O’Neil: Sunday night about more than the caliber of competition for Seahawks
Should is a dangerous word to use in the NFL.
It denotes a sense of expectation mixed with more than a little bit of entitlement. It comes from the idea that the resume of a specific player or certain team is sufficient to think there should be a specific outcome.
And with all that said, the Seahawks should beat the pants off the Indianapolis Colts this weekend.
Seriously. If the Seahawks don’t bruise meat with both feet while they’re kicking Indianapolis around CenturyLink Field this Sunday I’ll wind up more concerned about Seattle’s prospects this season than I’ve been after any of their first three games.
It’s not just because the Colts are bad, though let’s make it clear that this isn’t a very good football team. At least not without quarterback Andrew Luck, who’s recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He practiced this week and could make his 2017 debut next week, but he’ll be watching this one, which leaves the Colts starting Jacoby Brissett, who has been downright respectable when you consider that he was a third-string quarterback in New England who has been with Indianapolis all of a month.
It’s not just the quarterback, though. The Colts average 2.7 yards per rush, fewest in the league. The Colts don’t exactly make up for it on the other side of the ball, either. Only three teams have given up more yards than Indianapolis so far this season.
But this is about more than the caliber of competition. After all, the Seahawks needed a fourth-quarter comeback at home in Week 2 to beat a 49ers teams that has now lost 17 of the past 19 regular-season games they’ve played.
This is about Seattle starting to play like the team it is expected to be. To put together a complete game on both sides of the ball, and if it doesn’t happen at home in Game 4 against an opponent that has been among the most impotent in the league this September, it will be time to go from wondering when the Seahawks will put it all together to worrying that they won’t.
It’s not like the Seahawks have been all bad through the first three games. The defense allowed exactly two touchdowns in the first 10 quarters of play, and while the offense has stumbled through the first half of games and the first month of the season, that’s nothing new for this team that usually takes some time to get going.
OK. That’s fine. The Seahawks have had that time. Three weeks of it in fact in which they’ve been utterly unable to pair one half of complete football on both sides of the ball, and if they’re not able to do it on Sunday against this Colts team, then when exactly do we think Seattle will be able to do it.
The Seahawks win this game if … they put together even a remotely respectable offensive performance in the first half. The Seahawks have scored one first-half touchdown in the first three games combined and even that touchdown came in the final two minutes of the first half last week in Tennessee. That inability to take a significant lead in the first half of any game this season has let opponents feel content to putter around on offense, declining to truly test Seattle’s defense. That – more than anything else – is why Seattle’s secondary has yet to intercept a pass. If Seattle can stake out a first-half lead, it will force Indianapolis to be more aggressive on offense to stay in the game, which would force the Colts to throw into the teeth of Seattle’s defense.
The Seahawks are vulnerable if … they let the Colts hang around. That’s what happened in Week 2 with San Francisco. The 49ers held a fourth-quarter lead despite the fact that San Francisco did not complete a single pass of 16 yards or more against these Seahawks. The Colts rushing game has been among the league’s least explosive, but don’t sleep on Frank Gore. He may be 303 years old, I mean 33 years old, but he is the only player ever to rush for more than 200 yards against the Seahawks in two different games. The Colts will be content to trade field goals for three quarters and see what happens in the fourth. Seattle can’t let that happen.