Rost: Why did the 2-5 Seahawks’ latest loss feel so ugly?

Oct 26, 2021, 12:29 AM
Seahawks Ken Norton Jr. Pete Carroll...
Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. react in the fourth quarter of Monday's loss. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

On paper, the Seahawks did what they wanted to do Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.

Recap: Seahawks fall to Saints | Takeaways | Instant Reaction

They had a balanced attack on offense, with 22 pass attempts and 25 carries, excluding Geno Smith’s three scrambles. That attack included an 84-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf, the longest of Metcalf’s career and the longest Seattle pass play since 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

They forced a turnover in Saints territory and turned it into points, registered two sacks of Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, limited their opponent to 15.4% on third down, and held a Saints offense that has averaged 25 points per game this season to a single touchdown.

They made sure a league-leading red zone offense – the same team that has scored a touchdown on a staggering 92% of trips inside the 20 – to convert just once on four trips.

So why did the Seahawks’ 13-10 loss feel so ugly?

In part because the Seahawks were just as ineffective on offense. They ran the ball but didn’t really get anywhere. Alex Collins, who entered the game as Seattle’s lead halfback, got the bulk of the carries (16) but finished with just 2.2 yards per rush. Rashaad Penny fared worse with just nine yards on six carries (1.5 yards per attempt). It was hardly something you could’ve seen coming, except that it was: the Saints are the second-best defense against the run.

Thankfully, the Seahawks did manage an explosive play. That 84-yard touchdown to Metcalf in the first quarter gave Seattle an early lead. But in a baffling turn of events, Metcalf wasn’t targeted again until the fourth quarter.

Or maybe it’s because of mind-numbing mistakes. In one example, there was a wide-open Alvin Kamara – the Saints’ best offensive weapon – in the red zone to score New Orleans’ lone touchdown.

“The whole sequence we just were out of whack with covering him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said postgame. “There were five different calls in there, different things that happened; we were zone in a couple of them, we were manned up, we needed to get it done one way or the other. We tried, tried, tried and we didn’t get it done. Second half the guys made the adjustments and everything was fine and we were sharp at it and it wasn’t the same thing anymore. But in that sequence we couldn’t stop them before they got into the end zone.”

It would be a sin forgiven against one of the league’s most explosive players were it not a position the Seahawks’ defense has found itself more than once – or twice, or thrice – this season.

That wasn’t the only mistake. A taunting penalty called on tight end Gerald Everett negated a first down. Credit the defense for getting to Winston late in the game to try to get the ball back to the offense, though. Or at least it would have been the case if a roughing the passer call on safety Marquise Blair didn’t keep the chains moving for New Orleans after a loss of 5 when the Seahawks sacked Winston on third-and-9.

Like I said, it was an ugly game.

But it also feels ugly because it’s so far from where the Seahawks, and their fans, imagined this team being as it nears the midway point of the season. These are the Seahawks that had their eyes set on contention in August. Two months later they’re staring at a 2-5 record and the highest first-round pick they’ve had in ages.

Oh, right, that pick is going to the Jets. That’s ugly, too.

If you’re one to take a glass-half-full approach, there were a handful of mistakes Seattle made that could’ve sent the game the other way. A missed field goal made, a penalty on the Saints’ final field goal drive averted, and the Seahawks would have been looking at a narrow win without their starting quarterback, without their starting running back, and against a tough Saints defense. You might also be brimming with hope eyeing a one-win Jaguars team at home next week with a bye after that.

Perhaps you’re looking at the talent on this roster – a franchise quarterback, an All-Pro middle linebacker, an All-Pro safety, one of the brightest wide receiver talents in the league – and feeling like a second-half turnaround is not only possible but inevitable. And if you’re feeling that way, well, you might also be Pete Carroll himself, who made his own optimistic outlook clear after Monday’s loss.

“It may not look like it from the outside, but from the inside it feels like we’re really close.”

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