BY Art Thiel 02:48AM 10/26/2020

Thiel: Seahawks’ D is major threat to the season

Seahawks can’t live on pyrotechnics alone. The Arizona Cardinals exposed that truth when they put up 196 yards and 13 points on their last four possessions to shred Seattle’s defense, 37-34.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett could not be stopped Sunday, finishing with career highs of 15 catches and 200 yards. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

One would think that in the pile of 33 first downs and 572 yards of offense, including 200 receiving yards by WR Tyler Lockett, there would be a victory in there. But that’s probably because the realization had yet to harden that the Seahawks offense has to compensate for a defense that not only is the worst in the the NFL, it seems destined to go down as one of the most helpless since the bad guy tried to use a knife against the pistol of Indiana Jones.

Once Russell Wilson fell back in the second in the half Sunday night, followed by the awareness from the Arizona Cardinals (5-2) that the Seahawks (5-1) really weren’t as good as 5-0 made them look, the reckoning arrived in the bright national TV spotlight:

The Seattle defense will ruin the season.

Lavishly entertaining as was the game — DK Metcalf’s Usain Bolt-like rundown of Cardinals DB Budda Baker’s 90-yard interception return will replayed by the generations almost as much as Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Quake run — the failure to hold a 10-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation will influence the rest of the schedule.

A winnable game was not won; for the first time in 60 games of the Wilson era when the Seahawks had a halftime lead of four or more points, they lost.

The 37-34 overtime defeat (box) to a division rival hit the Seahawks where they live.

“We take such pride and finishing well, doing things right down the stretch,” said coach Pete Carroll. “Making the other team have to out-execute us. I didn’t feel like that tonight. It didn’t feel like we were able to force the issue . . . really disappointing night here for us.

“With so much that happened in this game, we had all kinds of chances to win. We could have won it on offense a couple times, on defense a couple times, in overtime as well.”

While the startling headline was three interceptions by Wilson, the more odious development was the inability to get even a single hit — not a sack, just a hit — on precocious Arizona QB Kyler Murray.

In a small, contested space filled with large, swarthy men, the expectation over 69 minutes is that Seattle defenders would at least bump into him in the pocket. He threw 48 times. But no.

So many weird things have happened to the Seahawks in the Glendale barn, despite a 6-0-1 record there in past seven meetings, that absurdity should be expected. But each time it leaves a different mark. Even with the advantages of coming off a bye week while the Cardinals played Monday night, the Seahawks ended up gassed and passed at the end because they couldn’t disrupt Murray.

“We had our hands on him a few times, but weren’t able to get him down,” Carroll said.  “He’s really hard to get and we were unable to do it.”

Murray completed 34 of his throws for 360 yards and three touchdowns, with only one interception. He added 68 yards on his 14 carries, but he wasn’t devastating with his specialty — in fact, Wilson out-rushed him with a game high 84 yards on six scrambles.

Ironically, it was the Cardinals rushing game that turned things late. Down 34-24 with five minutes remaining, Arizona’s first six plays were runs. Supplemented by a personal foul on DE Benson Mayowa for pushing down a lineman on a field goal attempt, the Cardinals took 14 plays to go 75 yards for a touchdown.

Then came a Seattle tactical decision that built the Cardinals’ momentum. On the next possession, they had five consecutive runs to force to the Cardinals to burn three timeouts. But it left them at fourth-and-two at their own 34, and Carroll chose to punt.

The problem was it took the ball out of the hands of their surest asset, Wilson, and brought back the inept defense to attempt to save the day. Even with just 52 seconds left and no timeouts, Murray cruised with an eight-play drive that delivered the field goal at :00 to tie the game at 34.

In two possessions in OT — one missed field goal, then the game-winner — Arizona accumulated another 68 yards, meaning that in the final four possessions, the Cards ran up 196 yards and 13 points against the Seahawks defense.

Brutal.

“We’re nowhere we want to be we,” said LB Bobby Wagner. “We can’t put the offense in a situation that we put them. We have the ability to improve. We have to make our minds up that’s it no more saying we’re going to do it. We have to show it. So at this point, I don’t have no words for you. We do or we don’t.”

The defense for the third game in a row was without injured SS Jamal Adams, their prime playmaker, and in the third quarter lost CB Shaquill Griffin to a concussion. The offense also lost RB Chris Carson to a sprained foot.  So there were some reasons.

But the defense was bad when Adams was healthy. And it isn’t likely that difference-making talent will be acquired before the Nov. 3 trade deadline. Unless the Seahawks want to move some of their premium talent on offense.

That’s not happening. Although it would be fun to listen to the calls general manager John Schneider will get Monday after Metcalf astonished the sports world in the second quarter.

“It’s one of the best football plays I’ve ever seen,” said Carroll of what was calculated by Next Gen stats as a 114-yard dash at more than 22 mph to bring down Baker after his interception. “It was just remarkable. He just used all that marvelous skill, and the will to go run the guy down — it was such an incredible play.

I just have never seen one quite like that. The follow-up, because of the inspirational moment, was extraordinary, too.”

He referred to the fact that Arizona still had the ball at the Seattle 8-yard line. But the defense, in its one moment of glory, forced a four-and-out. Wilson promptly took the Seahawks for a 97-yard touchdown drive and a 20-7 lead.

That sequence made for the apex moments of Seattle’s evening. Thereafter, the game slowly shifted toward the need for the defense to put its foot down.

Not once did it land on Murray.

 


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YourThoughts

  • DonMac

    The hubris of Pete and John needs to be called out by the Seattle media for their utter failure to address this team’s pathetic pass rush with little more than a pair of retread free agents combined with a second round defensive end who has yet to see the field this season. The Seahawks lack of a defensive push upfront is woefully compounded when you have to bring in Tre Flowers who has to play ten yards off of a receiver in order to not get burned deep. Hey Pete, the Tre Flowers experiment was deemed a failure by everyone after last season’s Green Bay game by everyone but apparently you.

    The Seahawks are so over leveraged at this point as a result of the Jamal Adams trade that there is nothing they can substantively do at this point in terms of a trade to fix this mess. This disparity between the Seahawks offense and the defense is the sort of thing that could create a schism on this team because the defense will undoubtedly cost the team more game’s irrespective of what the offense does and this will eventually lead to offensive players calling out the defense which in turn will piss off proud defensive players like Bobby Wagner and at that point Pete’s Pollyanna shtick is going to wear really thin with the players. This team, with this defense, has very little chance of making the playoffs.

    • Talkjoc

      Great points DonMac. Why not take a flyer on C Mathews? Wouldn’t cost too much. IMO, B Wagner is awful in pass coverage as he can’t stay with anyone anymore. Trade bait? Salary might make it tough though. Losing steak looms with 49`ers, Bills and Rams on the horizon.

      • art thiel

        Wagner isn’t as good as he was, but is still playing way above replacement. Matthews is no answer. Still, the stretch of five games could easily go 2-3, and given the rest of the schedule, they still make the playoffs — if that satisfies anyone.

        • antirepug3

          A top 3 offense and a bottom 1 defense do not a great playoff prospect make.

    • coug73

      It became a game where Russ needed to be spectacular not just good.

      • art thiel

        Which has been mostly the case this season.

    • john444

      Sorry DonMac. You completely missed it. You really think that the raw “talent” of this defense is historically the worst in professional football history? Scary lack of understanding how football works. Just look at the Arizona defense in the second half and in OT. They used a wide variety of looks to deceive and gain advantage. Over and over you could see how they used schemes set up earlier in the game, if not the play before, to do something unexpected and cause confusion.

      It has very little to do with the talent. The Seahawk defense is predictable and easy to read. Every team will tear them apart. A better DC could make them one of the best D’s in the league with the talent they have. Case in point: Arizona threw the ball 40+ times and not one pressure? A group of high school kids could have figured out a way to trick the pass pro once and get a pressure….but not even once? It’s a game of chess and the Seahawks are playing checkers. Blaming it solely on the talent is ridiculous. Even with another pass rusher they won’t be appreciably better. Sorry.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Well it certainly sounds like you have all the answers, high school kids, trick the offense and to hell with talented players. Have you contacted Pete Carroll about your vast knowledge and football prowess? Laughable.

      • art thiel

        Keep in mind that the unannounced change in enforcing offensive pens has changed the game for all teams, It made a good Seattle offense better, and a bad defense worse. You’re right that AZ’s diverse rush packages took a toll on the Carson-less offense in the second half. But the predictability of the Seahawks D owes at least something to the absence of Adams. And the issue of talent, not schemes, is always No. 1 on defense. The secondary with Neal and Flowers is simply not good.

      • antirepug3

        “The Seahawk defense is predictable and easy to read.”

        It seems that the offense is also. It seems that ‘run first’ has been shuffled to the rear for pass first, second, etc.

        • art thiel

          It’s the most diverse Seahawks offense I’ve ever seen.

    • art thiel

      Some good points here, yet Including last season up until now, the bosses have been criticized for the personnel failures with the pass rush. The mistakes were in not having a Plan B for Clowney’s departure, although Adams was a partial answer, and in not understanding the severity of draftee Taylor’s surgery. Having said that, they have lost starters Irvin and Blair for the season, and Adams and Dunbar have missed games with injuries. For all of that, if Mayowa doesn’t jump the snap, then lose his balance, the Seahawks give up three on that drive instead of seven, and they are 6-0.

      • Husky73

        Isn’t it interesting that after a thousand yards of offense, one offensive lineman getting a five yard penalty changes the trajectory of the game?

        • art thiel

          It was a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct, but I get your point, and it’s another good reason why people love football.

  • Bruce McDermott

    This is why some of us were on the media early on to ask Pete/Schneider about their promises to prioritize the pass rush in the office, and what the hell happened to them. Because the promises were well-founded. It appears that they just gambled on Clowney and lost. And the results of that loss are made real in every game. Not clear that Clowney would have been enough, when combined with the loss of Irvin and the obviously unanticipated redshirt year of Taylor. But without him or some other rational combination of players that could provide pressure, we showed up at the start of the season with a spoon at a knife fight. Russell and the offense are very capable, but they cannot wholly compensate. It’s just a waste, and an utterly predictable one…IF the goal is not simply “being competitive” or making the playoffs, but something greater.

    • art thiel

      Good point about the goal this season. The bosses signaled with the treasure given up for Adams, and the changes to engage Wilson early and often, that the Super Bowl was the goal. Regarding Clowney, you’re right — they gambled and lost. No OC scheming against SEA needs to plan to double any current defender.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    This game should have been over when the Hawks had the ball 3rd and 2 with about a minute and a half left in the game. Cards had zero time outs, obviously getting that first down would have sealed the deal. Nope, the offense gave the ball back to the Cards and relied on the defense to stop the Cards. Unfortunately our defense is incapable of stopping a clock much less Kyler Murray. The Hawks have been exposed, if any team can slow Wilson down just a half step, our lack of defense will gladly open the flood gates. Hopefully Jamal Adams can return next week and bring some stability to the defense. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      As I wrote, that possession was game-critical. One first down, game over. They were as passive then as they were aggressive in the opening series.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Pete said today, vaguely, that Russell had options on that play, including ones that gave him a chance to take it himself, or throw it. To me, pre-snap, the play they ran did not look great against that alignment, and unless Wilson had a very quick audible at the line, it was the play called in the huddle. Hyde was stuffed. I wonder whether Carson could have made it, though…that guy is a master of second and third effort and drive.

        • art thiel

          I think Pete was answering a question about all plays on the drive, not just that third down. But Wilson obviously has options for every call, depending on his read. Carson is the better back, but we’ll never know.

  • jafabian

    Sloppy game, Michael Dickson even had a touchback! Ultimately turnovers and penalties
    were costly, especially the holding penalty by Moore and the special teams penalty. The Hawks weren’t going to go undefeated but they should have won this game.

    • art thiel

      They were in control nearly all the way, and surrendered it. Very un-Carroll-like.

  • Husky73

    This is Monday, the traditional day of great exaggeration for things that happened on Sunday. On the first Monday, Tom Brady had lost it and Tampa Bay was a four win team. Last Monday, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were exposed. The Seahawks lost a game, and their defense isn’t very good (especially their pass rush, or lack of). They are 5-1, leading the division and will get Adams and a couple of others back. Their defense in week 14 will look different than it did last night. I didn’t expect them to go 16-0. There are more wins– and more defeats– on the horizon. That’s the NFL.

    • art thiel

      Overreaction is always what happens on Mondays everywhere. The difference is the defense was bad WITH Adams, and will not get better in a week’s time. Wins depend on Wilson being near-perfect, and some defenses are good enough to deny that, as you saw. SF, LAR, BUF have made notes, and AZ will be up here soon.

      • 1coolguy

        Exactly Art – So you know better than the rest of us on my question: During the games, is Pete in control of the D or is Norton? If Norton, then absent a savior player, possibly Pete needs to be more involved during the game?

        • Bruce McDermott

          Well, Pete SAYS that during the game he mostly tries to “stay out of the playcaller’s way.” In fact he said that today during his press conference. He also gave the impression, though–and I think as much to protect Norton as anything else–that he is much more involved in non-gameday scheming on defense, and on personnel.

          One trouble with having Pete more involved during the game, at least in my opinion, is that he’s not a particularly good in-game coach. Lots of strengths as a teacher and motivator, and even scheming and personnel when not in the heat of battle. But during a game, he too easily loses the distinction between optimism and courage on the one hand, and magical thinking on the other. Put another way, he gets “hormonal” in his decisions, as he occasionally admits. He and Wilson are often two peas in a pod in that way.

          He might be better on defense during a game. I dunno. But something needs to happen to this defense. It’s too damn painful to watch. The contrast with the defense of 6-8 years ago is excruciating.

          • art thiel

            We’ll never know the relationship, but I’m sure Carroll makes the 50/50 calls. It’s true that Carroll does go hormornal, as he says. Same can be said for all of his contemporaries who aren’t cyborgs. This is, after all, a game driven by passion.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Tell that to Belichick. Who would you want making decisions under pressure?

          • art thiel

            I’d take Bill. I’d take Pete for managing people, which has longer-term impact.

        • art thiel

          Norton and Schottenheimer call the game. But Norton isn’t the issue. It’s below average talent.

  • ll9956

    Great job, Art. You told it like it is. The Hawks’ D is third rate. This game was lost due to a grievous lack of discipline. Even with the new, more permissive officiating, the Hawks racked up 78 yards in penalties, two of which were killers. Shades of the past.

    When Mayowa was penalized 15 yards for “unsportsmanlike conduct” for trying to hurdle over the AZ offensive line, that converted a fourth and 12 to a first down. I recall Bobby Wagner being penalized for the same thing last year. I would have thought that PC would have laid down the law to never try that again. If he did, the decree was ignored. Mayowa has made some excellent plays, but in the great tally sheet in the sky, this canceled out a bunch of them.

    And of course the holding penalty by David Moore nullified a TD. Had that penalty not happened, Metcalf may not have gone for a game-winning TD, but it almost certainly would have been a first down.

    Bobby Wagner said the D must get better. The best way to get better is to get Jamal Adams back into action and acquire some talent to replace Bruce Irvin. This game proved that you can’t keep losing your best players and expect to continue to win games.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Mayowa’s mistake was jumping the snap. He put his hand on a lineman to keep his balance, not to hurdle him. Two penalties, but the second one created the first down.

      Regarding pens, the Seahawks have been much better this season. I don’t think it’s lack of discipline, but random events. And the roughness call against Wagner was bogus.

      Adams obviously will help some, but Carroll sounded skeptical Monday about whether he can play Sunday.

  • BB46

    If the Hawks won this game after the Arizona FG kicker missed that game winner I would have had to think that someone in Seattle (Possibly Pete himself) must have sold their soul to the devil for this year.

    Alas, Percentages working their way back to even. There were a number of ways we could have won this game. Just the ref NOT calling Wagners Bang, bang hit as a 15 yard penalty would probably have been enough. You add the few times we also basically shot ourselves in the foot we shouldn’t have lost. I think Hyde filled in OK for Carson but,,,, He just isn’t Chris Carson. Late in the 4th with a 3rd and 2 why didn’t we bootleg Wilson instead of doing what Arizona was stacked to stop?

    I think our “D” is just so predictable that offenses have everything covered because we have shown the same stuff forever. Difference now is we have no pass rush. Mind you,,,, we have real good football players but NOT that difference maker like Clowney was.

    we got beat because Arizona blitzed and attacked and we couldn’t handle it. Our offense was controled and stopped by that pressure. We didn’t try that against Arizona. We just kept giving up yards and yards until they got into FG range and finally won the game. Arizona was going to go down attacking if they went down. We just went down.

    • art thiel

      The D isn’t predictable, or unpredictable. It’s limited. They don’t have anyone that must be schemed against.

  • 1coolguy

    After a stellar first half, we scored ONCE, (1) TD in the third quarter, shut out in “Russell’s Time” 4th qtr. Has RW ever been shutout in the 4th qtr to then lose?
    – (1) FG does it and we go home. So what happened in the second half? I can’t chalk it up to the Cards making exceptional changes to their D’s game plan, as we still have RW.
    Clearly the Hawks suffered losing Carson – 4th and 2 at the end and we go for it, no question. Even without Carson, I’d prefer my chances with the ball in RW’s hands than handing it to such a feckless D. So did Shott get away from his 1st half game plan and get more conservative?
    – Mayowa – It’s remarkable dumb-ass plays like this don’t give a 69 year old HC a heart attack. There should be a locker room penalty for “Extreme dumb-ass of the game”.
    – The tv shows are all calling Metcalf’s run down of Baker as the play of the season.
    Calling it Beast Quake-like is completely appropriate and is also a play one will never forget. It was like he was chasing down a high school player he was so much bigger and faster. Amazing.
    – Let us not forget the 2 PERFECT balls RW dropped into Lockett’s hands for the TD’s. Amazing, and Peterson could not have been in better coverage, but both just dropped in from such a high arch they couldn’t be defended.

    • antirepug3

      I think both the offense and defense ran out of gas. They were all standing around breathing and sweating hard by the 4th quarter.

  • Tman

    Let Ryan cook.

  • Seattle Psycho

    This year is do or die in my opinion. We are right up against the cap this year (remember how excited we all were by how much we had available before last off-season?) and next year with the expected drop in the cap I don’t know how they right the ship. Adams still has one year left on his deal but he will want the pay raise he is expecting and the Hawks will HAVE to pay it or be down 2 1st rounders with nothing to show for it. Lockett is signed through next year but you normally start hearing grumbles in the final year. DK is going to need to be paid in 2022. KJ Wright’s contract ends this year, any LBs on the roster ready to replace him? Duane Brown isn’t getting any younger though signed through next year, could be a cap casualty. Having said all of that, the biggest change needed for next year as many have said is in the Defensive Coordinator position. KN, Jr is not up to the task.

    • antirepug3

      I’ve been thinking that about Norton too. He didn’t last long as DC for the Raiders but he was brought back to that for the Hawks. JMO, where we really hurt is on the back end with players that are not coached-up much at all it seems. I think Dan Quinn is available again…

  • antirepug3

    JMO, much of what ails the defense is their propensity to watch the game rather than play it by covering the receivers. A prime example of that is when Griffin gave a receiver a pass right on by him in the end zone then stood their and watched Murray make an easy, uncontested pass to said receiver for the TD.

    • art thiel

      Happens to every good DB several times a season.