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Seahawks review: Three likes and dislikes about the 19-13 loss to St. Louis
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ST. LOUIS - As is our new weekly custom, here is the good and the bad of the Seahawks' 19-13 loss at St. Louis.
1. The passing game was again the Seahawks' weakest link. On the surface, it was a decent performance. At times, the Seahawks moved the ball well through the air. Russell Wilson completed 17 of 25 passes (68 percent). His 160 yards represented a season high. But Wilson also threw three interceptions for a variety of reasons. He tossed a pass behind Doug Baldwin, who dropped it, resulting in the first pick. Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins hit Wilson as he threw to lead to the second interception. And the third pick, which ended the Seahawks' comeback bid, came after tight end Anthony McCoy slipped and fell. They were all hard-luck turnovers for Wilson, but they count nonetheless. And though the Seahawks made a few plays through the air, they couldn't convert on several other opportunities. Red-zone inefficiency remains a problem. The team's low third-down conversion rate (28 percent) remains a problem. Pass protection remains a problem, as does Wilson's bad habit of escaping from the pocket too soon. The wide receivers are as insignificant as projected, but the Seahawks aren't making use of the precious chances they have. You can't go four straight games in the NFL without reaching 200 yards through the air. And 200 is on the low end. In today's pass-happy NFL, most teams don't go four games without reaching 250. The Seahawks aren't even close to the minimum expectation, and Pete Carroll doesn't even feel confident enough in the offense to shoot that low. It's why, whether you believe it's warranted or not, Wilson will endure much criticism this week. But should you expect a rookie quarterback to reflect or elevate the talent around him? It's an interesting quarterbacking question. Right now, however, Wilson hasn't been able to do either. How much of that is his fault? How much of it is the Seahawks' all-around ineptitude in the passing game? Sidney Rice expressed the right sentiment for the offense when he said, "It's getting kind of depressing."
2. Poor defense on third-and-long became a surprising problem. The Rams converted only 5 of 13 third downs, but for the Seahawks, it seemed worse than that. Maybe it's because all five of those conversions came on plays of third-and-10 or longer. In this tight game, the defense's inability to get off the field in those advantageous situations was a huge problem. It took away from a performance that looks good on paper. The Seahawks have been much better, however. If they want to be a great defense, they can't tolerate those kinds of mistakes.
3. Carroll's foolish onside kick and other coaching blunders proved to be a hindrance. Carroll is good for a couple of head-scratchers a season, and his decision to start the third quarter with an onside kick ranks among the most puzzling of his three seasons in Seattle. Not only did the failure to recover the kick result in Greg Zuerlein's incredible 60-yard field goal (and don't you have to factor in his robo-leg when considering the minuses of an onside attempt?), but it contradicted Carroll's stated desire to play off his defense and minimize risks. If the coach is so adamant about keeping the "lid" on the offense to prevent turnovers, then why is he putting his defense in a bad spot to try to recover a low-percentage onside kick? It doesn't make any sense. Worse than that, it reeked of desperation because of the Seahawks' inept offense. Is the offense so bad that you need to try to manufacture an opportunity when trailing only 13-7? Put the onside kick with some bad game management just before halftime that resulted in St. Louis getting the ball back and Zuerlein (great nickname: Young GZ) kicking a 48-yard field goal. That's six points that Carroll and his coaches spotted the Rams. Throw in getting fooled on a fake field goal and some horrible third-and-short play calls -- Marshawn Lynch sweep? Wilson quarterback draw near the goal line? - and it was not a banner day for the Seahawks' coaches. If they're going to play low-scoring games every week, they have to exhibit much sharper decision making. And the coaches have yet to quell the Seahawks' issue with penalties. The team remains undisciplined. The Seahawks committed three costly personal-foul penalties (two from right tackle Breno Giacomini) against the Rams.
1. Brandon Mebane and the interior defensive line dominated the Rams. Mebane, who is playing as well as any defensive tackle in the NFL, had two tackles for loss and five overall. He abused St. Louis center Robert Turner. Defensive tackle Jason Jones also had his best game, including a sack after annihilating the right guard. The Rams managed only 75 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry, and the D-line, along with linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright deserve much of the credit for that. Once again, the Seahawks proved stout up front.
2. The Seahawks opened the game with their most fluid and efficient drive of the season. It was beautiful: eight plays (four passes, four runs), 80 yards. Marshawn Lynch ended the drive with an 18-yard touchdown run. The play-calling was aggressive. The execution was excellent. The Seahawks looked like a quality offensive team. And then they went on to gain just 61 yards the rest of the half.
3. Lynch led a run game that produced 179 rushing yards. Lynch rushed for 118 yards. He currently leads the NFL in rushing with 423 yards in four games. Rookie Robert Turbin contributed 45 yards on just six carries. The Seahawks averaged 5.3 yards on 34 rushing attempts. It was the Seahawks' second-highest rushing total this season; they ran for 182 yards against Dallas. They're now averaging 150.8 rushing yards a game. Interesting way-too-early comparison: During their Super Bowl season in 2005, the Seahawks averaged 153.6 rushing yards.
It's simple: Until the Seahawks offense can move the ball effectively through the air, they will be a .500 team. They have the defense and run game to be better than that, but the passing game is so elementary that it holds them back.
The Seahawks must ask some tough questions this week about the proper way to solve their problems. Otherwise, they risk squandering a defense that can keep them in any game.