The Seattle Seahawks just find ways to win. Sometimes a victory turns into a loss, though. Thursday's 22-16 beatdown of the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium gave Seattle a 6-3 record, but it proved to be costly.
Through early-morning fog, I see visions of the things to be, and the Seahawks have become a M.A.S.H. unit that's trying to stitch together a patchwork lineup with little to no hope of advancing in the postseason.
Six significant injuries occurred during the league's latest weekday disaster.
Seeing Richard Sherman on the ground writhing in pain is enough to ruin any contest. The NFL already experienced more than its fair share of superstar injuries. Sherman will join a star-studded injured reserve list that includes Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Odell Beckham Jr., Joe Thomas, Jason Peters, J.J. Watt and Eric Berry.
Officially, Sherman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his season, per the Tacoma News Tribune's Gregg Bell. He let it be known during the NFC West contest, even though he didn't come off the sideline, per CBS Sports' Will Brinson:
The four-time Pro Bowler's loss is devastating for a defensive plan that relies so heavily on his ability to shut down the left side of the field.
Seattle's famous Cover 3 scheme has been successful for multiple seasons mainly because of two players: Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Thomas didn't play Thursday due to a tweaked hamstring, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The safety's range makes him the ultimate eraser along the back line. Bradley McDougald is a competent replacement, but no one in the NFL covers more ground than Thomas.
Even without the three-time All-Pro safety in the lineup, Sherman could still shut down his half of the field. The 29-year-old defender uses his 6'3" size and length unlike any other current cornerback. Sherman beats up receivers near the line of scrimmage and defends the run. His ball skills are unparalleled, too, per ESPN Stats & Info:
As soon as he left the field, the Cardinals attacked Sherman's replacement. Every upcoming opponent will do the same.
Subsequently, Seattle's walking wounded turned into a late-night infomercial: But, wait, there's more.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor left the contest on a cart, per SB Nation's Adam Stites. Chancellor tied for second in the game with 10 total tackles. He's an intimidating presence against the run or over the middle in coverage. His status is yet to be determined, but it's another reason for concern.
Michael Wilhoite started at strong-side linebacker. He didn't finish the game, either, due to an injured calf, per John Boyle of the team's website.
Before the previous three came off the field, the defense's starting 1-technique, Jarran Reed, suffered a hamstring pull, per Rapoport.
Wilhoite and Reed are role players, but they're important cogs in a system that's taken a step back each of the past three seasons.
|Seahawks' Defensive Decline (2014-2017)|
The Seahawks appeared to have solved their offensive line problems after Duane Brown's addition at the Oct. 31 trade deadline. The veteran left tackle can be a stabilizing force, but he needs to be in the lineup to do so.
The 32-year-old blocker suffered an ankle injury and didn't return to Thursday's game. The severity of the injury is yet to be determined. With him out of the lineup, Matt Tobin took over at left tackle. The Seahawks traded for Tobin earlier in the year to offset George Fant's season-ending ACL injury.
Tobin may be serviceable, but Seattle wanted much more from the position. Brown is a three-time Pro Bowler and a reliable blindside protector. Thursday's offensive front finally looked like it was ready to turn the corner only to see its latest addition leave without any idea of how long he'll be out of the lineup.
Seattle's run game is bad enough, as evidenced by its 3.3 yards per carry against the Cardinals. However, it'll be a little worse without Brown and running back C.J. Prosise. The second-year runner also left the game and didn't return due to an ankle injury.
A war of attrition is being waged, and the Seahawks are losing too many battles.
Every team needs a little luck when it comes to playing for a championship. In the NFL, the luckiest team is usually the healthiest as well. Seattle's ills are another reason NFL teams shouldn't be asked to play on such a short turnaround for Thursday Night Football. But there's nothing the franchise can do but move forward with the healthy bodies that remain on the roster.
Pete Carroll's squad now has 11 days to heal before it faces the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, Nov. 20.
Two areas should serve as the team's crutches: quarterback Russell Wilson and its defensive front.
Wilson has carried the offense all season, so this won't be anything new. Deteriorating mechanics aside, the Seahawks signal-caller always seems to come up with a big play when needed. Seattle has relied on him to provide dynamic plays for so long, there's no reason to think it's going to change.
The quarterback averaged 330.3 passing yards over the past four contests with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He provided 136 rushing yards during the same span and leads the club with 290 yards.
Meanwhile, the defensive front must become the focal point of Seattle's reworked scheme under coordinator Kris Richard. The Seahawks' depth along the defensive line is nothing short of remarkable, considering the rest of the team's problems, and even with veteran defensive end Cliff Avril already on injured reserve with a career-threatening neck injury.
Even so, Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Dwight Freeney, Sheldon Richardson and 2013 third overall pick Dion Jordan, who registered his first sack of the season, will terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
Taking the 0-9 San Francisco 49ers out the equation, Seattle's next six opponents feature a combined 32-18 record going into this weekend's action.
The Seahawks already had problems before losing Sherman, Chancellor, Reed, Wilhoite, Brown and Prosise. Friday's glut of MRIs will help determine just how successful the team can be during the final seven weeks of regular-season play.
But there's no reason for Seattle to get its hopes up if Thursday is any indication. Injuries are difficult to overcome. Injuries to top performers are often debilitating.