Gustafson: The 4 big concerns after Seahawks’ 17-15 loss to WFT
Well, the Seahawks won’t be able to finish the 2021 season on a 7-0 streak after falling 17-15 to the Washington Football Team, and they now sit at 3-8 this year with six games left on the schedule.
While the ending was fun with a late Seattle touchdown and an onside kick recovery that was called back due to an illegal formation, the final score makes the game seem a lot closer than it really was.
As has been the case for most of this year, the offense struggled mightily. It looked essentially broken at times.
The defense gave up some plays and struggled with the middle of the field and quick dump-offs, but that unit held its own despite being on the field for over 41 minutes.
It was another ugly loss for a Seahawks team that should be playing much better than it has been, and the issues that sunk Seattle are many of the same ones that have caused this team to fall five games under .500 with just six games remaining.
Here are the four big concerns from the loss.
Seahawks can’t move the sticks
Look, this is going to sound like a broken record, but it still needs to be said – the Seahawks cannot keep being this bad on third down.
Seattle entered this week ranked dead-last in third-down conversion rate and the offense showed why in Washington, converting just 4 of 12 third downs, with another on top via pass interference. Two of those conversions came on the Seahawks’ final drive of the game.
In last week’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks were 2 of 10 on third down and needed an average of 8 yards during those third down plays.
This week, the average line needed to move the chains was 5 yards. So some improvement there, but not when actually getting the first downs necessary.
Run game, where are thou?
After most losses where the offense struggles and can’t stay on the field, head coach Pete Carroll typically points to needing to run the football better and more often.
Despite making that declaration a number of times this year, the Seahawks ran the ball just 12 times for 34 yards, and 16 of those yards came on two Russell Wilson scrambles. Running backs Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas combined for just 18 yards on 10 carries.
Now, the Washington Football Team has a solid run defense, especially along the interior. That group entered Monday third in rushing yards allowed in 2021. The Seahawks were without starting left guard Damien Lewis and backup Jamarco Jones, so that didn’t help matters. Seattle also ran just 45 plays on offense compared to Washington’s 79.
But the running game, which Carroll has insisted needs to be utilized more, faltered yet again. And while Wilson certainly deserves his share of the blame (more on that in a moment), lacking even a semblance of a rushing attack makes it far easier for opponents to key in on Wilson and top playmakers like DK Metcalf.
What’s up with Russ?
Are there lingering issues with the finger that aren’t being discussed? Is it lack of confidence in the plays, playmakers or offensive line? Is it just poor decision making and mechanics? A bit of all of that? None of it?
All that’s clear is that since returning from surgery on his right middle finger, Wilson has looked like a shell of his former Pro Bowl self.
In three games since coming back, not only have the Seahawks lost three games in a row for the first time with Wilson under center, but Wilson is playing mediocre football. In those three games, Wilson has completed just 55.6% of his passes with two touchdowns (both on Monday night) and two interceptions.
We saw, once again, multiple overthrows and balls sail on Wilson and over wide-open receivers like tight end Gerald Everett. We saw poor decision making, such as avoiding checkdowns until late in the game and one play in particular where Everett was wide open in the middle of the field while Wilson aimed for Metcalf along the sideline. He also took an ugly sack during the Seahawks’ final drive when he had multiple chances to throw the ball away on a slow-developing play.
The Seahawks have been good and, at times, great over the last few years. That’s been in large part because Wilson has been able to mask many of Seattle’s deficiencies, especially when the defense was poor in 2019 and early 2020. But now the wheels have completely fallen off for Wilson and this offense.
Carroll last week apologized for not having any new answers to those same questions about his team, and unfortunately for the coach, his staff, Wilson and the rest of the players, everyone’s wondering the same things yet again after this latest loss. A lot of those questions center around No. 3 and the offense’s lackluster performance.
Seahawks’ pass rush again a concern
Darrell Taylor had a really nice sack of Washington quarterback Taylor Heinecke for his team-leading fifth sack, but that was Seattle’s lone sack of the night and one of just two hits they got on Heinecke, or three if you count one by Rasheem Green that was called roughing the passer.
Now, the Seahawks have been pretty good on defense over the last few months after a poor start to the season. They still have issues in the screen game and at times struggle to get off the field. But it’s not entirely that unit’s fault that it was on the field for over 41 minutes.
One thing the Seahawks need to get better at, though, is rushing the passer.
Seattle paid Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder Jr. and Benson Mayowa handsomely this offseason, but that trio has combined for two sacks this year and Dunlap didn’t record a single stat aside from being called for a neutral-zone infraction against Washington.
Taylor has played well, Green has had his moments and did so again on Monday, and Alton Robinson has a few splash plays every now and then, but the bigger-named veterans on the edge aren’t getting it done, which is playing a role in Seattle’s defense staying on the field so much. Additionally, Jamal Adams has no sacks after leading the team with 9.5 last year in just 12 games.
The trade deadline has passed and no moves are expected to be made as far as outside names coming in. If the pass rush is going to improve, those aforementioned veterans need to step up or pressure will need to be applied in other ways, such as blitzes. If not, the pass rush will continue to be a weak point for the final six games this season.