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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - Page updated at 07:00 p.m.
Playing it safe has produced sorry results
By Danny O'Neil
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — Tarvaris Jackson hasn't done much yet as Seahawks quarterback.
That doesn't entirely explain why Seattle ranks last in the league in yards and second to last in points, though. While some have pinned the Seahawks' 0-2 start to the quarterback, Jackson's performance has been much more neutral than many believe.
"He has taken what's there," coach Pete Carroll said.
Jackson has not tried to force anything, which explains not only why Seattle didn't have a completion longer than 17 yards in Pittsburgh, but why the Seahawks didn't commit a turnover.
After two games, Jackson hasn't made any game-changing throws, but he hasn't committed any backbreaking errors, either. He has completed 62.1 percent of his passes. And after looking at the videotape from Sunday's 24-0 loss, Carroll didn't see options that Jackson simply failed to identify.
"He hasn't had that many opportunities where we said, 'He should have done this, he should have done that,' " Carroll said.
There simply hasn't been much downfield, said Carroll, because the team had to first make sure it kept Jackson upright. Given the offensive line's inability to pass protect in San Francisco and Pittsburgh's reputation for blitzing, the Seahawks opted for discretion ahead of valor.
"We wanted to not get pounded by their rush and their pressure," Carroll said.
The Seahawks didn't give up a sack in the first half against the Steelers, but they also didn't run a single play in Pittsburgh's half of the field.
"They didn't get to him," Carroll said. "We had accomplished that, but we didn't make any plays of any explosion."
Seattle played it safe and the offense wound up looking pretty sorry.
The Seahawks can't play a whole season like that.
"We have to believe in everybody that we can protect the quarterback," Carroll said. "We've got to go take our shots and move it around a little bit more."
When Jackson began 2008 as the Vikings starting quarterback, his team had one of the top running backs in the league in Adrian Peterson and a stout rush defense. While the Seahawks defense is young and promising, it hasn't shown itself to be the kind that can trade gut punches with an opponent for 60 minutes and win 13-9.
Sidney Rice's return from a shoulder injury would give Seattle a downfield threat. So would getting a running game to make opponents at least consider reinforcing the line of scrimmage.
Mike Williams led Seattle with 65 receptions last season, and he has yet to be targeted by Jackson in the first half of a game. Tight end Zach Miller has spent more time blocking than running routes.
Those facts are more like symptoms of Seattle's offensive problems as opposed to the root cause. The Seahawks have been doing everything they can to protect the quarterback while opponents have routinely dropped seven players into coverage, smothering the players Seattle sends out on routes.
"There's reasons why we had to be very protective as we've seen," Carroll said.
Those reasons would be road games against two teams with very solid defensive fronts. Arizona currently ranks 29th in the league in overall defense, and the Cardinals let Carolina's Cam Newton pass for 422 yards in Week 1.
The Seahawks still have to protect the passer against the Cardinals, but that can't be the only thing they do.
"We're going to continue to grow," Carroll said. "We have a notebook full of stuff, it's not a question of that. We just have to cut it loose, and let these guys go ahead and go for it a little bit more."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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