BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 12/08/2020

Thiel: Wilson and the mystery of the throwaway

It wasn’t a huge deal, but Russell Wilson’s intentional-grounding penalty, for no good reason, killed a potential scoring drive against the Giants. Then again, he wasn’t sacked.

Russell Wilson’s intentional-grounding penalty was puzzling. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

Many are the ways to pick apart one of the worst losses in the Pete Carroll’s Seahawks coaching tenure. But one seemingly minor misplay stuck in my head as perhaps the most WTF moment in the 17-12 loss Sunday to the New York Giants, which still has fans wiping off entrails as if they were at Monty Python’s cinematic restaurant when Mr. Creosote ate the final “wafer-thin” mint.

After a safety provided Seattle a 5-0 lead, D.J. Reed returned a punt 22 yards to the Giants’ 48-yard line with 24 seconds left in the first half. A couple of quick completions would have given the Seahawks at least a shot at a field goal.

“We were all fired up, about to get the ball right back there,” Carroll said on his weekly Zoom conference Monday. “We didn’t use the timeouts. We did everything we needed to do.”

Then it went pffft.

After a false start against TE Jake Hollister, Wilson threw a deep incompletion. Next play, with no one open, Wilson, under pressure, launched a ball deliberately out of bounds. The coaches have been on him to avoid sacks by getting rid of the ball more quickly.  The Seahawks had already squandered two drives with sacks, and a third ended with a snap fumbled by Wilson that was recovered by the Giants.

So Wilson followed instructions. But he threw his OB pass long and far, with no receiver nearby. Intentional grounding. The penalty was enforced from the Seattle 47, meaning that with loss of down, it was suddenly second-and-26 at the Seahawks 36 with seven seconds left. Hopeless.

Wilson got 19 yards back on a final-play scramble, but the defense was in prevent mode and it didn’t matter. A rare scoring chance was lost for no particularly good reason.

“He chucked it — just, unfortunately, threw it too far,” Carroll said. “There’s kind of a marker that you can see (on the sideline) that’s white. If the ball goes beyond the white, then they start to question how far the guy threw it away and safely.

“He needed to do it more appropriately, and they got him. Sometimes, one play can knock you out. That one did.”

The wild look of the throw made it seem as if Wilson were angry. If it was a show of temper, it might have been a pro-career first for him. And Carroll’s measured explainer conveyed rare criticism without being pointed.

The tension is clear, as would be expected for a team suddenly under-performing at 8-4.

The Seahawks in the past year made numerous costly personnel investments, some short-term, designed to reach the next Super Bowl while a healthy Wilson remains in his prime. For the plan to work, Wilson remaining in his prime is, well, the prime directive.

Unsurprisingly, Carroll fended off queries about what was causing Wilson’s downturn. Asked on his morning radio show on ESPN 710 what his concerns were about his quarterback’s play, he politely declined to answer.

“There’s some stuff I’m not gonna tell you in answering your questions,” he said, “because I just, I can’t do that. That’s serving the media concern, but it’s not serving the team purpose. I’ve gotta lay low on some of the stuff. Sorry.”

It’s unlikely we’ll hear anything substantive from Carroll or Wilson about next steps in restoring the offense. We’ll just have to bear witness as the still-winless Jets come to town Sunday with an interim defensive coordinator. The new guy took over after the Monday firing of Gregg Williams following a bad defensive play call that allowed the Raiders a final-play touchdown to escape with a win. 

If the new guy is any good, he’ll see the Giants went with two safeties deep to help cut down Seattle’s penchant for explosive plays. They also blitzed often and well, including this one when Wilson’s option to throw the ball away was pitifully unavailable.

Besides a smart Giants game plan, Wilson was further hindered by a running game that had RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde present but less than 100 percent because of foot injuries. Hyde ran twice for a yard.

“We need to get (Carson)  back to full load,” Carroll said of Carson’s 15 carries and 65 yards Sunday. “I’m not gonna overdo it . . . the main thing will be Chris feeling like he can go and he can take all the load.”

The offensive line’s numerous mishaps might be helped this week by the return of RT Brandon Shell (ankle). Because of injuries to backups, the Seahawks were down to fourth-stringer Chad Wheeler in the fourth quarter.

Whatever is hampering Wilson and the rest of the offense, Carroll sounded eager to make the Giants’ embarrassment the period at the end of a bad sentence.

“This is the freakin’ championship run right here,” he said of the final four regular-season games. “It really feels like this season starts all over again right now. it’s a great fourth quarter coming up if we can make it so.”

It’s always worthy to look around the NFL to find numerous examples of other good teams who do face plants. The Denver Broncos, another team that was, like the Giants, 4-7 entering the game, took it to defending champion Kansas City before losing, 22-16. Monday, a third 4-7 team, Washington, did win, handing the Pittsburgh Steelers their first loss, 23-17.

In the densely packed NFL, The Seahawks’ loss, however gruesome, was hardly one of a kind. And the Jets are an nearly an ideal opponent to begin the clean-up of various messes. There’s lots to do.

Starting with persuading the QB not to deliberately throw away scoring opportunities, no matter how annoying was his day.





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  • Kevin Lynch

    Funny analogy, the Python ‘thin mint’ skit. But it’s a ‘thin mint’ league, a wafer’s distance between winning and exploding. If Cam scores at the end of the New England game the Hawks are 7-5 and essentially two games, counting tiebreak, behind the Rams. And what about the Minnesota game? If the Vikings kick the field goal and take an 8 point lead? Not sure the Hawks win that one. Hindsight is golden, of course. The Golden Hind.

    • art thiel

      Watching the NFL over time, Not For Long is the best alternate title, for teams as well as players. Success is so fungible. New England has something that is likely never to be repeated. The Seahawks’ margins are so thin over this season and last that it could have been a mess.

  • Stephen Pitell

    Football is a coaches game, and whether your QB is Wilson or McCoy, the play designs and play choices, and the QB’s check downs, the QB being a coach on the field so to speak, can give a lesser group of athletes defeat a superior opponent. That being said, our QB was bad. I saw lots of indecision, inaccurate throws, and general gunshyness from Wilson, it’s a surprise we did as well as we did. But it also seems to me every opponent knows our playbook and are ready for nearly every play. Seems like we need some fresh plays and plays that look like the old play, but penalizes a defense that tries to jump the old play. I’m not quite out to the ledge, but I’m moving that direction. C’mon Hawks (and I’m looking at you Wilson) let’s shake it off and start winning.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think play freshness is a concern. The same plays worked for 5-0. But I do think defenses have caught up to the Seahawks, so the counter is to break tendencies about when, not what, plays are called. Teams are not going to let Metcalf/Lockett beat them deep, so that opens stuff underneath. Not as spectacular, but it’s worked before.

      • antirepug3

        I think it is the job of the ‘Quality Control’ coaches to chart all the factors that go into a play. The opposing team does the same thing and knows what plays are going to be run from what spot on the field, etc. etc. etc., and each team is thus going to have the playbook of the other team. Somewhere in all this the coaches should be trying to break the cycle of their own play calling so as not to become predictable…unless they have a team like a SB team with an explosive offense and a LOB defense. Then they just execute and the predictability be damned.

    • antirepug3

      “But it also seems to me every opponent knows our playbook and are ready for nearly every play.”

      The run game sucks not because of the running backs but because the plays are blown-up. Opponent tight man coverage on the receivers and Wilson has no where to go. Moon balls will not save the day. Zone coverage (No coverage, JMO) by our defense can be capitalized on by any QB in the league. The 10th offense and the 31st defense does not make for a successful playoff run.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art. Not much is making sense, and our frustration is compounded by ignorance. Bottom line: I trust in Russ. He will turn it around. GO HAWKS!!

    • Husky73

      It’s now a four game sprint to the finish line.

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      • DJ

        You’re right – There’s no time for Russ to fart around. Gotta get real and show what he’s made of, and now. The Dude was built for fourth quarters, of games and seasons

        • Husky73

          My sainted mother had some unusual sayings. When asked how she was doing, she would sometimes reply, “Like a fart in a skillet.” I had no idea what that meant then, or now.

          • art thiel

            Yet she was sainted? Horrors. :)

        • art thiel

          Never thought of Wilson as a fart-arounder.

          • ll9956

            Woo! This one had me cackling!

          • DJ

            Ha ha – yeah. Well Russ isn’t being himself. I think he’s following coaching instruction too intensely instead of playing instinctively. He’s uncomfortable. That can make you do weird, hard to explain things. Like not going through your progressions, grounding the ball and hanging on to the ball too long.

            Your point of the pressures of the times is well taken. Affects everyone differently. Maybe he’s got a lot on his mind too. We all do to some extent. The calendar needs to move on to 2021, and fast.

            I still think that Russ needs to get that good balance back of letting it flow instead of being a robot. We know he has it in him. Go have fun, Russ!

    • art thiel

      Wilson’s history speaks well for recovery. But in this unprecedented collection of national and personal ordeals, very little is predictable for many of us.

  • Alan Harrison

    The Giants defense was impressive. They’re not as banged up as they once were. And our own defense was just fine. Giving up 17 points and scoring 2 should give you a win. So, the offense seems not to be adjusting to the wide rush (to keep RW from scrambling), rover LB that either blitzes or scouts the QB, two very deep S to deny the big play and zone LB/CB coverage that briefly takes away certain receivers. The G-men even managed to take away the 10-yard TE center-of-the-field route that should be open. And, at least there was a brief mention of it on TV, RW didn’t see open receivers, instead throwing it to one of his first 2 reads. As the King of Siam once said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

    • art thiel

      Fair points. Schottenheimer needs to develop counterpunches, but he would be wise to bed patient until the Rams game.

  • jafabian

    I can’t tell if Russ is being patient or indecisive. There’s times he has open field in front of him and he will still wait to see if a receiver will get open. This happened last year where he started the season hot but couldn’t maintain that level of play. If he can’t get his mojo back against the hapless Jets the Hawks playoff hopes could be in trouble.

    • art thiel

      There is no real right or wrong in the moment, all QBs have to trust themselves. It will never work out all the time. But as the Seahawks wait to get Carson and Hyde fully healthy, having Wilson run 3-4 times early will force a defense to start spying him.

  • Husky73

    I just watched the Mr. Creosote sketch on Youtube. I hadn’t seen it in many years. Grossly hysterical.

    • art thiel

      I thought about linking to it, but it is so gross that sensitive types might get their breakfasts ruined. You are not sensitive.

  • Tman

    We have seen DK Metcalf catch the ball at or near the line of scrimmage and run 50 yards for a touchdown. Seems like 68 10-15 plays designed to give DK ahead of steam and we’d have four 5:15 touchdowns a game from him alone.

    • art thiel

      See above answer.

  • Tman

    We have seen DK Metcalf catch the ball at or near the line of scrimmage and run 50 yards for a touchdown. It seems four or five plays designed to give him a head of steam like that might yield two, three, four or five touchdowns.

    • art thiel

      The smoke screens are a useful tool, but the Rams will love to see Metcalf catch scrimmage-line balls with Jalen Ramsey there to bring him down.

      • Tman

        It would help if he had a block it two.

  • ll9956

    Another great piece, Art. I hope this Sunday bears absolutely no resemblance to last Sunday WHATSOEVER!!!

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