Seahawks held back again by slow-starting offense in loss to Saints

Oct 30, 2016, 6:10 PM

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have struggled moving the ball until they end up in do-or-die situa...

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have struggled moving the ball until they end up in do-or-die situations. (AP)


NEW ORLEANS – Officiating can explain why the Seahawks lost in New Orleans.

It does not, however, explain why they failed to win on Sunday, and while that may sound contradictory and/or asinine, stick with me a moment.

There’s no way to analyze what happened to the Seahawks without mentioning the penalties given both the disparity between the teams and the influence those calls had on the outcome. But it’s equally short-sighted to ignore the continuing flaws of Seattle’s offense while focusing on the thorough rogering that the Seahawks received from Ed Hochuli’s crew in the 25-20 loss to the Saints.

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Seattle took it in the shorts from the officials. Let’s not mince words about that, but that doesn’t explain why the Seahawks’ offense scored only 13 points against a New Orleans team that came into the game allowing a league-high 32.5 points.

New Orleans ran twice as many plays as Seattle in the first half and held the ball for 10 minutes longer, and while the Seahawks did score two touchdowns this week, one was by the defense and the other was set up by a trick play in which the rookie receiver who used to be a quarterback (Tanner McEvoy) threw to the rookie running back who used to be a receiver (C.J. Prosise). That play accounted for 43 yards, setting up Christine Michael’s 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That was the last time the Seahawks reached the end zone on Sunday.

They came close in the final minute. They were 10 yards away on the final pass, which Jermaine Kearse caught only to fall out-of-bounds, and for all the time that will be spent understandably scrutinizing the officiating, there’s a much bigger question here: Why does this Seahawks team seem to find its offensive rhythm only when it is in white-knuckle desperation mode?

It happened in Week 1 when Seattle fell behind to Miami with just over 4 minutes to play, the Seahawks coming back to score their only touchdown on a 2-yard pass to Doug Baldwin with 31 seconds left. It almost happened the next week, too, when a fumble unplugged what could have been a game-winning drive in Los Angeles.

And then there was last week when the Seahawks gained 130 yards over the first four quarters of regulation, never once carrying the ball from their half of the field into Arizona territory. Yet in overtime, after Seattle fell behind, the offense jump-started to life, gaining 127 yards on two possessions and nearly matching the total in regulation.

In New Orleans, Seattle got the ball at its own 32 back with 1:50 left and no timeouts. Six plays later, the Seahawks were at the New Orleans 10 with 2 seconds and one last chance.

Why don’t the Seahawks move the ball as effectively earlier in the game?

“We have to get out of our own way so we have normal rhythms in the first half of a football game,” coach Pete Carroll said.

Penalties certainly didn’t help. A clipping call against George Fant cost the Seahawks’ 15 yards and short-circuited a first-quarter possession. A false start against the rookie left tackle didn’t help.

But the Seahawks ran only 19 plays in the first half, including just three runs before coming out in the second half with a determination to move the ball on the ground. Seattle’s first eight plays of the third quarter were rushes.

“We just ran the ball like we know we can,” Carroll said. “It’s a reoccurring theme of not enough runs.”

Right now, the Seahawks are that procrastinating college student who operates only at the knifepoint of an imminent deadline, and the answer to why that is will be the key to determining the direction of this season.

Is Seattle better when it ditches the huddle, limits substitutions and operates at a faster tempo? That’s one possibility.

It’s also possible that in those do-or-die situations, Russell Wilson knows he must pull the trigger. Whether that means he’s taking more chances or trusting his teammates is a matter of opinion. What’s clear is that he’s more decisive and Seattle’s offense is more dangerous.

That came too late to save the Seahawks in Sunday’s game, which makes it even more important looking ahead to the final nine games of the season.

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Seahawks held back again by slow-starting offense in loss to Saints