In a new weekly feature, Seattle Times Seahawks beat writers Bob Condotta and Adam Jude will each answer four questions about the previous day’s game.
So here are their thoughts on four pressing questions in the wake of the Seahawks’ stunning 37-34 overtime loss at Arizona on Sunday night.
1. Is it time to officially panic about the defense?
Jude: Yes, yes, yes. It was probably time to panic two or three weeks ago, but the default mode here was to give the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt early in this bizarre season — because your heart really couldn’t believe what your eyes were telling you, that a Pete Carroll-coached defense could struggle this much. You figured they’d find answers during their bye week. They haven’t found them. And not only did they not find them, things got worse Sunday against the Cardinals. The yards-allowed statistic isn’t everything, but it is still telling that the Seahawks are on a historically bad track in that category. They have allowed 500-plus yards in three of their six games this season. For context, the Seahawks allowed 500 yards just TWICE over the past nine seasons. (Yeah, take a moment to wrap your head around that.) They need to do something drastic, and they need to do it now.
Condotta: Yes. Carroll on Monday again said what he has for a while — that once everyone gets healthy, the defense will improve, which at this point might mean mostly getting Jamal Adams back (it’s really hard right now to anticipate Darrell Taylor adding a lot anytime soon). But as Sunday showed, with Shaquill Griffin going out with a concussion, injuries are a fact of NFL life and relying solely on being at full health to solve everything might be a lot to ask, especially because the Seahawks are now past their bye. Speaking of which, any hope that the bye week and the self-scout the team did would result in some significant scheme change or something that would fix things also appears to have gone out the window, though that’s not really too realistic in the NFL anyway. Barring significant personnel additions, the Seattle defense might be what it is at this point.
2. Is there any hope for the pass rush?
Condotta: Among a few eyebrow-raising numbers, Seattle didn’t have a single quarterback hit Sunday despite 48 pass attempts from Kyler Murray, which speaks pretty strongly to the failings of the pass rush. As Carroll noted, the Seahawks were not overly aggressive Sunday, hoping mostly to keep Murray in the pocket. And he obviously is elusive. Still, he’d been sacked nine times in the first six games, so it is possible. Seattle could blitz more, but with the secondary continually in flux, that’s proven risky. At some point, the Seahawks just need some of the guys up front to win some battles and get to the quarterback, and that’s not happening enough. Playing Alton Robinson more — he had just seven snaps Sunday, maybe because Shaquem Griffin got 40 in the role of something of a spy on Murray — might help. Speaking of Shaquem Griffin, Carroll noted he hoped he would have had a few QB hits Sunday. That might be sort of ominous for his role going forward, especially with Seattle likely to add Mychal Kendricks to the 53-player roster at some point.
Jude: Not really. Not with the personnel they have right now, at least. With Adams out, the Seahawks’ strategy has largely been to rush four, drop into zone coverage and hope to keep the ball in front of them — don’t allow big plays, in other words. Against Arizona’s murder-hornet QB Murray, the Seahawks were clearly most concerned about his running ability; they wanted to keep him in the pocket, daring him to beat them with his arm. Well, he beat them with his arm AND his legs Sunday night, finishing with 360 yards passing, 67 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. So, yeah, they’ll have to come up with a new strategy for their Nov. 19 rematch (good luck with that). Adams’ return will help the pass rush, for sure, and the defense overall. He was the Seahawks’ best pass-rusher in the first three games, and he remains tied for the team lead in sacks (two) and QB hits (five) despite missing the past three games. The loss of Bruce Irvin to a season-ending knee injury was a significant blow, but the fact that the Seahawks haven’t developed another competent edge rusher, or come up with another method to manufacture some pressure at key moments, remains puzzling.
3. Should the Seahawks make a move by the trade deadline next Tuesday?
Condotta: The obvious answer, of course, is for whom and for what? If Seattle really wanted to make a big move, I guess you think they could have gotten end Yannick Ngakoue, who was traded from Minnesota to Baltimore last week for a third-round pick and a conditional fifth and taking on the rest of his $12 million salary. Or, maybe Seattle did but didn’t want to give up more picks after already dealing a lot for Adams, and with little real cap space available this year. And that’s the issue — Seattle’s already dealt a lot of its future. But as the signings of Kendricks and Snacks Harrison the past few weeks show, the Seahawks will undoubtedly explore all options. Nothing would surprise me. And Monday afternoon it was revealed that Dallas is making end Everson Griffen — who played for Carroll at USC — available in a trade. So yes, maybe they can get something done.
Jude: Absolutely. They have to, don’t they? The Seahawks probably don’t have the draft capital to acquire someone of J.J. Watt’s caliber, but they’re no doubt trying to do something with someone. If they are able to make a trade, the Seahawks will likely end up making a smaller-type move. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Cincinnati veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and he might be the best upgrade the Seahawks can afford at this stage.
4. How much will the game hurt Russell’s MVP chances?
Jude: Russ is still the favorite, but his three interceptions Sunday night — in prime time — certainly put a dent in what was a sterling resume through five games. Still, Wilson’s numbers are staggering: 22 touchdowns, six interceptions and a league-best 119.5 QB rating. He remains on track to break Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 55 touchdown passes. That’s no small thing. It also helps Wilson’s case that others like Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill have fallen off a bit the past couple weeks too. The MVP race is still a fairly open, and Wilson is still very much at the heart of the discussion.
Condotta: It shouldn’t too much. Wilson threw for 388 yards and ran for 84 more Sunday, and it’s pretty much true that other than three plays he was as good as he’s been all season. The last two picks he threw were each third downs, when Wilson was clearly trying to force something that maybe wasn’t there. But we’ve seen that work a lot throughout his career, and Wilson might also have just thought he needed to make big things happen the way Arizona was moving it. Voters, though, will obviously be watching closely to see how Wilson responds now.