The feel-good portion of the Seahawks’ season lasted approximately a game and a half — long enough to forge a dominant win over Indianapolis and form the outline of another comfortable, encouraging triumph over Tennessee.
And then, with stunning rapidity and unchecked horror, that outline was erased and ghoulishly reconfigured as the sort of giveaway loss that has been extraordinarily rare in the Russell Wilson era.
In the process of squandering a 15-point halftime lead (and a 14-point fourth-quarter lead), all the fears and concerns that had been latent — and seemingly erased — came flooding back.
Suddenly, in the course of a 33-30 overtime loss to the Titans, “feel-good” had been replaced by “good grief.” And now, once again, the Seahawks have myriad concerning issues they must satisfactorily solve to get back on course. To wit:
- The revamped Seattle offense, so diverse and explosive against Indianapolis, was certainly the latter for the first half, and for a flash in the second half. But except for Russell Wilson’s 68-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Swain early in the fourth quarter on a mammoth defensive breakdown by Tennessee, the Seahawks’ offense bogged down alarmingly in the second half and on its lone possession in overtime.
- The defense that was supposed to have turned a corner in the second half of last year instead went full-speed reverse. Remember how brutal the Seattle defense looked for the first half of 2020, when it was on pace to set an NFL record for most yards allowed and fans were bellowing for coordinator Ken Norton to be sent packing? Well, the Seahawks never allowed more than 522 total yards during that stretch. On Sunday, the Titans amassed 532 yards.
- The tendency for Pete Carroll teams to occasionally let emotion supersede discipline in high-stakes situations, with the result often being damaging penalties? That certainly was the case Sunday, as the Seahawks were whistled for 10 penalties adding up to 100 yards, including calls for excessive celebration, taunting, roughing the passer and a late hit.
As Carroll said in taking the blame for the lapses, “I get them too fricking jacked up, and they’re going for it and we’re feisty and we’re all of that. You know, that’s not the first time that’s happened to my guys. That’s why I’ve got to do a better job.”
So now the Seahawks continue a rugged portion of their schedule with many of the old questions having renewed focus. It certainly seemed for a while as if Shane Waldron’s offense, the subject of unreserved praise last week, was humming right along Sunday. A 51-yard pass to Tyler Lockett led to a field goal, a 63-yard strike to Lockett provided the first touchdown, and a two-minute drill at the end of the half was run with utter perfection by Wilson.
But after scoring just seven points after intermission last week, the Seahawks had just six this time (a missed extra point by Jason Myers loomed large). The Swain bomb proved an aberration; if the Titans hadn’t completely botched the coverage, the Seahawks might have been blanked in the second half. The running game was too often ineffective, the tight ends were nearly invisible, and the play-action rhythm didn’t click nearly as well as it did last week.
We have become so used to Wilson’s magic late in games, but after the Swain touchdown, the Seahawks went into three-and-out mode that enabled Tennessee’s comeback. And when they got the ball back in overtime, a situation right in Wilson’s wheelhouse, the possession was a disaster, nearly resulting in a game-ending safety. The end would come soon enough, in the form of a Randy Bullock field goal.
“We’ve just got to be able to learn how to be able to play when we’re on top,” Lockett said.
It might be hard to make a true judgment on the Seattle defense, considering it was facing maybe the most lethal running back in the league, Derrick Henry. Also, it would be remiss not to give a shout out to Bobby Wagner, who set a Seahawks record with 20 tackles that included a sack and two quarterback hits. A thunderous fumble-inducing sack by Alton Robinson set up an easy Seattle touchdown.
But Henry or no Henry, allowing 212 yards on the ground is a recipe for defeat. Henry used the Seahawks’ aggressiveness against them on a 60-yard touchdown run (helped by a Tre Flowers whiff) immediately after the Swain score that flipped the momentum of the game.
“If we give him a little bit of a crease, he’s going to hit it, because he’s that good,” safety Jamal Adams said of Henry. “He got rolling, and when he gets rolling, he’s dangerous.”
Seattle also gave up 320 passing yards, which reawakened concerns about its cornerbacks. It also speaks to an inconsistent pass rush against the same offensive line that was manhandled by Arizona last week — and was missing its starting left tackle.
All in all, a disconcerting day that could, and should, have been a triumphant return to live fans for a game that counts at Lumen Field. The place was rocking for much of the afternoon until it was forced into stunned silence.
“Anybody can swing in the first half,” Adams said. “But we have to swing it in the second half as well.”
“I hate this,” Carroll said succinctly as he mulled over the first Seahawks loss in a home opener since 2008 and the second-biggest blown lead in his 11-plus seasons as Seattle’s coach.
Less than a week after his 70th birthday celebration, Carroll now has to put out fires that he no doubt thought had already been extinguished.