By Danny O’Neil
Against an opponent with nothing to lose, the Seahawks have one thing they need to gain and it’s more than just a victory over Jacksonville.
That win is kind of expected at this point. Seattle is undefeated having allowed a league-low 10 points, while the Jaguars are winless and have scored the fewest. And while nothing is guaranteed in this league, measuring Seattle’s success this week is about more than just the final score.
Hurt by penalties and alternating issues in the running and passing game, Seattle has yet to score a first-half touchdown through two games. (AP)
Seattle needs to rediscover the offensive rhythm that was evident last December and has been fleeting so far this season.
“The execution has been OK,” said Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator. “But we’ve had things that have hurt us to be able to get into a flow.”
The Seahawks have yet to score a first-half touchdown and they’ve gained the fourth-fewest yards in the NFC, leaving the defense to serve as the bedrock of the team’s unbeaten start. That’s kind of a surprise considering the absences on that side of the ball.
Chris Clemons is recovering from knee surgery, and only this week has a chance to play. Bruce Irvin – who led all rookies with 8.5 sacks last year – is suspended until October, Brandon Browner was out two weeks with a hamstring injury, and Cliff Avril missed the season-opener.
The offense returned all but one starter from a team that averaged 38.6 points in December and yet it has sputtered through two weeks, not inept so much as inconsistent.
Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards in the season opener at Carolina – his most in any regular-season game – but the Seahawks’ ground game stalled out. Last week, Seattle’s ground game rolled up 172 yards while Wilson failed to complete a pass in the first half.
Seattle would have to play more than half bad to lose to a Jacksonville team it might be able to beat with one Marshawn Lynch tied behind its back.
710 ESPN Seattle hosts weigh in on Seattle’s Week 2 matchup against Jacksonville, finishing the sentence, “The Seahawks will win unless … ”
|• Brock Huard: They turn the ball over more than five times.||• Bob Stelton: Every Seahawks starter is stricken with malaria before the game. Even then, I believe their backups would still win.||• Dave Grosby: A lightning strike takes out 25 players.||• Dave Wyman: Roger Goodell decides that winning games is a threat to player safety and mandates participation ribbons instead of wins and losses.||• Jim Moore: Russell Wilson gets off to another slow start, and this time a slow finish, too.||• Michael Grey: The entire team gets stuck on 405 and the Sounders are forced to suit up in their place.||• Danny O’Neil: That San Francisco couple convinces the NFL to force a forfeit because the 12th Man just won’t quiet down.|
But it’s not just Jacksonville that Seattle is preparing for. It’s Week 4 at Houston and the next week in Indianapolis and the 11 games that will follow after that. An NFL season isn’t about winning a series of one-off contests so much as building a rhythm and momentum week by week and game by game.
And the Seahawks are entering one of the grueling stretches of their schedule because after Sunday’s game against Jacksonville, they will play four of their next five games on the road. For Seattle to survive that stretch – let alone thrive in it – the offense must become more consistent.
“We’re moving the ball well,” Wilson said, “but we keep pulling ourselves back.”
If the Seahawks aren’t stubbing their toe with a false-start penalty, they’ve shot themselves in the foot with a holding penalty. In Week 1 at Carolina, Seattle had two scoring drives short-circuited by penalties inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Last week, Seattle had 10 penalties called against its offense, six of them for holding against the offensive line.
“Personally, I had a false start in a game last week,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I don’t think I’ve had a false start in the past two years. It’s frustrating because we’re having so many of those things. But it’s easily corrected. We’ve just got to focus in more.”
That’s the first step. The next is finding a consistency after two weeks in which the two different facets of Seattle’s offense have alternated functioning.
“We threw the ball well the first game,” Wilson said, “we ran the ball well the second game, and now hopefully we can put the two together and see what happens. If we can do that, it will be hard to beat us, no matter who we’re playing.”
Even when the opponent is tougher than Jacksonville.