The Seahawks are on pace to set several passing records and the most yards in franchise history, but they have squandered too many opportunities on offense and let down at times on defense. Will that change when the second half of the season begins Thursday in Arizona?
Maybe all the Seahawks were really doing Sunday was increasing the degree of difficulty a little for the seemingly inevitable second-half rally to come.
That’s the hope, anyway, that this second half of the season is the same as most of the others in the Russell Wilson era.
Since he became quarterback in 2012 the Seahawks are 31-9 in the second half of the year. That compares to 25-14-1 in the first half (and 30-17-1 if you throw in this season).
After Sunday, the Seahawks need it.
Not only did they fall into second place in the NFC West with the loss to Washington, a game behind the Rams, but if the season ended today Seattle would be out of the playoffs.
So, as coach Pete Carroll said this week, there’s work to do. Maybe more than they had expected.
“That we have so much to improve and I am surprised somewhat that we aren’t farther along in these areas that we are talking about right now,’’ Carroll said Monday when asked how he feels about the first-half of the season after having just mentioned the team’s issues with penalties.
“Because these are things that we really can control. We have a chance to be good. We have been putting up a ton of yards, moving the football like crazy for a while now. We have a chance to have a good season and we got to get at it. We can’t let any slippage in here, but the season is wide open for everybody at this point.’’
Before the second half begins Thursday at Arizona, here’s a quick review of the first half that was.
MVP: QB Russell Wilson. With the Seahawks passing more than ever, Wilson is on pace to obliterate the team’s season record book. Wilson is on track for 376 completions (he set the record last year with 353) in 606 attempts (Matt Hasselbeck had 562 in 2007), and 4,616 yards (Wilson set the record a year ago with 4,219). Wilson has been far from perfect, as Sunday’s erratic showing indicated. But with the team relying on his arm more than ever, his value to the team also may be greater than it’s ever been.
Runner-up: WR Doug Baldwin: Baldwin is on pace for 98 receptions, which would set the Seattle team record of 94 that he tied a year ago (Bobby Engram also did it in 2007).
Unsung hero: WR Paul Richardson. Okay, some of Richardson’s exploits have actually been pretty sung, such as the winning TD against the 49ers and the fourth-quarter leap and grab score against the Giants that finally broke open that game. His average of 16.6 per reception is on pace to be Seattle’s best since Darrell Jackson’s 16.7 in 2003.
Key stat: 87 for 226. That’s the combined rushing attempts and yards for Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls, an average of 2.6 per carry and not what anyone was expecting headed into the season. Rawls will be the starter Thursday with Lacy nursing a groin injury, his chance to take the position and run with it. Seattle doesn’t really care who does at this point as long as it happens eventually.
Key question: Will the addition of Duane Brown at left tackle solidify the offensive line? Early results were mixed. Brown played well and the left side was good against Washington. But the right side, especially tackle Germain Ifedi, remains a work in progress — Ifedi’s 10 penalties enforced are two more than anyone else in the NFL, as are the 12 called.
Grade: C. You might not guess that Seattle ranks fourth in the NFL in total offense at 378.6 and second in passing at 274.8. In fact, Seattle is rather amazingly on pace to tie the all-time franchise record for yards in a season (6,058) set in 2015. The issue is efficiency and turning all those yards into points. Seattle has scored touchdowns on just half of its 24 red-zone possessions, for instance. The penalties are obviously a killer. And ranking just 19th in rushing also doesn’t help. Seattle has just two rushing touchdowns.
MVP: MLB Bobby Wagner. Wagner was our MVP for the first quarter and remains our MVP for the halfway point, turning in a season so far that coach Pete Carroll said should have him in the consideration for NFL defensive MVP. Wagner leads the team in tackles with 72. That’s not really a surprise given the position he plays. But he’s also turned in big plays with the fumble return TD against the Colts and the safety last week, and his seven quarterback hits are third on the team.
Runner-up: DL Michael Bennett. Despite battling a foot injury Bennett is playing a whopping 85.2 percent of the snaps, playing all but five last week against Washington. His 6.5 sacks leads the team and is on pace for a career-high.
Unsung hero: DT Jarran Reed. The Seahawks needed Reed to make a big leap in year two, especially in terms of consistency, and he has done just that, playing 60 percent of the snaps for the season. He was one of the top-graded tackles in the NFL by Pro Football Focus for his play last week rushing the passer and defending the run, a game when the Seahawks needed him to play a career-high 73 percent of snaps with Sheldon Richardson out.
Key stat: 4.3. Seattle’s yards per rush allowed for the season. True, a few big runs early in the year continue to have it more inflated than the reality of how the Seahawks have really played. The Seahawks have allowed just 3.2 yards per carry the last three games. Splitting the difference between the season number and the last three weeks would be a good sign for Seattle.
Key question: Can the defense cut on the explosive plays it has allowed? By the most important measure — points allowed — Seattle is still among the best defenses in the NFL. The Seahawks are fifth this week in fewest points allowed per game at 18.6. But the Seahawks have been uncharacteristically burned at times by big plays, such as the 31- and 38-yard completions at the end of the Washington game. All the plays have had their own unique reasons. But the Seahawks simply have to allow fewer going forward, especially facing what are five of the top 10-ranked offenses in the second half of the season.
Grade: B-minus. This was the same grade we gave them for the first quarter, when many of Seattle’s stats were similar to what they are now — yards per game allowed is almost identical (318.8 in the first four games, 322.5 for the first half). But after playing five offenses ranked in the bottom 12 of the NFL in the first half Seattle faces six ranked in the top 15 the rest of the way.
MVP: S Bradley McDougald: Nobody has played more special teams snaps than McDougald (178) and nobody has made more tackles (7) keying coverage units that have been better than a year ago, fulfilling a key offseason objective. Seattle is allowing 6.6 yards per punt returned compared to 8.4 last season, and 19.1 on kickoff returns compared to 20.4 last season.
Runner-up: P Jon Ryan: Seattle has downed 17 of 44 punts inside the 20 and Ryan’s directional kicking has helped limit the return numbers against.
Unsung hero: CB Neiko Thorpe. Thorpe has continued to be one of the team’s best players in coverage and has four tackles in the last four games after sitting out two early with an ankle injury.
Key stat: 7-11. Blair Walsh’s field goal kicking beyond 20 yards. Most obvious was the 0 for 3 on Sunday which helped contribute greatly to the loss to Washington. Goes without saying that number has to get better.
Key question: Is there any reason to worry about Blair Walsh? This was also our question after the first quarter of the season when Walsh was 6 of 7 on field goals and 8 of 9 on PATs with the PAT miss coming near the end of the win over the 49ers, leaving San Francisco within a field goal. The three misses Sunday were even more critical and all eyes will now be on Walsh to see how quickly he can bounce back.
Grade: B-minus. For those who consider special teams as just field goal kicking that might seem a high grade. And true, Seattle’s return numbers are each down a little from last season as Tyler Lockett has yet to seem quite as consistently dynamic as his first two seasons. He averages 21.9 on kickoffs compared to 26.3 last season. But coverage is also a big part of it, and Seattle has been solid there.