STACY ROST

Rost: The Seahawks are in first place, but they have some warts

Oct 30, 2023, 10:15 AM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith gets set to take a snap against Cleveland on Oct. 29, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Even before losses by the Eagles and 49ers in Week 6 brought an end to their campaigns to go undefeated, it was clear no team was going to bulldoze its way to a title this season.

Jordyn Brooks, Boye Mafe emerging as keys to Seahawks’ defense

The Dolphins’ high-octane offense has thrust Tua Tagovailoa’s name into the MVP conversation early and put Tyreek Hill on pace for a record 2,000-yard season (he’s already reached 1,000 yards in eight starts), but they allowed nearly 50 points from the Bills and fell to the Eagles in primetime.

The Bills are one of the league’s top-scoring units and began the season as a far more balanced team than they’ve been in years’ past. They’ve also got losses to some of the league’s worst teams, including the Patriots and Jets.

Philadelphia is still the best team in the NFC, but the departure of their defensive coordinator and several defensive starters this past offseason has left them with some regression.

No self-respecting football fan could rule the Chiefs out as an annual contender, but their 23 points per game are their lowest average since 2016.

The 49ers were the closest thing to a shoe-in contender. Five weeks into the season, starter Brock Purdy had yet to lose a regular season game and their offensive weapons were firing on all cylinders. Three weeks and three straight losses later, they’re a half-game back of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West. All of those teams are contenders, and yet none are perfect.

Which brings us to Seattle, a team equal parts flawed, fascinating, fun, and frustrating.

Take Geno Smith – a quarterback whose play shocked the rest of the NFL last season, but whose decision-making this year has allowed doubt to creep back in. He’s thrown six interceptions in 2023, with five coming in the last three weeks. Two of those interceptions have been in the red zone, contributing to offensive woes against Cincy and Arizona. But when Seattle needed him most, he delivered: the offense took over after a sloppy three quarters of play with 1:57 remaining Sunday and delivered a go-ahead touchdown to beat Cleveland.

If you were to use one word to describe the day for the offense, it might be a negative one. “Sloppy,” or “uneven,” or “uninspired.” The group put up a combined 17 points on three consecutive drives to start the game, then saw every other drive end with a punt or interception until that final touchdown.

To look at the stats would tell a different story. They were 3 for 5 in the red zone, one of their better marks of the season, and put up 362 net yards against a team limiting opponents to under 300. Their 17 first downs are more than the Browns have allowed on average (12), their less-than-stellar 33% third-down conversion rate is higher than the Browns have allowed on average (27%), and Smith’s 254 passing yards are the second-most allowed from the Browns this year and more than the 215 net yards allowed from the 49ers.

Those totals don’t mean the Seahawks are a better team than San Francisco, who have a talent edge entering 2023. Nor that Geno Smith and the offense have solved their issues. It does mean, though, that this 5-2 team can find ways to win, and that’s what good teams do.

A look ahead

Speaking of those offensive issues, the turnovers allowed and inconsistent run game will both need to be addressed heading into a Week 9 matchup against a stellar Ravens defense. Baltimore is allowing the second-fewest passing yards per game and the fewest points per game. It’s a Week 8 repeat with a better quarterback under center; Lamar Jackson is third in completion percentage this year and has just three picks to nine touchdowns.

The run game had its moments on Sunday (head coach Pete Carroll called it “spotty”), but Seattle got away from it in the second and third quarters.

“We took what they were giving us,” Carroll said of the lack of carries for Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet. “We were protecting the passer better than we thought and so we went with it and made some yards for us.”

Moving away from the run was a bit surprising considering the Browns’ efficiency against the pass, and Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron stressing last week that the run game was central to red zone play, an area where Seattle had struggled.

Around the league, keep an eye on Tuesday. Halloween is also the NFL’s trade deadline and a few teams are expected to be making moves. The biggest names to watch? Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Washington’s Chase Young. Minnesota’s loss of Kirk Cousins could throw them into the mix as a team seeking a quarterback.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

What They Said: Seahawks on late pick, last-minute win over Browns
Seahawks Instant Reaction: Win over Browns delivers first place
Recap: JSN’s late TD gives Seahawks win over Browns, NFC West lead
The Big Plays: Seattle Seahawks come back to beat Browns 24-20
Photos: See the Seattle Seahawks’ throwbacks in action

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