Moore: Seahawks’ defense has issues, yet Seattle looks like the NFC favorite
Through the first four weeks of the season, I’ve gone back and forth with the Seahawks, sometimes thinking they’re average to above average, other times thinking they could contend for the Super Bowl.
I leaned more toward the negative before Thursday night’s 30-29 win over the Rams since the Seahawks’ first three wins came over teams that are a combined 1-10-1. That perception changed after beating a 3-1 Rams team that played in the Super Bowl last year.
So that’s where I am today. And I know, when we add it all up at the end of the season, I’m guessing we’ll blame the defense for the Seahawks not going all the way and posing for photos with the Lombardi Trophy. The Rams’ game was the second this season without a sack, and the secondary in particular – outside of cornerback Shaquill Griffin – will likely be the biggest reason why this team ultimately falls short in the playoffs.
The Bengals’ Andy Dalton threw for 400 yards and Los Angeles’ Jared Golf threw for 395 against the Seahawks. Seattle defenses in the past would not have allowed the Rams to start a final drive from the 7-yard line and get into game-winning field-goal position. Another worrisome example: Rams tight end Gerald Everett was too open too often, and when he got the ball we saw too many missed tackles, a season-long problem to this point. Everett had 11 catches for 87 yards in the first four games but collected seven for 136 yards Thursday night.
Put all of that aside. Besides, it appears I might be wrong about Seattle’s receiving corps. I thought it would take Russell Wilson a while to develop a rapport with Tyler Lockett as his new No. 1 receiver, and I wondered if Jaron Brown or David Moore could be a capable No. 2. I also had doubts about DK Metcalf, and I didn’t think tight end Will Dissly would be as great as he’s been, coming off of season-ending patellar tendon surgery in the fourth game last year.
But as it’s turned out so far, Lockett looks like a No. 1, especially after the sensational toe-tapper catch he made for a touchdown against the Rams. Dissly appears to be a surprising No. 2, and Metcalf is a promising No. 3. That’s a terrific development because it also allows Brown and Moore to be complementary receivers.
So even though the defense hasn’t been great, it could take a big step forward like the receivers have. The defensive line is bound to improve when tackle Jarran Reed returns in two weeks – just in time for Earl Thomas’ return to Seattle with the Ravens. Reed has just one game left in his six-game suspension. It’s also fair to think that defensive end Ziggy Ansah will be more of a force than he’s been thus far, though I have to admit, after Thursday night’s game I wonder if injuries have caught up to him and he’ll never be the player he was in Detroit.
With a more consistent pass rush, it stands to reason that defensive backs will be the beneficiaries. Their only two interceptions this season occurred when catchable balls turned into tip drills and diving picks by Bradley McDougald in the Pittsburgh game and Tedric Thompson on Thursday night.
But I’m burying the lead. Let’s say the Seahawks are the same team at the end of the season that they are now with the same defensive issues. They’d still have a great chance to emerge as the NFC champions given the competition.
When you look around the NFC, do you see any teams that look better than the Seahawks? I get that the Saints beat the Seahawks last month with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, but do you look at them and think they’re that much better, even when Drew Brees returns? I don’t either, especially if they meet in the playoffs at CenturyLink Field. And I’m guessing the Saints will lose a couple of games before Brees comes back from his hand injury.
The Saints are one of four 3-1 teams along with Dallas, Green Bay and Chicago. Do you look at the Cowboys, Packers and Bears as being head and shoulders above the Seahawks? Again, I don’t either.
Then you’ve got the 3-0 49ers, who can’t possibly stay undefeated much longer. They host the Browns Monday night, and even if you’re not a Baker Mayfield fan, you’ll no doubt root for the Browns to knock off the 49ers.
The Seahawks have put the 12s in a great position to scoreboard-watch on Sunday. You can pull for the Bucs to spring a second straight upset on the road when they face the Saints in New Orleans. Maybe the Raiders will stun the Bears in Oakland. And either Dallas or Green Bay is going to lose on Sunday because they play each other. Then you’re a Browns fan Monday night.
It’s not good enough any more to win the NFC West. We’ve seen that it’s even more important to finish with the NFC’s best record to get a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. This year the NFC looks to have a grab-bag of good to very good teams, none of which are great. And when you have the best quarterback in the conference, that puts Pete Carroll’s team in a solid position. This might be a year where 12-4 or even 11-5 is good enough to get the No. 1 seed, and either one of those records looks within reach for the Seahawks.