BY Art Thiel 06:50PM 11/08/2020

Thiel: Wire-to-wire haywire loss for Seahawks

Pete Carroll said he “didn’t recognize” the game the Seahawks lost 44-34 at Buffalo. It should be a bit familiar. Defense is so bad it’s putting Russell Wilson’s health in jeopardy.

Sacked five times and hit 11 more, Russell Wilson was under siege in Buffalo. / Jerome Davis, Seattle Seahawks

It’s rare that a Seahawks game is all but decided on the first opponent play. But after the opening 60-yard kickoff return by Buffalo’s Andre Roberts, things Sunday in sunny Orchard Park, N.Y., descended from whoops to whoa to WTF. Footing was never regained.

Four turnovers later, the Seahawks, 6-2 at the season’s halfway point, fell into the great middle of the NFL, where problems and solutions are a weekly 50/50 proposition, unable to get ahead of things.

When the one-time staples of a Pete Carroll-coached team, defense and the running game, collapse at once, it can become too much for the one nearly sure thing, Russell Wilson, to make up.

This new-fangled idea of letting Wilson dominate from the start is hard to pull off, down 17-0 and missing the top two running backs (three, counting Rashaad Penny), while the patchwork defense ends up surrendering more points than in any game in the Carroll era.

The most serious consequence from the 7-2 Bills’ 44-34 (box) hammering was the clear and present danger to Wilson. He was sacked five times, hit 11 more times, and among the turnovers were two fumbles lost during strip sacks, seasonal firsts. His two interceptions were the result of him forcing the action.

Besides being potentially unhealthy, the result is more awkward when news breaks on the same day that coach Pete Carroll was given a long-term contract extension. While few would suggest the extension was a bad idea, given that he’s one of the NFL’s most successful coaches, the timing turned into a bit of a clank when he was out-smarted in this one by the Bills’ Sean McDermott.

Carroll acknowledged that Buffalo’s plan to go almost completely to the passing game of strong-armed QB Josh Allen crossed up the Seahawks.

“We didn’t think they would just totally abandon the running game,” he said of the Bills’ strategy that produced a 24-10 halftime lead despite three rushes for 20 yards. “We planned for them to run it. We have to be able to adapt better, to make sure that we can we can turn around faster.

“If we turn the ball over four times, it’s going to be a hard day.”

In the Seahawks’ other loss, 37-34 to Arizona two weeks ago, Wilson had three interceptions. An opponent pattern seems to be emerging: Pay little attention to the run game, blitz the bejeezus out of Wilson and take advantage of his tendency to hold the ball too long, looking for the big play.

Sunday, the Bills were aided by the injury absences of RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde and a wire-to-wire deficit that made the need to pass nearly mandatory for the entire game.

The problem arrived early.

The Bills scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, but the 14-0 deficit looked to be halved after Wilson led the offense to the Buffalo 5-yard-line. On third-and-one, RB Travis Homer, back after two weeks with a sore knee, was stuffed for no gain. The Seahawks took a timeout. They decided to throw on fourth down, a decision that likely would have been different had Carson or Hyde been available.

Wilson rolled right, apparently looking for TE Jacob Hollister, but threw into traffic.

“There’s a lot of different options there on that one,” Wilson said. “We’re just scrambling around there. They did a good job, so we’re trying to keep it alive. That (play has) happened so good so many times there. They just made a really good play and catch. That’s on me. We just missed.”

With his easy interception, Bills FS Jordan Poyer killed the drive that would have restored some balance, and Allen, who had no turnovers for only the second time this season, took the offense for a field goal, the third score in Buffalo’s first three possessions.

The 17-0 lead was cut to 24-10 at the half. The Seahawks did close to 27-20 with a Jason Myers field goal with 1:56 left in the third period. But the early end zone pick was decisive on an afternoon when three more drives would end with turnovers.

“We just don’t turn the ball over like that, but we did today,” Carroll said. “They capitalized on all of it and just made us pay.”

The Seahawks defense welcomed back SS Jamal Adams after a month-long injury absence, and started newcomer DE Carlos Dunlap. There was improvement in the pass rush, which dropped Allen seven times, but he still completed 31 of 38 passes for 415 yards.

The Seahawks committed heavily to the blitz despite missing to injury starting CBs Shaquill Griffin and Ugo Amadi, and went long with a very limited CB, Quinton Dunbar, whose sore knee forced him to play soft.

“He had a tough day,” Carroll said. “He was playing on a sore knee, and we had to take him out. He tried to suck it up and keep going, but we needed to get him out.

Should he have come out earlier?

“Under these circumstances, no,” Carroll said. “We needed him to play today. We just needed to help him more. There was some stuff where he was by himself. Things that we did, didn’t work out for us.”

Trailing 27-20 early in the fourth quarter, Carroll’s lust for the blitz burned them.

The defense had the Bills at third-and-16 at Seattle 35 and figured to escape the possession with a field goal attempt. Instead, Allen beat a jailbreak blitz with a screen pass to WR John Brown, who went 33 yards. The Bills scored one play later.

“We definitely found a way to be effective rushing the passer today,” Carroll said. “But it was the other stuff that wasn’t as effective. I contributed a call that they hit the screen on, third and 15. So all the calls didn’t work out quite right.”

The upshot was across-the-board failure, a long trip to nowhere, which wouldn’t be the first time such was said about a visit to Buffalo.

“I don’t recognize that game,” Carroll said. “We haven’t seen a game that looked like that. I don’t have any place in my brain for it. We really had a hard time in the first half getting started on defense and on offense, and they just made it look easy.”

Carroll’s desperate hope is for good health news ahead of the road game Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams.

“We’re going to make some really good moves and make some progress,” he said. “We’re going to get back on track like we need to, and fit (the defense) together with our offense.”

With nemesis DT Aaron Donald now putting Wilson in his crosshairs, progress in mandatory, imperative and urgent, if they want to keep Wilson as he is — in one piece.




  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    This was a Michelin 5 star ass whipping by the Bills. In reality the turning point of the game could have been when the Hawks bus pulled into the stadium parking lot. You could swing a dead cat in any direction and hit a culprit for the loss the Hawks suffered. Defense, offense, special teams, and ya can’t leave out the coaching. Why does Norton insist on playing soft zone defense? The pass rush was amazing with 7 sacks but it didn’t help when the secondary was just getting owned. Mark it up as a bad game and hopefully they can get their scatology together for next weeks Rams game. America’s new darling the Buccaneers/Brady are getting housed by the Saints tonight and the Cards lost. So all is not lost. Go Hawks.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Yep. Agreed. You don’t get a good rush on Goff he’ll rip a soft zone defense. Cooper Kup will have ten catches. The Hawks need Carson back and some balance with the run game going. Buffalo not only got pressure on Russ but kept containment so Wilson couldn’t break out. Rams are looking at those tapes now. But frankly, I had Seattle losing the Buffalo game and still finishing 12-4. The divisional game against L.A. is the bigger game.

      • art thiel

        6-2 at midseason, with a defense than can only get better with health. You’d have taken it on Labor Day if I offered it.

    • art thiel

      Did you read in the column about Dunbar? And it was Adams’ first game after a month off. Norton didn’t insist on s soft zone, it couldn’t be helped.

  • Topcatone

    Soooo..I mean yes, the injuries have a big effect. I’m not a weekly complainer, realizing that it is a long up and down season for even really good teams. BUT, Wilson has the best offensive teammates in awhile, and they must take advantage. With improved defense this team could do some damage (I was patient with the new and young defensive backs, but running out now). The offensive line is blocking decently enough for passing and rushing. They can’t waste this season. Isn’t it time for a defensive change (Norton, Curtis)? Bring Dan Quinn, recently fired, back. Keep Norton perhaps in a different role. From the beginning of the season, the defensive backs have played soft. Sure, we rarely get beat with the long ball, but so what if QBs are completing all the short passes. Frustrating to watch CBs line up 10 yards back on 3rd and 3 plays. Easy easy easy.

    • art thiel

      Please, no firing of coordinators at midseason. Total suicide mission.

      If Dunbar were healthy, Allen has mortal numbers and the game is a tossup.

  • Bob Tillman

    Seahawk’s defense is simply terrible. Sure, injuries have this team at depth-chart madness but I’m seeing players looking unprepared and lost, and that is on coaching. I haven’t seen DBs look so lost since Willingham coached the Huskies. Norton’s job must surely be in jeopardy.

    • Husky73

      Half a season to go. 6-2 is a good place.

      • Nads

        They are very fortunate to have the Eagles, Giants, Jets and the Washington No Names on the remainder of their schedule.

        • Husky73

          Yes….12-4 is within reach.

  • 1coolguy

    First time I turned off a Hawk game at halftime. Better things to do than watch the leagues WORST defense.
    On offense we will see better times when Carson, et al are back, but the only savior on this team I see for the D is for the O to have time consuming drives to keep this sorry D off the field.

    • art thiel

      What kind of fan quits at halftime? Especially with Seattle’s offense?

      • 1coolguy

        Those with a life

  • Husky73

    Well, sometimes in the NFL you just get your butt kicked– ask Tom Brady. As the philosopher Rick Neuheisel said, “We are what we are,” and the Seattle defense is a half-step above dreadful. Fix what you can, get more guys back on the field and beat the Rams next Sunday.

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    • art thiel

      Since it’s after the trade deadline, yes. These are the guys. Maybe let’s see how they play if they can get together for one game.

  • Tman

    The Seahawks, in spite of Russell Wilson getting blasted to the ground nearly every play, and everything else that went wrong, scored 34 points. More than enough to win.
    Is it too late to trade for two good corners and a D coach?
    Is it preposterous to think guys like Ryan Neal and 6’5″ Stephen Sullivan might blossom into great corners?

    • art thiel

      Yes, it’s too late to trade. Neal and Sullivan are emergency replacements. The first-teamers are legit talents. But in a world of instant gratification, there’s no room for a slow uptick.

      • Tman

        At 6’5, it would seem Sullivan could get enough interceptions to make training the skillset worthwhile. Yes, no?
        Neal is productive when given the chance. With Mr. Adams back, wouldn’t it be an improvement to have Neals speed and ability to get to the ball at the corner opposite Sullivan, in for the injured Dunbar? Starting with the Rams, or ASAPrudent, wouldn’t it be great to see a few picks, pick sixes and turnovers whenever the Russell pretenders try to go deep?

  • ll9956

    Last week I heaped praise on the defense. Not this week. As to Russell’s fumbles, I blame the abysmal pass protection more than I blame Russell. He often had very little time to throw. Jamal Adams’ tripping penalty was a killer, as was Bullard’s offside penalty (shades of Ifedi on the other side).

    With all the disappointment, the Hawks get credit for being resilient. Maybe if Carson, Hyde, Griffin and Amadi return, there will be some hope for a better outcome next week.

    • art thiel

      Careful. You’re making sense.

  • jafabian

    Unlike the Arizona game the Seahawks deserved this loss. The O-Line didn’t give consistent pass protection, Wilson turned the ball over multiple times, the secondary was torched and special teams offered poor coverage, return game and couldn’t execute on the onsides kick. Granted a healthy running game and CB’s would help plus the defense had to adjust to 3 new additions but I was expecting a closer game. Surprisingly the Hawks didn’t or couldn’t make any adjustments over the course of the game.

    • art thiel

      And Carroll admitted to coaching errors.They certainly did deserve to lose. Most every NFL team spits up like this at least once a season.

  • Alan Harrison

    Every team has major injuries this year. That’s not an excuse for 2020. This was a borderline terrible defensive line before the injuries, so there’s that. Carlos Dunlap had a nice first game, but no one is scared of anyone on that defense except maybe Bobby Wagner. This was baaaa-aaaad. The Rams’ offense (also beat up, just like everyone else) will be watching film with towels to sop up the drool.

    • art thiel

      The old bromide that injuries are no excuse conveniently ignores the reality that they can be reasons. Irvin, Blair, Amadi, Griffin, Green, Mayowa all missing, and Dunbar was too hurt to play.

      • Alan Harrison

        You’re right, as always. Just frustration bubbling to the surface because it’s been so long since we had even an average line on either side of the ball. Still, if Irvin is around, we probably don’t have Dunlap. Green played, albeit for the first time in awhile. But Collier? Shaqueem? Bullard (honestly didn’t know he was on the team – sorta like Jordan Simmons a few years back)? And can anyone play the off corner (whichever one that is, hard to tell) who isn’t playing on one leg? The offensive line is less offensive, but has no depth whatsoever after the starters, which isn’t a massive issue if you’re still scoring 34 points with no running backs older than 16. Ah well. They’ll still win the division, probably, and win the first playoff weekend.

  • Bruce McDermott

    I am starting to think that Jamal Adams is just not a good fit for this defense. Maybe in a 3-4 defense like the Jets had, where there are 4 backers to fill or drop. But he’s just not a natural cover guy at all. Kam never blitzed, and Adams is an excellent blitzer. But alone in space against a receiver, he looks lost. Even for a SS, that’s not good.

    Otherwise, we are simply reaping what we have sown now–a poor job at free agency, at least on defense, CBs with poor to only decent talent, safeties who are apparently mismatched to our scheme, and a defensive staff that is not getting it done with what they have. I did like watching Dunlap, though. Decent pressures, we had not seen a sack like the one he got all season, and his run D looked good.

    • 1coolguy

      You can’t toss the entire defense overboard – I suggest starting with the DC, as there are plenty of options there.
      At this point, the next guy can’t do worse, and we are halfway through the season with no foreseeable hope.
      We all know the definition of insanity. Pete needs to make the change and put team over friendship.

      • art thiel

        Tossing the coordinator in midseason is always the easy option of most fans. Only in the case of malfeasance does it make sense. It causes way more trouble than it’s worth.

        • 1coolguy

          Granted Art, yet when the D is the WORST in HISTORY, then what are the solutions for THIS season? Just keep doing the same? You can’t replace all the players, so what is the solution? Are you writing off the season? If the Hawks make the playoffs, surely they will be defeated in the first round.
          I believe this falls into the “Extreme conditions require extreme solutions” area.

          • art thiel

            Read my column Tuesday for some explanation.

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    • Stephen Pitell

      With Carlos Dunlap, Reed, and Robinson, this team could play a 3-4 defense. I think it would work out great, but maybe no in the middle of a season.

      No NFL team can play with 10 players on defense and win. Dunbar was less than useless, though being injured is a good excuse. What happened to “next man up”?

    • LarryLurex70

      Apparently he gave his teammates a sideline toungue-lashing in the first half? Has he even been here long enough and put in the work on game day as a Seahawk to be able to do that just yet? I’m thinking, if you angled and pouted your way out of one organisation to get to another, you’ve got a long way to go before you’ve got the credibility to pull a stunt like that. Leave that for Wagner and Wright.

  • Fu Bar

    This was just 11 guys on D doing whatever they want and THAT is all on Norton. Usually we have to suffer through “genius” prevent defense only in the 4th but, seriously, a complete game of that nonsense?

    Just embarrassing.

    Carroll and Schneider got lucky in one draft, just one. Now they make a living thinking they are the smartest guys in the room. Wasting the 27th pick on a guy rated in the 80s and the 48th on a guy in the 90s was not smart. Passing on Budda Baker for “ATV” McDowell was not smart. Doing that year after year yields … “this” defense. And then they double down on stupid by giving away our future trying to makeup for their failed draft choices.

    I have no explanation for Norton’s ongoing incompetence.

    • Husky73

      It’s Exaggeration Monday, where the sky is falling because Seattle lost a game. The Seahawks will finish 11-5 or 12-4.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        The real issue is not the fact that Hawks lost, it’s “how” they lost. It’s not all doom and gloom like you said, lot’s of football left. But no matter much the glass seems half full. The bottom of the glass has a real bad odor to it, and how do you remedy that?

        • art thiel

          It’s worth keeping in mind that the NFL is not 16 one-game seasons. Each team has a narrative filled with ups and downs over 16 weeks. The defense has the talent, but not the health.

      • 1coolguy

        Cant argue with facts – This is midseason and they are the WORST D in the league and are on pace to finish giving up the most yards in HISTORY.
        Make a case refuting these stats.

        • art thiel

          What if they are league average by Christmas? The talent is there.

      • art thiel

        The badness of the loss merits a palm to forehead, not summoning cardiopaddles.

        • Husky73

          I literally LOL’d. Good day to you, sir.

    • art thiel

      The situation has little to do with Norton, and a lot to do with new players not having worked much together. No preseason, remember? You can’t practice defense on Zoom.

      Poor draft classes indeed play a role, especially McDowell. But that’s for after the season. Norton’s not the reason for the current mess now.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Ken Norton is the new Tom Cable. He’s a great linebackers coach. He is not a great defensive coordinator. Peter principle calling on line one. I know Pete is loyal to his assistance to a fault, and is involved in the defensive gameplay, but something has got to change. They don’t have the talent they used to, but they definitely have more talent than worst defense in history, which is where they’re trending.

    • art thiel

      Norton is his 4th DC in Seattle. Forget the loyalty nonsense. Norton is like Cable in that coordinators are the fans’ cheap and easy targets.

      • antirepug3

        JMO, Norton and Cable didn’t do so well in Oakland either.

  • Warchild_70

    Here in Alabama I’ve got to either pay for NFL ticket ($70) or track the game on, from the start to the finish the Hawks should have stayed home. It is a disaster with no D or any RB’s. Russ was bounced like an NBA basketball, how come? No Ken Norton Jr. isn’t at fault, sort of, he just doesn’t have the talent to work with.

    • art thiel

      Again, the talent is there, when healthy, to be average, and the Wilson offense, it’s enough to win a couple of playoff games.

  • Stephen Pitell

    The defense has been terrible all year long. So what was different this game? Wilson was responsible for 4 turnovers. For all that is holy, how is that the defenses fault?

    • art thiel

      He had no run game, and was behind the whole game. Yes, pass pro wasn’t as good, but the BUF defense had no reason not to blitz. As I wrote, if Seahawks had Carson at 4th and 1 at the 5, instead of a pick they would likely have had a TD and it’s a different game.

      • Husky73

        Just like SB 49.

      • antirepug3

        The RBs have to have somewhere to go. When the BUF defense swarmed the SEA offense, the RBs didn’t have a chance. They were wrapped-up and nailed behind the line a few too many times just like Wilson and that isn’t on them. BUF was obviously up for this game SEA was not.

  • DonMac

    Hey Art, I wish the Seattle media would quit being so spineless when it comes to asking even remotely critical questions of the coaches, managers, GMs, etc. for the poor performance of Seattle area teams. Today, during Pete Carrol’s press conference, all of you reporters let Pete spin his Pollyanna excuses for the godawful play of this colossally bad defense. No one ever dares to ask Pete the obvious which is why does Ken Norton Junior still have a job as this team’s defensive coordinator given how horrible he has been since becoming DC? You and the rest of the Seattle media won’t ask such obvious questions that nearly every fan has because you’re all afraid of loosing access should you dare ask a tough question that a coach or player doesn’t like (see Jim Moore and Richard Sherman for one notable exception over the years). When a reporter’s access becomes more important to him/her than representing the public by asking the questions that the public wants answers to then you’re not meeting the basic principles of journalistic integrity because we fans know you have the same questions we do but you’re all too afraid to ask for fear of the consequences. What kind of journalism is that and who does the press work for? Now, you’ll probably want to give me some snarky response to my comment here but you know I’m right because having the privilege of asking Pete puff piece questions is more important than running the risk of holding someone accountable on behalf of the public. Gutless doesn’t even begin to sum up that kind of “journalism”.

    • art thiel

      Pretty simple, DonMac. it’s a stupid question.

      Carroll knows the defense so well that that if there were a strategic or schematic change that would be helpful, Norton would implement it. Nor is there anything lacking in Norton’s ability to explain or motivate.

      The fact that you went to such length to make such foolish claims exposes the facts that you know little about football, the Seahawks or journalism.

      • DonMac

        Art, I know that Ken Norton Junior was fired in Oakland as the defensive coordinator and that in each year since being hired for the same position with the Seahawks the defense has become progressively worse. You do know Art that head coaches and coordinators are fired when their teams or their units are performing so poorly? The fact that you or any other Seattle “journalist” refuse to ask questions that may anger a coach but nonetheless are still legitimate questions like, “Pete, your defense is on course to being one of worst defenses in the history of the NFL from a statistical standpoint. Since Ken Norton Junior was hired as your defensive coordinator, the team has statistically slid downward to where now the Seahawks defense is becoming fodder for derogatory quips around most national media circles. Based on all of that Pete, why should Ken Norton Junior keep his job as the Seahawks defensive coordinator?” Most fans would applaud such an honest question but you and the other Seattle media don’t have the courage to be honest with the public and hold a coach accountable for fear of being blackballed. Instead you ask pablum like questions such as the one you asked Pete about a lack of “man hours” among the secondary being the problem with the Seahawks defense. Way to to tee it up for Pete, Art. You know full well Art that the media in a big market would eat Pete alive and deservedly so but that’s not you Art, instead you coddle a coach with a weak question at a moment when the tough questions should be asked. I know good journalism Art and I also know what a sellout of the fans is and you sure fit the bill for the latter.

        • art thiel

          Pete Carroll has been fired twice, Belichick was called “the village idiot” in Cleveland and was fired there. Everyone gets fired in the NFL sooner or later, often for no more reason than the owner is an impulsive, know-nothing fan like you. And Norton might get canned after this season, if the next eight are like the first eight. But if you read my latest column on the site, you might learn something about the condition of the defense now. The question I asked Pete was relevant to the column, but not relevant to addled fans whose only response to a bad loss is to demand someone be fired in mid-season.

          They’re 6-2 and lead a tough division despite a defense whose poor performance had next-to-nothing to do with coaching. Fercripesakes.

          If you don’t like the journalism here, DonMac, feel free to move on.

          • DonMac

            Just answer me this Art, have you ever wanted to ask a question but didn’t out of fear that you might upset the player or coach or general manager resulting in possible consequences? I don’t need to know you Art to know that you have but I know there are journalists (not just in Seattle) that wouldn’t shame themselves that way if they knew it was a question the public wanted an answer to. I do appreciate you letting me post and I think I will keep reading Art. I’ll just keep my opinion on this matter to myself from here on.

  • antirepug3

    5 sacks and 11 hits and a run-first team turned to mush. The lack of a running game can’t be put on the RB. How many times were they swarmed behind the line just like Wilson…

    The defense showed up only to watch the game and Allen slice, dice and puree them rather than actually defending anything.

    By the stats the Hawks are the #3 offense and the #32 defense. Playoff and Super Bowl contenders they are not.