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Seahawks review: Three likes and dislikes about the 20-16 loss to Arizona
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It would be a lot easier to load up on the dislikes, but that's no good for your health. Besides, this game review is designed to give a balanced perspective.
Let's start negative and end positive.
1. The offensive line's pass protection. In his first real game, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson didn't resemble the electric player who won the starting job with stellar preseason play. But truth be told, he often didn't have a chance to show anything. The Seahawks never solved Arizona's pass rush. Wilson, who completed only 18 of 34 passes for 153 yards and was sacked three times, often couldn't finish a seven-step drop before defenders were lunging at him. It was a poor effort for a Seahawks offensive line that improved greatly at the end of last season. Poor play-calling contributed, too, and certainly Wilson made mistakes as well. But the Seahawks' O-line is better than this, and it must perform up to a higher standard. Right tackle Breno Giacomini struggled mightily on pass plays. Left tackle Russell Okung looked rusty coming off a season-ending injury in 2011, and he limped off the field late in the game with a knee injury. Rookie guard J.R. Sweezy looked shaky, too, at times. Overall, the O-line performance was eerily reminiscent of the way San Francisco's pass rush overwhelmed the Seahawks in the 2011 season opener.
2. Another fourth-quarter loss. I devoted my Monday column to the issue. The Seahawks lost six games that were decided late in the fourth quarter a year ago, and most blamed that on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who started five of those losses. Well, T-Jack is in Buffalo now, and the Seahawks still can't finish. It's not a good problem to have if you're a team that figures to play a lot of close games. And for the Seahawks, it's a multifaceted issue.
3. Inefficiency in the red zone. The Seahawks scored a touchdown in only one of four red-zone attempts. They had to settle for field goals twice, and on their final drive, they couldn't score despite running seven plays in the red zone. Their longest scoring drive was 33 yards.
1. Leon Washington is still a weapon in the return game. All of the pre-game talk about special teams centered around Arizona returner Patrick Peterson. But the Seahawks kept Peterson under control (four punt returns, 37 yards), and Washington became the game's special-teams star. His 83-yard kickoff return in the third quarter sparked the Seahawks' comeback from a 13-3 deficit. Then he had a 52-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. Washington's kickoff return led to the Seahawks' lone touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Wilson to Sidney Rice. His punt return resulted in a Steven Hauschka field goal that gave the Seahawks a 16-13 lead. Washington finished with 189 return yards.
2. Brandon Mebane and the run defense. Mebane might be the most underrated player on the Seahawks' underrated defense. He was at his best on Sunday, appearing unblockable at times and disrupting the Cardinals' run game. Mebane had four tackles and recovered a fumble in the first quarter that lead to the Seahawks taking a 3-0 lead. The tackle anchored a run defense that allowed only 43 rushing yards on 20 carries (2.2 yards per rush). Take away a 15-yard run by wide receiver Andre Roberts, and the Cardinals produced 28 yards on 19 carries.
3. Richard Sherman's interception. It was an incredible catch that only a former wide receiver could make. Click on this SBNation.com link to see Sherman display excellent hands, athleticism and the awareness and skill to drag his feet in bounds.
This was not the 2012 debut the Seahawks had in mind. They didn't deserve to win this game, and they proved as much by failing to score a touchdown in seven red-zone tries during their final drive.
Wilson and the offense will need to come a long way quickly because the Seahawks play two teams that can score and move the ball against good defenses in their next two games -- Dallas and Green Bay. Seattle needs to be able to hold its own offensively and turn into the ball-control team that coach Pete Carroll wants. The Seahawks converted only 5 of 16 third downs, and if that stat doesn't improve, the headaches will continue.
It's not time to panic. The Seahawks should look like a much better team at home in their next two games. But Dallas and Green Bay are formidable, and the Seahawks could start the season 0-3 if they don't play better immediately. On the other hand, a win next week eliminates the hangover of this loss and changes the conversation entirely. The Seahawks are talented enough to play with any team, but until they're offense graduates from bad, they're just as likely to lose to any team, too.
The pressure increases now for a young squad dealing with high expectations for the first time.