You never quite know how it’s going to go, but like pornography, you know it when you see it. When the opening kickoff to the Bills sailed five yards deep into the endzone, and the return man ran it back 60 yards to set up Buffalo with a short field, you could tell this game had all the makings of exactly what I talked about in my Friday preview post:
I expect the Seahawks’ defense won’t look as good as it did a week ago. I expect a lot of Bills yards through the air. I expect the Seahawks on offense will need to rack up lots of points like it has all season. And … I expect weird, freaky mistakes might prevent us from accomplishing what we want to accomplish.
Let’s break it down. When you lose 44-34, I think it’s safe to say the defense didn’t look as good as it did a week ago. Josh Allen throwing for 415 yards is, indeed, a lot of Bills yards through the air. Buffalo jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and as the final score indicated, the Seahawks needed to rack up A LOT of points in this one. And, ultimately, the weird, freaky mistakes showed up in droves!
Russell Wilson had 2 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles, for starters. I know that sounds like a bad game – and it is – but I have a hard time blaming the quarterback for trying to do too much when the defense forces two punts all game and generates zero turnovers of its own. The best thing the defense did in the entire first half was hold Buffalo to a missed field goal as time expired. That was, of course, on a drive where they started on their own 25-yard line and had only 67 seconds in which to play with, so time constraints were on our side.
The defense did tighten up a little bit in the second half – as 13 of Buffalo’s 20 points in that time came off of turnovers – but the real back-breaker of the game happened on the 82-yard touchdown drive the Bills generated immediately after Seattle cut the deficit to seven points. You want to talk about weird, freaky mistakes? Take a look at the defense on THIS drive! We had them at 2nd & 20 near midfield, before giving up an 11-yard pass to make it 3rd & 9. We got immediate pressure AND a sack to force a punt … except Jamal Adams – making his return from a few weeks off with a groin injury – was flagged for an obvious illegal contact penalty. Then, after stuffing a run for -6 yards, we ultimately had them at 3rd & 16 before giving up a 33-yard wide receiver screen pass to get near the goalline, which made the touchdown all but automatic.
You know what’s probably the weirdest thing of this entire game? The defense generated SEVEN sacks, easily a season-high! You know what’s the second-weirdest thing of this entire game? The Bills were limited to only 34 yards rushing, 14 of which came off of quarterback scrambles. How does a defense get seven sacks, limit a team to those kinds of rushing numbers, and STILL manage to give up 44 points? I’ll tell you, it boggles the mind (and is best not to think about too much).
It does, I think, speak to another point I made in my last post, when I talked about this defense maybe needing a week or two to gel. Jamal Adams was the impact player he was before his injury, in both good and bad ways. He finished with 1.5 sacks and 3 QB hits, but he also looked VERY rusty out in coverage. Coverage was never his strongest suit, but he needs to clean that up considerably, because there were guys running free all over the field. Those might not have been all his own missed assignments, but he’s one of our safeties and as such, assumes a higher percentage of the blame when so many big chunk plays are given up.
Carlos Dunlap saw his first action since the trade from Cincinnati, and what a revelation! He finished with 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 QB hits, which is simply outstanding for his first game! His presence clearly helped out everyone else, as Jarran Reed finished with 2.5 sacks, which involved cleaning up plays where Allen was forced up into the pocket and Reed’s open arms. Considering the rest of our line did relatively little (the other two sacks came from linebackers Wagner and Wright), I’d say Dunlap was a sight for the sorest of eyes.
Ultimately, this game was decided by the single biggest disappointment on the team: the secondary. Since we’re talking expectations vs. reality here, many might point to the pass rush as the biggest disappointment, but we all EXPECTED this part of the defense to stink! Conversely, we expected the secondary to be among the best in football, with newcomers Adams and Quinton Dunbar leading the way. Not having Shaquill Griffin in this one – due to injury – is probably the single biggest reason why we lost. Dunbar ended up starting in his place, and it was noted after the game he’s still dealing with a nagging knee injury that slowed him down considerably and led to many breakdowns in coverage. He ultimately had to be pulled from the game due to his ineffectiveness, and is looking like one of the bigger busts on this team. An injured Dunbar means more playing time for Tre Flowers – who has been better the last couple games, but still doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a valuable starter – and the trickle down from there is pretty significant (with Linden Stephens getting snaps at the end of the game. Who is that? Exactly).
It’s a bummer, because for a little while there in the second half, I did start to believe we were going to complete the comeback. Even after we blew it on that 82-yard drive, it seemed like we might be able to pull a rabbit out of our hat. But, the Bills on defense were able to tee off on our quarterback, and they weren’t giving up much in the way of deep passes (aside from a breakdown that led to a pretty 55-yard touchdown to David Moore). D.K. Metcalf had a huge presence in all the pre-game shows in the morning, and he delivered with 7 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. But, it obviously wasn’t enough.
The lack of a run game was pretty alarming. I know the Seahawks have been letting Russ cook to an amazing result, but we still look our best when we have Chris Carson running between the tackles. The drop-off to DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer (who combined for a miserable 47 yards on 13 carries) is ENORMOUS. They’re just not capable of getting those tough yards. They’re fine 3rd down backs, or in 2-minute situations, but I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to trust them as bellcow backs. Rashaad Penny, honestly, can’t come back soon enough for me.
But, as I said last week, this is probably the least-important game on our schedule. It took place clear across the country in Buffalo, NY. It’s an AFC opponent we likely won’t see again for another four years. And we’ve got a MUCH more important game coming up against the Rams. On top of which, the Dolphins did us a real solid by beating the Cardinals for us, so we still hold possession of the top spot in the NFC West (and are still tied for the #1 seed in the NFC).
I’m as unaffected by the outcome of this game as can be. I won’t say it’s a good thing, but it’s also not the end of the world. Anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong; that’s one of those performances you immediately flush, and if that shit tries to come back out of the bowl, you plunge that shit down until it’s eliminated from your memory!
No, the defense didn’t look good. Yes, it seems Russell Wilson has more of a problem with pressure defenses than we thought. But, these are still elements of our game that can be tinkered with and – if not fixed – at least tightened up somewhat. And, meanwhile, there were positive things to come from this! Seven sacks is great! Dunlap looks fantastic! We still have more guys coming back (hopefully sooner rather than later)! And, maybe this takes part of the target off of our backs and lets people forget that the Seahawks even exist.
We’re officially halfway through the season. I’m very happy with a 6-2 start and I think there’s reason for optimism for what’s to come. I was going to say let’s run it back and I’ll take 12-4 right now, but that’s a lie. I still thing 13-3 is very much on the table. Quite frankly, 12-4 would be a disaster, because that would mean 2 of those losses are coming to divisional opponents, or against some of the very worst teams in all of football. Because that’s all we’ve got remaining on the schedule! Four games against the NFC West (including two against the Rams) and four games against the dreck of society. So, let’s win seven of those games and take hold of that #1 seed!