Walter Thurmond to CJ Prosise to Josh Gordon to Percy Harvin, this is what happens when you pay one guy the moon, and hand out checks and roster spots to question marks, with your fingers crossed that negative patterns will magically change by themselves.

    • ReebHerb

      Rhetorical question. Is there a common drug supplier hanging around Seattle’s sport complexes? Will we recognize his name if it comes to light?

      • art thiel

        The players have the same access to the same banned drugs as you do.

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          Respectfully disagreeing here, sir. NFL players have far better access to far better controlled substances.
          Down at our level we had to deal with stuff like unknown purity, expectations that more $ meant more kick, etc.

          • art thiel

            I’m talking stimulants like Adderall, all easily available PEDs.

      • antirepug3

        Gordon is a 5-time loser. This ain’t his first drug rodeo and I am sure the Hawks knew that when they signed him. There is a good possibility he won’t ever work in the NFL again.

        • art thiel

          Well of course. Everyone knew the risk/reward, and both sides thought it was worth a try.

    • art thiel

      Sherman and Thomas wanted out for their reasons. Pete then wanted them out too, It’s the NFL.

  • BB46

    We just are a team with average horses. We are down to #4 running back. Our O line has been average in pass protection all year even with all its pieces. Teams are stacking the line to stop the run and also push pressure on the passer. We are finding it hard to counter that. QB doesn’t have anything consistent for protection and that is what is hurting us.
    Doesn’t matter what plays are called when we can’t control the line of scrimmage. Chances are it won’t work and obviously it won’t work consistently.
    Other obvious thing,,,,, It’s not looking good for next week but games are played on the field. Not on paper. On paper one would have to think the 49ers are the best team. But a lot of times the best team on paper doesn’t win. It’s the team that plays the best. We will see who does that Sunday night.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Lady luck turned into a shrew. The blush went off her face in a real hurry. A ‘Brown-out’ is threatening to take down the entire grid. If Clowney can play…but if JImmy G. has time to pick out Kettle…we’ll see what John can do this week.

    “Queen of diamonds, jack of spades
    Luck runs out and the winning streak fades
    When you’re down and losin’
    It’s hard to bluff the dealer.”
    -Stephen Stills

    • art thiel

      Seahawks are counting on 49ers to show up drunk to the card table.

  • Mark Thurston

    At the post game Press conference, for the first time ever the look on Russel Wilson’s face couldn’t hide the fact that he was clearly shook. It took a lot to make that happen. Art did you feel that when Russell stepped to the podium? I believe what we have here is a career defining moment for one of my favorite people of all time. Praying for my Brother and looking forward to seeing how he’ll respond in leading this team next week. Doesn’t get much bigger for Russel’s career.

    • art thiel

      Everyone was shocked at how poorly they played. That’s part of why Carroll brought back Lynch: He’s the human cardio paddles.

  • ll9956

    Short version: This was a disaster. Long version: This was a disaster. Not only in terms of the super-poor play, but in terms of injuries. I don’t recall the Hawks ever being this decimated. The TV commentators talked about recruiting Robert Turbin and/or Thomas Rawls. It will be interesting to see who the Hawks’ “Wanted” ads bring in to fill the running backs vacuum. Homer is a good guy, but he can’t carry the load himself. This is a definite OY VAY!!!

  • tor5

    Well, that was heartbreaking for us 12s for sure. But here is how a true 12 looks at it: What an intriguing opportunity to shock and amaze. We’re counted out and have nothing to lose. Go forth with resolute confidence. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And it just plain ain’t. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Carroll is counting on weird stuff happening with the home-field vibe.

  • jafabian

    Lots of rumors on a Bestmode reunion but that would surprise me. IMO Schneider will go for Turbin, Rawls or Coleman.

  • 1coolguy

    Not going for it on 4th and 1 at the 33 was stunning. It told the OL they sucked, and told Carson his runs apparently were luck.
    That sent a lousy message to the team.
    As to RW, I get the OL was short 1st team players, but his inability to throw the ball out of bounds or overthrow a receiver, etc, happens every game. After this many years without an OL, don’t you think throwing it away instead of always taking the sack would be something he’d learn? He’s one of the best QB’s, but this part of his game needs help. It’s like watching Browning all over again, ugh.

    • Ken S.

      I think RW is the most optimistic of all QBs.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Pom Pom Pete stated that Marshawn is on his way up here: “we’re going to give him a really good chance to come back and play for us. … we’ll let you know in a few hours from now” as of this morning’s radio show.
    Stranger things have happened. No sane observer expects 25 carries, but maybe a dozen?

    • antirepug3

      It only takes one play to win…or lose a game. One or more good carries just might do the trick.

      • art thiel

        Actually it takes a lot of plays to get to a decisive play.

    • art thiel

      Neither the team nor Lynch has an idea how it’s going to go, much less us.

  • antirepug3

    Even with a winning season the Hawks have only been so-so all season long and not great. When the 32 ranked Defense beats up on the 4th or 5th ranked Offense, something just isn’t right even though anything can happen on any given Sunday. Plus the Hawks have been hanging out at 25th on Defense and that doesn’t spell making it very far in the playoffs to me, JMO.

    • art thiel

      The defense when healthy was vulnerable. Diggs helped a lot; his loss is large, and Clowney will be subpar until he gets offseason surgery.