There's an unusual silence going on here, an uneasy quiet born from anger or frustration or lack of answers to the most baffling of seasons...
KIRKLAND There’s an unusual silence going on here, an uneasy quiet born from anger or frustration or lack of answers to the most baffling of seasons.
Questions, well, now those are in abundance.
Like what happened to the Seahawks’ defense?
There’s no easy answer to that question, not one thing the Seahawks can put their finger on, if, that is, they’re willing to attempt an answer. Rather, it’s a confluence of factors injuries, bad breaks, youth, immaturity all running together, making a mess of a defense that once stood atop the NFL this season.
Few members of that defense are talking to the media this week. Half of the defensive players spend their time between practice and meetings in the training room, receiving treatment for a litany of bumps and bruises. Others, such as cornerback Ken Lucas, direct reporters to the coaching staff. Problem is, defensive coaches are rarely talking either, including none this week.
Most that talk can agree on one thing: injuries play the lead role. Others say there’s more involved, especially when a defense free falls from first in the NFL to 20th.
“I don’t know, man. Just blame it on the rain.”
If only it were that easy blame it on the rain then the Seahawks could summon their inner Milli Vanilli and move past the past two games. Gotta blame it on something. Right?
In those games, home losses to Dallas and Buffalo, the Seahawks surrendered 839 yards, 81 points and a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys.
The Seahawks point to pieces missing: linebackers Brown, Simmons and recently, Tracy White, who is slated to return against Minnesota on Sunday. In their place are backups-turned-starters Isaiah Kacyvenski and Solomon Bates. Kacyvenski is the Seahawks’ leading tackler at linebacker with 63 tackles, good for 46th in the NFL among players at that position.
Defensive end Grant Wistrom missed games earlier this season. Defensive tackles Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs won’t play against the Vikings. And don’t even get started on the pieces playing hurt.
“The biggest thing with our defense is injury,” said coach Mike Holmgren, an offensive guru. “I’m telling you that, and you don’t have to write a word of it. Honestly, I don’t expect you to. But the fact is, that’s what it is.
“We’re giving up more yards now, but goodness gracious, it’s ridiculous because of what has happened to decimate that group.”
At the helm sits defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, a turnaround specialist, a fixer-upper who revived defenses in San Francisco, Washington, Denver and Seattle.
Almost every defense he has taken over improves statistically in his first year there. In his second year, though, results are mixed.
During his first stint in Green Bay, the defense jumped from 23rd overall to second in Year Two. In Denver, the defense moved from eighth to sixth in his second season. But in Philadelphia, the defense Rhodes inherited ranked fourth overall in 1994 and steadily declined during his tenure, from fourth to fifth to 13th to 17th in 1998.
Some NFL insiders wonder if his coaching style heavy on motivation, on getting players so pumped they’re ready to run through walls, delivered with a sailor’s tongue starts wearing thin as the years go on.
“How long can you stay that motivated?” one expert asked.
Godfrey watched that defense during the preseason when the Seahawks played at San Diego. He doesn’t see Rhodes’ style as the problem.
“They pretty much did what they wanted to do in that game,” he said. “Guys have to get over when you lose your captain, when you lose your best players. It sends some teams into a slump. You can see it. You notice it. Ray motivates. He’s a great speaker, a great teacher. I have no problem with him. They need to step up their game to another level.”
The Seahawks say they’re trying, but many times immaturity holds them back. The defense ranks among the youngest in the league no starting defensive back has more than four years of experience leading to mistakes.
Deep balls. Not filling the correct gap. Not concentrating on the play that turns into a touchdown. No pass rush, leading to longer time in coverage.
“It’s just frustrating,” Kacyvenski said. “That’s about all you can say. We just have to get it done. That’s all I can say. We know what we need to do. We just need to do it.”
But is there time? Time to get to the defense back on track? To heal the injuries? To make a playoff push? The Seahawks think so. Those that are talking, at least.
“This team needs to get hot,” Wistrom said. “If we win our last four football games and get into the playoffs, I don’t think there are a lot of teams that would want to face us. Yeah, we’re a very streaky football team. But if we get hot, we’re going to be something to be reckoned with in the playoffs.”
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org