Seahawks Are Already Cooked in the NFC West with or Without Russell Wilson

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystOctober 8, 2021

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Russell Wilson picked a heck of a time to be human.

Without question, the biggest storyline coming out of Seattle's 26-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night is the dislocated finger that forced the Seahawks quarterback from the game in the second half.

To say that it's a major injury (even if it's a minor injury) is an understatement. If the 32-year-old superstar is sidelined for any amount of time, Seattle is cooked in the NFL's toughest division.

With that said, here's the thing. The Seahawks are already cooked in the NFC West. They aren't going to make up a two-game gap with the Rams (with a head-to-head loss). Or a three-game gap with the division-leading Arizona Cardinals.

The Seahawks are done in the NFC West. Not because of Wilson's finger.

Because their defense stinks.

The moment that everyone will be talking about happened about midway through the third quarter. While firing a deep pass that was very nearly a long touchdown to Tyler Lockett, Wilson's hand struck Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

The result was a finger on Wilson's hand that was left pointing in a manner in which fingers do not normally point.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Russell Wilson’s fingers 😳 (via @NFLBrasil) https://t.co/emdFM6Bkt6

Wilson would try to give it a go with a wrapped finger, but after one more series he gave way to Geno Smith.

This is where fans will rationalize that had Wilson not gone down, the Seahawks could have come back and won the game. Russell Wilson owns Thursday Night Football, after all. He would have put on his cape and led the Seahawks to a come-from-behind win.

But that last part is the problem. Wilson has to be Superman just about every week for Seattle to win games. For what it's worth, Smith wasn't terrible. Yes, he threw the game-sealing pick. But Smith was 10-of-17 for 131 yards and led Seattle on a 98-yard touchdown drive.

Not bad for a guy whose last meaningful NFL game action came in 2017.

Smith wasn't the problem. The fact that Alex Collins had to fill in for an injured Chris Carson wasn't either, although he managed just 3.1 yards per carry.

The problem was that Seattle's defense was horrible—again.

Heading into Week 5, there wasn't a team in the league allowing more yards per game than the 444.5 the Seahawks were giving up. Seattle was allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game (292.5) and the most rushing yards per game (152.0). The Seahawks had nine sacks and four takeaways over the first four games while allowing opponents to convert on 40 percent of their third downs.

Before a Week 4 meeting with the rival 49ers, Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. insisted to reporters that all his defense really needed was time to jell.

"Defense is chemistry, it's emotion, it's technique," Norton said. "It's all these things that are put together. So guys have to get used to playing together."

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Then the Seattle defense allowed 457 yards to a 49ers team that had rookie quarterback Trey Lance in the first extensive game action of his professional career. Once again, the writing was on the wall. Seattle's defense was terrible.

That writing was splattered in seven-foot-tall neon green letters all over Lumen Field against the Rams.

Despite a bad finger of his own, quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 25-of-37 passes for 365 yards against Seattle's porous secondary. Wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods did whatever they pleased, combining for 19 catches for 242 yards.

Seattle's pass rush? There wasn't one. One sack and three QB hits. Seahawks superstar safety Jamal Adams? Abused in coverage, just as has been the case with far too much regularity in 2021.

Joe Fann @Joe_Fann

Aikman: "That's Higbee on Jamal Adams, and it's no contest. ... It's a mismatch with him on Jamal Adams." That can't be a thing said about the highest-paid safety in football.

Darrell Henderson Jr. and Sony Michel combined to rush for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns. As a team, the Rams racked up 476 yards of offense and averaged 7.1 yards per play.

These aren't new problems, either. Early in the 2020 season, the Seahawks fielded a historically terrible defense. And as StatMuse pointed out, it's deja vu all over again.

StatMuse @statmuse

Yards allowed by the Seahawks defense: 2,356 — First 5 games in 2020 2,254 — First 5 games in 2021 They are on pace to have the worst defense in NFL history, just like last year. https://t.co/9Tq3rghK3h

This year, the odds of a second-half "rebound" a la 2020 aren't as good. Because as John Gilbert wrote last week at Field Gulls, last year's improvement was a mirage born of facing bad quarterbacks.

Of Seattle's last nine games in 2020, there is exactly one quarterback (Arizona's Kyler Murray) who is still on the same team this season. The Seahawks didn't play better. They played against worse.

This year's NFC West isn't a division with an injury-ravaged 49ers team, collapsing Cardinals squad and Rams team limited by its quarterback. The Niners had a season high in yards against Seattle a week ago. The Cardinals are the league's last unbeaten team. The Rams just beat the Seahawks in Seattle.

Never mind the upcoming out-of-division matchups in Pittsburgh and Green Bay.

The defense isn't Seattle's only problem, either. With Carson sidelined by a "long-term" neck injury, the Seahawks were held under 100 yards on the ground. Seattle entered the week 18th in rushing, which was one of the contributing factors to the team ranking dead last in time in possession.

If the Seahawks don't have the ball, the other team does—and that awful defense is out there getting gashed.

The offensive line isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. We are effectively right back where we were a year ago. Wilson has to carry the entire team on his shoulders.

Only now he has to do so in a brutal division. With a busted finger.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

There will be those who scoff at this as Chicken Little-ing. Wilson will be back soon, possibly even next week. Seattle doesn't play a team with a winning record until heading to Lambeau Field on November 14. Russell Wilson has missed the postseason just once in nine seasons. He's not about to start now.

But this isn't panic. This is reality. The Seahawks were exposed as a rotten defensive football team (again) Thursday. There may be a bandage for Wilson's finger, but there's no Band-Aid to cover that mess.

Seattle has no chance of winning the NFC West. With that defense, it may miss the postseason altogether.

And if that's the case, the next offseason could make this last one look like a picnic.


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