Digging into Seattle Seahawks’ ‘maddening’ penalty issue

Nov 20, 2023, 1:41 PM

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Seattle Seahawks CB Devon Witherspoon tackles the Rams' Austin Trammell. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Despite Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith returning late in the fourth quarter from an arm injury to set a potential game-winning field goal attempt, the Los Angeles Rams defended home turf for a 17-16 divisional victory Sunday, sweeping the season series in the process.

Seahawks’ Carroll on Geno Smith: ‘He’ll make it back’ to play 49ers

The Seahawks have now lost two of their last three after winning five of the previous six, blowing a 13-point lead Sunday and failing to score more than seven points in a half for the eighth time this season.

“It’s so maddening,” Brock Huard said during Monday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

What is? The Seahawks’ issues with penalties, which took a toll again against LA. Seattle was flagged 12 times, amounting to 130 yards in the loss. The Seahawks now pace the league in total penalties this season with 76 through 10 games, with Arizona (74), Dallas (74), Chicago (73) and Buffalo (73) rounding out the top five.

Huard broke down a specific drive in Sunday’s game that exemplifies the Seahawks’ problem.

“They are moving the ball again, first-and-10 at the Rams’ 35. Then you have (wide receiver) Dee Eskridge who can’t get lined up, so when (receiver Jake) Bobo goes in motion and the ball gets snapped, guess what? Illegal motion. First-and-15,” Huard said. “Alright, let’s get back into rhythm. Run the next play and it’s a delay of game. Now it’s first-and-20. I mean, those are just pre-snap penalties that are the most foolish, reckless, undisciplined, undetailed penalties. As an NFL professional team, you can’t have that.”

Seattle finished with the sixth-most penalties last year with 106 (6.2 per game). It’s not unfamiliar territory for coach Pete Carroll and company, as his two NFC championship squads of 2013 and 2014 also led the league in penalties, including averaging more than eight a game in 2014.

“This is the NFL,” Huard continued. “Colby Parkinson, keep your hands in, man. Don’t even need to do that. Just put your big old frame, body-on-body, chest-on-chest. Don’t reach and grab and now have a holding call that’s just going to derail this drive. Those details are killing us.”

The Seahawks have had seven halves of football with one or fewer scoring drives this season. Six of those instances have occurred in the second half of games. Only against the Lions, Panthers, Giants and Commanders – the 16th, 26th, 23rd and 14th-ranked defenses, according to Pro Football Focus – has Seattle scored more than seven points in a second half.

“And where are the explosive plays? Where have they gone?” Huard asked rhetorically. “DK (Metcalf) had the one go route. Awesome, ran right by him. Geno (Smith) missed a touchdown on another one, runs right by him later in the game and you heard (CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback) Matt Ryan kind of say, ‘You only get so many of those looks.’ You don’t get five pitches in an at-bat to hit. You don’t get a go route, one-on-one, with a single high safety and that much room to DK Metcalf. You can’t miss those.”

Running back Kenneth Walker led all backs in plays of 20 yards or more with 10 last year. He added five more to his tally this season, tied for second-most in the league, but against the Rams, he fell victim to an oblique injury early in the contest and failed to return for the rest of the game.

As for the explosive passing attack, Geno Smith ranks just 17th in air yards per attempt – a metric that tracks how far a ball travels in the air before being caught. This season, Brock Purdy, C.J. Stroud, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson make up the top of the leaderboard in air yards per attempt. Smith is one year removed from logging 21 throws of 30-plus yards (fifth in the league) while leading the league in deep ball accuracy.

“So you’re missing the explosive plays and your details are a struggle bus, and the guards are not playing well,” Huard said. “The guards are not winning and moving and blowing people off the ball, and the offensive line is just not imposing their will. That is a problem.”

Listen to the full Blue 88 segment of Monday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks Instant Reaction: Rams still have their number
What They Said: What happened on key play before Seahawks’ missed FG?
Huard: Witherspoon has been Seahawks’ best defender so far
Next Day: What’s sticking from another Seattle Seahawks loss to Rams

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