Thanksgiving weekend is a time for turkey and shopping, football and raking leaves, drinking beer and leftovers.
I did all those things this weekend, in no particular order, and except for the food, it was a disaster. The football sucked like a black hole on vacation. Watching the Seahawks come off a bye week at 6-4 with a top 10 defense and a swagger to a sunny 75 degree half-filled at best Miami was like carving the turkey open to find the Alien baby smiling at you.
This game pissed me off in every way imaginable. Pets for a 25 mile radius were cowering in their beds at the high-pitched screeching emanating from my house as the Seahawks took another road trip and treated it like a bad ’80s spring break movie.
Maybe it was the balmy weather after a week of 50 degrees and rain in the Seattle area. Maybe it was the longest point-to-point flight in the continental U.S. or perhaps it was the sprinklers coming on in the middle of the game. Whatever it was, it was frustrating to watch the defense start out playing well but get lethargic and finally collapse while the offense started like they were still on the plane before getting hot and then collapsing in the end.
It’s tempting to point to one play and say that play caused the loss. In this game, it would have to be the roughing the passer penalty called against Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, wiping out an interception by linebacker Bobby Wagner in the end zone. Thomas raced towards a rolling out Ryan Tannehill (Miami QB), leaping in the air as high as he could to block the pass before coming down into Tannehill. There was no malice in the collision, no desire to take out the quarterback, and no late hit intent, yet the referee decided that Thomas had broken the rules because he didn’t levitate or change direction in mid-air.
I understand that the rules are there to protect the players but the contact was minimal, at best. This was a roughing the passer penalty that should have never been called, it was bullshit at the time and it’s bullshit now. Thomas was in the air while the ball was still in Tannehill’s hand! What was he supposed to do?
As many times as you see quarterbacks hit a second after the throw, with the intent to hit them hard, and there isn’t a flag when there should be, if this is the criteria that the referee was going by anyway. I’d be interested to know how many times this referee has called that particular penalty. I know he didn’t call it any other time in this game, despite seeing both quarterbacks on their back long after the ball was gone. And hey, by the way, nice flop by Tannehill there too.
Okay, deep breaths and back to reality. While I’m a firm believer there isn’t just one play that makes or breaks a game neither is there one player or unit that deserves all the blame. Quarterbacks get too much of that, for example.
So it would be easy to blame the defense for allowing three drives of more than 220 yards, two touchdowns and a field goal to blow two seven-point leads late in the game. Yes, the unit was instrumental in losing the game with such a monumental collapse against at team that was average, at best, on offense.
But the defense wasn’t alone. The Seahawks offense was morbidly bad in the beginning of the game, going three and out four straight times to begin the game. They collected a 12 men in the huddle penalty on the third play of the game. The offense didn’t get their first 1st down until a minute into the second quarter. It was ugly like a Wal-Mart at two in the morning.
The running game was beyond bad as the offensive line couldn’t compare to Miami’s defensive line. The play by play chart is littered with run plays getting no gain, two yards, or negative yardage. Despite the constant lack of success, the announcers, the incomparably bad Chris Meyers and Tim Ryan, cheered offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s determination to keep running the ball. It was obvious from early on that the Seahawks needed to attack the Dolphins’ defense in a different direction but you wouldn’t know it listening to them or from watching the game.
This leads me to my other culprit. I felt the whole game that the Seahawks game plan was to be as conservative as possible on offense. It’s understandable since Russell Wilson has been a much different quarterback on the road than at home. He’s undefeated at home, hasn’t thrown an interception and looks completely in command of the offense.
The difference is that, in Miami, Wilson looked much more comfortable and in control. The game plan was designed with lots of runs and short passes. These didn’t work so the coaching staff should have adjusted to it and scrapped the conservative crap.
When Seattle did move the ball in the second quarter, they drove down to the Miami 38-yard line. Facing a 4th-and-1 decision, Pete Carroll decided against going for it or kicking a 53-yard field goal. He lost his balls and punted it, gambling on a field position game rather than a shootout. At the time I agreed with him, thinking that eventually the offense would break through. That should have warned me right then that the decision was a bad one.
Passing on points when they would be at a premium turned out to be a very bad idea. I don’t know if Steven Hauschka could have kicked it from there but a couple of years ago Carroll had him try a 61-yarder against Atlanta. That was in Seattle in less than ideal weather conditions. It was short and Seattle lost but the conditions in Miami were pristine for kicking the ball and 53 yards should be well within the modern NFL kicker range.
With the game tied at 21 late, Seattle was moving the ball nicely in what looked to be a game-winning drive. With the ball at the Miami 40-yard line at the two-minute warning, Bevell’s nuts shriveled and the Seahawks went three plays that were a run for -1 yard, a screen pass for -6 yards, and a sack for -2 yards.
At this point, it felt inevitable that the Seahawks were going to lose again. When Tannehill hit Davone Bess, yet again wide open, for 19 yards on the Dolphins’ first play, the bottom dropped out of my stomach. Miami ran seven plays on the final drive, in 1:47, and had four 1st downs.
I had to go outside and work in the yard for a bit, to calm down, to get some fresh air, and to work some of the long line of profanities out of my sentence structures. Coming back into the house, my mind a little calmer, I opened my laptop to write a fresh draft. The headline that greeted me was “Seahawks CBs facing suspensions.”
There ain’t enough yard work in the world to work through this knockout shot. I was just thinking that the Seahawks still had the inside track to the wild card if Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and New Orleans lost. All of that happened so sure, yeah, bright side. Woo fucking hoo.
It won’t matter if Seattle has to play four of the last five games without their star cornerbacks. Three of those five games are against division opponents, games the Seahawks have to win to be in the playoffs. Hell, they need to basically win four out of the last five to lock up that wild card.
If this was a movie, the Seahawks would rally around this news and make a Hollywood push to a Super Bowl win. It isn’t Hollywood and that’s not going to happen.
I’m the last person to pull the plug on things. I’m really the eternal optimist when it comes to my teams. I believed the Sonics would never leave. I thought Jim Mora would be a good coach. I wanted Rick Meier to throw to his left. I hoped that Alex Rodriguez was serious when he said it wasn’t about the money. I bought into the Boz.
But I’m not feeling it now. Maybe it’s too soon after the loss. Maybe the loss and suspensions were too overwhelming to be dealt with together. Maybe another beer and another day will make things look better.
I hope so. I sincerely hope so.
Until then, the currently 6-5 Seahawks have to suck it up and get ready to play an injury-depleted Chicago Bears team in Chicago next.
Photo Credits: Gerry Broome/AP