Another week, another loss for the Seahawks — just the 10th time Seattle has lost two in a row with Russell Wilson as quarterback.
The good news? Seattle has never lost three in a row in the Wilson era, a streak on the line Sunday when the Seahawks play the 49ers in San Francisco.
Before putting Sunday’s 30-17 loss at Minnesota in the rearview mirror, here’s our weekly Four Downs look at issues that arose from the game.
1. Is the pass defense really that bad?
Condotta: It’s hard to argue otherwise at this point. The Seahawks rank near the bottom in just about every pass defense category.
Seattle entered Monday ranked 26th in completion percentage allowed (70.7), 26th in passer rating allowed (108.4) and is one of just four teams without an interception.
Sure, Seattle played two good QBs the past two weeks in Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins. But it’s not as if the task gets easier the next few weeks going against the 49ers, Rams and Steelers.
Many fans are pinning their hopes on a change at cornerback making the difference, and coach Pete Carroll indicated strongly that it may be time to let former Husky Sidney Jones get his shot at right cornerback in place of Tre Flowers. But this may not be that easy of a fix.
Jude: I’ll admit, I’m confused. And it’s clear I’m not the only one. Flowers sounded confused about his assignments in zone coverage — which, to me, is more about coaching than execution — and frankly Carroll seems to contradict himself when he talks about the general strategy of the defense.
Are they trying to be aggressive when blitzing the QB, as Carroll suggested Monday? If so, then why ask the secondary to play so passively in coverage? You can’t do both at the same time. Just feels like a significant disconnect. If you’re going to pressure the QB, if your goal really is to be aggressive, then why have your cornerbacks play deep and leave the underneath routes wide open for quick passes?
And the Jamal Adams question still looms large. Do coaches know what they want to do with him? What are his strengths? If he’s at his best when he’s in the box, then put him in the box. He’s a nonfactor if he’s passively playing 20 yards off the line in zone coverage. If he’s your best playmaker on defense — and the Seahawks are paying him like he is — then let him make plays closer to the line of scrimmage.
2. Is the run defense really that bad?
Jude: It’s hard to argue otherwise at this point. The front seven was supposed to be the strength of this defense, and the Seahawks have been regularly using a five-man front — adding in another extra lineman or edge rusher at the line — which makes their inability to stop the run even more confounding.
Getting gashed by Derrick Henry, one of the most punishing backs in NFL history, is one thing. But the Seahawks caught a huge break Sunday when Dalvin Cook (ankle) was sidelined. The Seahawks gave up 140 yards rushing to a backup running back and did little to make Cousins uncomfortable — a failure on every front for this defense.
Condotta: Seattle’s run defense numbers aren’t as egregious as the pass defense stats. But they are hardly good. Seattle is tied for 25th in allowing 4.5 yards per carry.
And it’s been a particular issue in the second half the past two weeks. Seattle allowed 266 yards on 48 carries after halftime against the Vikings and Titans, 5.5 per carry. True, the 60-yard Derrick Henry run that changed the Titans game is a big part of that. But that’s the nature of NFL running games that a lot of medium-sized gains suddenly turn into a big one that can turn a game.
The Vikings had just 44 yards on 11 carries in the first half before rushing for 96 on 23 in the second half in salting the game away. Add it up and the Seahawks are allowing 440.3 yards per game overall — which, yep, is the worst in the NFL.
3. What’s up with the third quarter?
Condotta: Well, not much when it comes to Seattle’s offense. The days when the Seahawks started slowly only to rally late seem a distant memory. Seattle has outscored opponents 62-40 in the first half but has been outscored 10-0 — yep, zero — in the third quarter and 39-13 after halftime.
Are Seattle’s coaches not making adjustments? Are the Seahawks just wearing down physically? Any and all may be issues.
Seattle had just one third-quarter possession Sunday as the Vikings took the kickoff and then went on a 16-play march for a field goal that made it 24-17. The ugly third-quarter totals? Minnesota ran 22 plays from scrimmage (plus the field goal) for 114 yards to Seattle getting 7 yards on five plays.
A week earlier, the Titans outgained Seattle 127-41 in the third and outscored the Seahawks 7-0 to claw back in the game.
Whatever the Seahawks are saying at halftime, it isn’t working.
Jude: I wrote it in this space last week and I’m writing it again now: The offense is not the problem.
The Seahawks have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and they only ran 15 plays in the second half (not counting the meaningless possession in the final 23 seconds). The real problem is they’ve hardly had the ball in the second halves the past two games. Seattle’s defense has to get stops on third down and get the ball back to Wilson.
4. Are the next 11 days the most important of the season for Seattle?
Jude: Absolutely. The Seahawks play in the toughest division in the NFL, and they can’t afford to fall any further behind with back-to-back games against the 49ers and Rams.
Compounding the bad news for Seattle were wins by Arizona and the Rams, who each are now 3-0 and already two games ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West.
There’s no way the Seahawks can overcome a 1-4 start, which means they have to get their act together this week.
Condotta: Sure looks like it. In the aftermath of Sunday’s loss, many pointed out that Seattle started 1-2 in 2018 and still made the playoffs.
But that year, only one other team in the NFC started 3-0 — the Rams, who ran away with the NFC West. This year there are three — the Rams, Cardinals and Panthers.
And in 2018 after three games, only the Rams had a better record in the NFC West than 1-2. This year, each of the other three teams does with the 49ers at 2-1 behind the 3-0 Rams and Cardinals, leaving Seattle in last place. And it’s worth remembering Seattle’s prize in 2018 for rallying to finish 10-6 was a wild-card game at Dallas, which it lost.
True, it’s early. But FiveThirtyEight.com’s playoff simulator already gives Seattle just a 34% chance to make the playoffs and only 7% to win the division predicting the Seahawks to finish 9-8. If Seattle doesn’t win at least one of its next two games, those odds will seem lofty.