The Seattle Seahawks aren’t a great team right now. They aren’t a bad team either, but they have a lot of work to do in order to become a real contender.
If the season ended today, they would be the seventh playoff team coming out of the NFC, and that feels like the right sort of projection right now. If they want to be better than that, they have work to do through these final five games of the regular season.
They have regressed on defense from the four game winning streak they were in during October and November in ways that are trying to watch if you are a fan of this team, and you love defense. For me, that’s been a struggle to view. A Pete Carroll defense should be better than this.
Last week, they gave up 283 rushing yards to the Las Vegas Raiders, and that wasn’t a fun watch. In this game against the Rams, they surrendered 171 yards on the ground. While this game in LA was an improvement, it was a still a bad effort, and had LA been able to hang onto their lead to win, it would be a major talking point about the Seahawks this week (it still might be).
If you cannot run the ball in this league, and if you cannot stop the run, as well, you are likely not going to win many games. In order to win games with these deficiencies, you need great quarterback play to win shoot out scenarios on a weekly basis.
In this game against the Rams, the Seattle Seahawks got awesome quarterback play from Geno Smith, and make no mistake about that. No longer can cheapskate fans say that you cannot pay Geno Smith because he hasn’t led this team to any fourth quarter comebacks. They are going to have to come up with another reason now.
When his team needed him most, in a hostile environment on the road, against a top ten defense, Geno Smith delivered as pretty of a come from behind, touchdown throwing drive as you will see in the final minutes of a game. Yes, I know that the Rams were without Aaron Donald, but they still had a lot of high end talent playing on that side of the ball, and they have a much better defense than the Raiders had the other week. When they knew he had to pass, Geno delivered darts against heavy pressure, and he beat them.
As bad as the Seahawk defense played at times (and the Seattle offense stalled at times), this was yet another fun game to watch. When Ken Walker (K9) was lost to an ankle injury early in the game, Seattle was forced to turn to reserve third down back DeeJee Dallas and fourth string back Tony Jones Jr who many casual Seahawk fans probably didn’t know he was even a dude on this roster. It wasn’t always pretty with Dallas and Jones, but it was impressive with how they hung in and fought, especially with Dallas who got immediately banged up and yet had to come back in and grit it out after Jones was knocked out.
Circling back to the defense, I don’t really know what to think. They gave up monster yards on the ground again, but they mostly held the Ram offense in check in terms of scoring. At times, it felt like they allowed John Wolford to be a competent NFL quarterback in place of Matt Stafford, but his state line was a fairly terrible 14/26 for 178 yard and 2 INTs. His best production was almost as a runner. Also, after having no sacks against Tom Brady and Derek Carr, they got to Wolford 4 times in this one, and Uchenna Nwuso collected 2 of them for 9 sacks on the year so far. So, I guess, if anything, this was a very up and down defensive effort.
Here’s what I think I see from this unit. They are very committed to staying within the 3-4 structure that Clint Hurtt wants to roll with. I thought maybe they would shift a bit more out of it, but they haven’t. The 3-4 is a defense that functions best against pass happy offenses. Defensive coordinators can disguise more pressures and coverages and confuse quarterbacks more, but this is also a defense that is much easier to run on than the 4-3 one. In the last three games, offenses have chosen to run on this defense more than pass, and the Seahawks are 1-2 in result (and were almost 0-3, if not for Geno in this one).
To my eye, I see the edge players having hard times containing outside run plays (maybe guessing wrong with the freedoms they have to go make a play), and I see defensive tackles not getting off blocks enough inside (possibly because they are reading and reacting more than attacking). The result is very feast or famine. They will make big plays in this sort of scheme, but they are also capable of giving them up.
I would suggest that maybe Seattle needs to go back to the 4-3 defense Pete Carroll usually runs with, but I think that would most likely be something for them to consider next year. For the remainder of this season, I’m not really going to beat that drum for the simple fear of beating a dead horse. For now, Seattle is by and large a 3-4 team. Can they get better in this scheme at stopping the run?
We will soon see. In short order, we will have the Panthers coming into town, and we will have the best running attack in the league to face again in the San Francisco 49ers coming in, as well. The Panthers ran for 185 yards against a very good Bronco defense last week, and are coming off of a bye week this week. The 49ers ran decently against a good Dolphin defense, but are getting more banged up now, so we will see about them.
Regardless, Clint Hurtt has his work to do. He might want to tweak his scheme more, but he has got to get his edge defenders containing better, and he has got to get his defensive tackles attacking better.
All is not lost on this season, but it appears that Seattle could become thinner at running back while its run defense is still a mess. This will continue to put more pressure on Geno Smith, and the Seattle passing attack.
Through this all, I think they can deliver. They just did it on the road against a Rams team that had all the momentum in the final minutes until Geno took over. They are 7-5 and in the thick of playoff contention. Two more wins through these next five games might be enough for them to get into the post season. That still feels very doable for me. Ten wins doesn’t feel a total stretch either.
Why am I this optimistic at the end of listing all of their issues on defense and with the ground game?
This answer is simple.
Winning a come from behind game like this on the road can have a galvanizing effect. When blockers know that their quarterback can get it done in crunch time, they tend to block harder. When receivers trust the quarterback, they tend to be crisper. It’s fun playing with a quarterback you believe in.
I think the Geno factor can have that sort of carryover to the other side of the ball, as well. As a defender, when you know your guy behind center can get it done, you want to go get make that stop or get that ball for him.
I think this team believes in Geno Smith, and probably more so now than ever.
This win on the road against LA, when former Seahawk Bobby Wagner was doing everything in his power to keep Seattle from winning, and Sean McVay was dialing up his offensive magic against Pete Carroll late in the game to take the lead, seeing Geno pull off that sort of high end quarterbacking is probably just what this team needed to see. Sometimes, a team just needs a spark to kick it in the ass for them.
This can be the real spark to get this team into the post season, and I am here for it. I hope you are, too.
Also, watching DK Metcalf absolutely punk that punk ass Jalen Ramsey at the end of the game by beating him for a game winning touchdown grab was extra special priceless. Have fun in Cabo, Jalen Ramsey!