Seahawks nearly scripted the perfect start

Sep 9, 2012, 8:36 PM | Updated: Sep 10, 2012, 10:34 am

An incomplete pass intended for Charly Martin in the end zone was among Seattle’s missed opportunities. (AP)

By Mike Salk

It wasn’t pretty, but then again that was never in the script. No Seahawks storyteller expects the team to be pretty – that’s not how they are built. They are designed to play ugly football games with brief moments of beauty.

Think “American Beauty” with the occasional Leon Washington return or Richard Sherman interception playing the role of the plastic bag blowing in the wind.

The Seahawks are supposed to crush your ability to run, pressure your ability to pass, and then slowly grind out a few scoring drives. They aren’t quick-strike. They don’t meticulously pick you apart.

They bulldoze you.

With that gameplan in mind, they should play games that come down to a few plays. Make them, and you’ll win. Fail to make them, and you’ll go home disappointed.

That script played out for 55 minutes of Seattle’s 20-16 loss to Arizona on Sunday. The Seahawks found themselves within a score, needing just one play to win the game. Unfortunately, that play never came.

There will be plenty of anger which will be directed at various parties. I’ll address each complaint, but at the end of the day, the Seahawks had a chance to win this game and that is the goal.

Popular Complaint No. 1: Russell Wilson isn’t the right quarterback.

I strongly disagree. Wilson was under serious pressure throughout the game, especially in the first half. He did look tentative early (especially on the botched receiver screen to Sidney Rice that should have been ruled a fumble), but he also showed some of the poise and decision making that won him the job. His touchdown pass was a thing of beauty – changing the play at the line to capitalize on something he had seen, staying calm in the pocket and then firing a strike to Rice. Wow.

Furthermore, he threw three balls on the final drive that hit receivers’ hands in the end zone. If one of those three had been caught, we are having a very different conversation.

Marshawn Lynch carried just twice on the Seahawks’ final drive. (AP)

Popular Complaint No. 2: The play calling was problematic, especially in the final minute.

A part of me agrees with this. I would have liked a few screens and draws to slow down the Cardinals’ pass rush.

I would have liked to see Marshawn Lynch get one more carry from the 5. I would have liked to see a rollout play which would have given Wilson a run/pass option, capitalizing on his greatest strengths. I would prefer that Charly Martin not be targeted on third down with the game on the line. But the fact of the matter is that three of those plays could have resulted in touchdowns if the receiver could have hung on to the ball. The plays were good enough to put them in position to win. Execution matters.

Popular Complaint No. 3: The receivers gave up on routes.

I think this stems from one replay of a coverage sack where both Braylon Edwards and Rice seemed to cut their routes off. I’m not sure that it’s fair to extrapolate the rest of the game based on that one play.

While I think these complaints aren’t especially fair, I do have a few of my own.

Salk Complaint No. 1: The offensive line did not pass block well.

While this group seems comfortable going forward, they need to be better in pass protection. Wilson had very little time to scan the field.

Salk Complaint No. 2: The Hawks got no pass rush early.

Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley have always been known for their halftime adjustments and this game was no exception. After allowing John Skelton eons of free time in the pocket, they dialed up some changes in the second half and forced him to make uncomfortable throws. The difference was obvious, as he did not manage a single first down after the break, throwing an interception in the process. Where was that pressure in the first half?

Salk Complaint No. 3: Penalties killed them.

It wasn’t just the 13 penalties for 90 yards, it was the results that followed. A delay of game negated a first down which may have cost them four points. Chris Clemons jumped offsides, negating a Kam Chancellor interception at the goal line, costing them three points. Sherman’s first pass interference cost them a third-down stop on a field-goal drive. His second turned a first-and-20 into a new set of downs, ultimately leading to the winning score. Penalties happen, but these may have cost them 17 points over the course of the game.

The Seahawks shouldn’t change who they are because of one loss, nor do I expect them to do so. Wilson showed flashes of brilliance in his first ever start and, importantly, showed he has the capability of doing what Tarvaris Jackson could not – make big plays late. In his first game, he was one catch away from the storybook ending.

I see plenty of winning scripts in his future.

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Seahawks nearly scripted the perfect start