The Seahawks are 4-4 at the midpoint of their season, which is fittingly ambiguous.
Whether this season is half full of possibility or a half-empty promise depends largely upon the perspective. Kind of like Sunday’s game in Dallas, a victory that was both critical and a cause for concern.
Here’s our attempt to find both the importance and the uncertainties left over from the game.
Three things we learned:
1. Richard Sherman is a shut-down corner.
That’s a declarative statement. One that eliminates the lone caveat that other cornerbacks like DeAngelo Hall had held over Sherman’s head: Seattle didn’t isolate Sherman against the opponent’s top receiver. And it’s true, for the previous three years, the Seahawks have stuck to their template with Sherman playing on the left side while a teammate stayed on the right, whether it was Brandon Browner or Byron Maxwell. Starting with the first quarter of Seattle’s game at Cincinnati when the decision was made to put Sherman on A.J. Green, Sherman has been used as a stopper of sorts. Green caught two passes while covered by Sherman, San Francisco’s Torrey Smith caught none in his 42 snaps against Seattle in Week 7 and while Dez Bryant caught two passes in Sunday’s game, only one was when Sherman was covering him. It has been an absolute showcase for Sherman, who may not have an interception, but should be discussed as a candidate for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Seattle’s red-zone difficulties are getting worse.
The Seahawks failed to score a touchdown on either possession when they drove inside the Dallas 20 on Sunday. That just continues a season-long trend. The Seahawks have scored a touchdown on fewer than one-third of the possessions when they have the ball inside the opponent’s 20, the so-called red zone. In fact, of the 12 touchdowns Seattle’s offense has scored this season, seven have been scored on plays that span more than 20 yards, which means that Seattle is more likely to score from beyond the red zone than inside of it. And it’s getting worse. Seattle has scored only two red-zone touchdowns in the last six games.
3. Russell Wilson remains one of the game’s best closers.
Wilson did not play one of his better games of the season in Dallas. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate and rushed only once through the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter, though, he drove the Seahawks into field-goal position twice, and the 17-play, 79-yard drive that produced the game winner was an exhibition of why you can’t measure Wilson with passing numbers. His ability to execute on third down with his arm (two third-down conversions with the pass) and his legs (one third-down scramble for 10 yards) shows that he remains a difference maker in close games. Now, if he played better in the first three quarters, maybe it wouldn’t have been so close, but give Wilson credit. He remains a premier closer.
Three things we’re trying to figure out:
1. How good is Seattle’s defense?
Statistically, they’re No. 2 in the league in yards allowed. The defense has also kept the opposing offense out of the end zone in four games this season. Those are also the only four games that Seattle has won this season. But take a deeper look at the opponent’s starting quarterbacks in those victories: Matthew Stafford (Detroit), Jimmy Clausen (Chicago), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) and Matt Cassel (Dallas). Now, look at the opposing quarterbacks Seattle faced during its six-game winning streak to close out the 2014 regular season: Drew Stanton (Arizona), Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez (Philadelphia), Kaepernick, Ryan Lindley (Arizona), Shaun Hill (St. Louis). In other words, Seattle’s last 10 regular-season victories have included three games against Kaepernick and six against teams missing their starter.
2. Will Seattle use that offensive game plan as a template going forward?
The Seahawks allowed no sacks in Dallas, the first time Seattle had done in a regular-season game since holding Tampa Bay without a sack on Nov. 3, 2013. Seattle’s protection was better, and Wilson was able to pass from the pocket more often than he had in any game this season. The flip side is that Wilson completed 63.3 percent of his passes, tied for his second-lowest completion percentage in any game this season. Will Seattle’s pocket-passing game become more efficient as the protection improves? That’s an open question. The Seahawks showed they can keep Wilson from getting bludgeoned by an opponent’s pass rush. Now, we just need to see if they can capitalize on that.
3. How did Seattle have too many men on the field coming out of a second-quarter timeout?
The Seahawks had 12 men on the field as Dallas lined up for what was going to be a field-goal attempt on 4th-and-3. This was coming after Seattle called a timeout, mind you. And as Seattle realized there were too many men on the field, coach Pete Carroll tried to call another timeout as a player – it appeared to be Frank Clark – sprinted to get off the field. The officials blew the whistle, granting the timeout request, before realizing that they should have ignored the request for a timeout to prevent Seattle from calling back-to-back timeouts in the same dead-ball period. Because no penalty had been called for 12 men on the field when the play was blown dead, the Seahawks were given a reprieve without even having to use the timeout. But it’s ridiculous for Seattle that it may have taken a referee’s mistake to prevent Seattle from being penalized for having 12 men on the field coming out of a timeout, thereby giving Dallas three more chances at a touchdown inside the red zone.