Rost: Seahawks have 2 serious problems — defense and Russell Wilson’s injury
The story that unfolded at Lumen Field Thursday night was similar to the one that fans saw the last time the Seahawks played in their home stadium, for all the wrong reasons.
Like their Week 2 performance against the Titans, the Seahawks played a solid first half against the Los Angeles Rams before they ran into trouble. Granted, the offense put up considerably more points against Tennessee, but in both contests, Seattle entered halftime with a lead on the opponent and momentum heading into the third quarter.
Seattle’s defense had held an explosive Rams offense that ranks fifth in thd league in passing yards per game to 175 net yards and a field goal. Cooper Kupp, third in the league in receiving yards, was held to just 23 yards on four receptions. Notably, the Rams were 0 for 5 on third down and 0 for 2 in the red zone thanks to an interception by safety Quandre Diggs (his second in as many weeks) and a swift tackle for loss by defensive lineman Al Woods to bring down running back Sony Michel on third-and-1 from the Seahawks’ 12-yard line.
Seattle’s offense wasn’t as effective as it was in the first half of Week 2, but it would’ve had a two-score lead were it not for a holding call on left tackle Duane Brown, which negated a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Tyler Lockett with 16 seconds remaining in the half.
And unfortunately for the Seahawks, much like that Week 2 game, two quarters worth of momentum came to a halt in the third quarter and collapsed entirely in the fourth.
It’s hard to tell what’s most worrisome from their 26-17 loss to the Rams: that the same issues popped up, or that a new – and potentially devastating – problem arose.
The dagger on defense came early this time. Facing third-and-10, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped back to his own 10-yard line and, with defensive end Kerry Hyder barreling toward him, launched a deep pass over the middle to the waiting arms of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who hauled it in at Seattle’s 40-yard line in between a trio of Seahawks defensive backs. It was a backbreaking 68-yard play that in another game might’ve been picked off. Instead, safety Jamal Adams didn’t react quickly enough, and cornerback Sidney Jones was too many steps behind to make a play on the ball. The drive ended with a touchdown and a Rams lead that was never surrendered.
Like their loss to the Titans – and, later, to the Vikings – the Seahawks’ biggest issues on defense were glaringly obvious, this time under the harsh spotlight of primetime. Rams receivers found themselves wide open and Seattle’s defense surrendered 301 net yards and 23 points in the second half alone.
Now, less than a week after getting to .500 with a win over the San Fransisco 49ers, the Seahawks have fallen to 2-3 with a loss to another divisional foe.
It’s not often time to panic at just five weeks into the NFL season, but the Seahawks didn’t do themselves any favors in a division that also houses the NFL’s last unbeaten team, the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals, and a 4-1 Rams team with a quarterback and wide receiver who are both third in the NFL in yards. The Rams also have a chance to pull further ahead with an upcoming trio of games against the Detroit Lions (0-4), New York Giants (1-3) and Houston Texans (1-3).
But while Seattle’s defense struggled once again, the bigger issue may be an injury to Wilson, who suffered what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called a serious sprained middle finger – and what your eyes would tell you was a finger pointed 90 degrees in the wrong direction – during a third quarter drive. He tried to re-enter the game but was pulled after a quick three-and-out and replaced with Geno Smith.
Smith played well in relief of Wilson, going 10 of 17 for 131 yards and a touchdown, but his heroics weren’t enough to overcome a growing deficit.
How serious is it?
It’s a question that applies both to Wilson’s injury and to the Seahawks’ defensive struggles.
As to the former, it’s not clear yet. Wilson was throwing on the sidelines but Carroll said he couldn’t hold the football the way he wanted to, which prompted the decision to pull him from the game. Carroll told reporters postgame that there had yet to be any additional imaging (which would tell trainers whether there is a broken bone or tendon damage) and that he didn’t know whether Wilson would need surgery. He did say he was pleased with Smith’s performance and that the team is in good hands should they need to turn to him, indicating that the team is at least aware that Wilson could miss time.
As for the defense, well, that’s also an issue – a serious one, at that. It’s true that the offense needs to be more productive overall this season; it’s where the majority of resources are invested and where the strength of the team currently lies. But there will be continued blows to Seattle’s playoff hopes if the defense doesn’t improve. The defense already has surrendered 450 or more yards in four consecutive games. It isn’t a Super Bowl contending defense – and at this point, it’s not looking like a playoff-caliber defense, either.
One of the two needs to be fixed, and quickly. Either a return from Wilson and a more productive effort on offense, or a defense that doesn’t give up as many big plays. It’s an admittedly early outlook, but if neither changes, this team is trending further from a Lombardi and closer to watching January and February football at home.