JOHN CLAYTON

Seahawks uncharacteristically piling up problems late in season

Dec 28, 2016, 12:41 PM
Russell Wilson has been sacked 40 times this season, a product of the Seahawks' O-line struggles. (...
Russell Wilson has been sacked 40 times this season, a product of the Seahawks' O-line struggles. (AP)
(AP)

Saturday’s 34-31 loss to the Arizona Cardinals showed more holes for the Seattle Seahawks than has been seen this late in the season in years.

The running game remains inconsistent. Problems persist on the offense line with protection and run blocking. And without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks are vulnerable to big plays in the passing game.

Normally under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks peak in December. This year, they are showing signs of issues that could cost them and keep them from going to the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of time to fix things.

O’Neil: Seahawks are consistent in their inconsistency

The Seahawks have the season finale Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers to work on improvements, but the 49ers have been so bad it’s going to be hard to judge if Seattle makes any progress heading into the playoffs.

Here is a closer look at the Seahawks’ problems:

The Beast Mode factor is gone. No, the Seahawks aren’t pulling Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. That was never going to happen. He knew his career was up last year when he had core surgery in Philadelphia. But this would really mark the second year of the transition. Lynch, as great as he was, had only 417 yards rushing and 3.8 yards per carry last year. And while Thomas Rawls showed promise until he got hurt and Christine Michael had a couple of nice games toward the end of last season, nothing has come together in 2016. Rawls, who has had three injuries and started only six games, has 335 yards on 101 attempts for 3.3 yards per carry. He’s questionable for Sunday’s game against the 49ers because of a shoulder injury. Pete Carroll knows the running game has a chance if Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins are healthy at the same time, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Prosise (shoulder blade) may be ready for a playoff game, but Carroll isn’t sure yet if will be in the wild-card week or a couple weeks into the postseason. For the season, the Seahawks have rushed for 100.3 yards a game, roughly 40 less than last year. A physical running game is their personality, but unfortunately for this team, that personality hasn’t been around consistently this year.

Offensive line woes. It’s hard to have confidence that the right tackle position can be fixed this season. The job has gone between Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell, and both have played themselves into spots in which they were healthy scratches on the inactive list. Next year, the Seahawks have to find a better solution. The task of going so young along the offensive line was going to be difficult. As a result, Russell Wilson has been sacked 40 times. The Seahawks’ offensive line also leads the league with 25 false starts, are among the top five teams in having their quarterback knocked down or hurried, and the offense as a whole has been called for 14 holding penalties.

Missing Earl Thomas. Since Thomas’s season-ending broken leg injury, the Seahawks have become more vulnerable to deeper passes. Steven Terrell has done a good job replacing him, but the pass defense clearly hasn’t been as sharp without Thomas. The Seahawks now rank eighth in pass defense, giving up 228 yards a game.

They need to get the No. 2 seed. The Seahawks need a gift from the New Orleans Saints to have a bye week in the playoffs. The Atlanta Falcons currently own the No. 2 seed, and if they beat the Saints on Sunday, the Seahawks would open the playoffs next week – possibly against the New York Giants – and then would have to win two road games to go the Super Bowl. If Seattle can’t lock down the No. 2 seed, one injury in that extra game could be the difference of winning or losing in the playoffs.

All of a sudden, it’s become a very challenging season.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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