By Dave Thomas
While the term “panic mode” might be a little too strong at the moment, the Seattle Seahawks definitely have their work cut out for them in the final seven games of the season.
A perennial favorite to win the NFC West and perhaps make it back for a third straight NFC Championship appearance, Seattle (4-5) is in danger of being on the outside looking in when the playoffs role around in early January. The Seahawks took another step backwards Sunday evening in a 39-32 home loss to NFC West-leading Arizona in front of a nationwide audience.
Sleepless In Seattle
So, why are the Seahawks sitting a game under .500 just one game into the second half of the season?
While some may say key injuries at the wrong time of the season, the early-season holdout by Kam Chancellor or an offensive line that has forced quarterback Russell Wilson to be on the run for his life in many games this season, the answers could be all of the above, along with some questionable decisions by one of the league’s better coaches in Pete Carroll.
Putting up 32 points against any team in the league should likely guarantee you some good odds of winning the majority of your contests. As it turns out for Seattle, that was not the case against a much-improved Arizona squad. Once again, Wilson was on the run for much of the evening, but oftentimes not by choice. When the dust settled, Wilson finished his evening 14-of-32 for 240 yards (one TD, one interception). Wilson, who was sacked twice on the evening, had numerous other plays where he was rushed and had to get rid of the ball etc. Yes, some of his decision making at times this season has definitely led to some head scratching, this is not the same Russell Wilson who guided this team to a pair of Super Bowl appearances the last two years. Meantime, Seattle’s ground game (notably Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls) were held to 61 total yards on 10 carries, with Wilson leading the way in gaining 52 yards on six carries. Once again, numbers not good enough to get it done, especially against one of the better NFC teams this season.
Most folks around the league know that Carson Palmer and the Cardinals are no joke. Had Palmer remained healthy last season, who knows where the Cards may have gone in the post-season? With a healthy Palmer to date in 2015, Arizona is right in the hunt with Minnesota and Green Bay to track down unbeaten Carolina (9-0) for the top mark in the conference. On this night, Palmer went 29-of-48 for 363 yards, three TD’s, one interception and a pair of lost fumbles, one of which resulted in a touchdown for Seattle’s Bobby Wagner. While Palmer may not be thrilled with those numbers, they were enough to send Seattle to 1-2 in the NFC West this season (lost to St. Louis, beat San Francisco). Once again, Chancellor was a stalwart on this day, finishing with 19 total tackles, while Wagner chipped in with 11. What was once the NFL’s most dominant defenses (at least in the NFC) is not what it use to be. Yes, Seattle still has a good defense, but dominating would certainly be a stretch.
Special Teams: (B-)
Going for two-point conversions in the NFL is like trying to win the pre-game coin toss. Your chances of converting those two-point tries are typically up in the air. On this evening, Seattle failed on a pair of two-point attempts. If you do the math, Seattle lost by seven points. Had they kicked the points after both touchdowns, they would have trailed 39-31 while on their final march of the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion to tie things and perhaps send the game into overtime. Yes, the pair of failed two-point tries was not the main reason they lost on this night, but they certainly did not help (along with Wilson giving up a safety to make it 5-0 earlier in the game).
It has been said before and it will be said again…. Pete Carroll is still one of the better coaches in the NFL. That said, you do not have quite the confidence in the veteran coach you may have had just a year or two ago (yes, no one will ever forget that call on the one yard line against New England late in last season’s Super Bowl). Carroll, who can work officials like just about no one else in the league, gambled a little too much on this evening in going for those pair of two-point tries. A little more conservative approach (kicking the points) could have certainly led to an interesting final couple of minutes instead of having to kick the field goal to pull within seven (39-32), then go with the onside kick (recovered by Arizona).
While the season is certainly not lost for this team, two more home games these next two weekends (San Francisco and Pittsburgh), are essentially must-win games if Seattle wants to entertain any thoughts of seeing post-season play this time around.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.