Rost: Seahawks’ D can’t figure out how to slow down the onslaught
There’s a famous episode of “I Love Lucy” where the titular character and her friend Ethel get a job working at a chocolate factory. Lucy and Ethel are sat at a conveyer belt where they’re tasked with wrapping individual chocolates and are warned that if a single chocolate gets by them they’ll be promptly fired. At first, the gig is easy; Lucy and Ethel take turns picking up and wrapping tiny balls of chocolate. The belt soon speeds up, though, overwhelming the pair, who have no choice but to shove chocolate in their mouths and stuff them down their shirts to avoid sending them through unwrapped.
I know a sitcom from the 50s isn’t going to hit a chord with a good chunk of readers today, but the chaos of the moment brings some easy laughs. It’s also an analogy, albeit an imperfect one, for the Seahawks on Sunday. Minus the laughs, of course.
There are small wins. At first, Lucy and Ethel smile and nod to one another, quickly finding that they can take turns wrapping to manage the slow-moving belt. Likewise, there are times this season Seattle’s defense has seemed to get a win. A three-and-out here or there. A good tackle from safety Ryan Neal to force a punt. An interception from rookie corner Tariq Woolen. A forced fumble from nickel Coby Bryant. All is good – there is progress here.
But then things speed up and get out of hand. Chaos ensues, and there’s no way to stop the onslaught – only frantic grasping. In the show, that’s where the comedy comes in. In real life for the Seahawks, that’s where it becomes a hair-pulling, face-in-palms nightmare to watch.
The Seahawks have too often been unable to stop opposing offenses from bulldozing down the field. They allowed 189 rushing yards from San Francisco, 179 from Detroit, and a whopping 235 Sunday from New Orleans. The Saints’ success is even more baffling given that so much of it was at the hands of quarterback Taysom Hill. A gifted athlete, yes, but when he was on the field it was clear to players and fans what was going to happen – Seattle just couldn’t stop it.
Hill finished with 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns, plus a 22-yard touchdown pass for a fourth score. Like the chaos of the factory scene, Seahawks defenders were grasping and chasing Hill and Alvin Kamara to no real avail as they both finished with 100 or more yards.
It’s those explosive plays that leave the defense looking like it can’t stop the bleeding. A 69-yard touchdown from rookie halfback Ken Walker gave Seattle a brief fourth-quarter lead that was quickly squandered when Hill rushed for a 60-yard touchdown three plays later.
“We’ve just got to make the fits and make the hits, it’s simple,” Neal told reporters after the game. “Everybody in the stadium knew who was gonna get the ball, we knew who was gonna get the ball, you’ve just got to fit him up and tackle. Point blank.”
Neal stressed that ultimately it comes down to making the plays. And it’s hard not to take him at his word; the defense knows its weaknesses five weeks into the season, most especially when those weaknesses (penalties, missed tackles, and explosive plays) have popped up every week.
“No more excuses, no more playing around… if guys don’t want to get it done they’ll find someone else to do it, you know what I mean?” Neal said. “We can’t go a season doing that.”
The defense is now allowing over 30 points per game (consider that it’s a total that if scored by an offense would make them one of the league’s top-scoring units). And it’s not going to get easier.
If you’ll allow me one more reference to the “I Love Lucy” episode, which is tongue-in-cheek but also fitting here: after the manager walks in to see Lucy and Ethel seemingly handling their work, she orders the belt to be sped up even more. The pair look to each other in panic and the scene ends. Seattle is about to get an even greater test from opposing offenses. They’ve faced one of the league’s top scoring units in Detroit, but a mobile Kyler Murray will pose a new threat. So too will the big arm of Justin Herbert, the surprisingly good New York Giants, and the finely-tuned perfection of Tom Brady.
There will be no easy schedule to sort things out slowly, only pressure mounting to fix it fast.
More on the Seahawks from Seattle Sports
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• Seahawks Instant Reaction: Seattle Sports on 39-32 loss to Saints
• Seahawks Fast Facts: Costly mistakes allow Hill, Saints to win 39-32
• Rost: Veteran Seahawks defender has tough love for defense, himself
• Salk: Russell Wilson a poser? He’s trying to be the QB he’s not