Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
When the newest member of the Seattle Seahawks’ famed Legion of Boom, cornerback Cary Williams, strip sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles on a blitz, picked up the loose ball and returned it for the go ahead touchdown with less than 5 minutes to go in the Seahawks game against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, most “twelves” took a deep breath and relaxed a little. After all, the play culminated a Seahawks seven minute stretch of fourth quarter dominance in which they had outscored the Rams 18-0 to turn a 24-13 deficit into a 31-24 advantage; and it now appeared certain the Hawks would escape the Edward Jones Dome with a victory. It was a marvelous play by Williams; one that demonstrated that on this mistake filled Sunday the Seahawks still had some of that old magic. The relaxation didn’t last long, however. On the Rams subsequent possession they drove the length of the field against Seattle’s defense, going 84 yards in 12 plays to score the game tying touchdown when Kam Chancellor’s replacement, Dion Bailey, fell down while trying to cover Ram’s tight end Lance Kendricks. Bailey’s slip left Kendricks all alone to haul in a 37 yard scoring throw from Foles, and the Rams went on to win the game in overtime 34-31.
If you read it, you will recall that I mentioned in last week’s blog that Hawks fans shouldn’t get too low if the team loses a couple of games in the early going this season. Sunday’s game against the Rams demonstrates the logic of my comment. The Seahawks are trying to incorporate into both their offensive and defensive units a large number of changes, and it will take a little time to accomplish that. In the meantime, as you saw last Sunday, there will be mistakes. I have now watched that Seahawks-Rams game all the way through twice and here is what I noted that Pete Carroll and company need to “clean up”, as Pete likes to say:
Offensive Line Play: The Seahawks gave up 6 sacks of Russell Wilson in this game. At one point late in the first half the Hawks QB had been sacked 3 times, hit 5 times and hurried 9 times; a lot for not even a half of football. By my count, on two of the sacks, though he was hurried, Wilson held on to the ball too long and should have unloaded it. On the others the inexperience of the Seattle line was supremely evident. They were ill equipped to handle the Rams blitz, which got to Wilson several times; and Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn both wrought their usual havoc, recording two sacks each. On one play Donald just completely overmatched Seattle’s Justin Britt with an inside move before planting Wilson on his backside. On another Quinn simply speed rushed around Seattle’s left tackle Russell Okung, rendering him not much more than a speed bump on his way to the Hawks QB. The O-line did a better job on running plays, but the inexperience even showed there; particularly on the game’s last play—the 4th down and one Marshawn Lynch run that the Ram’s were able to stuff. On that play Seahawks right tackle Gary Gilliam was just blown up by the Rams Michael Brockers, who knocked Gilliam backwards into Lynch’s path; and the ubiquitous Aaron Donald just seemed to be not blocked at all. Together the two Rams players destroyed any chance Lynch had to pick up that yard.
Red Zone Efficiency—FGs Instead of TDs: The Hawks kicked three field goals in this game. I must confess to you, I hate field goals! They are OK for the other team—I just hate them for our team. To me they represent failure more than success; not so much the three points on the score board, but the negative four points the team didn’t get by not scoring a touchdown. Had Seattle converted any one of those three field goals to a touchdown, this game does not go into overtime and the Hawks win. Red Zone efficiency has been a problem for the Seahawks. In this game Seattle’s Red Zone efficiency was 25 per cent (one TD in four red zone trips), which, through the season’s first week, is 27th in the league. For all of last season the Hawks were 20th in the league in Red Zone efficiency at just over 50 per cent. Handling this problem was a big reason Seattle went out and got elite tight end Jimmy Graham from New Orleans. While Graham caught six passes in this game and scored Seattle’s lone touchdown, the Hawks must start showing major improvement, whether through utilizing Graham or someone else, at scoring touchdowns when they get inside the opponent’s twenty yard line.
Pass Defense-Secondary Play: The Seahawks did a good job shutting down theRams running game last Sunday, holding them to 76 yards rushing and a less than 3 yards per carry average. Rams quarterback Nick Foles, however, burned Seattle for nearly 300 yards passing and one scoring pass, while completing 18 of 27 throws. His passer rating for the game was 115.8 and he threw no interceptions. If you doubted the importance of Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks defense you need look no further than the performance of the St. Louis tight ends last Sunday to disabuse you of your doubt. Ordinarily Chancellor plays a major role in Seattle’s ability to shut down opposing tight ends. Recall how the Hawks shut down the Panthers Greg Olsen in last season’s playoffs, and the 49ers Vernon Davis every time they play him; and even Jimmy Graham himself when he was with the Saints. In last Sunday’s game the St. Louis tight ends, Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks, caught a combined seven balls for 127 yards and the aforementioned game tying touchdown. Often they were just running free in the secondary, including on the game tying touchdown play at the end of the fourth quarter. On that play Chancellor’s replacement at strong safety, Dion Bailey, looked to be trying to play press coverage on Kendricks instead of playing him “over the top” (meaning in such a way as to not allow Kendricks to get behind him.) As a result Kendricks just blew by Bailey, and when the young safety tried to accelerate after him his footing gave way and he fell down. That, and who knows how many other completions, never would have happened with Chancellor back there. You can’t really blame Bailey, these things happen in football; especially with young players lacking in experience. Since it looks like Chancellor won’t be back any time soon the Seahawks have no choice except to “coach up” Bailey fast and fix up their other mistakes. How quickly they can do it will have a major bearing on this weekend’s game against the Green Bay Packers, for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, no doubt, licking his chops at what he is seeing in the Seahawks film of the Rams game.
All of this is not to say that there weren’t some positives in this game. The Seahawks receivers, particularly Jermaine Kearse (8 catches), Doug Baldwin (7 catches), Jimmy Graham (6 catches) and Tyler Lockett (4 catches) all played well and I cannot recall seeing a drop by any of them. Marshawn Lynch ran the ball hard gaining 73 yards on 18 carries (4.0 average per carry). Lockett demonstrated once again what a threat he is when he returned the first punt he fielded in his NFL career 57 yards for Seattle’s first touchdown. Russell Wilson played well enough to win this game, completing 32 of 41 for 251 yards, one TD and one interception. He also rushed for 30 yards.
These things are all good, but a performance equal to last Sunday’s in this upcoming game against the Packers will, I think, mean another loss on the Hawks’ early season resumé. Green Bay is a team itching for some payback for last season’s overtime NFC Championship loss in Seattle. If the Hawks’ secondary does not play better you can expect the man widely considered to be the best quarterback in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, to have a huge day; and Seattle’s offensive line simply must get better for the Seahawks to have a chance at Lambeau Field.
I think the Seahawks will be better. The question is: will it be enough for Seattle to steal a victory over Rodgers and his Packers at Lambeau?
Right now I honestly don’t know—but it sure is going to be fun to find out.
Copyright © 2015
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved
 Red Zone Efficiency is simply defined as the rate at which a team scores touchdowns once they move inside the opposing team’s 20 yard line. (From the opponent’s 20 yard line to their goal line is called the Red Zone) For example, if the Seahawks had four drives that reached the rams 20 yard line or better and scored a TD on only one of them, their Red Zone efficiency would be 25%.