Three plays of more than eight yards.
That’s what the Seahawks offense produced Sunday in Baltimore. The 37-3 thrashing by the formidable Ravens offered a cornucopia of dubious worsts and firsts. The futility banged up all the shiny paint on the Seahawks’ 2023 model, leaving fans wondering whether there is enough Bondo, spackle and primer in the world to hide the scratches and dents.
Fortunately for the 5-3 Seahawks, the NFL schedule continues to be generous. They host Sunday the 4-5 Washington Commanders, commanded by someone named Sam Howell, believed to be the grandson of Gilligan’s Island’s Thurston Howell III. Then follows a trip to Los Angeles Nov. 19 to face the 3-6 Rams, who, minus injured QB Matthew Stafford, also lost fecklessly Sunday, 20-3 at Green Bay to the equally woebegone Packers.
While assuming anything regarding NFL results has long been proven to be a reckless endeavor, it is at least plausible to suggest at mid-season that the Seahawks can win both games, owing largely to opponent lameness. That would mean the Seahawks enter their nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game against the San Francisco 49ers with a chance to prove they are the worst 7-3 team in NFL history.
If that doesn’t sour your sweet potato pie, you can always return to dinner and re-join the less disagreeable Republicans vs. Democrats argument within the fam.
A glance at the results from the season’s first half suggests that being tied for first in the NFC West with the 49ers is not what it seems.
Three of Seattle’s wins came against arguably the worst teams in the league (1-8 Cardinals, 2-7 Giants, 1-7 Panthers). They also lost the gruesome opener to the 3-6 Rams. The best two wins, over the 6-2 Lions and 5-3 Browns, required last-moment, semi-miracles. They lost twice to winners (the 5-3 Bengals and the disaster at 7-2 Baltimore).
The breadth and depth of the Ravens conquest rivals a 2017 loss to the Rams as the worst in coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, beyond the early days. That 42-7 debacle, in which the Rams led at the half 34-0, was in Seattle, where force of nature Aaron Donald sacked Russell Wilson three times (out of seven by LA) and hit him four times. For whatever it’s worth, Seattle bounced back the next week to beat the Cowboys 21-12, but subsequently finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
At the moment, the only thing pointing the Seahawks toward the playoffs is a pillow-soft schedule.
“It’s just a really hard, long day against a really good team,” Carroll said post-game Sunday. “They took it to us.”
It’s hard to say whether the offense or defense was most taken. Forced to choose which will be slower to recover, it has to be the offense. The skill position players are all NFL average or better. But for the seventh time in eight games, the Seahawks have started a different line combination, mostly because of widespread injuries, but also some measure of substandard talent.
The original plan included second-year players Charles Cross and Abe Lucas at the tackles, veterans Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes at the guard spots, and at center, newcomer free-agent signee Evan Brown. But injuries, including to back-ups, have been so prevalent that the Seahawks were forced to hire off his couch Jason Peters, a former Pro Bowl tackle who is nearly old enough to address Carroll as, “Hey, kid.”
The increasing inability to protect the quarterback led to a cascade of problems that has Geno Smith on a weekly post-game apology tour for misdeeds sometimes not his fault.
The Athletic reported this week (via TruMedia stats) that since the season’s fourth week, Smith has been pressured at the highest rate in the league among qualifying quarterbacks. While some of that can be Smith’s responsibility, it’s clear that the eight turnovers ascribed to Smith over the past four games have had multiple contributors. Two of the backups, Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi, are rookies doing rookie things.
Carroll and players rarely offer public criticism of individuals, which is wise. But that doesn’t change the fact that until good health and experience kick in, the season’s second half largely will be a festival of inconsistency that will make Smith’s game look subpar. Against the Ravens, his two turnovers were a strip-sack fumble and an interception off a route-running mistake. He also had three other sacks and three passes batted away at the line. That’s a big part of the reason the Seahawks, in addition to the paucity of big plays, converted one of 12 third-down chances.
To many fans, the big guys up front are often anonymous and mysterious. But they’re in the spotlight now. Of course, they had no responsibility for the other disastrous number from Sunday — 298 yards rushing given up by the defense, most in Carroll’s time in Seattle.
At 7.3 yards per carry, that’s more efficient than a Swiss watch. But let’s deal with one confounding theme at a time. If the Seahawks are declared as the worst-ever 7-3 team, there will be plenty of clock for lamentations.