What we learned from the Seahawks’ loss to Arizona

Dec 23, 2013, 3:24 PM | Updated: 5:27 pm

Seattle’s offense had trouble sustaining and finishing drives Sunday, continuing a recent trend. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Three things we learned:

1. Russell Wilson is, in fact, mortal.

Like all men, he is not impervious to fluctuations in performance when facing opposing defenses doing everything in their power to harass, intimidate and otherwise impede opposing offenses. He threw for an NFL career-low 108 yards while completing just 40 percent of his passes, the second-lowest rate of any game in his pro career. Making it more perplexing was the fact that he had pretty good protection, because while he was sacked four times, a number of those came because he couldn’t find open receivers. It wasn’t just the coverage, though. Wilson was often inaccurate as he tended to miss high, and he twice threw ill-advised passes that he was lucky not to have intercepted.

2. The Seahawks’ defensive style leaves them vulnerable to critical penalties.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was twice flagged for defensive pass interference, and linebacker Malcolm Smith was penalized for defensive holding on a critical third-down play on what turned out to be Arizona’s game-winning drive for a touchdown. Complain about the fairness of the calls all you want; it doesn’t change the fact that penalties could turn out to be this team’s biggest weak point.

3. Russell Okung is not playing at full strength.

Seattle’s left tackle missed eight games because of a toe injury earlier this season, and the fact that he was obviously in pain at the end of the first half and had to come out of the game for a couple of plays in the fourth quarter speaks to the pain he’s playing through. Before we assume his status is in doubt, remember he went back in the game and finished it. Okung didn’t undergo surgery when he injured his toe with the hope he could rehabilitate sufficiently to return. That doesn’t mean he’s 100 percent, though, and this week he’ll be facing the Rams’ tough defensive line, which features Robert Quinn, the league leader in sacks with 18 sacks.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. What happened to Seattle’s efficiency on offense?

The Seahawks’ third-down conversion rate has hit the skids, going from 40.5 percent (62 for 153) over the first 12 games to 26 percent (10 for 38) over the past three. Not only that, but Seattle’s red-zone efficiency has tumbled, too, and the team has as many field goals as touchdowns over those three games. The fact Seattle scored 33 points over the past two weeks despite getting the benefit of nine turnovers forced by the defense speaks to the difficulty Seattle is having in making the most of its opportunities.

2. How in the world did a replay review not overturn the last interception of the game?

More coverage of Seattle’s Week-16 loss to Arizona at CenturyLink Field.

Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews
O’Neil: Russell Wilson’s first clunker
The Pete Carroll Show: A ‘frustrating’ day
Henderson: Defense can’t finish off Cards
Henderson: Close calls go Cardinals’ way

See the little black pellets come off the field as the ball struck Doug Baldwin’s arm? I did. Sure seems like that was proof the ball hit the ground. See any way the ball comes rotating like it did if it only hit Baldwin’s arm and not the turf? Because I don’t. And it only gets more confusing when you consider coach Pete Carroll’s postgame explanation that the ruling on the field – which declared it an interception – came from one official who overruled two others who said it was incomplete. Even then, it remains inexplicable how an official can look at a replay and conclude that a ball could possibly bounce the way it did if it struck only Baldwin’s arm without hitting the ground.

3. How much should we make of Wilson’s difficulties against Arizona?

He has played too well for too long to let one game against the league’s top-ranked rushing defense throw the trajectory of this season into doubt. A home win against St. Louis next week and Seattle will have earned everything it could have achieved with a win over Arizona. The worry is the fact the Seahawks’ offense is struggling at precisely the time it appeared to be ready to peak. In Games 10-12, Seattle averaged 36 points and went 3-0. The Seahawks have averaged 16.7 points the past three games, going 1-2.

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What we learned from the Seahawks’ loss to Arizona