What we learned in the Seahawks’ loss to San Diego

Sep 16, 2014, 10:06 AM | Updated: 4:39 pm
Russell Wilson didn’t have as much time to throw against San Diego as he did in Seattle&#8217...
Russell Wilson didn't have as much time to throw against San Diego as he did in Seattle's opener. (AP)
(AP)

The Seahawks’ loss in San Diego was also a lesson. More than one, actually. Here’s a look at what a coach might call the more teachable moments.

Three things we learned:

1. The gap between Seattle and the rest of the league wasn’t as big as it appeared in Week 1.

Seattle had the most impressive 2014 debut of any team in the league, a soup-to-nuts thrashing of Green Bay that was thorough enough to make you wonder whether the Seahawks would lose. Well, they did, and there’s no shame in that. The Chargers were a playoff team last season. They were playing at home. Quarterback Philip Rivers had one of his best games, especially when it mattered most. He was 9 for 12 passing on third down for 86 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a passer rating of 134.

2. The Seahawks need to force turnovers, especially on the road.

Seattle’s defensive blueprint is to limit explosive plays and wait for the opponent to make mistakes. The Seahawks were almost perfect in the first part of that equation, allowing only one completion of more than 20 yards in this game. The second part of the plan never materialized, though. The Chargers never did turn the ball over despite fumbling it three times. San Diego recovered each of those loose balls and Rivers never came close to being picked off. Under coach Pete Carroll, Seattle is 27-4 when it forces more turnovers than it commits. The Seahawks are 4-15 when their turnovers outnumber their takeaways.

3. Seattle’s speed on offense is no substitute for staying power.

Seattle’s offense is more explosive this year. That was evident Sunday in San Diego as the Seahawks had three plays that gained 30 or more yards in the game and none of their three touchdown drives consumed more than 3 minutes. The problem was that Seattle’s longest possession of the game was its first possession of the game, consuming all of 4:07 and culminating in a punt. The inability to stay on the field sentenced Seattle’s defense to what can only be described as cruel and unusual punishment as it was on the field for more than two-thirds of a game played in brutally hot conditions.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. Where was Russell Wilson’s time to pass from the pocket?

In Week 1, Seattle’s offensive line appeared to be the most improved part of the team. In Week 2, Russell Wilson rarely had time to set up in the pocket. He was sacked twice in the first 20 minutes, each of those plays scuttling a Seahawks possession. Wilson scrambled a couple times, too, and had several throwaways. Specifically, Melvin Ingram had several incursions into the pocket, something that was not lost on Carroll. “We made a few mistakes,” Carroll said. “We cut a couple guys loose. Ingram got loose a couple times. Just calls and protections.”

2. What else Seattle could have done in defending Antonio Gates?

Tough to fault the Seahawks’ defense for what was vintage Rivers and Gates. Each of Gates’ three touchdown catches came against a different defender. First safety Kam Chancellor, then linebacker Malcolm Smith and finally – for the encore – Gates made a one-handed, diving grab behind linebacker K.J. Wright just before Chancellor could come crashing down on him. Throw in a 15-yard gain on third down in the fourth quarter and it was nothing short of an epic afternoon for a pair of players who’ve now combined on 65 touchdown plays, most of any active quarterback/tight end combination in the league. “Those two guys, they were just phenomenal today when they did needed it,” Carroll said afterward. “That was really a big, big element in this game. Those two guys, the chemistry of them hooking up better than we could stop it.”

3. Was Seattle’s run defense adequate Sunday?

The Chargers rushed for 101 yards in the game, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry, which makes it seem as though they struggled to find any running room against the Seahawks. Take out Rivers’ 11 carries for 17 yards, which included four kneel-downs, and the Chargers still only averaged 3.2 yards on carries by a running back. Yet each of San Diego’s first three third-down conversions required 2 yards or fewer, testament to the fact San Diego did find some running room early against Seattle, setting the tone on a day in which the Seahawks couldn’t stop the Chargers on third down. Seattle’s run defense wasn’t even close to being its biggest problem in San Diego, but it didn’t exactly help, either.

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What we learned in the Seahawks’ loss to San Diego