Seattle's early offensive struggles in Sunday night's loss to Arizona were due in large part to penalties. Here's a look at each of Seattle's first four drives and the penalty that played a kill role in killing it.
Among several big themes from Pete Carroll’s press conference following Seattle’s 39-32 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night was the impact of early penalties on the offensive gameplan.
Seattle had a major penalty on each of its first four drives that created either a first-and-20 or first-and-25 situation that the Seahawks could not convert (and kicking off a night when the Seahawks would get called for a season-high 14 penalties overall).
“It was really disappointing that we put out such a miserable first half of football,” Carroll said. “To be that far behind the sticks with penalties and all that, it’s really hard to play ball. So that was very difficult to have to face up.”
Carroll said that the penalties made it so that “you can’t even evaluate the first half, we were so far off. … we didn’t learn anything in the first half as far as running the ball, gameplan-wise.” Having four first and 20 or longer situations, Carroll said, is “pretty tough sledding.”
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Indeed, the early gameplan can seem perplexing on the surface as Seattle had twice as many passes — 12 — as runs — six. That the Seahawks were constantly fighting uphill makes it make a little more sense.
It also makes it worth reviewing each of the four penalties and how it impacted the drive.
Seattle began its opening drive at its own 33 following an Arizona three-and-out and used three passes, and two completions, to get a first down at its own 43.
Then, on a handoff to Marshawn Lynch that picked up one yard, the Seahawks were called for an offensive face mask penalty, officially credited to Garry Gilliam.
The replay makes clear, though, that the culprit was really Luke Willson, whose hand does appear to get into the facemask, if relatively briefly, of Arizona’s Lamarr Woodley. It was probably called on Gilliam because he is also right there in the scrum, blocking next to Willson.
That then made it first-and-25 at the 28 for the Seahawks and two passes and a run netted only 13 yards and the Seahawks then punted.
After the long Arizona drive that ended in an Earl Thomas interception in the end zone, the Seahawks started on their own 20.
On the first play, a run for six yards by Lynch, Justin Britt was called for a holding penalty. On the replay it looks like a legit call as Britt basically just took down Calais Campbell at the point of attack. That made it first and 20 at the 10, and then after an incomplete pass (the play where Russell Wilson could maybe have been called for grounding in the end zone) came a delay of game penalty. Lynch then picked up 10 yards followed by an incomplete pass and another punt.
After an Arizona drive for a field goal to make it 3-0 early in the second quarter, the Seahawks took over at their own 22. On first down came a run to Lynch and yet another holding penalty, this one also on Willson for taking down Arizona safety Deone Bucannon from behind. Looks like a pretty textbook holding call. The result of the play was a loss of two, so Seattle would have been in trouble anyway. But Arizona took the penalty to make it first-and-20 for Seattle at its own 12, and then came the play where Wilson fumbled in the end zone resulting in a safety (Carroll said later Wilson was attempting to hit Lynch on a screen but that the play got blown up).
It’s worth noting at this point that on three straight first downs, the Seahawks handed the ball to Lynch only to see the play nullified by a penalty of 10 or 15 yards that then created a long-yardage situation and going away from the running game.
After the safety and then an Arizona drive for a touchdown made it 12-0, the Seahawks got the ball again at their own 20.
On first down, the Seahawks went with a play-action and Wilson rolled to the right and under heavy pressure threw it out of bounds.
Jimmy Graham was called for holding on the play, and of all the penalties early on this one seems the most suspicious as he doesn’t appear to do a whole lot while trying to fend off Woodley (Willson was also in the picture blocking Frostee Rucker).
But first and 10 again became first and 20 and two incomplete passes and a two-yard run by Lynch led to another punt, a short field, another Arizona touchdown and a 19-0 Cardinals lead.
At that point, Seattle had four drives for a net of minus-27 yards while Arizona had five drives for a net of 217.
From there, the Seattle offense would actually move it okay for a while — three of the next four drives resulted in scores on drives of 67, 69 and 80 yards wtih the other the one where Wilson threw an interception.
But by then a lot of damage had also been done.