The Seattle Seahawks are just 2-4 through the early part of the NFL season, and are a team that looks far from being a Super Bowl contender of the past three seasons. While the schedule has been tough – the Seahawks have played and lost to three of the NFL’s five remaining unbeaten teams – the Seahawks have established a troubling trend of not being able to hold fourth quarter leads. While some will say the Seahawks are unlucky to not be 6-0 or 5-1, some will also say they’re lucky to not be 1-5.
With the halfway point of the season just two games away, and the next game looming Thursday night in a tough road test against the San Francisco 49ers, the club is searching for answers.
Unfortunately, those answers aren’t going to come easily or quickly.
The Seahawks are in the middle of the pack offensively, ranked 15th in the NFL in total offense at 352 yards per game. It gets worse on third down, as their 37 percent conversion rate puts them 20th in the 32-team league.
The Seahawks have been plagued by poor offensive line play, and have allowed a staggering 26 sacks through six games. The sack totals would be even higher if it was for the elusiveness and scrambling ability of quarterback Russell Wilson.
But, to blame the sacks solely on the offensive line would divert attention from the Seahawks’ biggest need on offense: playmakers in the receiving game.
Tight end Jimmy Graham has the pass-catching pedigree from his years in New Orleans with Drew Brees, and when the Seahawks finally figure out how to best integrate him into the passing game, he’ll continue to get his targets.
Where the Seahawks struggle most is outside at wide receiver. The club is without a bona fide number one receiver, as well as a legitimate deep threat. No one poses a threat to opponents, and as such they’re at liberty to both stack the box at the line of scrimmage and play press coverages. Seahawk receivers can’t seem to get separation for Wilson to deliver balls on time, and the longer Wilson holds onto the ball, the more the pocket breaks down.
The Seahawks have no fixes on the roster for their receiver needs, and it’s a need that will have to be worked on in the draft and free agency over the summer. On the other hand, the offensive line has potential to further develop under line coach Tom Cable, and it’s important to remember that three of the Seahawks’ five o-line starters weren’t offensive linemen in college.
The Seahawks have deservedly gained the reputation over the past four years as having one of the stout defenses in the league. And, with that recognition, comes a lot of trash talking from the likes of cornerback Richard Sherman and his defensive running mates.
The NFL seems to no longer be listening.
In the Seahawks’ last five losses, dating back to February’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, they have squandered fourth quarter leads. Yes, part of that blame can be placed on an offense that seemingly can’t put games away. But, that can’t be an excuse for a team whose strength is supposed to be on the defensive side of the ball.
Tight ends have had their way with the Seahawks this year, both in seam routes down the middle and in passes out to the flat. As such, the Seahawks have been equal opportunity offenders – missed assignments have plagued both safeties and linebackers.
Safeties Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor haven’t had the practice time together due to Thomas’ injuries and Chancellor’s contract hold out, and the time apart has hurt communication on the field. The Seahawks defensive backfield has too often looked confused, and the end result has been missed assignments, open receivers, and big chunks of yardage – and touchdowns – late in ball games.
Then, there’s the curious case of Michael Bennett, one of the most talented and undisciplined linemen in the NFL. In a single series, Bennett can both produce a play that leaves mouths open in awe and an undisciplined mental error that leaves heads shaking in disbelief. He’s the most penalized player in the NFL, and as long as his gives as much as takes away, he’ll never get the giant contract he grumbles so much about deserving.
The Seahawks no longer have any room for error. Six losses might still win the division, but to be safe the Seahawks need to go 11-5 and sweep the first place Arizona Cardinals in the process.
The increasingly unlikely road to the playoffs starts Thursday in Santa Clara against the 49ers in front of a national television audience. The Seahawks have to get it right and get it right soon, but the fixes won’t come easy or quickly.
Photo Credit: David T. Foster III/ZUMA Press/Corbis
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