Seattle Seahawks' Epic Collapse Reveals Their Major Flaw in NFC Race

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 26, 2020

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) eludes the reach of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar (22) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Half of the Seattle Seahawks roster is very good and worthy of being discussed as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The other half is an utter disgrace that hinders confidence in the franchise's ability to contend against the league's best squads, including the rest of the NFC West. 

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the team is easily identifiable by which side of the ball is on the field.

Quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense continue to play exceptionally well. The unit amassed 572 yards during Sunday's 37-34 overtime loss to the rival Arizona Cardinals. The defense, on the other hand, continues to disappoint at every possible turn. 

"I don't really care what happens. It doesn't matter. We can't do anything about those five games that already happened, the yards or the plays or nothing," head coach Pete Carroll told reporters during the Seahawks' bye week. "But we do have the ability to do something about what's coming up.

"For us to kick into a whole better level of our performance in all aspects of our game when we have a good start behind us, it can make us real dangerous going down the schedule.

"But we've got to improve. We've got to get better."

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Instead of featuring a revived defense with better schemes after the midseason layoff, the Seahawks didn't fare much better even with an extra week of preparation. 

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Seattle built a 27-17 halftime lead, yet it couldn't contain Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense. 

From a superficial perspective, watching two of the game's best and most dynamic quarterbacks outduel one another is amazing.

Wilson is every bit deserving of MVP consideration. His 22 touchdown passes are tied for the most in NFL history through six games, per ESPN Stats & Info. Previously, three quarterbacksPeyton Manning (2013), Tom Brady (2007) and Brett Favre (1996)—had thrown for 20 or more touchdown passes in the same time frame. All three were named MVP that season. 

There's no question whatsoever of what Wilson is capable of doing. He's simultaneously the game's best deep passer while continually showing he's a wizard inside and outside the pocket. He isn't a one-man band, either. 

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who caught 15 passes for 200 yards and three scores Sunday, is the game's most underappreciated star performer. With his three touchdowns, he became the first player since 2015 to have more than one three-touchdown game in a season, per NFL Research. So much attention is paid to DK Metcalf's imposing presence that many overlook the fact Lockett is both the Seahawks' WR1 and Wilson's favorite target. 

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Potent offenses are alluring. Offenses with superstar-caliber players at critical positions always draw more attention than the alternative. After all, it's a pass-first league and an offense-driven game. 

While this slanted approach fell in Seattle's favor through the first five games, the Seahawks won't be able to outscore every single opponent they face because the team's defense is so bad there's no guarantee it'll get a stop at any point during a contest. Some may say the previous statement is hyperbolic, but the unit hasn't shown any signs of life this season. 

Against Arizona, the Seahawks allowed 519 total yards, with 360 coming through the air. So far this season, Seattle has allowed a whopping 368.7 passing yards per game. 

Some will point to poor secondary play exacerbated by injuries—and rightly so. The organization traded two future first-round picks to acquire Jamal Adams so it would have a difference-maker at safety. Unfortunately, Adams continues to deal with a lingering groin injury. The All-Pro hasn't played since Week 3. 

To make matters worse, the Seahawks' top cover corner, Shaquill Griffin, left Sunday's contest and was evaluated for a concussion. 

However, the back end forms a symbiotic relationship with a defensive front. The Seahawks are simultaneously not playing well in the secondary while getting little to no pressure from their front four. 

To be fair, Murray is greased lightning when Arizona head coach/play-caller Kliff Kingsbury calls a designed run or the quarterback creates outside of the structure. As such, a potential mush rush makes sense for defensive linemen to maintain their pass-rush lanes and try to limit Murray's effectiveness.

Yeah, none of that happened. 

The second-year signal-caller led the Cardinals with 67 rushing yards and found a way into the end zone once. But the most damning indictment of Seattle's defensive performance is that Murray dropped back to pass over 50 times, and the Seahawks didn't manage a single sack or quarterback hit. Not one. 

Seattle has only nine sacks as a team through six games. The injured Adams, who has only played in half the games, is tied for the team lead with two. 

Again, injuries come into play. Bruce Irvin, Branden Jackson and Rasheem Green are all on injured reserve. But the front still includes 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier at one defensive end spot, a defensive tackle in Jarran Reed who put together a 10.5-sack performance during the 2018 campaign and a capable veteran in Benson Mayowa.

While a staff certainly wants its defensive linemen to win their share of one-on-one matchups, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. could be a little more creative and aggressive in his play-calling. Simple dogs and zone blitzes can and will be exploited by quarterbacks.

Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Somehow, the Seahawks must generate more pressure to help the secondary, while the defensive backs could help with stickier coverage. As of now, the relationship between the two levels remains on life support. 

A relatively soft schedule awaits, though. Outside of Seattle's division opponents, the team will still face the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Football Team. The Seahawks will almost certainly be favored in all those meetings. 

But beating up on those lightweights won't necessarily help the Seahawks. In all likelihood, poor offenses will mask the flaws found on defense. The outcomes against those in the NFC West—and then in the playoffs—could be much different. 

Wilson shouldered the blame for Seattle's first loss, of course.

"It starts with me," the quarterback told reporters. "I've got to be better."

Despite a few mistakes, Wilson had his team in position to win. The defense let him down. Instead of relying on the quarterback to start cooking each and every week, the other side of the ball needs to provide a little sizzle before the Seahawks can be considered a full-course meal. 

"I'm confident [the defense can turn it around]. There's 10 games left," six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner told reporters. "We have a lot of talent ... we just have to make our minds up. No more talking. Just do it.

"Either we do it, or we don't."

 

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.