Sports Out West

Stagnant Seattle Seahawks’ offense must regain form before playoffs

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes as Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker (98) and Arizona Cardinals John Abraham (55) move in on defense in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For the first time in nearly two years, the Seattle Seahawks weren’t invincible in the confines of CenturyLink Field.

As has become the norm for NFC West divisional games, the Seahawks found themselves in another defensive slugfest, this time falling to the Arizona Cardinals 17-10. The loss came as a result of poor offensive execution, an excellent defensive scheme from the Cardinals and a couple of bizarre plays near the end of the game. Despite great defense of their own, the Seahawks were clearly outplayed at home for the first time in a long time.

The telling stat for the game was that Seattle intercepted Carson Palmer four times and scored 10 points, including just three points off of those turnovers. Not only could the Seahawks not turn the interceptions into points, but they didn’t establish any momentum or field position from them in a low-scoring game where those things were critical.

One of the most important stretches for the Seattle offense came near the beginning of the fourth quarter. Richard Sherman had just picked off Palmer in the end zone as Arizona was driving for a touchdown to go up double-digits. But Seattle went backwards on the ensuing drive as Russell Wilson was sacked on consecutive plays.

The Seahawks finally opened up the passing game on their next drive and drove right down the field for the go-ahead touchdown with under 8 minutes left. It was nearly a tying touchdown, as Steven Hauschka’s first extra point attempt was blocked, but the Cardinals were called for a rare illegal formation for lining up over the center. Hauschka also hit the left upright on a very short field goal in the second quarter, his first miss of the year that wasn’t blocked.

Arizona would counter with a drive of its own as the outstanding Seattle defense could not hold one last time. Palmer made his best throw of the day and Michael Floyd made an outstanding catch on a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the Cardinals up 17-10.

The Cardinals intercepted Wilson on the first play of the next drive to put the game away. Wilson’s pass took a strange bounce off of Doug Baldwin’s arm before being picked off by Karlos Dansby. It was very close to hitting the ground – and probably would have gone the Seahawks way had it been called the other way on the field – but wasn’t the reason they ultimately lost.

Arizona’s defensive scheme stymied the Seahawks all game. The Cardinals are great against the run and shut down Marshawn Lynch, but they also forced Wilson into possibly the worst game of his career. By just about any metric, Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks outside the pocket in the NFL, but Arizona kept him in the pocket by sending its pass rushers wide outside. That allowed Calais Campbell, a 6 foot 8 inch, 300-pound monster defensive end, to bring disruptive pressure up the middle on multiple occasions.

As a result, the Seahawks could generate nothing big down the field, and had only two plays over 20 yards. They could have used Percy Harvin in this game more than any other this year, as just one explosive play could have made the difference.

So, what are the takeaways for the Seahawks? It’s not time to panic, but they lost the feel of invulnerability at CenturyLink Field. If a team can come in and match Seattle in defensive intensity, the Seahawks can be beaten. Arizona did it, and the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers have the potential to do the same thing.

It makes the next game very important, both for the Seahawks to win and to play better offensively. Since the Week 13 victory over the New Orleans Saints, Seattle’s offense has not quite been in rhythm. Lynch hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards in five games, one of the longest stretches in his Seahawks’ career. Wilson hasn’t been as sharp as earlier in the year either, and has made some uncharacteristically poor decisions the past two games.

There should be a major sense of urgency from Seattle this week. It’s not going to get easier against the St. Louis Rams or in the playoffs, but the Seahawks simply must execute better on offense to win. 

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

 

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.