I’ll admit it.
I was impressed with the drive Russell Wilson led in the fourth quarter on Sunday to take the lead late against the Detroit Lions. I marveled at the catch tight end Zach Miller made in the end zone to get his first touchdown for the Seahawks after signing a huge free agent contract two years ago.
I wasn’t prematurely celebrating a win but I was feeling good. After all these years as a Seattle sports fan, I know better than that. I did, however, have faith in the defense to get a stop.
Looking back now, I’m not sure why. Seattle’s defense hadn’t stopped the Lions all day. In fact, at the halfway point of the season, it appears abundantly clear that the offense and defense have changed places.
In two of the last three games, the Seahawks defense has given up 300+ yards passing. In the third game, it gave up almost 200 yards rushing.
With just over five minutes and 80 yards to go, Matt Stafford marched the Lions down the field in 16 plays, methodically carving up the Seahawks and throwing the clinching touchdown with 20 seconds left to Titus Young.
The offense, on the other hand, has improved every game. Wilson has progressed far faster than I thought he would. The 24 points Seattle scored against Detroit is their highest output on the road this season.
Not that the offense was perfect.
The running game was completely abandoned, with 12 rushes total for Marshawn Lynch. Sure, he gained 105 yards total but one of the rushes was for 77 yards, so that total is misleading. Take out that run and Lynch ran 11 times for 28 yards, not at all the success Seattle is used to having running the ball.
Detroit’s strength on defense is the line. The Seahawks tried to run inside and got stuffed multiple times. The most success was to the outside and Seattle refused to run more there.
The play calling was terrible at times.
At the end of the first half, for example, Seattle got the ball with 47 seconds left, three timeouts, and a 17-14 lead. The Keystone Kops routine that followed was way too familiar for Seahawks fans.
A run from the shotgun formation and three short passes up the middle got Seattle to the Detroit 41 yard line with 12 seconds. Seattle ran two more plays, and here’s where it got ugly.
Instead of trying something to get a lot of yards and a possible touchdown, the Seahawks got conservative and looked for a field goal.
A run that got stuffed for -2 yards and an incomplete short pass to Zach Miller; that’s what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell dialed up after two time outs. What in the world is he thinking there? Where is the shot deep? Where is the crossing route, the slant, or the post route? You’ve got a time out and an incompletion stops the clock anyway. Roll the fucking dice!
Neither play worked; neither were a shot at the end zone. It was frustrating and the field goal attempt came up short from 61 yards. Those three points could have come in useful in the second half. That series comes down to Bevell’s nuts shrinking back up into his body.
1. Receivers – After dropping everything against San Francisco, Seattle’s receivers, particularly Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, caught everything close to them.
Tate had 7 receptions on 7 targeted throws, and for 64 yards, including a big catch on fourth down to extend the final drive. Anthony McCoy, who is notorious for having butterfingers, caught both passes thrown his way. Miller’s catch was easily one of the best catches I’ve seen yet.
It was a great reaction to the dropopalooza the week before.
2. Penalties – 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh whined to the league and the media during the week about Seattle corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman being too physical on his wide receivers. I was expecting a flurry of flags to appease the douchebag but Seattle was only penalized twice for two yards.
As an aside, I thought it was interesting Harbaugh did this a week after acting outraged that NY Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride mentioned to the media that 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith gets away with holding a lot. Harbaugh acted like Gilbride was the worst kind of human for talking to the media about it.
A week later, Harbaugh is complaining to the media about the Seahawks corners after a game his team won. Does he wonder why a lot of people can’t stand him?
3. Russell Wilson – Wilson had his best game on the road as a Seahawk player, going 25 for 35, 236 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. His rating of 96.8 is easily his best rating on the road. On the scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, he was 6-for-8 for 75 yards.
1. Run Game – Apart from the 77 yard run to start the second quarter, Lynch was held in check by the Lions defense and some amazingly bad play calling.
The Seahawks ran only 19 times overall and when they did, it was invariably inside and stopped for little to no gain. Any gains the running game did make were to the outside but Seattle didn’t exploit that.
2. Play Calling – Overall, it wasn’t Halloween horrible but it wasn’t good.
Bevell continued to call wide receiver bubble screens that lost yardage every time, inside runs that got stuffed, and couldn’t figure out ways to adjust to what Detroit was doing on defense. It’s frustrating to see the same plays being run when they’re not working.
3. Richard Sherman – He changed his Twitter handle to Optimus Prime to shut down Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Johnson ended up with three catches on eight targets, none against Sherman, so that worked.
What didn’t work was giving up an over-the-top touchdown to Titus Young for 46 yards. What’s worse, it was on third and 11 play. Third down! You’re supposed to be locking up the receiver, keeping him from getting the first down and you let him run right past you untouched for a deep touchdown. Time to change the handle to Optimus Toast.
1. Third Down Defense – Detroit went 12-for-16 on third down, converting 75% of its third downs. 75%!
On 15 of them, it threw the ball, attacking the corners. The one time Detroit ran, it was a quarterback bootleg by Stafford on the one yard line for a touchdown. Nobody is going to win when the defense cannot get off the field on third down.
2. Defense – In fact, teams are figuring out how to attack the Seahawks defense and it’s getting uglier all the time.
The main problem, to my eyes, is that the Seattle linebackers can’t cover anyone. Rookie Bobby Wagner, second year man KJ Wright, and veteran Leroy Hill are doing good in run support but horrible in pass coverage and blitz attempts.
Tight ends are cashing paychecks against the Seahawks linebackers. With Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady threw for 395 yards. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler helped Matthew Stafford throw for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
It wasn’t just the tight ends for the Lions though. Megatron might have gotten shut down but Titus Young caught nine passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
At times it felt like the whole secondary was covering Johnson but the rest of the Lions were roaming free wherever they liked.
Against the 49ers, the linebackers got killed with the short dump passes over the middle and running up the middle. It looks like the weak link in the defense is the linebackers.
3. Interception – Wilson made one bad pass and it got picked off. He saw Rice get free along the right sideline late and tried to lead him too far with way too much air under the ball.
It’s not the first time Wilson has overthrown a ball like that, and this time Lions safety Ricardo Silva had plenty of time to get over and pick the ball off. A good throw there hits Rice in stride, giving him the chance to run free to the end zone.
This game was so frustrating because the Seahawks had a 17-7 lead halfway through the second quarter with the offense looking good. It was a game Seattle needed to win on the road to finish the first half of the season 5-3 with five home games in the second half of the season.
Instead the defense collapses, the running game disappears, and the Seahawks are 4-4. If you want to look at playoff possibilities, Seattle needs to go 6-2 to even be in the conversation. That mean it has to win every game at home, including against the Vikings, Jets, and 49ers, and get at least one on the road against the Dolphins, Bears, and Bills. While I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, the task got much harder with this loss.
It’s too early to be marking off future wins and losses though. The Seahawks return home to host the Vikings on November 4. It’s as big a must win as any game this season for Seattle.
Photo credits: LEON HALIP / GETTY IMAGES, PAUL SANCYA / AP, AL MESSERSCHMIDT / GETTY IMAGES, RICK OSENTOSKI / AP