What we learned from the Seahawks’ loss to the Colts
By Danny O’Neil
Three things we learned:
1. The Seahawks’ defense is not legendary.
At least not yet. After four games, Seattle showed signs of being one of those defenses that only comes around once, maybe twice a decade in the NFL. The Seahawks had not given up a second-half point in either of their first two road games, and their pass rush was just getting to full strength.
In Indianapolis, however, the Seahawks couldn’t force a single second-half punt. Seattle had allowed seven fourth-quarter points in the first four games combined, but gave up 11 in the final period at Indianapolis as quarterback Andrew Luck was 4-for-4 passing on third down in the second half. The Colts didn’t win this game by exploiting a weakness in Seattle’s team, they won it by overcoming the secondary that is Seattle’s strength.
2. Seattle’s depth is not exaggerated.
The Seahawks were missing four Week 1 starters on offense and haven’t had receiver Percy Harvin available for a single snap since acquiring him this offseason, yet they jumped out to a double-digit lead on the road. The fact that Seattle was not outmanned in this game is utterly remarkable considering the Seahawks were missing three starting offensive linemen – including two Pro Bowlers in Russell Okung and Max Unger – and their No. 1 tight end, Zach Miller.
Yes, Seattle generally stalled out when it got in scoring position, but the fact the Seahawks outgained the Colts should not be overlooked given the personnel situation. The fact that Seattle is kicking itself over scoring only 28 points on the road against a playoff team is nothing short of remarkable.
3. Seattle must improve its third-down offense.
Seattle’s offense converted two of 12 third-down plays in Indianapolis, which is downright reminiscent of the difficulties the Seahawks had early last year. Seattle was 14 of 50 in third-down conversions through four games last season, which is 28 percent. That stat needed to improve for Wilson to keep his starting job, and it did. Seattle was 66 for 149 over the final 12 regular-season games, 44.3 percent.
Through five games this season? The Seahawks are 20 for 65 on third down, which is 30.8 percent.
“We struggled at it last year about this point, and we fixed it,” Wilson said regarding third-down efficiency. “And we’re a way better football team than that, than last year.”
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. How did Seattle lose this game?
The Seahawks rushed for 218 yards, exactly double Indianapolis’ total on the ground. For a run-oriented team like Seattle, that not just the recipe for success, but a virtual guarantee. Since Pete Carroll became coach, Seattle had rushed for more than 200 yards in just two games, Seattle winning those by a combined score of 108-17. You have to go back to 2004 to find a game Seattle lost despite rushing for 200 or more yards.
2. Why did Marshawn Lynch carry the ball only 17 times?
Hard to criticize a game plan that produced two 100-yard rushers, something that had been accomplished only once in the previous seven seasons. But after rushing 11 times in the first half, Lynch carried six times in a second half, when Seattle failed to score a touchdown.
Lynch has now carried fewer than 20 times in four of the team’s first five games. Compare that to last year when he rushed more than 20 times in each of the first five games. Maybe the Seahawks are trying to pace him or maybe this reflects a new balance in the offense now that Wilson is no longer a rookie, but it was impossible to watch the second half and wonder if the guy who ran for 24 yards the first time he touched the ball could have broken another big run.
3. How can the Seahawks get Sidney Rice more involved?
He finished with a single reception for the second consecutive week and the third time in five games this season. Maybe it’s as simple as getting better pass protection as Seattle was missing three starters on the offensive line for the second consecutive week. But his five catches and two touchdowns against Jacksonville provide a telling contrast to Sunday’s game when the Seahawks routinely sputtered in Indianapolis’ half of the field, resulting in five field-goal attempts.