JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Like it or not, hurry-up is Seahawks’ best offense

Sep 26, 2017, 9:38 AM | Updated: 11:26 am
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Since 2012, the Seahawks are 11-7 in September and averaged only 23 points a game. (AP)
(AP)

Given the Seahawks’ history of slow starts under Pete Carroll, it’s probably good for Seattle that September is coming to an end.

Since 2012, the Seahawks are 11-7 in September and have averaged only 23 points a game. Compare those numbers to how well the team finishes: the Seahawks have won 80 percent of their final five games of the season since 2012, and during that span have averaged 28 points a game.

What we learned: Seahawks suddenly vulnerable defending against the run

Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans had plenty of bad and some good. Unsurprisingly, the Seahawks defense wore out in the 88-degree heat — it’s happened before, but now that the defense is getting a little older that should be predictable. Russell Wilson struggled in the first half in the passing game, but was able to get things going in the second half. And, once again, the running offense wasn’t there.

At 1-2, the Seahawks aren’t at the crossroads of their season, but their play certainly needs to improve.

Let’s look back at what was learned Sunday.

Like it or not, the best offense for the Seahawks is the hurry-up offense. The Seahawks started in their conventional offense and, much like the Green Bay Packers offense, it didn’t work.

In the first 26 minutes of the game, the Seahawks gained only 42 yards on 21 plays. That’s 2.1 yards a play — which is not good enough. Trailing 6-0, the Seahawk went hurry-up before the half and had a five-play, 86-yard touchdown drive.

Thanks to the fast-paced offense, the Seahawks scored 27 points, and Wilson completed 29-of-49 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns.

Here’s the problem. Going no huddle throughout the game puts the team in a spot in which it might not be able to get an effective running game going. Success in this scenario depends on Wilson’s arm and Wilson’s ability to run. The solution might be starting the Indianapolis game with some quick stuff to try to establish a lead before letting the running game take over in the second half.

The reason the Seahawks aren’t panicking at 1-2 in because the schedule eases up. The team knew road games against Green Bay and Tennessee would be tough. The Packers are one of the best teams in the NFC and the Titans are one of the rising teams in the AFC with a good young quarterback in Marcus Mariota.

Road games are tough anyways, but here’s where the Seahawks have an edge: the only two good quarterbacks they play on the road the rest of the season are Eli Manning of the New York Giants and Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals — and both are starting to show a little bit of their age. Jared Goff, Brian Hoyer and Blake Bortles are three of the other quarterbacks they face. Dak Prescott will be tough, but the Seahawks are playing them in late December when playoff spots could be wrapped up.

Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins will be tough to face, but those games are at home.

Statistically, the Seahawks defense didn’t register many quarterback pressures, but that was because of the game plan of the Titans. Mariota was 16-of-26 in the first half, but most of his throws were quick tosses in which defense linemen have a tough time registering staff. Until the final two-minute drive of the first half, Mariota had completed just 11-of-20 passes for 89 yards.

Using 2.5 seconds as the measuring tool of taking the snap and releasing the ball, Mariota was 15-for-20 for 147 yards, but 23 of those yards came on two completions when he was trying to recover after a second down and 26 early in the second quarter.

In the first quarter, the Seahawks held Mariota to four three-and-outs and one completion. The pass rush was fine.

As this defense ages, it needs to preserve energy for the second halves of games. As Pete Carroll and Kam Chancellor said after the game: Seahawks defensive players can’t waste energy arguing with officials or getting into altercations with opponents. 

The Seahawks have seven Pro Bowl defenders who have been with the team for years, and all are between the ages of 27 and 31. They added Sheldon Richardson as an eighth Pro Bowl. He’s 26.

If the offense struggles, the defense may have 40-play first-halves. If that’s the case, they could wear out in the second half, which was some of the problems the defense had stopping the run in the second half of the Titans game. Even though the Seahawks top defensive players are in their prime, they can’t afford to wear down as they have in some of these games this season. Wasted energy is dangerous.

The Seahawks offensive line established a consistent pocket for the first time in the second half of the Titans game. Left guard Luke Joeckel had his best game as a Seahawk, and Oday Aboushi did well in his first start at right guard. Sure, Wilson was pressured about 39 percent of his passes, but he did have time in the pocket in the second half (both tackles also performed well during that span). Given a pocket, Wilson was able to get the ball to tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson.

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