O’Neil: We learned the Seahawks just may have a run in them, even without Sherman and Chancellor
The Seahawks may in fact have a run in them this season.
That was the first lesson from Sunday night’s victory over the Eagles. That and the fact that Seattle is eminently capable of muzzling a top-tier offense even without safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman.
Like the Rams, the Eagles entered their game against Seattle having scored the most points in the league. Like the Rams, the Eagles finished with just 10 points against the Seahawks.
Here’s a list of the other lessons from Seattle’s most complete game of the season:
What we learned
1. Don’t run zero coverage against Doug Baldwin.
I know that NFL coaches spend way more time watching game footage than I do. I also know that those NFL coaches can diagnose and decode infinitely more information in one viewing than I can out of 20. But I do know that you don’t run zero coverage against Baldwin and quarterback Russell Wilson, so for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wouldn’t know that too. Yet in the third quarter, there were the Eagles putting safety Rodney McLeod one-on-one against Baldwin with no help over the top. If a country rube like me knew that was a bad idea, imagine what an icy-veined assassin like Wilson thought as he recognized the coverage, changed the play and threw to Baldwin for Seattle’s biggest gain of the game.
2. Earl Thomas is the keystone of that secondary.
Bradley McDougald is getting praised for the way he has filled in for Chancellor, and he should. The guy had 12 tackles. And Byron Maxwell has been reintegrated into Seattle’s secondary smoother than anyone could have expected, notwithstanding the pair of long completions he gave up to Nelson Algholor off Carson Wentz scrambles. But the fact that Seattle’s defense has remained stout in spite of the absences of Chancellor and Sherman speaks to the singular importance Thomas holds in this scheme because Seattle’s secondary didn’t hold up nearly so well when Thomas was out for the final four regular-season games last season. While there’s still plenty of room to debate who is the best member of Seattle’s secondary, there’s no doubt about who’s most important to the defense’s success.
3. Pete Carroll isn’t the only coach who needs a replay-challenge consultant.
Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson could use one, too, after the way he goofed in the third quarter, challenging a play he lost which almost certainly impacted his decision not to challenge Wilson’s fourth-quarter “lateral” which he very well may have won. Let’s start with the first challenge, which Pederson made with 11:37 to go in the third quarter when Wentz completed a pass to Torrey Smith on third-and-12. Smith caught the ball right at the first-down marker but officials ruled he was down at the Seattle 29, which was just short of the first-down marker. Pederson challenged the play, which was questionable for two reasons:
• The likelihood of the play being overturned was questionable at best. Officials can’t determine what a catch is and Pederson was asking the officials to parse exactly when the catch occurred.
• The Eagles ended up going for it on fourth down. So the value of what the Eagles gained was essentially not having the risk of a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1, which Philadelphia had already converted fairly easily once in the game and again on this play.
Pederson just didn’t lose a timeout on a challenge that didn’t have any better than 50-50 odds of success where the only upside was avoiding a fourth-and-1 play which the Eagles were going for anyway. And the fact that the Eagles had only one timeout left after that failed challenge certainly impacted Pederson’s willingness to challenge Wilson’s lateral to Mike Davis on third-and-8 with 10 minutes left in the game. Officials ruled that Wilson’s pitch didn’t not go forward, and initial replays were inconclusive. Pederson did not challenge it before the Seahawks’ next snap and four plays later the Seahawks scored their third and final touchdown of the game.