12th Man: Week 8 vs. Saints Recap
(I should forewarn those of you with a more… delicate vocabulary, that the first paragraph of this article will be expletive-laced, somewhat graphic, and maybe not even that coherent. You should go walk your plants or water the dog or something.)
I began my Sunday by watching the visual equivalent of Roger Goodell taking a watery shit in my favorite mug and attempting to pass it off as free coffee. Why the NFL attempts to make football in London a thing by sending the worst of the fucking worst out there, I will not ever know. But when you triple down on the bullshit by defacing Wembley Stadium with the Cincinnati Bengals and the D.C. Slurs, that is a level of either temerity or incompetence that I am not willing to comprehend. That game went into overtime, and Roger decided to stick a straw in the aforementioned mug, and blow bubbles. Tune in next year when the NFL outright triggers a massive international conflict by sending the Cleveland Browns to London, to face a triumvirate of Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, and Ryan Fitzpatrick on any teams dumb enough to employ them. The halftime show will feature Ron Jeremy taking selfies while wearing an oversized t-shirt and a backwards jockstrap. It’s fun for all! Bring the kids. That tie was a massive fucking waste of time for everybody involved. The Bengals are cursed. Jay Gruden coaches the Slurs. How else would that really end? But fuck that game. And fuck that game again for causing me to miss the first quarter of Seahawks-Saints.
If you had told me that the Bengals-Slurs game wouldn’t be the peak of my frustration that day, I would call you crazy. But the Seahawks were determined to rise to the challenge, and boy, did they. I’m seriously contemplating taking a break from watching my favorite team play football, for the sake of my mental health. The defense would hold strong for the first quarter, forcing two punts and a fumble that would be returned for a touchdown. After that? They would fold. The Saints would spend every possession after that walking into field goals and touchdowns. It wasn’t fun to watch. Oh, and the officiating was really bad. The struggling defense would have their issues compounded by flags on phantom holds and pick plays left unchecked. However, I expected the defense to struggle. They just spent the bulk of a 75-minute game in 90-degree weather, for over 90 plays. When you add in Michael Bennett being out with a knee injury that will require surgery (thanks a bunch, Falcons), and Kam Chancellor missing yet another game, and the game in New Orleans being an early one, it was never going to be good on the defensive side. However, as I said in the preview, this game was on the offense. You would think that the game plan would be to take things a bit easy on the physically depleted defense by carrying out long, deliberate offensive drives that involved scoring touchdowns on a bottom-five defense in the league. The Seahawks begged to differ.
There is honestly so much wrong with the Seahawks offense, and I have to resort to list form at this point to keep myself coherent:
PENALTIES: The offensive line loves committing penalties. George Fant had several all by himself, and it’s aggravating – had it not been for those, he would’ve had a decent game. These penalties kill scoring drives. Period.
MARGIN FOR ERROR: I kind of have a lot to say on this. When you have a running back like Marshawn Lynch and a quarterback like a HEALTHY Russell Wilson, you can get away with a lot of shenanigans on offense and still do enough to win games. But Lynch is retired, and his heir apparent, Thomas Rawls, is out recovering from lower body injuries. Russell Wilson is not his freakishly elusive self, and with that, the margin is nonexistent. This team’s offensive line is not built to rally back from self-inflicted setbacks. Russell Wilson has to be perfect on every pass play, making spot on reads and getting the ball out as quickly as possible. He very rarely makes a read or throw that is less than ideal, but if he does? If he takes a sack or commits a turnover? This offense lacks the wherewithal to recover from that. What’s worse is that gaffes in the run game only add to the pressure on Wilson to be perfect with every throw. It's all a bit much when you can’t quite rely on the five guys in front of you to keep you upright without failing or drawing flags.
I’m not trying to organize a pity party for Russell Wilson, far from that. He wasn’t that great at certain points in New Orleans, and he certainly made some costly mistakes. But he’s very intelligent and he’ll recover from that. But I digress. Margin for error is more than just the players on the field, but the scheming that occurs off of it. Darrell Bevell has certainly earned some peace for the role he played in the offense launching into orbit last year, but he’s made his mistakes too, and they show on the field. Not calling enough run plays in the second half? On Bevell. Not getting your most valuable offensive weapon involved in the red zone? On Bevell. The play design to end the game that isolated 6’2” Jermaine Kearse in the end zone on a fade route but not 6’7” Jimmy Graham? Wholly on Bevell. I’m no offensive coordinator, but I know when talent isn’t being maximized, and these receivers are not being maximized right now. Hell, they aren’t even being thoroughly utilized. Kearse led this team in targets on Sunday, and while he has a knack for making clutch plays, he is the third-best wide receiver, the fourth-best pass catcher, and when you have Jimmy Graham going against one of the worst pass defenses in the league, that is simply unacceptable. I’m not saying fire Bevell, hardly. I’m not saying his job is easy either. But he should know his personnel and how to get them involved by now. And the Seahawks need to do better at running the ball.
PERSONNEL: Because salary caps are a thing and elite players are expensive, teams with elite talent in some areas pay for it with a dearth of talent in others. I get this. Team building is a very, very nuanced thing. I’m glad John Schneider and Pete Carroll run my favorite team, I really am. But they’ve been playing cute with the offensive line for too long and those chickens have very much come home to roost. Tom Cable thinking he would be better off trying to convert defensive linemen into offensive linemen, was a theory that had one semi-hit (J.R. Sweezy, currently of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and a number of misses. This is the first year that Seattle didn’t draft defensive linemen, or go after them in undrafted free agency, in an attempt to find one worthy of that conversion. Proper resources should have been devoted to the offensive line well before now, because with a defense that could win a Super Bowl, we’re dealing with an offensive line that screams, “LOTTERY PICKS!”
The Seahawks tend to go on late-year runs of sorts, and I’m certainly hoping that becomes the case with nine games left. The penalties on the offensive line need to go away, and with games against more disruptive defenses forthcoming, these guys need to gel quickly and start playing better.
Anyway. 4-2-1. On to the Bills.