This was déjà vu of the darkest kind, which they hope is not a harbinger of another season of fretting over the offensive line. But for now, fret away. It’s an old story line, but a fresh wound.
GREEN BAY, Wisc. – In the glow of optimism and hope that illuminates opening day, the Seahawks had their worst fears rekindled. This was déjà vu of the darkest kind, which they hope is not a harbinger of another season of fretting over the offensive line.
But for now, fret away. It’s an old story line, but a fresh wound. Because almost from the start of Seattle’s eventual 17-9 defeat at Lambeau Field, quarterback Russell Wilson was on the run, rarely able to get into a rhythm except when the Seahawks resorted to the hurry-up offense.
“We were in the backfield a bunch,” is how Packers coach Mike McCarthy put it, with satisfaction.
“I was disappointed that they were able to be as aggressive up front as they were with their defense,’’ is how Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it, in a much more subdued manner.
This was supposed to be the year the Seahawks finally solved their protection issues, or at least neutralized them. They added guard Luke Joeckel through free agency, and counted on another year of experience to solidify the rest of the line, even after a costly season-ending injury to George Fant.
One game does not a season make — particularly a game played in perhaps the most inhospitable environment for a visiting team this side of CenturyLink — but the first impressions were not promising.
“Going forward, I think we’ll show you what we can do, but today was not our best,’’ center Justin Britt said.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Green Bay’s defensive pressure was intense, manifesting itself not only in some desperation scrambles by Wilson, but also in necessitating that the Seahawks use a tight end or running back or sometimes both to help with protection. The result was that often the Packers had more defensive backs than the Seahawks had receivers running routes, which is not an optimal arrangement.
Nor could the Seahawks open up running lanes. Excluding a 29-yard scamper by Wilson on a broken play and a 30-yard run by Chris Carson, the Seahawks gained a mere 31 yards on their 16 other rushes. They were held to 225 total yards, the fewest by the Seahawks since Oct. 13, 2014 against Dallas.
“I’ve got to see the film to see what happened, but I was surprised they were able to do that and it made it hard for us to get the running game going like we wanted to,’’ Carroll said of Green Bay’s aggressive pass rush.
The shame of it was, the Seahawks played well enough on defense to win the game. One of Green Bay’s touchdowns was set up by a Wilson fumble at Seattle’s 6-yard line. The Seahawks’ defense may have wilted at the end from the sheer exertion of being on the field nearly twice as long as the Packers, 39:13 compared to 20:47.
“Man, it’s been like this for eight years, man,’’ Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “We understand that sometimes the offense is not in rhythm like they need to be. We just have to stand up. This is going to make us stronger. When we have tough challenges like that, it’s going to keep building our character. We needed that.”
Asked if it was frustrating to be asked to bail out the offense on those occasions, Thomas replied, “It’s not frustrating, because we want to be the best. Put it on us if we have to put it on us. We have to capitalize and keep giving Russ those opportunities to get in rhythm.”
There’s no question that Wilson’s greatest rhythm came at the end of the first half — when he drove the Seahawks to a field goal that actually gave them a 3-0 halftime lead — and in the fourth quarter, both times when they went to a no-huddle attack. The fast tempo definitely improved the Seahawks’ protection.
“It helps because you’ve got big guys on the defensive line that get tired,” Wilson said. “It kind of slows them down a little bit. Also, we’re playing instinctive, we’re playing fast. It’s like I always say, it’s like fast-court basketball a little bit.”
A no-huddle attack is hard to sustain because it not only tires out the defense, it can fatigue the offense as well. Also, it places limitations on substitutions and play-calling. But Wilson seemed to be advocating for more up-tempo play, calling it “something advantageous to us.”
He added, “Yeah, the times we really had a rhythm was when we were in that two-minute situation at the half and near the end of the game. It’s something we’ll have to see and study and see if it’s something we can do a little more of or a better job of. I think it’s something we’re really good at.”
But mostly the Seahawks need to get better up front, a familiar refrain that is still as relevant as always. This Achilles heel is threatening to be a chronic affliction.
“To me, playing offense is kind of like a play – you’re putting on a play, and if you don’t have the right rhythm, and somebody’s off, it kind of ruins the play,’’ Britt said. “Rhythm is everything to us.
Tackle Germain Ifedi noted that there’s “probably a decent chance we see them (the Packers) again down the road.”
He was speaking, of course, of a potential playoff matchup against the Packers. But to make that happen, the Seahawks must fix their line woes, a task that has proved elusive in the past. This year may be different. They think it will be. But after one game, it’s hauntingly familiar.
|Even at openers|
|The Seahawks are 4-4 in season openers under coach Pete Carroll.|
|2010||San Francisco||Win, 31-6|
|2011||at San Francisco||Loss, 33-17|
|2012||at Arizona||Loss, 20-6|
|2013||at Carolina||Win, 12-7|
|2014||Green Bay||Win, 36-16|
|2015||at St. Louis||Loss, 34-31|
|2017||at Green Bay||Loss, 17-9|