Here’s our weekly Four Downs game review — this time of Thursday night’s 26-17 Seahawks loss to the Rams at Lumen Field — from Seattle Times beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude.
1. Does Russell Wilson’s injury put into greater perspective just how durable he’s been?
Condotta: Unquestionably. Of all the reasons for Seattle’s success since 2012, the biggest is Wilson himself and his durability — his streak of 149 consecutive starts is the longest in franchise history, far beyond the 121 of offensive lineman Chris Gray (punter Jon Ryan played in 159 in a row, the only Seahawks streak longer than Wilson’s). It’s also the sixth-longest in NFL history. And before Thursday, Wilson had also missed just two meaningful snaps since 2012, his other snaps missed coming in blowouts. But injuries are pretty much inevitable in the NFL, and now Seattle will have to face what so many of its rivals have over the past decade. The hope is that Geno Smith can continue to play as he did in the second half against the Rams.
Jude: Wilson has been one of the most consistent players in NFL history, and his durability has been easy to take for granted. He once nicknamed himself Mr. Unlimited, but for a generation of Seahawks fans he has been Mr. Invincible. No need here to get philosophical about the fleeting nature of human existence — whoa, that took a left turn — but one can’t help but look at the totality of Wilson’s situation and wonder if his best days as a Seahawk are behind him. What does his future hold beyond 2021? How much longer will he play here? Considering the all the drama of the offseason, those questions become more relevant now.
2. What will the Seahawks offense look like with Geno Smith at QB?
Jude: The offense won’t change much. Smith said Thursday night that he prides himself on his preparation, on knowing the play sheet each week, on being ready at a moment’s notice. All that will be put to the test next week at Pittsburgh. It will be Smith’s first NFL start since Dec. 3, 2017, when he was with the New York Giants. But Smith’s performance in the fourth quarter Thursday night had to give his teammates a newfound confidence in him — he gave them a legitimate chance at a comeback — and no doubt the team will rally around him.
Condotta: I agree that I don’t think the offense will change much, if at all. Smith is more than mobile enough to handle those aspects of Seattle’s offense unique to Wilson’s legs — he rushed for 604 yards and seven touchdowns in his two seasons as the starter for the Jets. Also, it’s worth repeating he was the starting QB of a team in the nation’s largest media market for two full years. Smith isn’t going to be awed by anything, which is part of why the Seahawks have valued him in the backup role the past few years. If Smith does start next week, it will be the first time someone other than Wilson has taken the first snap of a Seahawk game since Tarvaris Jackson on Jan. 1, 2012, at Arizona, a 23-20 Cardinals win.
3. How significant is running back Chris Carson’s injury, and what are the Seahawks missing without him?
Condotta: This is becoming a hard thing to read. The way Carroll and Seahawks GM John Schneider tell it, this is something Carson has played with all season, indicating it’s not necessarily overly serious the way neck injuries often can be. On the other hand, the uncertainty, and the secretiveness of it raise some eyebrows. If Carson is sidelined for any amount of time, the Seahawks might need Rashaad Penny — eligible to come off IR after the Steelers game Oct. 17 — to come to the rescue. A risky strategy, to be sure, given Penny’s health issues. But if Carson continues to be sidelined, Penny might get one last shot to change the legacy of his Seattle career.
Jude: What’s the best way to support a backup QB? Establish the run, of course. That became trickier Thursday for the Seahawks because of Carson’s absence. When Carson is right, this offense is one of the best in the NFL. In the short term, the Seahawks ought to be all right with Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas out of the backfield. But if Carson is sidelined for an extended period — if Carson and Wilson are both out — boy, the Seahawks are probably in trouble.
4. The Seahawks defense continues to struggle. What’s going on?
Jude: This defense is so confounding. How can it go from shutting down the Rams as well as it did in the first half to a complete 180 in the second half? And why does it keep getting gashed in largely the same way, week after week? Whatever the Seahawks are doing in their zone coverage concepts, well, it certainly isn’t working. You can point fingers at Jamal Adams all you want — and with his record contract, he should expect the backlash — but Seattle’s defensive issues go well beyond one player.
Condotta: I agree both that (A) the defense is the biggest issue with this team, and that (B) the issues go far beyond any one player. And to me, that latter point is the most worrisome. Unfortunately, this all dredges up memories of the first half of last season. The hope was everything was fixed in the second half. But the asterisk was always that Seattle played a lot of bad offenses/quarterbacks down the stretch a year ago. Also, Seattle last year traded for Carlos Dunlap at midseason, got Adams back from injury and added D.J. Reed at cornerback to help turn things around. Given the struggling offenses Seattle plays next — Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and New Orleans are all in the bottom half of the league in points scored — things might look a little better the next few weeks. But the reality also is that unless there is a significant change in personnel — which is hard to do during the season in the NFL — Seattle might be resigned to plugging holes in a sinking defense all season.