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Seahawks need change, but not at quarterback

Russell Wilson was intercepted three times on Sunday, but arguably none of them were entirely his fault. (AP photo)

By Mike Salk

It’s easy to get up after a win and down after a loss.

Of course it is. In football, one game is the equivalent of 10 in baseball or five in basketball. But that doesn’t mean we can overreact nor should we always cast blame in the most obvious spot.

Yes, the Seahawks lost a winnable game against a beatable Rams team on Sunday. No, it is not the time to make any major changes, specifically at quarterback.

When you spend a decent chunk of change on a presumed starting quarterback like Matt Flynn only to have him compete against a rookie third-round pick, there are bound to be those that choose sides. And every time that rookie makes a mistake, throws a pick, throws an incomplete pass, takes a sack or loses a game, he will be under immense scrutiny.

That is fair. But to call for a quarterback change after this loss is premature at best, foolish at worst.

First, the facts: Russell Wilson was 17 for 25 (68 percent) for 160 yards and three interceptions. He is now 2-2 on the season.

Coach Pete Carroll was very clear this week that he is holding back Wilson. He understands that the gameplan has been conservative, but he is unwilling to open it up because of the increased risk of turnovers.

Unfortunately, there were three interceptions in this game. But were they Wilson’s fault?

Let’s start by stating that all interceptions get pinned on the quarterback. Fairly or unfairly, that is the way life works in the NFL. But of the three picks, it is hard to see how any of them were entirely on Wilson.

The first should have been a completed pass to Doug Baldwin. It wasn’t a great decision to throw him the ball, but Baldwin had it in his hands, losing it only after he was hit. The ball ended up in the hands of the defender after the tackle.

Wilson was drilled as he threw the second interception. Did he hold the ball too long? Maybe. But aren’t his detractors constantly complaining that he takes off too soon and doesn’t let his receivers get open?

The third interception ended the game, but I think it was a good throw. It’s hard to see how Wilson could have predicted Anthony McCoy tripping over the tall turf.

So, yeah, there were three interceptions, but did any of them tell you Wilson was unfit to start? If they did, you are watching a different game than I am. And if you think he’s the problem, I challenge you to watch the opening drive and see how effective he can be when the team doesn’t make terrible mistakes around him.

I could entertain an argument that 160 passing yards are not enough, but Carroll, by his own admission, is putting the emphasis on efficiency over yardage. If so, completing 68 percent of your passes is excellent.

The Rams caught the Seahawks off guard when they scored on a fake field goal in the second quarter. (AP)

So why did the Seahawks lose in St. Louis?

Some will blame Wilson. Others will say it was an inevitable letdown after the energy and drama of the Monday night win.

I’ll say they shot themselves in the foot. I’ll say they made some of the same careless, unforced errors that have plagued them this season. I’ll say their head coach got hormonal again, which he claimed caused a misguided fourth-down attempt last year.

The Seahawks had 10 drives in this game. Yes, three of them ended via interception. But two were also badly affected by unnecessary dead-ball penalties. Momentum was certainly trending their way after Richard Sherman’s interception, but rather than starting the drive with great field position at their own 42, veteran Chris Clemons’ personal foul knocked them back to the 27-yard line and Breno Giacomini pushed them back another seven yards by doing the same thing.

Another personal foul by Giacomini stalled the Hawks’ penultimate drive, erasing a first down and forcing a punt. Carroll can say every week that the penalties are unacceptable, but they continue to cause problems. This is how a team builds a reputation as being unfocused.

Unfortunately, the penalties were not the biggest criticism of the coach.

The team was unprepared for a fake field goal that gave the Rams an extra four points. And that might have been overlooked were it not for a bizarre decision to try an onsides kick to start the second half.

I just don’t understand this at all.

If the Seahawks were outmatched and hoping to use a few tricks to even the playing field, I understand a risky play like this one. If they had seen something on film that they thought they could take advantage of, then why not try it immediately after taking the lead in the first quarter?

Instead, it appeared like the team was frustrated after giving up 13 straight points at the end of the half and wanted to get it all back on one play. It looked desperate.

Even worse, it appeared like they were embarrassed to have fallen for the fake field goal and wanted to even the score.

It was after last year’s loss to Cincinnati – when the Seahawks eschewed an easy field goal and failed to score on a fourth-down run – that Carroll said, “We learned about what happens when a coach gets hormonal and tries to jam it down their frickin’ throat for the touchdown.”

If that was hormones, what led to this decision?

Carroll wants the Seahawks to play conservatively, to keep the game within striking distance and make one big play to win it. He wants a ferocious ground game and a passing game that merely compliments it. That formula can work, but it will necessarily limit the margin for error. A team can win like this, but it will be nearly impossible for it to overcome bad penalties, poor awareness on special teams and a miscalculated risk.

The good news is that Seahawks were certainly capable of winning this game. Even better, the mistakes that cost them are fixable.

Now, they just need to get them fixed before heading to Carolina next week.