Well, that was truly disheartening.
Dominated 42-24 by a mediocre Kansas City team, the Seattle Seahawks sure didn’t look anything like the team we just said looked like a lock to win the NFC Worst.
The defense played its worst game of a horrible season, and the offense often shot itself in the foot the few times it had the ball.
Gus Bradley’s undermanned and poorly schemed defense gave up a season-high 270 rushing yards, allowed Dwayne Bowe to shred it for 170 receiving yards and three touchdowns (which was great for my fantasy team), let the Chiefs convert 11 of 17 third downs, and allowed Kansas City to hold the ball more than twice as long as Seattle’s offense had it.
It was so bad that even when the Hawks did something right, the Chiefs scored: Brandon Mebane and Kentwan Balmer both penetrated the backfield on a third-down run in the fourth quarter, yet Jamaal Charles eluded both of them to score from three yards out and put the Chiefs up 28-17.
The whole game was a pathetic display by a unit that—due partly to injuries—has gotten worse as the season has progressed.
The once-stout front four has disintegrated, and the run defense has gone with it. Red Bryant is out for the season, but there is still some hope if Colin Cole can return within the next couple of weeks.
Of course, nothing will fix the putrid pass defense.
There is so much blame to go around there—from the lack of a pass rush, to the lack of playmaking corners, to a rookie safety, to linebackers who are horrible in zone space, to ridiculous schemes that do nothing to help the players.
The lack of a pass rush is nothing new. And it won’t be solved until the Hawks find someone who can provide an inside pass rush to help make Chris Clemons more effective from the outside.
At corner, Kelly Jennings still can’t make plays on the ball, rookie Walter Thurmond is getting schooled and Marcus Trufant simply can’t stay healthy. Good thing they traded Josh Wilson; no reason to keep a guy who actually made a few interceptions every season.
At safety, Earl Thomas is going through the usual rookie blues, often running himself out of position. And 37-year-old Lawyer Milloy is useful only close to the line of scrimmage.
Other than Lofa Tatupu, the linebackers are horrible in space. Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne have no clue what they’re doing in the zone, and they don’t hold the edge consistently enough on outside runs.
Then there are the asinine schemes that make the players look even more incompetent.
Using six defensive backs on first down is not conducive to stopping the run. That’s what the Hawks did in the first quarter when Charles ran for 27 yards on a first-down play.
Parking a cornerback seven yards off a receiver in a goal-to-go situation is basically surrendering a TD pass. That’s what Jennings did for Bowe on a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Using a hobbled corner to play deep safety is a good way to give up a long touchdown. That’s what happened when Trufant came back into the game with a bum ankle and found himself playing deep center field on Bowe’s 36-yard touchdown play in the second quarter. Why was Trufant playing safety?
Not doubling the only receiving threat is a good way to give up 173 yards and three touchdowns to that receiver, as the Hawks did. You have to wonder why they didn’t glue two guys to Bowe on every play instead of playing a loose zone that allowed the Chiefs to gash them with both the run and the pass. Why not take at least one of the facets of their offense away?
How do the Seahawks fix these problems?
A) Find an all-purpose defensive tackle who can rush the passer.
B) Find a true outside linebacker to replace Hawthorne, who is an inside ’backer by nature and really struggles on the outside.
C) Hope Thomas and Thurmond learn their lessons this year and Trufant stops getting hurt.
D) Quit relying on those DB-heavy packages that simply do not work consistently enough.
Too much to ask? We’ll find out next year.
HASSELBECK GOT LITTLE HELP
With no running game, it was obvious that Matt Hasselbeck tried to carry the offense. He had mixed results, turning the ball over three times but also hitting some big throws.
His receivers didn’t help him enough, and his fumble early in the fourth quarter was the real back breaker as that enabled the Chiefs to go up 35-17.
After throwing an interception on the next drive that resulted in no KC points, Hasselbeck hit Ben Obomanu for an 87-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 35-24 with over 10 minutes left.
But the defense let the Chiefs drive 75 yards and eat up most of the clock as they scored again.
Bottom line: This one’s on the defense, not Hasselbeck. And Hasselbeck still looks like Carroll’s guy for the future.
Obomanu has taken great advantage of his playing time in recent weeks. He had a career day (159 yards and a touchdown) against KC, and the Hawks probably should look at re-signing him after the season. He’s playing on a one-year restricted tender this season.
On the other hand, Deon Butler had a game to forget, with several dropped passes/missed plays. The Hawks need to stop that stupid quick-out screen that never works. That is a poor use of Butler’s skills, because the blocking is always horrible. They need to put him in motion and get him in space, where he can use his speed after the catch. And they need to get him up the sideline or send him on posts and deep outs more often. Of course, the couple of times they did that, they didn’t connect either. A bad day for Butler.
The lack of a running game has become so familiar that we hardly blinked when the Hawks ran for a season-low 20 yards against the Chiefs. Because they had the ball for so little time, they ran the ball only 12 times and averaged a ridiculous 1.7 yards per rush. They need to run to the right more.
REASONS FOR HOPE
As bleak as things look given that the Seahawks have now been blown out in four of their last five games (giving up 37.5 points per loss), there is some cause for hope.
1) The Hawks can get back to .500 with a home win against the league’s worst team, the Carolina Panthers, this week.
2) The Hawks then have three tough games, but they finish at home against the Rams in a game that is looking once again like it will decide the division.
3) Mike Williams, Chester Pitts and Cole all figure to return within the next couple of weeks. Williams will help the passing game, Pitts is better than Mike Gibson at left guard and Cole will help the run defense.
4) Russell Okung hobbled off the field at one point against KC, but he played the entire game. If he can stay in the lineup the rest of the way, perhaps the running game will improve in the final month.
5) The special teams were a major factor against Kansas City, with a blocked field goal and blocked punt for a touchdown. The Chiefs kept the ball away from Leon Washington on kickoffs, for the most part, but that simply resulted in the Seahawks getting the ball with good field position on almost every possession. If the special teams get better help from the offense and especially the defense, the Hawks will win the division.