STACY ROST

Rost: What went wrong in Seahawks’ shocking Week 1 loss?

Sep 11, 2023, 9:04 AM | Updated: 3:30 pm

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith is hit by Byron Young of the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 10, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

You never know what to expect from a team in Week 1. Sure, there’s history to lean on. No one is expecting the Arizona Cardinals to take over the league or for Patrick Mahomes to suddenly fall out of perennial MVP talk. But Week 1 always has a few surprises in store, Mahomes and the Chiefs’ opening night loss to the Lions being one of them.

The Seattle Seahawks surely found their 30-13 loss Sunday to the Rams to be a surprise. And boy, was it was an ugly one.

The Rams, who last year clawed their way to five wins with a banged-up roster, outplayed Seattle in every phase of the game. Los Angeles was 11 of 17 on third down (64.7%) — a stat Seattle’s defensive players mentioned often postgame — and racked up 426 net yards without its leading receiver, Cooper Kupp. That was in large part thanks to 119-yard days apiece from receivers Tutu Atwell and Puka Nacua. Quarterback Matthew Stafford went mostly untouched, with the Seahawks’ defense registering just two quarterback hits and no sacks on Stafford’s 39 dropbacks. They got beat over the middle plenty, particularly underneath, allowing Stafford’s most passing yards (334) in a game since Week 7 of 2021.

Recap: Seahawks lose | Instant Reaction | Big Plays | Injuries | Stats

That the defense struggled isn’t overly shocking. That they struggled so mightily, though, is a punch to the gut to start the season. The Seahawks have ranked well into the bottom half of the league in points and yards allowed since 2017. The hope was that they’d ironed some of those out last season when a pass defense that ranked 31st for two consecutive years improved to 17th, cutting nearly 50 yards per game from its previous iteration. The hope was also that a facelift in the front-seven could make them more stout against the run; that an elite rookie cornerback and former All-Pro safety could provide an edge and physicality in the secondary; that a rotation of young outside linebackers opposite Uchenna Nwosu could bring more consistency to the pass rush.

The hope is still there, but it brought no real payoff Sunday outside of a decent performance against the run – though the Rams still rushed for three touchdowns and picked up key conversions on the ground.

“We have got to get the quarterback, plain and simple,” defensive tackle Jarran Reed said postgame. “We have to get home. We have to win our 1-on-1s and we have to communicate as one. That’s unacceptable, that’s on us, we have to take that to the chin. We have to get better starting Monday.”

More: Seahawks look improved vs run, but pass D bullied by Rams

The bigger surprise? The offense. Seattle’s pass game was its biggest strength last season, and it was noticeably ineffective in Week 1. Everything was, really. Geno Smith & Co. moved down the field for a solid first half but completely fell apart in the second. In the third quarter, the Seahawks possessed the ball for just 2 minutes and 38 seconds. In the fourth, just two minutes and 28 seconds. Excluding a single play on their final drive, all but one drive went three-and-out. The Seahawks gained 12 yards, including nine on that final play.

Seattle sputtered at times during an uneven second half in 2022, but there was still fair reason to assume an offense that ranked top 10 in points per game, and which added a first-round receiver to a group that already included two 1,000-yard pass catchers, couldn’t do more against a Rams defense that Pro Football Focus ranked as the league’s worst.

“We don’t lose at home,” Smith told reporters after the game. “We can’t do that, let alone in this fashion. So for a lot of guys around here, including myself, we got to look ourselves in the mirror, point the finger, and figure out how to get better.”

A Week 1 upset going your way is great. Finish the game on the other side and you’re left wondering what went wrong.

Did the Rams want it more? Players implied as much postgame. That feels less like an admission of apathy from players and more their blunt acceptance of reality: of course they wanted it more — look at the scoreboard.

The Seahawks will certainly want to win in Week 2, but a palette cleanser will need to come on the road in a game against a quietly tough Lions team that just beat the defending Super Bowl champs.

In a Week 1 full of surprises, what do you do when you’re on the wrong end of an upset?

A fair and cautious read is that Sunday’s loss highlights the massive step the defense needs to take, and underscores how far the Seahawks are from the league’s top units – perhaps further than fans, critics and the team assumed. An overarching indictment on the offense, though, feels premature considering their weapons and performance last season.

“I don’t lose faith that I have in my team after one week,” safety Quandre Diggs told reporters. “I think we will be fine. Sometimes it’s good to have a wake-up call early in the season and we got it over with now. We got punched in the chin. We have to see how we come out and fight next week.”

More on the Seattle Seahawks

• Watch: Bobby Wagner gets huge ovation in Seahawks return
• Carroll: Geno Smith ‘as ready as he could be’ for Seahawks in 2023
• Mark Sanchez: ‘So much meat on the bone’ for Seahawks in 2023
• K.J. Wright’s Seattle Seahawks predictions for 2023 season
• What is Seattle Seahawks GM Schneider seeing from Jamal Adams?

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