As stated in the game recap, the Seahawks have to beat teams like Arizona if they are going to be a playoff team.
The fact that they could not beat the middling Cardinals on Sunday, despite many chances, means the Seahawks are further behind than most of us wanted to think. With Dallas and Green Bay coming to Seattle the next two weeks, plus four road games in a five-game stretch following that, the Hawks are going to have to fix a few things if they are going to rebound from a bad loss and avoid a playoff-killing start.
Dallas looked pretty pathetic in the preseason––a decimated offense revolving around Tony Romo––but the Cowboys upset the New York Giants 24-17 in the first game of the season and will be more than a handful for a Seattle team that seems to have the very same issues that limited the Hawks last year.
Here are three things the Seahawks must fix fast if they are going to have a chance against Dallas (or anyone else):
This is the most obvious hole in the team, and if they don’t plug it, the ship is going to sink to the bottom of the non-playoff pool, where it was last year. But the fix will not come quickly.
The Hawks are starting a rookie quarterback who played like it for much of the loss in Arizona and, like predecessor Tarvaris Jackson, couldn’t pull out a win at the end. Coach Pete Carroll is not allowed to use the excuse that, “Hey, give him a break, he’s a rookie,” because the Hawks have a veteran backup––Matt Flynn––who is ready to play now and probably could handle the pressure better.
Of course, it does not help that the receivers continue to get banged up––Carroll said Charly Martin (bruised lungs) will miss two weeks and Doug Baldwin got his teeth knocked in––and still are not in sync with Wilson. The end of the Arizona game showed that.
One week of practice will not solve all of the issues, even if receiver Golden Tate returns from his sprained knee and left tackle Russell Okung comes back from his bruised knee.
The Seahawks need to involve tight end Zach Miller more. He caught a 27-yard pass that was the Seahawks’ longest play against Arizona, but he had just two other catches for 13 yards. The Hawks did not use the middle of the field nearly enough.
The coaches also need to call better plays. The game plan against Arizona was very vanilla, and the coaches did not help Wilson much at all.
Aside from working the middle of the field more, they need to put the speedy QB in motion. They put him on the move less than a handful of times against Arizona, on bad play calls. They need to roll him out on misdirection plays, move the pocket and use more quick-hitting vertical passes — not the silly laterals he was throwing against Arizona.
Bottom line: They have a lot of work to do in the passing game.
Chris Clemons was the one guy who got decent pressure throughout the game. He pressured John Skelton into throwing an interception to Richard Sherman midway through the third quarter. It led to a tying field goal by Seattle. He also sacked Skelton in the fourth quarter and had a few other drive-stopping plays.
But the Seahawks rarely got pressure with four rushers. It wasn’t until they started blitzing consistently in the second half that they started to shut down the Cardinals. Skelton started the second half 1-for-8 with the pick by Sherman, and the Cards did not get a first down in the third quarter.
Brandon Mebane, who played a great game, knocked Skelton out of the game with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter. Kevin Kolb came in and the Hawks suddenly stopped blitzing. He drove the Cards to the go-ahead touchdown as the Hawks rushed mostly four guys the entire drive. Even the couple of times they blitzed, Kolb completed the pass, including the touchdown.
The Hawks drafted Bruce Irvin and signed Jason Jones to solve the pass-rush problem, but neither offered much help in the opener. Irvin was in on a couple of pressures and Jones batted down a pass, but that was about the extent of their contributions.
It seems pretty obvious the Hawks are going to have to be creative and bring five guys consistently if they are going to be effective at rushing the quarterback.
The Hawks set a team record with 138 penalties in 2011––an average of 8.6 per game. That was second most in the league.
Carroll tried hard to get his team to cut down the mental errors in the preseason, so he was exasperated when they were flagged for 13 penalties (for 90 yards) against Arizona.
“I’m so disappointed. So disappointed,” Carroll told 710AM ESPN radio. “We’ve worked so hard at that.”
Okung and Wilson were the biggest culprits. Okung had three false starts, and the rookie quarterback committed two delays of game and one intentional grounding (and was close to another one).
Sherman was called for pass interference twice. Clemons was offsides, negating an interception by Kam Chancellor.
They also had three holding calls (two on special teams), a facemask on Chancellor and a couple of offsetting personal fouls that did not count in the final total.
“When you have 13, there’s enough of everything,” Carroll said. “We didn’t get it done. But it’s an emphasis that will continue to be at the heart of what we’re doing because we just made it harder on ourselves and you don’t need to do that.”
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.