BY Art Thiel 10:59PM 12/06/2020

Thiel: Answers needed from Wilson and Carroll

In the wake of a 17-12 upset loss to the New York Giants and backup QB Colt McCoy, Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll apparently aren’t on the same page. That won’t do.

CB Ryan Neal blocks the punt of the Giants’ Riley Dixon that produced a safety and a 5-0 Seahawks lead. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

Somewhere between the 5-0 start when he was the darling of the NFL, and a spray of 10 turnovers that bore the brunt of the blame for three losses in four games, Russell Wilson lost a little something.

Not sure what it was. Swagger, edge, arrogance, something ineffable and immeasurable like that. It’s probably not irretrievable. But its absence was mainly why the Seahawks scored only one touchdown Sunday against the New York Giants, after a modest two on Monday night in the win at Philadelphia.

The Giants defense is good, but so, increasingly, is the Seahawks defense. All it was asking from the offense was a second TD. The defenders were playing against a 34-year-old backup quarterback, Colt McCoy (105 yards passing), who was making his fourth start in his past four seasons, and wouldn’t play well from behind.

Didn’t happen.

So the Seahawks took a clank-ridden 17-12 defeat (box) that cost them the NFC West lead they held for six days until the Rams beat Arizona Sunday. Both are 8-4, but LA has the tiebreaker edge. And when it comes time to hand out playoff seeds, if the Seahawks don’t get what they were seeking, they can look back at a rare December loss to a 4-7 team missing its leader for their step-on-the-upturned-rake moment.

Wilson, coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are going to have a little chat.

Maybe they already did. Wilson was way longer than usual to his post-game Zoom meeting with reporters. But when Carroll took to the podium first, no post-game conversation had taken place.

“I haven’t visited with him at all,” he said, responding to a question about his concern for Wilson’s recent play. “I’m going to look at this game and break it down and figure it out; talk to Russ, talk to Schotty, and get to the essence of it. I’m not going to just throw out some thought right now, randomly.”

Except Carroll often does throw out random thoughts. What he did offer with certainty was his reaction to the curious afternoon at Lumen Field.

“I’m really surprised that this is how we looked against this game plan that they had,” he said. “I thought we could do a lot of stuff that just didn’t happen for us. I need to see why, and really break it down. I can’t tell you right now.”

One thing was apparent. Wilson has been so careful to avoid a bad throw — his one interception was a perfect throw that RB Chris Carson let bounce off his face mask — that he is hanging on to the ball awaiting a better window. That makes him more sackable. The Giants obliged with five (and 10 hits) for a whopping 47 yards, plus for the second week in a row an intentional-grounding penalty, where loss of down is the harsh part.

“We took some monster losses in the sacks,” Carroll said. “That just takes you out of the whole drive. It’s totally challenged from there on. They weren’t like,  six- or eight-yard sacks. they were like 20s.”

None were that bad, but Carroll’s exaggeration told a part of the story. He’s irked.

“He’s in the middle of it all,” he said, responding to a question about the degree of Wilson’s responsibility for the pass-game problems. “I need to look at the protection, and see how long we’re hanging on the ball. It felt like he was taking a good look down the field when we weren’t immediately rushed.”

For his part, Wilson, who was 27 for 43 and 263 yards, with a rating of 78.0, and rushed seven times for 45 yards, offered a polite push-back.

“You always want to eliminate sacks,” he said. “You also don’t want to eliminate the key moments. You go back to, for example, the Arizona game, the one I kind of scrambled and hit DK (Metcalf) for the touchdown. A lot of people would say, probably just throw it away, or whatever. We hit the touchdown.

“So there’s give and take.”

That give and take between QB and coach is at the heart of all NFL offenses. It often makes or breaks teams. As Seahawks followers of the #LetRussCook phenomenon know, Wilson finally was given the freedom to throw early and often in the 5-0 start. While it wasn’t the only reason for success (weak foes helped), Wilson was clearly delighted with the additional opportunities.

But when the turnovers started, Carroll sought to revert to his long-favored “balance,” particularly with the return to health of RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde.

But the plan Sunday went haywire quickly. When the opening series began well with five plays gaining 57 yards (three completions, two Carson rushes), Wilson, from the Giants 13-yard line, wasn’t close on three consecutive incompletions. The subsequent three points were the only ones the offense generated until 6:15 was left in the game.

A part of the problem is beyond Wilson. The offensive line isn’t doing nearly as well as it was early. Sunday the problem was at right tackle, where Brandon Shell and backup Cedric Ogbuehi were out with injuries. When third-stringer and starter Jamarco Jones strained a groin muscle, the Seahawks finished the game with Chad Wheeler, called up Friday from the practice squad.

On the left side, Duane Brown, 35, and Mike Iupati, 33, are nursing chronic hurts. C Ethan Pocic missed three games in the concussion protocol. RG Damien Lewis is a rookie. TE Greg Olsen is likely out for the year.

The receivers, especially including the usually reliable Tyler Lockett, were responsible for several drops.

Wilson will never disparage a teammate, but was asked whether the circumstances made him more indecisive.

“I didn’t feel indecisive by any means,” he said. “I think sometimes they had things covered. Sometimes you got to move around. They made a couple big-time plays in certain
situations.”

Curious decisions abounded at a critical juncture in the third quarter. The Giants had just blown up the plodding game with 77 rushing yards in three plays for their first score, and two-point conversion pass, to go up 8-5.

On the next possession, the Seahawks were at fourth-and-1 at their own 48. Rather than call on Carson (65 yards on 13 carries) to do his thing up the middle, Wilson rolled left, was chased and nearly sacked before throwing incomplete to Carson.

It was both a bad play call and poor execution, but Carroll defended it by saying, “We put Russ out on the edge and he had three big options there, as well as running.

“They did a nice job defending it.” And apparently Wilson didn’t do well executing it.

Said Wilson: “That was probably one of the most key parts of the game, because it was fourth-and-one, right in the middle of the field, and we didn’t get it. If we get that, the whole game may change.”

The turnover on downs led to a five-play Giants drive and a second touchdown in about five minutes. It gave the visitors a great emotional shot for a fourth consecutive win, this one a signature triumph for rookie coach Joe Judge.

In the second quarter, the Seahawks had another fourth down, deeper in NY territory at the 37. Carroll decided not only to skip going for the needed six yards, he passed on a 55-yard field goal attempt, instead punting the Giants deep. PK Jason Myers hit a personal best from 61 yards earlier in the season.

Carroll explained that in pre-game warm-ups with Myers, the coaches make a judgment on the kicker and conditions to create a maximum limit at both ends of the field.

“It was beyond (the marker), so I was happy to punt the ball in deep,” he said. “And, playing that kind of style at the time, rather than trying a monster field goal and we didn’t make it.”

Whatever the rationale, the Seahawks got nothing from two fourth-down calls Sunday, and nothing from two fourth-down calls in the the Monday game against the Eagles.

As a partial result, the Seahawks have three touchdowns in the 24 combined possessions of the past two games. In September, they scored three touchdowns between COVID-19 tests.

“We kind of have lived with a lot of big plays, and a lot of explosion,” Carroll said. “That
didn’t happen today. They did a nice job of keeping that from happening.”

The question for the week is what role Seahawks coaches and players had to keep that from happening, because Carroll and Wilson at the moment aren’t on the same page.

DK Metcalf had five catches for 80 yards Sunday. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

 


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YourThoughts

  • Bruce McDermott

    Near the beginning of the game, in the first drive, Wilson tried to thread the needle. He threw a beautiful ball to Lockett on the sideline between the CB and the safety, missed Moore in the endzone. So he was quite decisive on those throws. Also, later, he threw a couple of downfield, middle-range shots to Metcalf on timing, at least one of which DK should have caught. But on many of his dropbacks, he just would not pull the trigger. My suspicion is that he was not taking the short balls because his first reads were the longer ones. The All-22/coaches’ tape should clarify things. Once they figured out that the Giants were going to keep two safeties back and dare him to throw deep, though, it was time for a strategy change, but that did not seem to come.

    • art thiel

      Good point. The problem was Hyde was still hurting (two carries) and Carson wasn’t healthy enough to risk a 20-carry game. The offense was caught being denied the explosive pass play, and not countering with personnel steadily capable of a 5-6 yard rushes on first down.

  • 1coolguy

    Given their records, this is easily the most disappointing loss (other than the game we will never name) in the Carroll era.
    I have never thrown my flat screen out the window, a la Italian soccer fanatics, but I sure was close on both the instances you pointed out: The first at the 13, when Carson just ran twice for I recall were each for 10+ yards and instead of feeding the beast, RW PASSED 3 times! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
    Then the 4th down with LESS than 1 yard and they call l an RPO – WTF? With Carson in the backfield?
    I looked at these two instances as the coaches saying to the O line and Carson “We have no faith” in you.
    I watched the complete KC game and I suggest RW watch a few Mahomes tapes and pick up how he does NOT get sacked AND how to throw the F’ing ball away – RW knows when the rush is on and it amazes me how many sacks he takes, but more importantly how FEW times he throws the ball away. As good and as smart as he is, it’s like he has some kind of mental block and can’t get himself to do it. If there is nothing there throw the damned ball away or run, two great options to his norm of getting sacked.
    Every year we all blame the O line for RW leading the league or close to it, in sacks, but I believe it’s more on him at this point.

    • DJ

      Nice synopsis. All frustrating and sadly true. It’s not out of Russell’s range of capability to correct his part. Things happen really fast and decisions to change options need to be right there and ready to go – but they aren’t and sacks are the result. I think that’s a minds set.

      Who knows with the play calls (equally or more frustrating) and dropped balls (conditions??). It’s just football fer crying out loud – just go out and kick some butt! The Giants as an organization must have wanted it way more.

      • art thiel

        The Giants did need it more, but that doesn’t change much. Seahawks are the better team, but opponents are learning the O-line is more vulnerable, and they can get away with zones on Metcalf.

    • art thiel

      RW has had so much success with buying time before throwing, it becomes his nature. He must fight that and learn to give up a down rather than a sack. Now that the defenses are using zones to help on Metcalf, it’s up to Wilson and coaches to counterpunch.

      • DJ

        Amen! When they take all of your toys away, gotta have more toys ready and waiting. Even halftime adjustments, providing they are still taking place, seem futile. I really think the Hawks got out coached. The game plan missed the mark. C’mon Offense, evolve!

        • art thiel

          Carroll has been out-coached before. As has every coach. There’s just no stats for it but W-L. Which is the only one that counts.

  • Mark Maples

    Other people at my house were doing other things, so I watched the game on TV with the sound off, courtesy and all. What I saw is lots more of what I’ve seen before, and that is Russell Wilson getting pounded and hounded. Kind of paraphrasing what Art said a week or so ago, and my own comments, but protect Wilson and much of the problem goes away. And an almost dominant offense can re-emerge. I mean that, and if any coach on the Seahawks would take my call, I’d be on them like, well, you know the sayings. Quit with all this peripheral other stuff and analysis which is important by itself but not relevant here. Protect Wilson and near greatness is within reach. Fail doing that and they will continue towards being one of Linda Ronstadts most famous songs. Thats what I think.

    • eyeroq

      I don’t think coaches would disagree, but having to resort to the practice squad right tackle really hurt. Plugging Jamarco Jones at tackle when he’s more suited for guard and has always played poorly at tackle was already a reach. When he went down then all bets were off. Coaches can only do so much.

      • art thiel

        Jones was in over his head, and the Giants knew it.

    • art thiel

      This may surprise you, but the Seahawks coaches know it’s better to protect Wilson than not protect him. It’s a matter of doing, and when they are too hurt to do so, they need to devise a scheme that minimizes risk to him. That involves more running, but the top two runners aren’t fully healthy.

  • jafabian

    The defense came to play but the offense had a lot of issues. They started well but the Giants quickly made adjustments and the Seahawks didn’t. Sometimes the O-Line just collapsed under the Giants defense, sometimes Wilson would hold onto the ball when he should be running through the opening in front of him and sometimes his receivers would just plain drop the ball. They could really use Gordon and Penny but even if they were available I doubt they could contribute to any great degree. The coaches need to get everyone on the same page and contributing. Another game where the Hawks should have won.

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    • art thiel

      Well, that’s what happened. The why is the greater question.

      • jafabian

        IMO the coaches don’t seem to trust the subs, at least some of them, as much as they need to. David Moore and Freddie Swain’s playing time is inconsistent IMO. If Hyde and Carson are playing hurt then Homer and Collins should have been available. Again, everyone needs to be on the same page and don’t seem to be. December is supposed to be when the Seahawks buckle down and look like a contender.

  • Tman

    They need a stop light on Jamarco Jones Boulevard.

    • art thiel

      The guy’s a third-stringer starting his first game at RT.

  • Talkjoc

    A lot of this falls on Pete Carroll. He gushes about having Chris Carson back but doesn’t use him. Easier to run block for the banged up O line. On pass blocking, simple lineman switches were missed, a situation pointed out by Commentator Mark Schlereth. And what’s up with Carroll wasting a time out prior to a Giant field goal attempt? Wilson would never blame his O line but IMO, there’s a lack of trust there. Final note on D, didn’t hear Snacks name, didn’t hear Dunlaps name, didn’t hear Fords name. Plenty of blame to go around.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said Monday he regrets not going to Carson more, but I’m sure part of that is knowing Carson’s foot hasn’t healed, and wants to save him. Hyde’s injured toe kept him nearly shut down.

      Carroll burned the TO because the coaches were unsure if too many men were on the field for the kick.

      And as I wrote, the O-line is banged up and under-performing.

      Dunlap is hurting and was in on one tackle, Ford for four. Harrison didn’t make a dent.

      • Talkjoc

        Thanks for taking the time. Plenty of blame to pass along.

        Get Outlook for Android

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    Well it appears that the sports media can now stop gushing over how easy the Hawks remaining schedule is and get down to the brass tacks of that the Hawks looked pretty bad against a team that their record on the surface indicates that they were bad as well. What was all the fuss over the need to get Carson back in the fold to reestablish the run game so Russ can cook? Carson touched the ball a paltry 13 times yesterday. Does Pete have Carson on a pitch/carry count?

    No game is a gimme for this team from here on out, ok ok, the Jets. My grandson pointed out that win/loss records of each team could have been flipped yesterday and nobody would have noticed anything different. The Giants certainly didn’t play like a 4-7 team and the Hawks damn sure didn’t play like an 8-3 team. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      I didn’t realize it was just the sports media who suggested a Seahawks glide to the playoffs. No fans did?

      Carson is indeed on a pitch count, and Hyde has a toe injury that isn’t healed.

      As you may have seen Sunday night, the Chiefs nearly had the same experience against the Broncos and Drew Lock. It’s the NFL. The competitive balance is why we enjoy it so much. Our culture loves underdog winners.

      • Tim Duncan

        did not see the chiefs broncos game it seems channel 5 has been pulled by my cable operator or something else

        • art thiel

          Your provider is in a carriage dispute.

  • Kevin Lynch

    They will look at the film and break it down but this one will be difficult to ILL-Lumen (sorry). Russell has taken too many hits again this year. The offensive line seems better built to run block than pass block but it is what it is, with injuries. I would suggest tightening the window on pass decisions by designing a few runs for Russ with pass options. Wilson makes excellent decisions on the run and throws well in those situations. It would clear him of the pocket where the sacks are coming. Bottom line yesterday is that the Hawks got outplayed on both lines.

    • art thiel

      Yes, they lost the line of scrimmage. Wilson does need to get our more, but that leaves him vulnerable to more hits. The way the Giants covered the 4th-and-1 rollout suggests they knew not to worry about a power game up the middle. Without a fully healthy Carson/Hyde, too much is on Wilson’s plate.

  • LarryLurex70

    The only positive about yesterday’s game is that it’s hopefully the end of the whining in Seattle about Russ being “disrespected” by the national media for never having won the MVP. ESPECIALLY this season, as if he’s the only QB in the league worthy of discussion.

    • art thiel

      Well, it slows the MVP discussion. Nothing stops whining.

  • Alan Harrison

    See what happens when you’re optimistic?

    • art thiel

      Never again. I’ll stick with acrimony, bitterness, contempt and disputation.

      • Alan Harrison

        Ah, the 4 horsemen of the Thielian apocalypse.

        • art thiel

          I like it.

      • Will Ganschow

        There you go.

  • coug73

    The football bounced in many mysterious ways Sunday for the Hawks. Hawk defense played well, offense played poorly. Are Seahawk coaching decisions made by committee on the sidelines? Too many head scratchers lately. The play calling seemed uneven, lacking rhythm or purpose. NY pressed its will on the Hawks. Their D was impressive. Good line play, backers and DBs. NY out played a mediocre looking Seahawk team.

    • art thiel

      Carroll and Schottenheimer made a nice committee when they were 5-0. Did they suddenly get stupid? No. Defenses get smarter, offensive players get unhealthier and Wilson has to accept adjusting to the changed realities.

  • Husky73

    It’s “the sky is falling Monday” after a defeat. When I was coaching, I would look at the schedule and wonder which game would we completely over-perform and pull off a great victory? Also, which game would we lay an egg? Both happened just about every year. Yesterday (“all my troubles seemed so far away…..”), the Seahawks laid an egg. As I told my kids following our omelet, forget it. Don’t dwell on it. That’s sports. Let’s move forward. I believe we’ll see a different Seahawks (and Huskies) next week.

    • ll9956

      That’s certainly something to hope for. This was a mighty bad weekend for Puget Sound football.

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    • art thiel

      That is an old truism applicable in every sport, every year. But in an NFL that lives off gambling, people have six days to demand to know why.

      • Husky73

        Good point about gambling– the dark arts.

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  • woofer

    Blame this all on the NFL East. Normally when a team comes to town with a 4-7 record, it is a mediocrity just going the motions, having given up on a failed season, with the internal blame game fully underway, the coach on the hot seat, and the few stars angling for trades or looking over their shoulders at free agency. But not in this year’s NFC East. Every team is equally inept, and they are all fighting like hungry dogs over the scrap of gristly meat which is the NFC East guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

    The Hawks got lulled into complacency, as did a far better team earlier this afternoon against the NFC East team from DC — an outfit which has taken mediocrity to the point of namelessness. The Giants wanted it more. In the age of parity emotion makes a difference. It’s as simple as that.

    • art thiel

      It’s never as simple as wanting it more. Strategy, luck, injuries, etc. You know better.

  • ll9956

    Excellent analysis, Art.

    Another mediocre performance by the Hawks on both sides of the ball. The D improved in the second half, except when they really needed to rise to the occasion and get the ball back to the offense to give them a chance to score, but they failed. When you allow 190 rushing yards, that’s an indication that the D needs improvement.

    The offense ended up scoring a measly 12 points, their lowest production so far this season. In view of all the injuries to the O-line, it’s not surprising. It would seem that the only consolation is that hopefully this is a low point and the only way to go from here is up.

    • art thiel

      I think the resourcefulness has been proven over time. But no offense overcomes a fourth string RT when trailing.