Wyman: Why the Seahawks’ problems are not always what you think
As we continue to dissect and eulogize the 2019 Seattle Seahawks season gone by, there tends to be lots of finger pointing towards the defense.
It’s understandable considering what we’ve gotten used to around here. Consider this: In 2013, the Seahawks were No. 1 in both scoring defense (14 points allowed per game) and total yards allowed (273 yards allowed per game). Six years later, the 2019 Seahawks defense was ranked 22nd in points allowed (25) and No. 26 in yards allowed (383).
When you think about it, that’s an extra 160 points and 1,760 yards over the 16-game season, so I understand how stat hounds (myself included) tend to point the finger of blame at the Seahawks’ defense when explaining what happened.
When you go back over the season’s plays, penalties and mistakes, it tells a different story. Especially in the case of their first loss of the season.
It’s not what you think
Take the New Orleans game in Week 3. The Seahawks were in a great position with a 2-0 record fresh off of beating a good Steelers team in Pittsburgh. Russell Wilson was coming off of a historic performance, and as the Seahawks boarded the buses to leave Pittsburgh, they learned that Saints quarterback Drew Brees had injured his thumb and they were going to be facing a backup QB against New Orleans at CenturyLink Field.
As we all know, the Seahawks lost that game 33-27. The Saints had limped into Seattle on the heels of a 27-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Teddy Bridgewater, who took over as New Orleans’ QB, had not started a game since he suffered a tragic injury that almost ended his career in 2016. So how could the Seahawks’ defense lose at home to a team with a backup QB?
Bridgewater played well – better than a backup should versus a team like the Seahawks, who have been dominant at home under Pete Carroll. But if anyone on the Saints’ offense beat up the Seahawks’ defense, it was running back Alvin Kamara, who gained a combined 161 yards on the ground and through the air and scored two touchdowns.
Here’s the thing: The Seahawks gave up just 265 yards and held the Saints to converting just 27% of their third downs.
How did the Seahawks lose that game? It’s not what you think. Or perhaps I should say it’s not what you remember.
The first score of the game was on a punt returned for a touchdown by Deonte Harris, a 5-foot-6 wide receiver and punt returner from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. – anyone know the mascot there? The Seahawks has netted minus-10 yards on their first drive because of two penalties and a slow-starting offense, and Seahawks punter Michael Dickson shanked a 38-yard punt that went directly to Harris, who took it 53 yards to make it 7-0 Saints.
Halfway through the second quarter, after the Seahawks had evened the score at 7-7, Seattle running back Chris Carson ripped off a 22-yard run that brought the CenturyLink crowd to its feet. But at the end of the play, Saints cornerback Eli Apple punched the ball out of Carson’s grasp before he hit the ground. The Saints’ Vonn Bell picked up the loose ball and ran it in for a touchdown.
That’s another minus-7.
Just before halftime, the Seahawks had the ball with 29 seconds on their own 21-yard line with two timeouts. Wilson scrambled and threw a 9-yard pass to tight end Nick Vannett. At that point there was about 25 seconds left and the Seahawks could have called a timeout. In fact, they still had two timeouts to use. Instead they let the clock run and on the next play, Russell scrambled away from pressure and uncorked a 54-yard pass to rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf, putting Seattle at New Orleans’ 15-yard line. Wilson tried to take one of those two timeouts they had left but the clock expired.
Make that minus-3 – at least.
The Saints’ first drive of the second half was stopped at the Seahawks’ 35-yard line, and when kicker Will Lutz shanked a field goal attempt, it looked like a good start for the defense. However, defensive tackle Al Woods lined up over the center, which is illegal for some stupid reason like “safety” (I put safety in quotes because anyone who steps onto an NFL football field is most definitely in danger). So the drive was extended and the Seahawks ended up yielding a TD, making the score 27-7 Saints.
Now to be fair, Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald fell off of Kamara like a wet rag while trying to tackle him on a screen pass that went for a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Seahawks also helped New Orleans out by calling a timeout (yes, timeout problems again) at a time when the Saints had 12 men on the field ahead of a second-and-1 play. Without that timeout, it would have turned it into a second-and-6 for the Saints.
But you see the opportunities missed by Seattle. That’s 24 points that the offense and special teams gave up that day and yet all anyone remembers from that game is that the Seahawks lost at home to a backup quarterback.
I’ve said before: Stats are for losers. Admittedly they do tell a story, and some statistics tell more of the story than others. But they don’t tell the entire story.
And it’s not always what you think.