With a four-day turnaround to prepare for the Chicago Bears, the Seahawks (5-9) don’t have much time to ponder what went wrong Tuesday night in a 20-10 loss in Los Angeles that effectively wiped away any remaining hope of a late-season surge to the playoffs.
But there is time for the rest of us to reflect on another missed opportunity against the Rams, and time to look ahead at what will be some seismic questions for the future of the Seahawks franchise here in our weekly Four Downs Q&A with beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude:
1. Well, what now? What’s left for this team to play for over the final three weeks?
Condotta: In its own way, a case could be made these are the three most challenging weeks of Carroll’s Seahawks career. In every other year, Seattle went into at least the second-to-last game of the year with a chance at the playoffs. In 2011, the last losing season, they were a young on-the-rise team with everyone realizing something special was happening on defense. This year, there is just a team with a mishmash of ages and football futures who thought in August they could go to the Super Bowl and now have three meaningless games to play. But for those who think the Seahawks could (should?) blow everything up, the last three games are far from meaningless.
Jude: Pride. This team still has a chance to finish 8-9 — still a losing season, yes, but that looks a lot better than 5-12 or 6-11. With speculation intensifying about the future of Carroll, QB Russell Wilson and GM John Schneider, more than anything these last three game will give Wilson and first-year offensive coordinator Shane Waldron a few more chances to prove that they can work together, that they can get this offense pointed in the right direction. But if this offense continues to sputter, that’s more kindling to the fire of those wanting to see major changes made in the organization this offseason.
2. Did you think any of the officiating calls — or non-calls — were particularly egregious Tuesday night?
Jude: I mean, yes. I have eyeballs. Usually, I’m not one to make such of officiating — if it’s bad, it’s usually bad for both teams, and it all evens out. The holding call on Bless Austin, on third-and-12, was a tough one. That, as much as anything, looked like a good acting job by a veteran receiver, Cooper Kupp, going up against a young defensive back. Ultimately, one penalty that was correctly assessed — a false start on Rashaad Penny before a third-and-1 snap — ended up being as costly as anything for the Seahawks.
Condotta: Blaming officiating for any loss is always somewhat treacherous waters to step in because the Seahawks certainly could have done a lot more to help themselves along the way. Leaving it all to a fourth-and-six at midfield with 3:27 to go isn’t a winning strategy in the first place (and excuses the curious call on the previous third down that led to a run for a loss of 1). That said, given some of the pass-interference penalties we’ve seen this year, it’s understandably hard for the Seahawks to swallow that there was no call on DeeJay Dallas. And on his day-after radio show, Carroll was even more forceful on the holding penalty against Bless Austin, calling it “a really bad call.” Even former NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino questioned both calls on the broadcast. Not that that does Seattle any good.
3. How do you evaluate Wilson’s season up to this point?
Condotta: Here’s a couple of interesting metrics to look at. Via ESPN’s QBR quarterback rating Wilson is at 49.3, by far the worst of his career (previous worst was 57.1 in his injury-riddled 2016 campaign). And via Pro Football Focus, he has the two worst single-game grades of his career since his return from finger surgery — Tuesday night vs. the Rams (33.6) and against Green Bay (33.9). The finger injury was obviously a turning point in his season — he had a 10-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio at that time, and had passer ratings of 111.2 or better in his first four full games. He has a 6-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio since and four passer ratings under 100. It’s certainly been a tale of two seasons. The question now is whether what’s happened lately is fixable (and how easily) and if Seattle is the best place for that to happen.
Jude: You can’t evaluate Wilson without pointing to his finger injury. That, obviously, looms large over the entirety of this Seahawks season. Chris Carson’s neck injury certainly changed the dynamics of this offense, too, and the lack of a consistent run game limited Wilson and the offense overall. Poor play from the offensive line hasn’t helped. But, also, some of Wilson’s issues predate his finger injury — some of them even go back to the second half of 2020. Too often, Wilson’s boom-or-bust mentality has gotten him in trouble. Too often, he’s devolved into the football equivalent of baseball’s three-true-outcomes hitter, his plays ending in either a touchdown, an incompletion or a sack. There has been very little in between. It’s all or nothing. Home run or strikeout, and there have been more swings and misses recently than at any point in Wilson’s career.
4. It’s been a trying season for DK Metcalf, and watching the Rams feature Cooper Kupp only made more obvious the Seahawks’ inability to get Metcalf consistently involved. Why has that been such a struggle?
Jude: The growing frustration from fans — and Metcalf himself — is understandable. He wants the ball, and he wants to win. That’s the kind of attitude an organization should want out of one of its best players. It’s a fine line, though, and there have been times this season when Metcalf has let his emotions boil over. He’s talked about finding that proper balance, and it’s a work in progress. And Metcalf vs. Kupp isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. The Seahawks have a Kupp-type receiver in Tyler Lockett, and he was still on the COVID-19 reserve Tuesday night. That Metcalf was going up against the NFL’s best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, was a factor too. The Seahawks tried to move Metcalf around, to get a more favorable matchup, with mixed results. At the end of the day, it’s about the QB and the star receiver getting on the same page — and they clearly are not right now.
Condotta: Seattle certainly tried to get it to Metcalf — he got 12 of Wilson’s 31 targets. Wilson was just maddeningly off-target a few too many times. One thought is that the time Wilson missed — and that Metcalf has been often limited or out during practices since hurting his foot in late September — has impacted the connection between the two. What isn’t in question is that Seattle has needed more out of that connection this season. Metcalf has now gone six games without a touchdown catch, and his yards per game is 57.5, down markedly from 81.4 last season. The oh-so-close but ultimately futile nature of so many Wilson-to-Metcalf passes sadly seems to typify Seattle’s entire season.