This wasn’t the game that I was anticipating for Seattle in Germany. Heading overseas, they seemed like one of the hottest teams in football. They were on an impressive four game win streak against quality opponents, and playing great ball both offensively and defensively in all of these matchups.
Conversely, the Buccaneers were a team that looked on the ropes. They had a banged up offensive line, a run game that was laughably one of the worst in the league, and an offense that wasn’t scoring a lot of points, even with The GOAT. Their defense, while still pretty good, didn’t seem too terribly intimidating, either.
This felt to me like a game that Seattle should have been able to win handily, and true enough, the first series of the game, Tom Brady and the Tampa offense looked overwhelmed by Seattle’s defense. It’s a shame that the rest of the first half, and second half didn’t look the same as that initial series.
Almost inexplicably, Tampa found its absent run game, and stunned Seattle’s defense with it. They stayed with it throughout, and Brady had himself a pretty easy day hitting targets almost anywhere he wanted to go with play action. If you give Tom Brady that kind of ground game, he can beat any defense in this league, and it did. That was the difference in the game for me.
That was also a really hard watch for me, as well. Yes, it’s true that Seattle couldn’t get much going offensively in the first half, K9 was held in check, and they were was lousy with third downs, and found themselves in bad positions with penalties and taking sacks, but watching Tampa running on Seattle’s defense mostly at will was super difficult to digest.
Ultimately, I don’t have any definitive answers, but it was really telling for me to hear Coach Carroll say in his press conference “we need to go back to doing things (on defense) that respect the run.”
If I were to guess what Coach meant by that, I would suggest that maybe Tampa caught Seattle in defensive fronts that were favorable to run on, and since they are coached by a defensive minded HC, he had absolutely no problem dialing the run against those specific fronts where perhaps a more offensive minded coach would desire to pass. In other words, I think it’s possible, if not fully probable, that Clint Hurtt’s game plan was to stop the passing attack of Brady, and not be overly concerned with Leonard Fournette on the ground.
With Hurtt’s defense, Seattle often features a four man front in it’s nickel that some football nerds might call a 2-4-5. The two represents the two interior defensive linemen, the four is four linebackers with the outside backers at the line of scrimmage as stand up ends, and the five is the defensive backs on the back end. This front is played mostly against obvious pass situations. The idea is to get the best athletes on the field to rush and cover on the back end, but there can be a price for that.
The four rushers are often lighter athletes, the defensive tackles are lighter and the ends usually are as well. Again, the idea is to win with quickness. A 330 pound run stuffing Al Woods isn’t as ideal as a 290 pound Quinton Jefferson, and a 250 pound Darrell Taylor isn’t likely to win with leverage standing up, but with speed off the edge or on stunts.
Furthermore, when Seattle uses this package, Hurtt has his defensive tackles wide to the outside corners of the guards with no big body on the center. Sometimes the inside backers crowd those inner gaps, but not always, and if you opt to run on that front, it is much easier for the 300 pound center to take on a 240 pound middle linebacker than a mammoth nose tackle.
When I see Seattle showing this package, I am sort of amazed when offenses don’t just run on it all the time. Offenses were doing that earlier in the season when Seattle showed that a lot, but Seattle tweaked their front and went to more heavier looks of 4-3 and 5-2 Bear fronts. It helped their defensive turnaround, but then this game happened.
Seattle showed a lot of 2-4-5 in this game (I believe I found myself noticing), and Tampa took what was there on the ground. That helped them set up play action as soon as Seattle shifted back to more heavier fronts in order to stop the run.
Tampa boxed smart from the get go, and put Seattle’s defense in a corner that it never really got out of enough. It never got its pass rush going, and it got fortunate to get a couple interceptions to help bail them out (one on an incredibly stupid play by Tampa with Fournette throwing to Brady, of all things).
Eventually, when Seattle needed to stop the run late in the fourth quarter to aid a Geno Smith led comeback attempt, Tampa had Seattle’s defense so tired that they couldn’t stop the run even with their heavier fronts. I think that speficically had Pete Carroll pretty upset at the outcome.
Tampa did to his defense what Pete Carroll loves to do late in games against other teams. They ran with success at will. Seattle did this to Arizona, and the New York Giants, and the LA Chargers. That won’t sit well with him on a ten hour flight home.
People can criticize how inept the Seattle offense was during the first half of ball, and how out of sorts Geno Smith might have been in moments, and how K9 couldn’t get anything going on the ground. I think it is completely fair to suggest that Seattle could have adjusted earlier on offense, and got their passing game going faster when the run wasn’t there for them like they hoped.
In my opinion, however, this was a way more disappointing effort by a Seahawk defense that I expected to play a lot better. I anticipated that Seattle’s offense would have some hiccups against a tough Tampa defense. What I didn’t envision was seeing one of the worst running attacks have a day against Poona Ford and Al Woods.
So where does Seattle go from here?
As bad of a taste in my mouth as I got from watching this game, I feel more inclined to see a silver lining. I honestly think that losing like this right before their bye week isn’t the worst thing for these 2022 Seattle Seahawks.
I think this is a team still very capable of finding themselves in the playoffs, and maybe hanging onto their division lead in the NFC West (yes, even against those 49ers). Geno Smith proved yet again in this outing to be a quality starting quarterback, and I don’t believe that is going to change from here on out. He’s legit, and he has great weapons around him and a good scheme to play in. I’m a believer in this team still very much, offensively.
Defensively, they need to put this game behind them, and get back to a style that wants to get after the run, and force teams into one dimensional play. I think this might require Hurtt and Carroll to look at making further tweaks up front again. Specifically, I think that might require getting back to an approach that will be stronger against the run.
Moving forward, this team plays the 49ers, the Panthers, and the Jets who all prefer the ground game. I believe that Seattle has the bodies to stop the run, but they need to be used the right way, and the players gotta want to do it, too.
That’s the final thing that I wanted to say about this game. To me, it looked like Tampa ran on Seattle fronts that were favorable to run on, but what I don’t know is if when Seattle shifted more to heavier looks, Seattle defenders didn’t do enough to shift their mentality to stop the run as they needed to, and if that is what Carroll was referring to when he said “respecting the run.”
I think that winning football often comes down to who wants it more. I think Tampa really wanted to assert their run game. I suspect that they felt there was a chance that they could catch Seattle off guard with it, but once they started having success, that success bred further success on the ground. Offensive linemen would much rather be run blockers than pass blockers. It allows them to be the aggressors.
Perhaps this game was just Tampa’s day in that regard, and maybe this is the best lesson for a young Seattle team to take away from this. Winning in football is almost always hard, and in any given Sunday, a seemingly inferior opponent can rise to the occasion.
When I look at this Seahawk schedule and the remaining games, I see winnable ones, but these Seahawks can’t play like this. They are going to have to be prepared for dogfights each and every week.
I think this game in Germany serves as a good reminder of that, and is the thing they maybe needed to experience in order to come out of their bye week even more determined to prove the doubters wrong. This was their bad day at the office. We’ve all had those days.
And let’s face it, sometimes we need to be knocked down a peg in life when we start feeling cocky and overly confident. We need to be reminded to respect the process and do the hard work. Doing all the little things right matters.
Now is a great time for the players to get some rest and heel, and refocus on the little things. It’s also a great time for the coaches to self scout, and make all the tweaks they need on both sides of the ball to get back on track and finish this season out right. I think they will.
I’m ready for that, and I am excited about that.