Monday, October 13, 2014

The morning after blues for Seahawks’ fans

Who was at fault for the Seattle Seahawks “humiliating” loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a team that most of the locals had written-off as frauds on defense and had no chance if Tony Romo was forced to air it out against the most awesome secondary the world has ever seen? It was true that this game could have gone one of two other ways: A missed opportunity for a 100-yard interception return could have given the Seahawks a presumably psychologically-damaging 17-0 lead (although the Cowboys recovered from a 21-0 deficit to win against St. Louis earlier in the season, with Romo having a QBR of 99.1 out of a possible 100), or the game could have been what it appeared in the box score, say a 37-9 fundament-spanking. 

Coach Pete Carroll, of course, gave Dallas their just due in his subsequent press conferences, observing that the Cowboys were prepared to play and his team was not. Even in special teams, which was responsible for both of the Seahawks’ touchdowns after Dallas miscues, the Cowboys recovered to prevent Percy Harvin from returning three kicks to the 20-yard line in the second half. Despite the fact that the Seahawks had sustained injuries on defense, they still had Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman on the field—and they could not prevent Romo from converting on critical third and longs (8,9, 14 and 20 yards).  

What was most interesting about the postgame commentary was the blame heaped on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for not calling enough running plays for Marshawn Lynch. Consider: After Dallas came back to make the score 10-7, Lynch ran for 3 yards, Wilson was sacked twice, hurried on an incompletion, and there was a false start penalty. This should have been an omen for things to come; the Cowboys’ controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Negate a 32-yard run and the Seahawks gained only 48 yards on 17 carries; when the running game is so inconsistent, and in most cases if two run plays would set up third and five situations, and with the passing game inefficient, the question is whether to pass or run on two of the three downs, and which is more likely to achieve first down yardage; common sense would suggest that two pass plays (even if only one is for positive yardage) is more likely to gain the required yards than two running plays. 

Of course, it wasn’t Romo who “imploded” as the Seattle Times Jerry Brewer expected; that was Russell Wilson. All I ever hear around here is that Wilson is an “elite” quarterback, a “future” Hall of Famer. There is even intimations that he is a “franchise” quarterback. If all of that is true, than why is it that the Seahawks can only win if they don’t stray from “who they are”—meaning an offense that is based on the running game? Are they saying that they can’t win with Wilson passing the ball? What else could they be saying? Are they too cowardly to admit to the implication that they are putting forward? The stats don’t lie: The Seahawks are second from the bottom in the NFL in passing yards. 

Another problem is that the Seahawks are allowing the opponent to score more points than in previous seasons. In 2012, the opposition scored 70 points in the first five games; in 2013 it was 81 points. This season the opposition has scored 113 points, and average of 22.6 points again. Furthermore, the offense has gained only 7 more yards than that allowed by the defense, and overall, the defense has not “outperformed” the offense as it has the past two seasons. Thus I can see how Bevell can be in a bind in his play-calling; for the Seahawks, both sides of the ball have to be playing at least up to their capabilities—and if the defense is not, as against San Diego and Dallas, you have to find out what your quarterback is made of, because the running game is simply too inconsistent a weapon. It is all too often that one or two long runs can make the final stats look a lot better than what actually occurred on the field (last season, Terrell Pryor set an NFL record for quarterbacks with a 93-yard run; the rest of that game he ran 10 times for only 8 yards). 

I’m not a Seahawks fan, so it makes no difference to me what they do this season, although my sense is that they are not going to the Super Bowl this time; they might not even make the playoffs if they become as “predictable” as the locals think they should be. The NFL, after all, is still a league where passing the ball has been the beneficiary of many rule changes, and a team that can’t pass under pressure when it needs to can’t survive for long. It is just a “gimmick” team that got lucky one year.

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