Russell Wilson Has No One To Blame But Himself

The post-mortem never ends! After such an interesting football season, there’s no way to limit the discourse to just a week’s worth of posts, so here we are, bleeding into Week Two.

As has been discussed previously, when the Seahawks opened the season with a pass-heavy offensive attack, it was shocking to say the least. Let Russ Cook went from a back-alley, grassroots Internet plea, to our weekly reality! No one could’ve seen it coming; since when do teams ever listen to their fans when it comes to scheme? Literally never. Not one single time in the history of recorded sports (probably; I have no idea, actually).

Of course, not for nothing, but “Let Russ Cook” and all its culinary derivatives quickly became an overused cliche, followed by a detestful reminder of bygone days never to be seen again.

Even if we had let ourselves dream big – that maybe one day Pete Carroll would see the light and turn the keys to the offense over to our quarterback – those ideals were quickly dashed when we ultimately came to the realization that if Wilson ever shit the bed, Carroll would be all too happy to take the power back and assert his dominance.

We had five good weeks. Five weeks of living the dream. Six weeks, if you include the happiness hangover of the Seahawks’ BYE. But, then came the Arizona game.

That was one we should have won, but lost. That was one we had ample opportunities to win, and failed at every turn. To that point, Russell Wilson had thrown 19 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, and had zero games with multiple turnovers. Against Arizona, it was a 3/3 split. The first interception was that infamous one thrown at the Arizona goalline, that Budda Baker returned for 90 yards until D.K. Metcalf made him his prey. We like to gloss over that one because of how fast Metcalf ran, and because the defense ultimately held the Cardinals to 0 points, turning it over on downs. BUT, the ultimate takeaway (as it were) is that the Seahawks missed out on 7 points on that drive, in a game they lost by 3 in overtime. The second interception was another poor decision, lobbed from the Arizona 30 yard line. Considering our field goal kicker was perfect this year, it’s safe to say that’s another 3 points we were deprived of. And, finally, in overtime, we had the ball with under two minutes to go. That’s a situation where Russell Wilson is supposed to earn his money! You’re a franchise quarterback, so you MUST go out there and win the game in that scenario. We got to midfield and Wilson sealed his fate with his final INT of the game.

The thing is, it’s not like Wilson was on a short leash. This wasn’t a One Strike & You’re Out deal. Wilson came back and threw 4 more TDs against an injury-ravaged 49ers team the very next week.

Then came the Bills game. Two more interceptions, including a failed 4th & 1 play at the Buffalo 5 yard line. Not only didn’t we trust our offense to run the ball for a yard (to be fair, Travis Homer failed in that charge on 3rd & 1 the play prior), but Wilson ultimately couldn’t get the job done with his arm OR his legs. Wilson went on to take a miserable sack with a lost fumble to start the second half (when we were already down by 14) and then threw a desperation INT in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.

To compound matters, the very next week at the Rams, Wilson had arguably his worst game of the season: 0 TDs, 2 INTs. Poor decisionmaking all around in this one. We never had a chance. That effectively made it the requisite Three Strikes & Your Out scenario we’d all been dreading (with that Giants loss a fourth strike to put yet another nail in the coffin of the Let Russ Cook movement).

There were countless instances of Wilson trying to throw the ball into tight windows when he would’ve been better served to check down, run with it, or throw the ball away. There were SO MANY times he held the ball WAY too long, resulting in a sack. As I’ve said repeatedly, he’s not the speedster he once was; he’s not scrambling his way out of these jams like he used to. I don’t know how much of that is on him, vs. how much of that is on the offensive plays that were being called (the plays designed by the fired Brian Schottenheimer), but clearly the coaching staff believes the OC was at fault, and I’m inclined to agree.

What’s more likely: a quarterback on a Hall of Fame track, suddenly turning into the second coming of Matt Schaub? Or, that quarterback trying to make due as best as he could with poorly-designed plays and an offensive coordinator too inept to adjust to the way opposing defenses adjusted to him in the first place? Tack on, admittedly, Wilson trying to do too much (under so much pressure to win, on top of self-imposed pressure to stay in the MVP race), and that’s a recipe for what we saw in the second half of this season, culminating with one of the very worst playoff losses in Seahawks history.

So, maybe Wilson DOES have someone else to blame but himself. But, I’m still under the impression that he would have preferred the Seahawks retain Brian Schottenheimer; Schotty would’ve given Wilson the best opportunity to continue cooking, as it were. I still keep coming back to that Cardinals game. At that point, defenses hadn’t really figured us out yet. And so many of his errors in that one were COMPLETELY unforced! Even if we had gone on to lose to the Bills and Rams, as well as one of our final seven games (a la the Giants), if we’d just swept the Cardinals like we were supposed to, we would’ve been 13-3, the #1 seed in the NFC, and we would have hosted our first playoff game this past weekend (instead of, again, out of the playoffs entirely thanks to last week’s upset). I’m assuming that the Packers or Saints would have taken care of business against the Rams, and we would have faced Tom Brady and the Bucs for the right to go up against the winner of the Packers/Saints in the NFC Championship Game. A game that also would’ve been played in Seattle (had we prevailed against Tampa in this alternate universe).

Instead, we’re sitting at home watching all the action. Russell Wilson STILL won’t have an MVP award in his trophy case. And next year he’s going to have to figure it out with a new man calling plays for this offense. A man, by all accounts, who will push for Pete Carroll’s run-heavy approach. Possibly meaning that Wilson will NEVER get his MVP award, so long as he’s on the Seahawks and Carroll is the one in charge.

So, yeah, ultimately it’s on Wilson. Had he made better decisions – even with the crappy plays that were called – we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Seahawks Death Week: Why It Will Never Get Any Better

Leave it to me to always look on the bright side. Here’s where I get to REALLY wallow in my football depression. Won’t you indulge me?

You know what never works? Trying to recreate old glories. Politicians talk about taking us back to the good ol’ days of the 1950’s, when a single-income middle class family could thrive; sorry to break it to you, but those days are never coming back. Paunchy men in their 40’s and 50’s going through mid-life crises might buy flashy sports cars and pop Cialis like they’re Tic Tacs in hopes of reclaiming a youth lost to the drudgery of parenthood and a loveless marriage; sorry to break it to you, but women in their 20’s almost certainly don’t want to fuck you.

The Seahawks are in an interesting position for an NFL franchise, that you rarely get to see. From a head-coaching standpoint, the Seahawks are the fifth-most stable franchise. Pete Carroll was hired in 2010; only four coaches have held their positions longer. There aren’t great numbers at our disposal, but the average tenure for an NFL head coach seems to be less than four years. Even Doug Pederson – who led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title over a heavily-favored New England Patriots team in 2017 – was let go after five years on the job. That’s nuts! The pressure to win and win immediately has never been higher (even though the league is more profitable than it’s ever been, and seemingly will continue to be so regardless of whether your team is good or not). So, it’s pretty rare to see someone in Pete Carroll’s position: someone who won it all relatively early, and is still firmly entrenched many years later.

Carroll is also still as determined as ever to get this team back to the Super Bowl, and appears to be going about it the same way as those politicians and middle aged men: by trying to recreate the glory days of the 2012-2015 Seattle Seahawks.

Even at that time, the NFL was clearly in the midst of an offensive revolution. Pass first, pass often, pass to win games. Worry about the defense next (but, obviously, don’t put too many resources into it), and worry about the running game not-at-all. The very best teams have more-or-less won it all with this model (while hitting the lottery on injury luck and drafting plenty of young, cheap defensive stars who pop at the right time). The Seahawks of that era zagged when the rest of the league zigged; we emphasized the run game, we spent the majority of our salary cap dollars on defense, we slowed games down, and managed to prevail late in games more often than not.

For the last half-decade or so, the Seahawks have been living a total identity crisis. I think it’s safe to say it all started with the trade for Jimmy Graham, a soft-as-cotton-candy tight end who never met a block he didn’t olé like a matador. For a while there, our talent at running back plummeted just as our neglect along the offensive line ruined us. We’ve since managed to claw our way back to respectability since 2017, but that’s come at the expense of a defense that’s slowly declined as piece-by-piece the stars of old have moved on to other teams or life outside of football.

It’s been a neverending game of Whac-A-Mole. Pay Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown, and so on … watch as our secondary erodes and the pass rush falters. Trade for Jadeveon Clowney, Jamal Adams, and Carlos Dunlap … marvel at the shrinking violet offensive line and an interior defensive line that can’t stop the run when it matters most. It’s always fucking SOMETHING with this team. We can’t seem to ever put it all back together again.

And yet, this is what Pete Carroll is trying to accomplish. It starts with firing Brian Schottenheimer (just as soon as I figure out how to spell his name without checking with Google first). Schotty, obviously, has eyes to be a head coach like his dad one day. You don’t get head coaching jobs by helming a run-first, middle-of-the-road offense. You do it by scoring lots of points with flashy plays through the air. Unfortunately for him, that’s really not his strong suit. Defenses figured him out and he was incapable of adjusting; Schotty should probably NEVER be a head coach. Or, who knows, maybe that’s what he was always meant to be, and he should NEVER be an offensive coordinator! The problem is, you can’t get to that next level until you master your current position, and it doesn’t look like that’ll ever be in the cards for him.

I won’t shed a tear for the loss of Schotty, but that also doesn’t mean I’m super stoked by who’s going to come in. Pete Carroll wants a guy who’s going to run the offense his way. Emphasis on the word “run”. Knowing the climate of the NFL, hiring someone who has higher aspirations for his coaching career is going to be tricky; he’s going to have to do his job well with one hand tied behind his back (so to speak). He’s going to have to lead this team to Super Bowl success while calling an offense that doesn’t necessarily light it up among the league’s very best. It’s hard to get noticed that way, when there are so many viable head coaching candidates throughout the pro and college ranks.

What’s clear is that the Seahawks will never succeed when different factions are trying to pull the team in opposing directions. We can’t forget the Russell Wilson in the room. He obviously wants to be recognized as one of the best quarterbacks in football. Yes, he wants to win, but he also wants accolades. He wants MVPs. When he hangs ’em up, he wants to be among the greatest to ever play the position. I don’t know what part he played in Schotty being fired, but from where I’m sitting, it seems like they were on the same page. Both wanted to throw the ball more this year, and Pete Carroll was the one who had to let them do it. So, I would imagine Wilson isn’t too keen on the loss of Schotty, and the prospects of going back to a run-first attack.

Will Wilson want to stick around for the next offensive coordinator? One who’s just a puppet for Pete Carroll? Or, will he opt to demand a trade to a team that will utilize him the way he feels he should be utilized? I guess we’ll see.

The biggest flaw I see in this notion of trying to revert back to what the Seahawks were doing in those glory years is financial in nature. Those teams were taking advantage of having a Pro Bowl quarterback on a cheap rookie deal, so they were free to spend money elsewhere. With Wilson making money near the top of the market, there’s obviously a lot less money to go around (saying nothing of the reduction in the salary cap we’re looking at for next season and maybe beyond).

Then, there’s the matter of there not being as many stars on this roster as there were back then. We drafted tremendously from 2010-2012! We haven’t come close to hitting on that many guys since then. You could argue that 8 of the top 10 players from the Super Bowl winning squad were on rookie deals. How many guys – heading into 2021 – in our top 10 will be on similar contracts? I’m thinking two, maybe three. And, other than D.K. Metcalf, I would say that none of them are of the Pro Bowl/All Pro calibre of the guys from our heyday.

The vast majority of our best players are on second, third, or fourth contracts. That shit adds up! We need more of these guys on rookie deals to pop in a major way, but are incapable of developing them timely enough. And, with a lack of high draft picks (or draft picks period), that doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.

So, what are we banking on, then? We’re saddled in an NFC West that figures to continue being the class of the NFL for many years to come; ideally things would revert to them all being terrible, allowing us to cakewalk to division titles and high seeds in the conference standings. We’re banking on a return of the significant injury luck we had in the early going. And we’re banking on some mythological version of Russell Wilson that pulls our asses out of the fire every time it’s the fourth quarter and we’re losing by double digits.

That NFC Championship Game against the Packers was a once-in-a-generation event! It can’t be a fucking strategy that we hang our hats on every year in the playoffs!

I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re happy just making the playoffs every year, more power to you. If you derive enjoyment from watching a Hall of Fame quarterback who only wins one Super Bowl in his career, then I’m happy for you. It seems like a very Seattle type of mindset, so you’re certainly in the right place when it comes to settling.

Settling doesn’t come easy to me, though. The problem is, I’m loyal to a fault, and the Seahawks are the team I’ve chosen to follow. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect better! But, I’m also able to see this team for what it is. The confluence of things that would have to happen for this team – as it’s currently constructed, from the top down – to win another Super Bowl is so remote and far-fetched that it’s hardly even worth talking about, because it’s almost certainly never going to happen.

The 2020 Seahawks were an interesting case study for me. I don’t remember a team so schizophrenic in all the time I’ve been following the league. An elite offense went in the tank; an all-time poor defense turned itself around into something pretty darn good. Yet, with the power of hindsight, it’s clear that the schedule – as it was sequenced for us – did no one any favors. This team looked as good as any, and as likely to make it to the Super Bowl as any. We had talent at all levels, a stable coaching staff, and enough health throughout that this should be a team that’s preparing to play this weekend (not one still searching for answers).

It’s weird to say a 12-4 team is a fraud, but the Seahawks both took advantage of the schedule and were bamboozled by it. We played all of four games against opponents who made the playoffs, and went 2-2 in those games. One of those teams was a division winner with a losing record, so I kind of want to throw that one out. We were 1-3 against truly great teams (including playoffs) and all three of those losses were games we weren’t even that competitive in! And remember, this was a Seahawks team that – at least from the eye test – was the best one we’ve seen around here since 2015.

That’s pretty damning. And it’s why I’ve lost all confidence that things will ever get any better than this. Sure, we’ll continue to make the playoffs. We might even make it to the Divisional Round again if faced with the right first round matchup. But, this isn’t a team that’s going to get back to playing for championships anytime soon. Not as long as we’re doing everything in our power to try to turn back the clock to 2012 again.

Pete Carroll would have better luck buying a Maserati and firing up the ol’ Ashley Madison account. At least that way he might be the one doing some of the fucking, instead of constantly being the one getting fucked.

Seahawks Death Week: The Case For Blowing It Up

With yesterday’s tantrum out of the way, now we can – with somewhat cooler heads – try to talk about this team rationally, and with less emotion.

This post is going to be totally useless, FYI. Total waste of time. While there absolutely IS a case to blow this team up and start anew, that’s not what’s going to happen. No one in charge of this organization wants that to happen (this team is too financially successful as is, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl). Really, no one in his right mind would look at a 12-4 team and say, “Let’s hit the reset button.” But, I’m not in my right mind! I’m mourning the end of yet another football season without a national championship. I’m angry and sad and starting to get numb to these early playoff exits. I may be spoiled, but it’s this team that’s spoiled me, so who’s more at fault?

With that in mind, I have to say that you can’t totally blow this team up. You have to pick a side: either you think we have the nucleus of players in place and it’s a matter of having a new coaching staff in there to properly guide this team to where we want it to go, or you don’t. And, if you don’t, then you want to keep the GM and coaches and have them get to work trading this nucleus (including Russell Wilson) for parts so we can rebuild from the ground up.

Both arguments are compelling. If we were dividing the fanbase up into a pie chart, my guess is the tiniest of slivers would be in favor of trading Russell Wilson and starting over on that side of the organization, probably for good reason (it’s REALLY fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback). A significant slice would be in favor of the unsatisfying status quo (keep the nucleus AND the coaches), filling in around the margins as best we can, and taking another run at it next season. And, probably the biggest slice (but it would be pretty close to the status quo slice, I bet) would be in favor of firing Pete Carroll and our offensive and defensive coordinators (and, who knows, maybe even general manager John Schneider to boot).

That having been said, the pie chart of things that are actually likely to happen would be an entire circle of the status quo, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s start with the coaches: why won’t they be fired? For starters, Pete Carroll just signed a big-money contract extension this year. The offense just set a franchise record for most points in a season. The defense was one of the best in all of football over the final eight games. The team went 12-4 and won the NFC West. Also, Pete Carroll is notoriously loyal to his guys; it takes quite a significant faceplant for him to want to fire anyone. This is a no-brainer; other than maybe an unimportant assistant/position coach here and there, no one is going anywhere.

EDIT: whoops.

Why should they be fired? Well, for all the reasons fans have been bitching about this team for the last six years! Play-calling is lacking on offense. The defensive scheme seems to be nonexistent. The 2020 Seahawks only REALLY performed against inferior units (the offense was elite in the first half against the league’s worst defenses; the defense only turned things around when going against the league’s worst offenses). Pete Carroll’s game-management has been atrocious the entire time he’s been here (wasted time outs, taking forever to get the plays called into our offense, hyper-conservative decisions on fourth downs and in plays called in general when behind the sticks), and he has failed to adjust to a changing NFL when it comes to scheme on both sides of the ball.

It would be nice to have a head coach that hewed closer to more of an analyical mindset. It’s imperative that we set up our offense to take advantage of the skillset of our best players (our quarterback and top two receivers), which also coincides with building our offensive line to be better at pass protection (when we seemingly always go after guys who are better run blockers).

As for the defense, yes we need a smarter coordinator to set us up better for success, but I think here is where our personnel department has severely failed us. The last outside pass rusher we drafted and successfully developed was Frank Clark, and he was a guy we let walk. We continually over-draft and over-pay the linebacker position (dating back to the Mike Holmgren days), when those guys are a dime a dozen. And, too often we’ve relied on homegrown secondary players (Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, etc.) and stuck with them too long in hoping they’d figure it out, to the detriment of our pass defense. And, assuming we overpay Shaquill Griffin to be just an okay cornerback (who almost never generates turnovers), that’ll be another move that ultimately backfires and hampers our salary cap.

Cap management has been abysmal ever since the L.O.B. era graduated to second (and third) contracts. Overpaying linebackers and running backs, underpaying linemen (on both sides of the ball), and ultimately being stuck with a quarterback at the top of the market who can’t do it all himself (because, news flash: NO quarterback can do it all himself; the Chiefs will learn once the talent level around Mahomes dips, particularly on the defensive side of the ball). It’s left us cash-strapped every year, unable to do much of anything with the few million dollars we manage to open up, and what we do spend it on tends to be terribly-overpriced veterans (Greg Olsen, Luke Joeckel). That forces our hand into trading away valuable high draft picks for truly impactful stars (Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap), which kicks the can down the road. Remember how the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien totally fucked themselves playing for the short-term by mortgaging their future? That’s the road we’re headed down. The more years that pass between the present and the last time we made the Super Bowl (or even the NFC Championship Game, since it was the same year), the more desperate Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be. Which will lead them to make more and more panic deals to try to win now, ultimately resulting in a long period of mediocrity if we’re not careful.

No one “wins forever” in the NFL, I don’t care who you are. It’s a fine motto, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. The chickens come home to roost at some point.

Here’s what we do know: Pete Carroll and John Schneider were at their best when they took a franchise at its nadir and turned it into the best team in the NFL (and one of the best teams of all time). The Seahawks were largely good under Mike Holmgren (with one season of relative greatness), then they fell off in 2008 and 2009. Carroll & Schneider came in prior to the 2010 season and the Seahawks won a Super Bowl in 2013.

Here’s also what we know: we haven’t won a damn thing since.

Do these guys know how to run a successful team long term? Or, are they just expert house-flippers who can only turn garbage dumps into mansions?

OR, did they just get super lucky and are actually just mediocre-at-best when they’re not continually hitting the lottery with draft picks and free agent signings?

If you believe in these guys and their ability to spot young (or underappreciated veteran) talent and cultivate it into a championship squad, then maybe you’d be in favor of a fresh start among the nucleus? Trade Russell Wilson to the Jets, get our draft picks back (plus the #2 overall selection), dump Bobby Wagner and anyone else who is old and overpaid, and start off with a fresh slate from a salary cap perspective effective 2022!

This obviously comes with the most risk. First and foremost, you have to hit on a rookie quarterback either in the 2021 or 2022 draft and hope they’re able to start immediately and produce at a high level. Then, you have to do what we did from 2010-2012: hit on elite young talent on the defensive side of the ball at key positions so that we’re ready to dominate the conference in 2-3 years. You have to hire a smart defensive coordinator and have the coaching staff in place to build these guys into winners. All while being second-guessed by the entirety of the football-following public; it’s a tall order!

As I’ll get into later this week (and, as I’ve said before), I think the Seahawks SHOULD drop Bobby Wagner and some of these other aging vets. I could also buy an argument to trade Wilson, if the return was right! Sure, he’s got another ten years in the league. Sure, he’s a proven winner and one of the best quarterbacks alive. Yes, I know what it’s like trying to 8-8 my way with a league-average guy under center. But, I also know that Wilson isn’t getting any younger. More importantly, he’s not getting any FASTER. You’ve seen what I’ve seen: he’s not escaping the breaking-down pocket as easily; these defensive linemen are catching up to him and bringing him down more often than he’s getting away and making magical things happen on the run. And, over the last few weeks, even when he HAS managed to avoid a sack, he’s converting a painfully small percentage of these sandlot throws into completions deep down field (certainly a much smaller percentage than he used to complete). Wilson is also not getting any TALLER. I never complained about his height when he was fast enough to elude defenders; but if he can’t run, and he can’t see over the crowd of linemen around him in the pocket, then how are we going to sustain drives against the league’s best defenses? How are we going to improve our third down conversions when opposing teams know we have to throw and can tee off on a turtling Wilson who succumbs to an avalanche of bodies?

Look, I’m not saying the Seahawks MUST trade Wilson. I’m not even saying I think they should. But, if they did, and the return was right, I could at least understand the argument. What is more likely: the Seahawks win a championship with the status quo, the Seahawks win a championship with Russell Wilson and a different front office, or the Seahawks win a championship with the same front office and a different quarterback?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll tell you what I believe: the REAL answer is D. None of the Above.

I don’t think the Seahawks will win a championship again with the organization as is. I think ultimately Russell Wilson will outlast Pete Carroll and John Schneider (and, obviously, the coordinators set in place), but I also don’t think Wilson will ever win another title in a Seahawks uniform. I think the Seahawks will make the playoffs plenty of times over the next decade, and our seasons will continue to end just as they have since 2015: disappointing and underachieving.

I won’t say the Seahawks will never again make another Super Bowl (I’ve learned my lesson making that guarantee), but I will say the team will look TOTALLY different from the top to the bottom the next time they do. And, if I’m ultimately proven right, then why not blow it all up now and get a jumpstart on things? What are we waiting for? To age another ten-plus years while being in the same place we are now? What’s the point of that?

I’m Dreading This Playoff Game Against The Rams

The only other time the Seahawks squared off against the Rams in the playoffs was in the 2004 season. We went 9-7 and won the NFC West – the first of four consecutive divisional championships under Mike Holmgren – in the year before we made it to our first-ever Super Bowl. We were the 4-seed in 2004 and somehow the 8-8 Rams were the 5-seed (the Vikings also had an 8-8 record that year, which landed them the 6-seed). In spite of the Rams’ mediocrity that year, they beat the Seahawks twice in the regular season. Even though it’s pretty difficult to beat the same team three times in the same year, I vaguely remember being concerned, as those Rams seemed to have our number (just as these Rams today – and as all Rams teams in the Pete Carroll era – seem to have our number).

I don’t remember much about that playoff game, other than the fact that we did, in fact, lose to the Rams for a third time that season. 27-20. We apparently overcame a 14-3 first half deficit to take a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. But, we stalled in the red zone on our final drive with less than two minutes to go, turning it over on downs. I remember none of this, of course (the game from that year I remember vividly is the first time we lost to the Rams in the regular season, in overtime, when our friend who’s a 49ers fan showed up halfway through, just as those very same Rams mounted a comeback – down 17 points halfway through the fourth quarter – to win by 6 in less than 15 minutes’ worth of game time; our friend is a jinx and I vowed to never watch any more Seahawks games in his presence for the rest of my life).

I’ll be honest, there’s a significant portion of my brain that thinks the Seahawks already used up all of their good luck in defeating the Rams two weeks ago. Is that at all rational? Of course not. But, such is my life as a Seattle sports fan.

That having been said, I’d rather the game be played in Seattle than in Los Angeles. Since we needed to defeat them two weeks ago to make that happen, I guess I shouldn’t be too broken up over that one. This would be the best thing going in our favor right now. It’s not a lot – and certainly there won’t be any fans in attendance to give us our usual boost – but it’s something. The 2020 Seahawks still went 7-1 at home, so you can’t tell me Home Field Advantage doesn’t exist at all; it might be lessened, but it’ll never be zero.

The next feather in our cap is the Rams’ quarterback situation. It’s only unfortunate that we don’t have that crowd noise here, because I think we could really get into his head what with this being our first home playoff game since 2016. Jared Goff famously injured the thumb on his throwing hand the last time these two teams played. He managed to finish that game, but then needed to have surgery soon thereafter. Goff missed last week’s finale – where the Rams ousted the Cardinals from playoff contention – but he’s been seen practicing on a limited basis so far this week and it looks like he’ll be able to play. His backup is a guy whose name I refuse to learn, who made his first career NFL start last week. The backup is mobile, but obviously far from good.

I think a lot of Seahawks fans are looking forward to having Goff back behind center; I don’t know if I’m necessarily on the same wavelength. I think Goff – as flawed as he is – is still leaps and bounds better than his backup (otherwise, at this point, I don’t know why the backup wouldn’t have been given more of a shot, given Goff’s limitations from a mobility standpoint, as well as the fact that he seems like a fucking dullard). Nevertheless, if the Seahawks are going to win this game, they’re going to need Bad Goff to show up. The Rams are 4-6 when Goff throws an interception; they’re 5-0 when he doesn’t (technically, they’re 6-0, since he clearly didn’t throw an interception in the game he didn’t play in). They’re 2-5 in games where Goff has been sacked two or more times. In only one of the games the Rams lost did Goff have a passer rating over 100. There’s a pretty clear correlation there that if you can harass Goff into mistakes, it means bad things for the Rams as a team.

The Seahawks should have the horses on defense to do just that. There are concerns, though. Jarran Reed and Bryan Mone – two of our three best defensive tackles – came up injured in the last week. Reed has an oblique strain and is questionable; Mone has an ankle injury that he previously had to overcome after missing a few weeks. This is the exact reason why you hate to lose someone like Snacks Harrison, but he couldn’t bring himself to stick it out for the playoff run as a backup/bench guy. This obviously hurts us in our interior pass rush, but more importantly it seriously weakens our run defense. I do expect both to play, but it also wouldn’t shock me in the slightest for one or both of them to come up lame in the first quarter and have to sit out the rest of the game.

The Rams want to run they ball. They’re DYING to run the ball! Whatever it takes to reduce the load on Goff’s shoulders. You want to know why the Seahawks looked so good in the second half of that game down in L.A. earlier this season? Because the Rams went super conservative with a run-heavy gameplan so their quarterback wouldn’t lose the game for them! Run defense has been the Seahawks’ specialty throughout this season – even when our pass defense and pass rush stunk early on, we could be counted on to stifle the opposing run attack – but there have been spots here and there where we’ve struggled. The Vikings figured us out. The Giants had a couple of drives in their game that cost us dearly. Everyone thinks the Rams are the second coming of The Greatest Show On Turf, but the truth is they love to run it as much as anyone. It opens up their play-action game – which they’re terrific at – and obviously (as I’ve said multiple times) it takes the ball out of Goff’s hands. If the Rams are able to run the ball at will, there’s no stopping them.

At which point, it would be incumbent upon the Seahawks’ offense to show us LITERALLY ANYTHING against the league’s best defense. We’ve managed all of 36 points in two games. I’m pretty confident that it will take more than 18 points to beat the Rams tomorrow.

This really gets to the heart of my discontent; I don’t think the Seahawks’ offense is good against anything other than the worst defenses, none of which will be stepping foot out there on Saturday or ever in these playoffs. We’ve been scuffling for so long now, and for so many different reasons, that we have to conjure up conspiracy theories as to why this side of the ball has been underperforming so badly. Secret, undisclosed injuries; Pete Carroll meddling too much with the offensive gameplan; guys saving themselves for the postseason. That’s on top of legitimate concerns like the actual health and injuries to our offensive linemen and running backs, and the fact that D.K. Metcalf can’t go one game without dropping a ball that hits him on the hands.

I don’t really love this Seahawks offense against ANY defense in the NFC, but I especially don’t like them against the league’s absolute #1 defense.

Which means, *sigh*, we’re in for another low-scoring slog-’em-out slug-fest that’s nothing but punts and turnovers. And that’s probably a BEST-case scenario! There’s a relatively decent chance that the Rams run away with this one; there’s almost zero chance the Seahawks do so. We need to hope the game remains close, and that we can find away to eke it out in the end.

I’m not super confident. I know I’m this dick-wagging swagger machine when I come on here and talk about my favorite sports teams; but I’m really nervous, you guys! I have zero confidence that we’re going to get it done this weekend!

And, of course, when we lose, it’ll probably look a lot like what happened the last time the Rams beat us in the playoffs, when they went on and got throttled by 30 points in the Divisional Round to the Falcons. Presumably, this time it would be the Rams getting throttled by the Packers, but you get the idea.

Fingers crossed for a mini-miracle, everyone! Otherwise, it’s going to be a long and terrible fucking offseason.

The Seahawks Won Their First Division Title Since 2016

The Seahawks haven’t felt special in a while. In looking over the list of recent seasons, nothing has really stood out since our last trip to the Super Bowl. Losing before the conference championship game has become commonplace. Sure, that probably sounds spoiled; Jets fans/Lions fans/Browns fans/Bengals fans/Jaguars fans would LOVE to have that problem. But, there are two different types of football teams in the NFL: those who already have a championship-calibre quarterback and those who are still looking for a championship-calibre quarterback.

There are only so many elite quarterbacks out there, but when you have one, as a fan your life is totally different from most other fanbases. You go into EVERY season believing there’s at least a chance of winning it all, if not outright expecting to win it all. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t win it all with a lower tier guy (Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning come immediately to mind), but a lot has to go right (mainly, having a defense and skill position guys who can carry the team). The margin of error is greater as the talent level of your quarterback improves.

The Seahawks have had a championship-calibre quarterback since 2012. We went to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It felt like we were just getting started on a nonstop upward trajectory, but the last half decade has felt pretty mundane. Like the Seahawks were just going through the motions. Like winning 10 games and making the playoffs was “good enough”. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty impressive achievement to see what the Seahawks have done. They really have sustained success throughout the Pete Carroll/John Schneider marriage, particularly when Russell Wilson was brought in to complete the ménage à trois.

From the 2010 season through this year, we have five NFC West titles, nine playoff appearances, and nine consecutive winning seasons; and yeah, two Super Bowl appearances are great in such a timespan, but only one title feels a little like a rip off. Even though – OF COURSE – it’s friggin’ hard to win a championship in the NFL! A dynasty like the one the Patriots sustained for two decades is unprecedented, even in the pre-free agency eras. Yet, that’s the standard, so that’s what we have to compare ourselves to. Because it’s been pretty much just the Patriots and Seahawks over the last decade as the top two organizations in the league, and we are lagging WAY behind (with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes getting set to leap right over us).

With all the talent we amassed, it’s always going to feel like the Seahawks have underachieved … until they win the next one. And, if they never win another title with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, then it’ll forever feel like something got away from us.

It remains to be seen if the 2020 Seahawks are special. But, they’ve made a big first step. I’ve written ad nauseam about how important it is for the Seahawks to not have to play on the road throughout the playoffs. So, getting to host a game at least in the first round is better than the alternative. But, clearly, being that #1 seed is the ultimate goal, and as I’ve previously mentioned, losing to the Giants all but eliminated us from contention (I’ll write about how it’s not technically impossible in the next day or so). For these Seahawks to be special, they’re probably going to have to do something they’ve only done once in the history of the franchise (1983), and that’s win a road game in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

I do feel better about these Seahawks than I have since probably the 2015 season (when we won six of our last seven games, though ultimately had to settle for a wild card spot), for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, it does feel we’re in the midst of another upward trajectory period, albeit less pronounced than the rocketship into the atmosphere that was the period from 2012-2014. The Seahawks really bottomed out in 2017, while missing the playoffs for the first (and still only) time since Russell Wilson entered the league. The 2016 divisional championship even felt like a bit of a fraud, since no one else in the NFC West won more than 7 games. We got back to the playoffs in 2018, but that felt like a bit of a fluke; we were certainly just happy to be there, especially after starting that season with a 4-5 record. With last year’s team, it felt like we were more on the right track, but injuries really derailed things by the end, as we lost three of our last four games (ultimately falling just a yard short of beating the 49ers in the final game of the regular season to win the division).

Just as 2019’s Seahawks were incrementally better than they were in 2018, this year’s team feels similarly improved over last year. First thing’s first: we won the division. We also have a +85 point differential through 15 games; last year we were only +7 (meaning that, even though we won 11 games last year, we were unsustainably lucky to not be closer to 9-7 or even 8-8). Also, even as we’ve seemed to struggle throughout the season, it’s impossible to ignore how much we’ve improved.

The defense was an undeniable disaster through the first eight games of this season. And, as the offense has regressed towards the mean (to say it kindly) or totally fallen off the fucking map (to say it bluntly), it’s been encouraging to see the defense not only step up and assume its share of the responsibility in this relationship, but actually turn into the strength of this team as these Seahawks look remarkably like some of those Seahawks teams of old: where we needed our defense to keep us in games, while the offense sputtered along until it managed to win games in the end one way or another.

It’s scary to think about how the 2020 Seahawks have yet to really put together a complete game (I don’t count the Jets debacle; I don’t care how many games they’ve won in the subsequent two weeks). Scary in the sense that it might not ever happen (and we might be tantalized with thoughts of what might’ve been), but also scary in that if these Seahawks ever DO figure it out, they’ll be right up there among the very best teams in football.

Ultimately, though, I think the main reason why I feel better about these Seahawks than I have in years is a matter of being relieved. We got back over that hurdle of winning the NFC West again. This has been a difficult division, probably the best in all of football the last three seasons; the last two NFC West winners have made it to the Super Bowl, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’m also relieved because we knocked the Rams down a peg; I’ve considered them to be our primary rivals this year, so it was important to get them out of our way (at least, until we have to play them again in the playoffs).

While relieved, though, I can’t say yesterday’s game inspired a lot of confidence. The Seahawks’ offense – once again – failed to surpass 20 points. Russell Wilson just looked sort of okay; he didn’t have any turnovers, but there was a surefire interception that the Rams dropped. The rushing attack was so-so (24 carries for 95 yards). The offensive line predictably gave up 5 sacks (remains to be seen what was Wilson’s fault vs. what was just poor blocking). Lots of little mistakes added up to a 6-6 tie at halftime. The Seahawks mounted a touchdown drive to start the second half, then did nothing until midway through the fourth quarter when they generated a second touchdown drive to seal the deal.

This game was all about the defense, which was better than I’ve seen it in YEARS! Three sacks (two by Jarran Reed, to give him 6.5 for the year, which makes his new deal money well spent so far), 7 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, and a whopping 9 hits on the quarterback. Jared Goff looked as miserable as ever, which was a refreshing change of pace. The Rams were able to convert some frustrating third downs, but we kept them out of the endzone, capitalized on one of the most baffling interceptions of all time, and ultimately injured his thumb to the point where Goff will either be lost for the year or will have to have offseason surgery to get it fixed.

In seven games, the Seahawks’ defense went from the very worst, to only the 10th worst in yards allowed. Granted, we’ve still given up the most passing yards in the league, but it’s no longer the most passing yards given up ALL TIME. Also, we went from giving up among the most points per game, to almost exactly middle-of-the-road. The Indianapolis Colts are considered to have one of the better defenses in the league this year; we’ve given up exactly the same number of points through 15 games. That’s an impressive turnaround!

But, as I said, we won’t really know if these Seahawks are special until at least a month from now. Things are trending in the right direction, but I won’t be truly happy until we’re playing for championships again. Steven A. Taylor settles for nothing less than the best!

The Seahawks Are In Great Shape After Beating The Cardinals

I told you guys! Nothing is fucked here!

I did a tiny bit of digging on the Vegas line for this game. It apparently opened anywhere from the Seahawks being 3.5-point to 5.5-point favorites and the public bet it down to the Seahawks just being favored by 3. I don’t have a good handle on how Vegas did last night, but I would suspect they did very well. I have to believe the majority of the money was on Arizona to at least cover, if not win outright. Regardless of that, the over/under was set in the mid-to-high 50’s, and you KNOW everyone and their grandmothers were betting the OVER in this one. With the Seahawks winning 28-21 (Arizona failing to cover, obviously failing to win, and both teams hitting well UNDER), it’s my hunch that Vegas really had a good night last night.

I hate to kick things off so negatively, but we can’t get through a Thursday Night Football game without a season-ending injury, it would appear! Remember Richard Sherman’s last game in a Seahawks uniform? Oddly enough, it was also against the Arizona Cardinals (as a matter of fact, Earl Thomas’ last game here was ALSO against the Cards; we lose more Hall of Famers playing this team than I’ve ever seen!). What isn’t so odd is that Sherman’s last game in a Seahawks uniform was a Thursday Night Football game, when he finally ruptured an already-injured Achilles tendon. Had he had a proper amount of rest and recovery that week, we might not have lost him when we did (indeed, he might’ve very well managed it throughout the season, with frequent rest days in practice).

Well, Greg Olsen – apparently our prized free agent pickup this past offseason (even though literally everyone feels it was a lot of money, poorly spent, but that’s neither here nor there) – suffered a fascia tear last night and figures to be lost for the year (there MIGHT be an outside chance he could return in time for the Super Bowl – if the Seahawks manage to make it that far – but it’s obviously way too early to make those kinds of predictions). I immediately thought of Sherman, because the cases seem so similar. Both are aging veterans. I imagine this was a nagging injury Olsen has been gutting his way through for a while. And, I suspect – much like Sherman – if he’d had a regular rest & recovery period, this might not have happened right now, and we’d still have Olsen going forward. These are non-contact injuries, so obviously there’s a strong possibility that they’re both flukes and could’ve happened at any time. But, I feel very strongly that having just played a football game four days prior is the bigger culprit in all of this.

Before I get off of my injury high horse, I’ll pour a little out for Brandon Shell, who suffered a more traditional sprained ankle injury when someone rolled up on him as he was blocking someone else. The severity is unknown, but it’s obviously quite worrisome, as he’s far-and-away our best right tackle. He could return as early as our next game (if it’s just a regular ankle sprain), or he could be lost until the playoffs (if it’s a high-ankle variety). Fingers crossed it’s not that bad!

From a defensive standpoint, this game went exactly as it needed to. If we can hold teams to 21 points per game the rest of the way, we’ll never lose again! We forced four Arizona punts in the first half – including one when they got the ball with less than two minutes to go, which is always prime scoring time against this defense – and held them to just a lone touchdown in taking a 16-7 lead into the break.

Things were a little touch-and-go in the second half, as Arizona started out with back-to-back scoring drives of 81 and 90 yards, but the Seahawks were able to maintain their lead throughout. Probably the scariest part of the game was when we led 23-21 and punted back to the Cardinals on their own 14 yard line. Thankfully, an Intentional Grounding penalty, followed by a holding penalty in the endzone, resulted in a safety for the Seahawks. That begat a field goal for the Seahawks (to give the game its final score) on a near-seven minute drive, which then begat the Cardinals getting the ball back with just over 2 minutes left in the game, needing a touchdown to tie. The Cards were in good shape, getting inside the Seahawks’ 30-yard line with just under a minute to play, but our defense stiffened there, culminating on a Carlos Dunlap sack on fourth down to end it.

Dunlap was everything I’ve ever wanted in a defensive end in this one! He had four tackles, two sacks, and three hits on the quarterback. All told, the Seahawks had three sacks (with L.J. Collier lucking into one, but I’ll obviously take it) and seven hits on the quarterback, after not touching Kyler Murray at all in the previous game we played down in Arizona. Murray looked like he was suffering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, and it’s tough to say how much that affected him. He probably isn’t using it as an excuse, but there were a number of errant throws that helped kill a lot of drives (there were also lots of AMAZING throws on his part, so maybe the shoulder really wasn’t that big of a deal and he’s just an inconsistent, young passer?).

I don’t know how you don’t call this the best all-around defensive performance for the Seahawks this season. In spite of failing to generate any Arizona turnovers, we held Murray to 269 yards passing (the second-fewest among quarterbacks who played the entire game against us this year), we held their entire rushing attack to just 57 yards on 18 carries (in a game that was never so far out of reach that they needed to abandon the run, at least until the very last drive), and I think most importantly: we held DeAndre Hopkins to just 5 catches and 51 yards (one week after he caught 12 balls for 127 yards, including that hail mary touchdown at the end to win it against the Bills). I’ll always wonder how much of that was forced by our improved defense, versus how much of that was Murray choosing to not force-feed his #1 receiver. Hopkins was matched up against Tre Flowers for a lot of the game, and – per usual – Flowers gave up a huge cushion; it seemed like they had that comeback route to the first down marker any time they wanted it. Why they didn’t go to that well time and time again, I have no idea.

Offensively, this was decidedly an old school Russell Wilson performance: 23/28, 197 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. You could tell me that’s a stat line from 2013 and I’d believe it. To be fair, D.K. Metcalf dropped a surefire touchdown right before halftime, resulting in the Seahawks settling for a field goal (to also be fair, Wilson threw that ball about 5,000 miles per hour right at Metcalf’s face, resulting in it bouncing off of his helmet before he had time to properly react and catch it), but I think it’s safe to say this game won’t be heavily featured on Wilson’s MVP Hype Video. It was an efficient, turnover-free game, though, and that’s EXACTLY what you’re looking for on a short week, after losing 3 of 4 games largely because of inefficiency and turnovers.

Carlos Hyde was very warmly received by fans and the team alike in this one (Chris Carson was indeed held out another week, but figures to be back very soon). You could tell from the first carry: there’s a SIGNIFICANT drop-off in talent between Hyde and the running backs under Hyde. That being said, Bo Scarbrough was called up from the practice squad for this one and played as the #2 running back, and I thought he looked solid! Certainly better than Alex Collins or DeeJay Dallas or Travis Homer. Hyde ran for 79 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries, and Scarbrough ran for another 31 yards on 6 carries. Including Wilson runs (10 for 42) and a lone Dallas carry, the Seahawks combined for 165 yards on 31 carries, which has to be a Pete Carroll tantric wet dream.

Tyler Lockett led all receivers with 9 receptions for 67 yards and a pretty touchdown in the back corner of the endzone. D.K. Metcalf’s day could’ve gone better (he had at least a couple drops, and one of his big catches was called back by a bogus holding penalty; the refs in this one probably had the worst performance of anyone on the field), but he did end up with 3 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.

As I said before, this win puts us in great shape. We’re now 7-3, and 2-2 in the division (5-2 in the conference). Our very next game is a Monday night affair on the 30th in Philly. Given how bad the Eagles are, and how elite the Seahawks are on MNF, I really like our chances in that one. Then we have back-to-back home games against the New York teams (they should be pushovers), followed by a road game in Washington (which sneakily might be the toughest of the bunch). I have the utmost confidence in the Seahawks being 4-0 in this stretch, which brings us back home for a Must Win game against the Rams (to ensure our winning the NFC West), before a season-ending Should Win game against the 49ers on the road.

I hope the Seahawks use these next 11 days to get healthy, because we’re heading directly into the home stretch of the regular season. It’s time to stop fucking around and put some distance between us and the rest of the NFC. If the defense can look just like this the rest of the way, I think we’ll be okay.

That Was The Worst The 2020 Seahawks Have Looked

Could I have hit the nail more on the head in last Friday’s preview post? I even got the part about being down double digits, scrambling late to pull it to a single score, and needing an onside kick that ultimately didn’t bounce our way!

Look, I can’t say with any certainty that I’m definitely psychic, but slots for my palm readings are filling up fast! Be advised, these are VERY sexual readings …

What I got wrong in that post, I got VERY wrong though. I never would’ve predicted a game where less than 40 total points were scored, but there you have it: Rams 23, Seahawks 16. That seemed pretty unthinkable in the first quarter, when the Seahawks got the ball on their first drive of the day and drove it 78 yards to take a 7-3 lead. The Rams promptly made it 17-7 midway through the second quarter, and this REALLY had all the markings of a no-defense special, something we’ve been lapping up all year like goons.

This game took a weird turn after that, and I couldn’t for the life of me explain why it ended the way it did. After pulling the game to 17-10, the Rams had the ball and it looked like they were set on blowing the game wide open. Instead, Jamal Adams got in there and forced a Goff fumble that the Seahawks recovered deep in enemy territory. It looked like we were set to tie the game up heading into halftime! Then, with nothing but green grass ahead of him, Russell Wilson inexplicably threw an interception in the endzone to kill that dream. The only reason I can think of for the decision is Wilson is counting his stats. He saw he hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass all day, saw one of his receivers briefly flash open, but failed to see the defender who had an EASY play on the ball.

This was always the worry of handing the keys to the Ferrari to Russell Wilson after years of his safe and reliable Subaru driving. He’s pretty talented behind the wheel, but when you REALLY open it up, those cars can be dangerous and spin off the road every once in a while!

Or, I guess we can stick with the cooking analogy. Wilson has spent his career making perfect golden-brown DiGiorno pepperoni pizzas and now we’re asking him to make Fugu; sometimes it turns out perfect, but prepare it wrong and it can kill you.

As much as we see Russell Wilson as a team-first guy who only cares about winning – and certainly, he says all the right things all the time – he’s also human. He’s a hotshot NFL quarterback with an ego the size of Virginia. He wants that MVP award and he’s going to do everything in his power to get it. Even if circumstances arise that he’s unable to see, and by trying to do too much on his own, he inflicts more damage upon his chances than settling for a simple rushing touchdown would’ve done.

That pick was a bitter pill to swallow. But, my sharpest criticism of this game falls on Pete Carroll. Forget the fact that he and the rest of his staff didn’t seem to have the team properly prepared for this one, but his in-game decisionmaking was atrocious. The Seahawks brought the game to 17-13 at halftime – thanks to a franchise-record 61-yard field goal as the clock expired by Jason Myers, who is having a fabulous year – and got the ball first in the second half. On 3rd & 4, Wilson nearly scrambled for a first down, but was deemed to be less than a yard short. On 4th & Inches, on our own 42 yard line, we wasted a challenge on the spot, then wasted 25 full seconds with that bullshit where the quarterback stands at the line of scrimmage barking fake signals to try to get the defense to jump offsides. This NEVER FUCKING WORKS and I wish the Seahawks would put this tactic in a rocketship with “icing the kicker” and “Michael Dickson’s onside drop-kick that never gives us a chance to recover” and send them all on a collison course with the fucking sun, because they’re all equally as asinine. Then, with a 5-yard delay of game penalty, we punted. Fucking hell!

I lost my mind after that. Forget the fact that our defense had shown us NOTHING at that point, except one fumble we wasted. All you have to see is the fact that we lost by one score – needing the aforementioned onside kick that fell into Robert Woods’ open arms – and you can point to this wasted possession. I don’t care where we were on the field; the Rams can score from any distance (indeed, they drove RIGHT down the field right after that punt, 88 yards, to take a 23-13 lead); but if we can’t convert INCHES, then we obviously have no business even playing the game.

With the Rams able to safely sit on a two-score lead, they teed off on Russell Wilson. Knowing the Seahawks like to strike plays deep down field – and knowing we NEEDED to do just that, with time ticking away – it makes a lot of sense that our offense did next-to-nothing the rest of the way, because they could have their secondary play back and force us to check down. Most importantly, the Rams were able to take the ball out of the hands of their biggest liability – Jared Goff – and we suffered as a result. Sure, we forced the Rams’ offense into some second half punts, but we missed out on the opportunity for Goff to turn the ball over and give us some more short fields! The Rams could’ve knelt down on every offensive play and prevailed once they were up by 10 points.

I was especially dismayed with the way Wilson ignored D.K. Metcalf the entire game. Sure, Jalen Ramsey was locked onto him for most of the game, but he wasn’t shadowing him 100% of the time; there were plays for Metcalf to make! He was open and Wilson didn’t even bother checking in. Also, not for nothing, but D.K. Metcalf is a fucking monster; even when he’s got blanket coverage he’s still open! Why not toss him a jump ball or two when it’s one-on-one coverage? Make the All Pro defender make a play or two; Ramsey isn’t perfect! He’s been beaten before and he’ll be beaten again!

One of the biggest take-aways from this one is how much the team is missing Chris Carson. Alex Collins got a lot of carries and I thought looked pretty good, but he’s no Carson. He’s not the pass-catching threat that Carson is. Nor is he the total badass that Carson is!

It’s tough to totally make out whether or not the defense made any progress in this one. We had three more sacks, but two of them were via Jamal Adams blitzes. Obviously, only giving up the six second half points is a positive, but as I mentioned, the Rams went hyper-conservative towards the end.

Nevertheless, I’m not panicking yet. As predicted, the Cardinals beat the Bills (on a last-second hail mary touchdown, which is insane), so the Seahawks are currently third place in the division thanks to head-to-head tiebreakers. We can rectify that – and get to work on our atrocious divisional record – this Thursday night, at home, against those very Cardinals. If we prevail, my prediction for a 7-game winning streak to close the season is very much in play.

If we lose … then yes, I will be panicking. And so should you.

Don’t Expect The Seahawks To Fire Ken Norton Jr. Anytime Soon

After a one-week blip where the Seahawks’ defense looked semi-competent against the 49ers (not counting the fourth quarter where Nick Mullens – the same guy who managed all of 291 yards in a blowout loss to the Packers last Thursday – torched our prevent defense in those 15 minutes for 238 yards), they were back to their old tricks, giving up 415 yards to Josh Allen and only forcing a measly two punts the entire game.

The Seahawks are giving up a league-worst 455.8 yards per game, which if that holds for the entire season, will be the worst of all time by a considerable margin. The defense is “led” by a league-worst 362.1 passing yards per game, which is saying something considering the amount of talent we have in the secondary. Granted, the front office really dropped the ball when it came to building a pass rush in the offseason. But, there are ways to paper over these deficiencies and it starts with coaching up these guys and scheming to their strengths.

The most frustrating part of this season – where the offense has adapted to feature the strengths of Russell Wilson’s passing arm, after YEARS of being one of the most run-centric offenses in all of football – is that this team hasn’t similarly adapted its defense. They seem to be caught in between. Pete Carroll’s traditional scheme – which he has employed to great effect in his time in Seattle – has been to play zone, give up plays underneath, rally to the football, and force teams to dink and dunk down the field, all the while hoping either our pass rush gets home, or the opposing quarterback makes a mistake and turns the ball over. This was an excellent scheme – number one in all of football from 2012-2015 – but it really only works when you’ve got the kind of talent on your roster that can make this work. The Seahawks don’t have that now.

Not only are teams able to dink and dunk with ease, but when we buck the system and throw blitzes their way, opposing quarterbacks have had tremendous success beating us deep. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas in their primes aren’t walking through that door anytime soon. Shaquill Griffin and Quandre Diggs – while good players – are obvious steps down compared to the original L.O.B. members. While Jamal Adams resembles Kam Chancellor in many ways, I would argue his coverage skills are MUCH worse (while his blitzing is MUCH better). None of that matters since we don’t have anyone NEARLY as good as Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in their primes (we hope Carlos Dunlap comes close, but that will remain to be seen for now). On top of all of that, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are closer to the ends of their careers than the beginnings.

All of this adds up to this defense needing to create a new identity for itself. Clearly, what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working (aside from three successful quarters against a gimpy Jimmy Garoppolo). We tried going all in on a conservative approach against the Dolphins and Cardinals; it was fine against a mistake-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick, and a disaster against an electric Kyler Murray. We tried going all in on a blitz-heavy approach (at times) against the 49ers and Bills; it was fine against Jimmy G (but then we pulled too far back against Mullens), and while we had a season-high seven sacks against Allen, the defense ultimately gave up 44 points and generated zero turnovers.

As I said before, I’m not panicking because of a relatively-meaningless loss to the Bills. It seems like a lot of Seahawks fans are, but that tends to happen after EVERY loss, so what else is new? The blogs are calling for Ken Norton Jr.’s head, but, I mean, you know what that’s going to get you, right? It’s not Pete Carroll’s style to fire his assistants mid-season, particularly when he is so involved with the scheming of the defense as well.

Now, if you want to talk about firing Norton after the season, believe me, I’m right there with you. He would have to improve things DRAMATICALLY over the next eight games – and likely take us to the Super Bowl – to save his job at this point. Norton has proven – both in his time with the Raiders, and now with the Seahawks – that he’s not a good defensive coordinator. He just isn’t. It’s okay; he’s a fine linebackers coach and that’s ultimately going to be his destiny within the league (now, if he gained an interest in coaching the college game, I could see him getting hired at a smallish school as a head coach or DC or something, but he’s maxed out his reputation in the pros). Unless the Seahawks make the Super Bowl, Ken Norton Jr. needs to be replaced, by literally anyone who’s even remotely qualified, I don’t care who.

So, how does he save his job? I think many of the blogs are on the right track; I too believe the Seahawks need to go all-in on a blitz-heavy scheme, even more than what we’ve done the last two games. It’s really the only way. Our cornerbacks are too banged up at the moment (we’ll probably be without both Dunbar and Griffin this week against the Rams, which is a FUCKING calamity) and the ones who are healthy aren’t the greatest. They can’t cover these receivers all day. They’re going to need quarterbacks to make quick, precise decisions, starting with Jared Goff (who struggles MIGHTILY when he’s got guys in his face).

Will we give up big plays in the process? Against the good quarterbacks, we will. But, we’re already giving up big plays to those guys anyway! We might as well try to force a mistake or two; instead of consistently giving up 30.4 points per game (good for third-worst, just ahead of the lowly Cowboys and Jaguars), maybe we could limit teams to – I dunno – 27.0 points per game (which would still be 12th-worst, but with the way our offense is humming, might be good enough to win it all).

The defense is bound to look pretty good in the four consecutive games where we face the Eagles, Giants, Jets, and Washington. But, I’m more concerned about the two times we face the Rams, and the next time we face the Cards and Niners. Those are HUGE games, and we’re going to need our defense to do SOMETHING.

Or else Ken Norton Jr. will be on his ass at the end of the season and (unfortunately) no sooner.

Every Time The Seahawks Play The Patriots, It’s The Best Game Of The Year; Last Night Was No Exception

That game was so good, I don’t even know where to start, so let’s just run through everything in order of appearance, because there’s too much to discuss to have any other format for this post.

Is Greg Olsen The Most Washed-Up 35 Year Old Tight End Inexplicably Earning $7 million On A Team With No Pass Rush?

Boy did he have a bad game in this one. How do you feel about 0 catches on 1 target? Furthermore, how do you feel about that lone target coming on the first drive of the game, being a perfect throw that bounced off of his hands and into the open arms of Devin McCourty for a Pick-Six? I kept waiting for Olsen’s redemption moment that, unfortunately, never came (unless it was some impactful block that I missed because who pays attention to THAT stuff?). I get the feeling that we’re destined for a super-mediocre season out of Olsen where the saving grace is that he catches 7 touchdowns, or one for every million dollars he’s earning. Nope, couldn’t have put that money to better use on the defensive line; NO SIR!

Seahawks Rushing Attack Quietly Good

It’s hard to say if Russell Wilson “cooked” in this one; the numbers were split pretty evenly: 28 passing attempts, 30 rushes (to be fair, those five Wilson runs were scrambles that would’ve been passing attempts had things looked differently on those plays). I mean, if you want to point to the ideal Pete Carroll type of offensive game, you’re looking at it. He doesn’t care where the touchdowns come from (all five were Wilson throws, which is pretty fancy cooking any way you sauté it), he just wants the running backs at least AS involved in moving the football as the quarterback. As a team, the Seahawks ran for 154 yards (a robust 5.1 yards per carry), with Carson leading the way (as it should be), 17 for 72. Don’t discount the effectiveness of Wilson’s 5 carries for 39 yards; he’s not just saving these attempts for the fourth quarter like in seasons past. He’s busting them out early enough to force defenses to account for him on potential zone-read plays later on (Travis Homer was the recipient of a few quality runs in this mold, ending up with 3 carries for 21 yards). Since the Patriots’ run defense isn’t that great, it was nevertheless good to see that the offense didn’t forcefeed us an All Wilson All The Time type of game.

Tyler Lockett Is There Whenever You Need Him

On any other team, or if Lockett were like a traditional wide receiver diva, he would command 15 targets per game and be among the league leaders in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s THAT good! He’s ALWAYS open, even when he’s got guys draped all over him! In this one, he ended up with a sensible 7 catches (on 8 targets) for 67 yards and a touchdown (in the drive immediately following the Pick Six, to tie the game at 7-7), but it seemed like all of his catches were big (either to convert a first down, or to get us out of a huge hole after a holding penalty or a sack or something). One of the ways the Seahawks have been very effective so far this year has been in how the offense has dug itself out of holes. Even though holding penalties are down leaguewide, the Seahawks are still right up there among the worst offenders as an offensive line. But, for the most part (not every time, obviously; this offense isn’t perfect in spite of Russell Wilson signing a pact with the devil) it’s not an automatic punt whenever we find ourselves in 1st & 20, or 2nd & 15. Tyler Lockett has a lot to do with this. Most teams would take more advantage and throw it to him too much; but Wilson knows it’s best to save those moments for when they matter most, because Lockett will always be there to pull this team out of the fire.

Quandre Diggs (tsk tsk tsk)

Yesterday was as bad a day across the NFL when it comes to injuries that I’ve ever seen. Not just the number of guys who went down, but the number of high-impact players who were out for the rest of their respective games, who will end up missing a number of weeks, and/or who will be out for the remainder of the season! I’ll discuss more of that in my fantasy column later in the week, but it was rough. As it turns out, you can’t go from 0 to 60 at the drop of a hat – with no pre-season ramp-up – and not expect to see this as a reality! You may ask, “Why didn’t we see all of this in the first week?” Well, my thoughts are that everyone got beat up pretty good, and since no one was in real game shape, everyone needed more than the 6-7 days they were given for their bodies to recover. Since everyone was heading into yesterday without sufficient recovery time, all their bodies were more susceptible to the types of injuries we were seeing. You can dismiss the pre-season all you want, but going from playing a quarter, to a half, to into the third quarter, and then scaling it back to almost-nothing in the fourth game sure seems to be a better way to ramp up everyone’s bodies for the pounding they take on a weekly basis than what we had this season.

Anyway, what does that have to do with Quandre Diggs? On the Patriots’ first offensive drive of the game, he was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver (on a 4th down play, that ultimately put New England in a position to go up 14-7). No one was injured on the play, though it was a good call by the league. Seahawks fans were complaining on Twitter, asking what Diggs was supposed to do with it being such a bang-bang play; well, he’s not supposed to lazily ram into a guy while fully erect, with his helmet smashing into the other guy’s helmet! If Diggs was using proper technique, he would’ve bent his body at the waist, gotten his head out of the way, and led with one of his shoulders … you know, like we’ve been preaching around here for the better part of the last decade! This is simple, people; Diggs had plenty of time to put his body into proper position. He was just lazy on that play, didn’t feel like bending down, and he was properly ejected as a result.

How this gets back to injuries is that, of course, Marquise Blair – our Big Nickel defensive back extraordinaire last week – went in to replace Diggs at safety after that (flip-flopping with Lano Hill whenever we were in a Nickel Defense), and also of course, ended up with a serious knee injury. It will either cost him a few weeks or the rest of the season, which is just a crusher. I still have faith in this secondary to lead the way; we have lots of guys behind Blair who will step up and be good. But, Blair sure looked like he was turning into something really special. It’s only his second season in the league, so there’s time for him to bounce back and become great. But, it’s a shame when someone this early in his development has a setback this potentially-significant.

Newsflash: Cam Newton Is A Great Rusher

His numbers weren’t quite as sparkling as his 15 rushes for 75 yards against the Dolphins last week, but 11 rushes for 47 yards is nothing to sneeze at. He tacked on two goalline touchdowns in that total and looked ALMOST unstoppable (foreshadowing, you know you want it). I was really impressed with the variety of different rushes the Pats used at the goalline; they will be tough to defend down there. Don’t let them get inside of the 10 yard line if you have hopes of holding them to field goals! It won’t work out most of the time.

Great Punting Tho

With the Seahawks down 14-7 and driving, I was legitimately starting to worry about our ability to stop New England’s offense. Had we fallen too far behind, it would’ve been super tough to come back with Cam pulling plays out of his ass all night. That’s why I was so discouraged we took a minor sack on third down at the New England 42 yard line. 4th & 5 isn’t all that different from the fourth down we converted last week (with the bomb to D.K.). The way we were otherwise moving the ball at will, that seemed like a pretty easy one to convert. I’m not saying the ends justify the means, but we did win the game, so I won’t complain too much. But, had we lost, this is a moment I would’ve pointed to as one of the reasons why.

Nevertheless, we had a GREAT game from Michael Dickson! No one cares about punting, of course, but he showed why he was an All Pro as a rookie two years ago. He averaged an even 50 yards per punt (with a long of 63), and all four of them ended up inside the 20 yard line (including one that died inside the two yard line all by itself, like he’d chipped it with a pitching wedge or something). That is an impact that doesn’t show up directly on the scoreboard, but it nevertheless affects the game in countless hidden ways.

Seahawks Run Defense Also Quietly Good

I know I was up there praising Cam Newton a minute ago, but this is a true statement! The Patriots as a team ran the ball 25 times for 67 yards (2.7 yards per), and the non-Cam runners were a terrible 14 carries for 20 yards (1.4 yards per). That was legitimately shocking to me. I thought for sure the Pats would Ground & Pound it up our bums, but clearly the emphasis for this defense was to stop the run at all costs (which, as it turned out, meant giving up a lot of passing yardage, as we’ll get to later).

D.K. Is Living In The Future, So The Present Is His Past

His presence is a present, kiss my ass! Stephon Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. I don’t know if he’s the best cornerback in football, but he’s up there. There were rumblings coming into this one that he would lock onto D.K. Metcalf and shut him down (while the rest of the Pats’ defense did whatever it could to stop everyone else). I never expected Russell Wilson to back down and avoid Metcalf entirely, but it wouldn’t have shocked me if we saw a quiet game out of him nevertheless.

Instead, his game was so loud it damn near made up for there being no fans in attendance!

He had four catches for a team-high 92 yards, including a 54-yard bomb that he caught over Gilmore (who was all over him, and indeed had an arm in Metcalf’s bread basket as he caught it), who was swatted away like a gnat en route to the endzone. It was incredible! Gilmore was indeed on Metcalf most of the game, which ultimately led to a near-brawl on the Seahawks sideline as Metcalf manhandled Gilmore on a block, who took offense to being dismissed accordingly. I didn’t see much between the two after that; Gilmore sat out for a play, and I think it was more of a Defend-Metcalf-By-Committee situation after that. Get used to reading about that, because every week Metcalf is inching closer to being the best in the game.

Why Not Some Words On The Kicking Game?

That D.K. touchdown tied it at 14-14, but New England marched right down the field again. Our defense stopped them at the Seattle 33 yard line, which resulted in the Pats missing a 51-yard field goal. In a game they lost by five points – which (spoiler alert!) ended with them at the goalline – that’s a pretty significant miss.

As I believe there was last year, there’s an early-season epidemic in the kicking game leaguewide. I don’t have the numbers, but they’re out there; it’s being discussed by people with more patience than me. Anyway, Jason Myers was a perfect 5/5 on extra points in this one, and considering how those are no longer automatic, it’s nice to see our guy isn’t making our lives miserable.

A Quiet End Of Half

After all that had happened to this point, it was crazy the Seahawks were in a position to take the lead heading into halftime. Following the missed field goal, we had excellent field position. But, we couldn’t get out of our own way in spite of numerous opportunities. Greg Olsen had a false start to add to his negative ledger. Wilson threw an insane forward pass when he was a good five yards beyond the line of scrimmage (and penalized accordingly). Then, we somehow got bailed out on 3rd & 19 with a defensive holding penalty. With a first down at midfield, hopes were restored, but another penalty and a sack pretty much torpedoed that drive; the only good thing we did was chew up all the clock (and punt it inside the two yard line), so the Pats had no chance to do anything.

Jamal Adams Showed Up!

I read somewhere that all of Adams’ stats happened in the second half of this game. 10 tackles (one for loss), a sack, and two hits on the quarterback. It wasn’t all DPOY roses and sunshine, though, as he gave up a number of big gains through the air (presumably playing more free safety than we would’ve liked, with Diggs ejected). His sack was huge, as he dove at Cam’s ankles to trip him up; if he’d missed, Cam definitely would’ve converted it for a first down. There were, however, at least a couple times where he had Cam dead to rights in the backfield, but Cam eluded him, which was frustrating as all get-out. Mixed bag sort of day, but this team doesn’t win this game without Jamal Adams.

More David Moore!

David Moore had a pretty underwhelming 2019, which had a lot of fans down on his prospects going forward. He seemed like Just A Guy, made more infuriating by how often Wilson tried to force it to him last year. Well, in this game, Moore showed why this team is so high on him! He ended up with 3 catches for 48 yards, but one of them went for an insane touchdown (that had a less-than 7% probability of being completed, per some weird stat I don’t understand) at the front-left corner of the endzone, to give the Seahawks a 21-17 lead early in the second half. How he managed to keep both feet in bounds while coming down with the football, I have no idea, but it was truly miraculous!

Quinton Dunbar, Hello!

Through the first half of this game, you would’ve been justified in wondering whether or not Dunbar is actually a good football player. As it stands, we might have to question whether or not he’s a good fit for this team, but I’m going to give it a few more weeks before I make any definitive statements. Anyway, he very nearly had a pick-six of his own earlier in this one, before finally succeeding in jumping an out route and picking off Cam Newton following the David Moore touchdown. It was a welcome sight! It’s been a few years since the Seahawks have had a cornerback who’s capable of generating interceptions; now, if only Dunbar can stop getting faked out on comebackers.

A Freddie Swain Sighting In The Wild

If you never expected rookie wide receiver Freddie Swain to make any sort of impact this year, don’t worry, I was right there with you! I didn’t even think he’d make the team! If anything, I thought this was a year for John Ursua to assert himself, but he seems to be on his way out of the organization (currently on the Practice Squad). Swain, however, might be a legitimate baller. He only had 1 reception for 21 yards, but he made the most of it, catching a crosser and taking it to the house for a 28-17 lead late in the third. He looked fast and crisp in his route running, everything we need out of a #4 receiver right now!

Let Cam Cook!

Cam Newton was great all game, but he really came alive in the fourth quarter. He finished with 397 yards passing and 1 TD (to go along with his rushing yards and two rushing TDs). So, taken with Atlanta’s crazy passing day last week, the Seahawks’ secondary has given up approximately 900,000 passing yards in two games, which is, you know …

It’s hard to blame the secondary too much, because he was really zipping those balls into some tight windows! For the most part, our defensive backs were in good spots to make plays, but Cam was pretty perfect.

Of course, he had all damn day to throw the ball! Oh my God, was the pass rush ever atrocious in this one! When we blitzed, it was either picked up, or Cam was able to side-step a guy and run for a first down; when we rushed four, they did nothing; when we rushed three, Cam was able to give his nails a manicure, read a magazine, wait for his hair to dry, and gab with the gals about all sorts of juicy gossip while his receivers took their sweet time getting open. It was unbelievable! I’ve never in my life seen a Seahawks pass rush this inept; it’s incredibly infuriating!

Anyway, New England took almost no time at all to make it 28-23; the only thing our defense did right on that drive was stop the 2-point conversion. The touchdown itself, though, was mighty nifty. See, every other time the Patriots got down close to the goalline, Cam lined up in shotgun, took the snap, held the ball for a second or two until a lane opened up, and ran right through it for a score. Well, this time, he did the same thing, but faked a run and threw to some fullback I’d never heard of for the score. If that continues to happen, New England will be truly unstoppable down around the endzone.

More Wilson Magic

The teams improbably traded punts on the subsequent two possessions – more due to questionable play-calling for both teams than anything the defenses managed to do – but with nine minutes left in the game, you knew the Seahawks needed to add more points. Thankfully, we have Russell Wilson (and you don’t).

The Seahawks methodically marched down the field, and on 2nd & 5 from the New England 18, he dropped a beautiful pass into Chris Carson’s arms for a 35-23 lead, with four and a half minutes to go that felt pretty insurmountable.

Superman

But, again, Cam Newton is Superman. In just over two minutes, he took New England 75 yards and, once again, plunged over the goalline to make the game 35-30. There were thoughts that the Pats might onside kick it after that; given what the Seahawks’ offense was able to do all night, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But, they had all of their time outs, so it made sense to kick it deep.

There was some iffy decisionmaking on the ensuing Seahawks possession. For starters, Chris Carson took a handoff and looked like he had a bead on a 10-yard gain. But, his momentum was about to take him out of bounds and he slid instead, to keep the clock moving. The only problem with that was: you always take the first down. Besides that, we snapped it with 2:09 left in the game; the two-minute warning was coming regardless. While I like the thought, it was just a little misguided and almost cost us.

On 2nd & 4, we handed off to Carson again, who tried to find a hole, but could only muster three yards. I didn’t LOVE the play call there; I would’ve preferred to give Wilson two cracks at throwing for a first down. But, I get it. You force New England to use a time out there, and you make it 3rd & 1, which SHOULD be easily converted every time.

The fanbase might’ve stormed CenturyLink Field and revolted had we handed off to Carson there and he was stuffed, so I was happy to see Wilson with the ball in his hands. I was MORTIFIED, however, to see Wilson chuck it deep, overthrowing Lockett by a few yards (it looked like he was moderately interfered with, but no ref worth his salt was ever going to flag that play). I don’t know what Wilson was thinking, because he had Carson wide open on a check down; he also could’ve simply run it a couple yards and kept the clock moving. Instead, it saved the Pats a time out and probably set-back the Let Russ Cook movement; any time he fails, I keep thinking the coaching staff is going to revert, so let’s not fail again for a while!

Kryptonite

New England started on their own 19 yard line after the Seahawks punt, with just under two minutes in the game and two time outs remaining. In less than a minute, the Pats were on Seattle’s side of the 50. We were able to keep most plays in front of us, and tackled guys in bounds to keep the clock moving. But, with 36 seconds remaining, Cam hit Julian Edelman for 18 yards down to the Seattle 13.

Bafflingly, New England didn’t use its last time out, so the clock ticked down to 12 seconds following an incompletion. Cam then hit a pass down to the 1 yard line with three seconds remaining, forcing New England to use their final time out. They had one play to win it! Everyone on the planet knew it was going to be a Cam Newton run; their goalline offense had been perfect to that point in the game (and probably the season, though I didn’t watch their game against Miami last week).

True to form, Cam took the ball and looked for a hole to his left. But, L.J. Collier had the play of the game, blowing it up and getting to Cam’s legs. Between him and Lano Hill on the outside, undercutting the blocking running back to force Cam inside, they really saved the day, as Cam took a 1-yard loss on the play. Game over, Seahawks win 35-30.

That’s, not for nothing, the third time in the last three matchups against the Patriots that the game has come down to a final goalline stand (with the defense prevailing every time, including Super Bowl XLIX). These games are always so ridiculously fun. No one, really, in all of football (except maybe Andy Reid) has ever been able to play chess with Bill Belichick like Pete Carroll. They are so different in their coaching styles, but so damn similar in their preparation and ability to match up with one another during games. We were never going to have Belichick as our head coach; he doesn’t strike me as a West Coast type of guy. But, it’s nice to have the next-best thing. Pete Carroll often gets overlooked around these parts – mostly by fans who grow weary of watching a conservative offense – but it’s really been an honor to have a coach like him, who sets the tone for the entire organization. There’s a reason why this team has been so good for the last decade, and while Russell Wilson deserves a lot of credit, Pete Carroll is ultimately why we’ve had so much fun watching this team over the years.

How High Can These Seahawks Fly?

The big questions heading into week two are: was Week 1 an aberration, or a sign of things to come? And, if it’s a sign of things to come, how good can this Seahawks team really be?

All you can really do – heading into a new season – is review any roster changes and see how they might fit with what you’ve seen from that team in the past. Generally, you would compare this team to what it was in 2019, but we have ten years’ worth of Seahawks teams to look at with respect to Pete Carroll, eight of those years with Russell Wilson. Knowing what we know, having seen what we’ve seen, it was sensible to expect more of the same: a balanced offense, relying on the defense to keep it close, and hope our All Pro quarterback can pull it out in the fourth quarter. For a team that’s only missed the playoffs twice under Pete Carroll – and only once with Russell Wilson at quarterback – clearly “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” comes into account.

That’s why last week was such a shock – a welcome shock, don’t get me wrong – because it was SO unexpected. Part of me saw them throwing on that first drive and thought, “Well, they’re just doing this to shut the fans up; they’ll get back to a run-heavy approach on the next drive.” But, the passes kept coming, and coming, and coming, and before we knew what hit us, the Seahawks turned into the 2019 Chiefs!

You’ll recall that’s a team that won the Super Bowl. So, in answer to the second big question listed at the top: that’s how good this team can be. With Russell Wilson playing out of his mind, with this offense putting up that many points every week, it doesn’t really matter what the defense does; as long as it’s not dead-last in all of football, this team will win 12+ games, the NFC West, and could very well advance to the Super Bowl if things go right in the playoffs.

BUT, remember that caveat: if Week 1 was a sign of things to come, and not just a one-time treat.

I’m going to stick with my cautiously-optimistic stance for a bit here (instead of full-blown elation), for two reasons. For starters, Pete Carroll was already quoted this week complaining about how few carries the running backs had against Atlanta. 16 carries split between the three of them. Chris Carson is still one of the best running backs in football – as evidenced by his two receiving touchdowns – but he only had six carries! That’s not good enough. In a game we won by double-digits, it’s weird that we didn’t have more of a running game presence in the fourth quarter. So, I would expect Carroll will get his way as early as this week in pounding the rock more than we did last week.

The other cause for concern is our opponent: the New England Patriots. Their defense is crafted much like ours, in that their biggest strength is in the secondary. While I don’t expect the Seahawks to completely revert back to their 2019 form, it would make sense to neutralize things a little bit by hitting the Pats where they’re weakest: defending the run.

That isn’t to say the Pats are bad at defending the run; I can’t say with any certainty one way or the other. Against the Dolphins last week, they held them to 87 yards and a 3.2 yards per carry average; however, the Dolphins’ top two rushers combined for 62 of those yards on 14 carries, for a 4.4 yard average. The Dolphins were playing from behind for most of the game, so they didn’t have the luxury of working that part of their offense in more.

It’ll be REALLY interesting to see what how the Patriots gameplan the Seahawks’ offense. Bill Belichick famously creates a new scheme every week, based on his opponent, to take away whatever it is they do best. Now, he’s a smart man, and he surely knows Russell Wilson is what this team does best, so I don’t expect him to neglect defending the pass in any way. But, will he see this Seahawks team through the lens of what happened last week, or the previous ten years?

The Seahawks offense has been built around two concepts: running the ball and completing deep passes. Last week, the Seahawks completed exactly one deep pass (the 4th down touchdown to D.K. Metcalf), and as I mentioned, hardly ran the ball at all. Most of these were short-to-intermediate routes, which is completely counter to everything we’ve ever done before. Pete Carroll prides himself on his offenses taking care of the football. Running, and throwing deep balls to guys in one-on-one situations, are the safest things you can do. As long as your running back isn’t a fumbler, with a guy like Wilson chucking it, you feel like you have a minimal risk of turning it over on a bomb (either your guy gets it, or it’s incomplete; even in the rare instances where it’s picked, that’s still sort of like a punt in the field position game). The odds of turning it over increase when you throw it a lot, and throw it in those short-to-intermediate routes (where there are lots of different defenders running around, some in areas you wouldn’t expect them to be).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks are going to totally revert to what they’ve always done, but I do think it will be difficult to run that same gameplan out there for a second week in a row and have the same level of success. I think the running game will have to be incorporated more, for the simple reason that I don’t think the Patriots’ coverage will be as soft as the Falcons’ coverage was last week. If their corners start bullying our receivers at the line of scrimmage, or if the Pats play significantly more zone – while their D-Line does everything it can to keep Wilson in the pocket – I think that’ll open us up to switch to running plays at the line of scrimmage. It won’t be the coaching staff asserting their dominance, it’ll be Wilson doing the smart thing and checking to what the defense is giving us.

It has never made sense to continually pound the running back into 8-man boxes. I think what we saw against the Falcons had to do with exactly that: giving our quarterback the freedom to make smart decisions on the fly.

I actually like the Seahawks in this one. It’s a night game, for one, and you know how we always show up for those. While the home-field advantage won’t be there – with no fans in the stands – I would argue that hasn’t been as effective in recent years, as most teams have adapted to playing on a silent count. I just think we’re better than them at this point.

Now, that isn’t to say I believe we’ll blow out the Pats (though, I’m not throwing that concept out of bed either). I kind of see this as a normal Seattle/Carolina matchup, only with a better coaching staff. Cam Newton is the star of that offense (an offense that is pretty bereft of talent, even by Cam Newton standards); he’ll be the man we need to beat. The Patriots have built an offense that features his skillset (meaning: lots of designed quarterback runs) that might end up being even better than some of those elite offenses he ran with the Panthers (having him on a one-year deal makes this more palatable, as if you run him into the ground or get him injured, it’s no long-term risk to your franchise). With Julian Edelman being the only guy that scares you from that receiving corps, it’s never been more The Cam Newton Show than it will be this year. And, for as savvy as Edelman is, I think our cornerbacks won’t have trouble keeping up with him, for the most part.

It’s almost like the Seahawks traded for Jamal Adams with this game in mind in particular. As we all saw, Adams was all over the place last week, frequently up at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, and also frequently diving into the backfield to chase after the quarterback or running back. He was often successful, and more importantly, he punished anyone that he ended up hitting. My biggest concern in this game isn’t the pass rush; it’s the run defense. The Falcons, when they did run the ball, were pretty successful, including a number of chunk runs through considerable holes created by their otherwise so-so offensive line. It’s been YEARS since the Patriots have had an alpha dog at running back; they usually have three or four guys they like to work in there throughout every game. So, it doesn’t really matter who they hand it to, if their O-Line is able to do to our run defense what the Falcons were able to do, they’re going to have an easy time moving the ball down the field (made even easier by the fact that Cam Newton, when healthy, is in the top two among rushing quarterbacks with Lamar Jackson).

That’s where Jamal Adams comes in. Cam is an elite runner; we need an elite defender to shadow him. Bobby Wagner has traditionally been that man for us, and he’ll certainly play a significant role in following Cam around and keeping him in check. But, as we saw last year, Bobby can’t do everything by himself. Having Adams right there with him should be the difference-maker in keeping this Patriots offense from blowing up.

I’ll also be very interested in seeing what Bruce Irvin and L.J. Collier can do in setting the edge on either side of the line. Keeping Cam contained as a scrambler is just as important as stopping him on those designed runs. Irvin didn’t seem to do a whole lot last week, but as the game went on I thought he did a good job of setting that edge (of course, where is the statue that is Matt Ryan going to run to?); he’s going to be vital in this one, and I think he has what it takes to step up in a big way.

I’m a little over 50% convinced the Seahawks win in a close game. I also think there’s a reasonable chance we prevail by double-digits again (in which case, go ahead and lump us in with the Ravens and Chiefs as the best teams in football, because it’ll be Go Time, my friends!). The only way we lose is the same way most elite offenses like ours end up losing: by keeping them on the sidelines. If the Patriots convert an insanely-high percentage of 3rd/4th downs and dominate Time of Possession, they could steal a close one late in the game. There’s an infinitesimal chance the Pats blow us out, so small as to not even be worth thinking about.

I am SOOOOOO excited for this game! Even more than I was last week, and that had all the juice of being the first game of football I’ve seen since the Super Bowl (not counting the Thursday Night game, of course). I think we’re all holding our breath and crossing our fingers and rubbing our lucky rabbit’s feet that this offense will come out slinging it just like we did last week (and, not only that, but producing a similar type of production from a points perspective). All of our collective worst nightmare is if we continue to throw the ball and it fails; we endure multiple 3 & Outs and turnovers in the process. Because then, you seriously have to wonder about the coaching staff abandoning it and going back to what worked before.

Our enjoyment of football is on the line, people! On the biggest stage, against history’s best-ever football coach, and the team that has far-and-away won the most football games over the last two decades! If we succeed here, the rest of 2020 shapes up as one of the most fun football seasons we’ve ever seen. If we fail, the cost will be enormous.

I know I sound like those lying politicians who say this election is the most important in history (how can they ALL be the most important?), but I’ve never been so on edge for a Week 2 football game in my life. I’m 1-0 in both of my fantasy football leagues, yet all I can think about is the actual football team I follow? You KNOW this is a big one!