A dreary end to a good season illuminated a rift between Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll about how the Seahawks’ offense should work. They now have time to talk.
After the first home playoff loss in Pete Carroll era, after the worst postseason performance of Russell Wilson’s career, it was plain Saturday at the Loo that something was broken with the Seattle Seahawks.
Granted, the ferocious defense of the Los Angeles Rams did a lot of the breaking. But some things in the Rams’ way-too-easy, 30-20 playoff victory (box) came pre-broke, destined to help end the season in what many, including bookies, felt was premature fashion for a 12-4 Seattle team that won the toughest division in football.
Post-game, answers illuminated part of the crevasse.
“Some things I don’t want to speak to,” Carroll said mysteriously, answering a question about what he sought in dialing back the offense at mid-season from the earlier pyrotechnics, which also came with turnovers. “We wanted to continue to (use play-action) and find our chunk opportunities. That doesn’t mean we throw the ball over their heads all of the time, going for just bombs. But there’s a lot of space we create in the play-passing game. It seemed like after the half-way point, we had hit so much early that (defenses) found a way to stay back and just try to bleed us, make us have to throw the ball underneath.
“We were maybe really going for it more than we needed to, and didn’t take advantage of switching gears a bit there, as effectively as we would like.”
For his part, Wilson thought his favored up-tempo style was lost.
“I think that teams know we throw it down the field well, but I think teams also fear our pace and our tempo,” Wilson said. “When the game is on the line, there’s 2:00 left in the game, teams obviously fear that because of the feeling of me going. That’s something along the way, you can kind of lose track of a little bit. I think we kind of lost track of that, maybe. I think that could have helped.”
So what we have here, in an observation from Cool Hand Luke, is a failure to communicate.
That means something between Cold Hand Russ and the warden is broken.
Where offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer fits isn’t clear, but I’m betting the seat is uncomfortable.
The upshot was the Seahawks, in a game where they bounced in the first quarter rookie starting QB John Walford (he’s OK), were beaten by a mediocre veteran quarterback who broke his thumb two weeks ago and wasn’t expected to play.
Despite the rare fortune of having nearly all principal characters healthy, the Seahawks offense had six three-and-out possessions, and only one possession had more than six plays. They didn’t convert a third down until halfway through the third quarter. Wilson was sacked five times, hit 10 times and completed 11 of 27 passes for 174 yards, and made a turnover of the worst kind — a pick-six in the second quarter that was never overcome.
DARIOUS WILLIAMS PICK-6 #RamsHouse
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2021
If the final garbage-time TD drive were excluded (the Rams were lighting up cigars following a 30-13 lead), it would have been the fewest playoff points since a 10-9 win in sub-zero Minneapolis in 2016.
And it was rainless and windless in Seattle in January.
So, no disrespect to the Rams, there were really no excuses for the Seahawks to lose so fecklessly. But there was a reason: Dysfunction.
Or as Carroll put it in his opening remark, “I told these guys I have no place in my brain for this outcome.”
Carroll and Wilson did a polite post-game dance, but they weren’t in the same ballroom. They didn’t want to call out each other directly, but Wilson showed up almost 45 minutes after Jamal Adams’ Zoom session, unshowered and in baggy sweats. While a rare fashion faux pas is hardly a football metric, it was emblematic of the dishevelment for one who manicures carefully his public persona.
He looked and sounded stricken.
“The first quarter was gone basically,” he said of two drives that ever got beyond their own 25. “That’s just the reality. Second and third, we just kind of faltered and didn’t — weren’t on our stuff all the way.
“You guys can write whatever you want but the reality is is that we have a great football team and I think we have great guys. But we didn’t play great today.”
RUSS TO DK! #Seahawks
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2021
The acme of dysfunction came with 9:32 left and the Rams up 23-13. RB Chris Carson was stoned for no gain at third-and-one at the Seattle 34-yard line. RG Damien Lewis was momentarily hurt, providing the coaches with plenty of time to come up with a fourth-and-1 play that was critical to staying in the game.
Somehow, Seattle was late out of the huddle and didn’t get the play off in time. But it made no difference because LG Jordan Simmons was nailed for a false start. Fourth-and-6. Punt.
Carroll took on the responsibility for the delay, saying he butted into the playcalling.
“Just wasn’t clear enough,” he said. “But it’s just one play.”
So was LA CB Darious Williams’ second-quarter interception of a bubble-screen pass intended for DK Metcalf. But WR Freddie Swain’s inability to block him, not Wilson’s throw, led to a 41-yard return for a TD and a 13-3 lead.
It was easy to see Williams moving on the play almost before Wilson threw.
“It’s familiarity,” said SS John Johnson. “This is the third time we’ve played them this year. I can’t even count how many times I’ve personally played against Russell Wilson and this team. If you keep him in the pocket, try to limit him from extending plays, you’re going to have success.
“We’ve got a secondary that’s been lock-down all year, not giving up too many deep balls. That’s the recipe to beat this team and that’s what we showed today.”
Obviously, we all enjoy familiar recipes, but Wilson and the Seahawks need to revise the menu. This team was built for a Super Bowl run in Wilson’s ninth year, and now is done.
A year ago, the Seahawks won an NFL record-tying 10 games by one score or less, and were lucky to get to 11-5. Late-season injuries diminished expectations. Besides, being eliminated on a frozen night at Lambeau Field by Aaron Rodgers was hardly an embarrassment.
But the healthy Seahawks messed this one up at home, even after the nemesis, DT Aaron Donald, went to the sidelines early in the third quarter with an injury. The Seahawks netted minus-1 yard from the next two possessions.
Turned out the 20-9 win over the Rams Dec. 27 was a mirage. Saturday was the real deal. The Seahawks had five touchdowns in three games against the Rams, partly due to 16 sacks of Wilson.
Good as much of it was, the season broke apart in an especially dreary end. Carroll and Wilson have some fixing to do.