Seahawks are only halfway done learning the hard way
The Seahawks will tell you that they're a few little things away from being a solid team. But leaks are leaks. They have a lot of messes to clean up before they can even play competent football, let alone compete consistently against good teams.
Seattle Times staff columnist
ARLINGTON, Texas — Tarvaris Jackson stood in the front of a near-empty locker room. The equipment, the players and their excuses were all but gone, and the probing media questions had been asked, except for one throwaway query about how the Seahawks could turn around a season trending toward miserable.
The quarterback was appropriately blunt.
"We've got to score points and stop killing ourselves," Jackson said.
Oh, is that all?
If only producing points and eliminating self-abuse were as easy as acknowledging the problems. If only those were the only problems. The Seahawks know their issues, at least. It's difficult to ignore leaks, especially the persistent and annoying ones that plague this team. But there are so many holes. Plug one leak, and another drips water on their foreheads.
In that sense, the Seahawks' 23-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was a fitting conclusion to the first half of this rebuilding season. The Seahawks (2-6) finally plugged their running-game leak, only to be doused by the rest of their problems.
After a great week of preparation, emphasis and communication, the Seahawks thought they had a winning, run-oriented game plan. And maybe they would have won if they didn't commit 10 penalties, give up 442 yards, produce zero sacks and watch Jackson throw three interceptions. Maybe Marshawn Lynch running for 135 of the team's season-high 162 rushing yards would've meant something if the defense hadn't allowed a season-worst 163 rushing yards.
"This was a classic game where a football team goes out, plays real hard and makes the mistakes that put you in the loss column," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Actually, it's just the classic example of how the Seahawks have lost by any means necessary this season. At the midpoint of the 2011 season, they're living out the worst-case scenario of a young team led by an unremarkable quarterback. They're as erratic as Brandon Browner in press coverage.
Consider how the Seahawks have lost their six games. In Week 1, the Seahawks lost to San Francisco because their offense was horrible in the first half, and their special teams were embarrassing in the second half. In Week 2, the Seahawks lost to Pittsburgh because they were so worried about pass protection that they really didn't give themselves a chance to make plays down the field.
In Week 4, the Seahawks fell behind 27-7 to Atlanta, rallied and then came up short as Carroll bypassed a fourth-down conversion attempt and asked Steven Hauschka to try an ill-fated 61-yard field goal at the end. In Week 7, with backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst starting, the Seahawks lost 6-3 to Cleveland in the lowest-scoring game in franchise history. In Week 8, a combination of bad special teams, penalties, bad offense and a few Carroll coaching miscues resulted in a loss to Cincinnati.
And now there's this game, the first major defensive letdown of the season. The Seahawks allowed 304 of those 442 yards in the first half, but they survived because the Cowboys managed just six points despite driving inside the 5-yard line three times before halftime.
The score was tied at 6 at the break. The script for an upset was being written. In the locker room, the Seahawks told themselves they just needed to regroup as a defense — they've been a good second-half defense all season — and keep running the football.
And in the second half, the Seahawks did both of those things. But the game still got away from them.
Why? Because seven of their 10 penalties came in the second half, some of which hindered promising drives. Because Jackson threw three interceptions in the second half. Because the big play finally burned them, as defensive miscommunication on a seam route resulted in Tony Romo hitting Jason Witten for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. At last, the Cowboys had found the end zone. They relaxed, the Seahawks pressed, and an upset bid turned into a debacle.
The Seahawks will tell you that they're a few little things away from being a solid team. But leaks are leaks. They have a lot of messes to clean up before they can even play competent football, let alone compete consistently against good teams. This season is about development, and as the second half begins, the pressure is on to see tangible progress, particularly on offense.
"I am really disappointed at where we are," Carroll said. "We thought we could be better."
Oh, they'll improve, just not enough to be fully functional in 2011. The midpoint of this season only means the Seahawks are halfway through their growing pains.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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