RENTON — The margin for error for these 2019 Seattle Seahawks had been fingernail thin through the season’s first six weeks.
Four of their five victories this season had a combined margin of eight points, and they needed Russell Wilson’s fourth-quarter heroics in three of those victories.
The Seahawks knew Baltimore was bringing unique challenges to CenturyLink Field — notably, the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL and the No. 1 blitzing defense in the NFL. And against a good opponent, in an even matchup, the team that makes the fewest mistakes almost always has the upper hand.
“We can’t get away with everything,” receiver Tyler Lockett said after the Seahawks’ 30-16 defeat Sunday. “A lot of times when we play in games, we could kind of get away with penalties, we could kind of get away a little bit with turnovers, and we would still put ourselves in a situation to be able to win.
“But when we’re playing a team like Baltimore that’s really good at being able to control the clock … we can’t turn the ball over and we can’t put ourselves in third-and-15 or second-and-20. Because those things are not only going to stop our momentum, but it’s going to put us in a bad place when they get back on offense because then they’re going to control the clock again.”
Before the Seahawks head back on the road for a 10 a.m. PT kickoff in Atlanta on Sunday, a review of what I expected and then what happened Sunday against the Ravens:
MATCHUP TO WATCH
What I said: Seahawks’ defense vs. Ravens’ rushing attack.
What happened: Ten days before Halloween, Lamar Jackson put on a Superman cape and treated us all with his generational talent.
What I could have said: Can the Seahawks clone a Frankenstein-hybrid version of Ronnie Lott and Lawrence Taylor to keep up with Lamar Jackson?
There were several plays Jackson made that no one else in the NFL can make. On the Ravens’ only touchdown drive, late the third quarter, Jackson scrambled for 13 yards on a third-and-15 that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said was the most decisive play of the game. After initially sending out his field-goal unit, John Harbaugh changed his mind after a brief interaction with Jackson. He then called time out and went for it on fourth-and-two from the Seattle 8. Jackson then scored a power quarterback run up the gut.
In the Seahawks’ locker room afterward, there was less disappointment and frustration and more awe and appreciation for Jackson’s talents. In total, Seattle’s defense gave up one touchdown and two field goals. Most days, that will be good enough to win. Against Lamar Jackson on Sunday, it wasn’t. No shame in that.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Who I said: Chris Carson
What happened: Carson had 21 carries for 65 yards, matching his season low with 3.1 yards per carry. In the second half, he had 10 carries for 24 yards. The Seahawks finished with a net of 106 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
Who I could have said: Russell Wilson
Through six games, Wilson had been the best quarterback in the NFL. That he wasn’t even the best QB on the field Sunday certainly was the difference. More stunning: Wilson not only threw his first interception of the season, but Marcus Peters returned it 67 yards in the second quarter to give the Ravens a 13-10 lead.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
What I said: What happens at safety?
What happened: Without Bradley McDougald (back) and Lano Hill (elbow), the Seahawks were down to three healthy safeties — Tedric Thompson and rookies Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi. Blair played well enough that Carroll said Monday the rookie has earned more playing time even when the veterans are healthy.
What I could have said: Fourth downs.
It’s always easy to second-guess when a decision goes sideways, and that was the case for many Monday after Carroll said he never even considered going for it on fourth-and-three from Baltimore’s 35 midway through the third quarter. Jason Myers then missed a 53-yard field goal. The Ravens took possession and scored their only offensive touchdown 11 plays later — scoring on Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown, yep, on fourth down.
What I said: The Seahawks offensive line.
What happened: For the second consecutive week, George Fant and Jamarco Jones started in place of the injured Duane Brown (biceps) and D.J. Fluker (hamstring) and drew good reviews from Carroll. Jones, in fact, has played so well since Fluker went down early against the Rams that Carroll said there’s a full-on competition for playing time at right guard this week with Fluker back in the mix.
What I could have said: Special teams.
This probably classifies as nitpicking, because there was nothing egregious with the Seahawks’ special teams performance in general. It was fine, and even Myers’ long miss, in a vacuum, is understandable in the wet conditions. But in a game between two evenly matched teams, the Seahawks need a find a way to make an impactful play somewhere on special teams, and the Seahawks didn’t do that Sunday and they haven’t done that with any sort of consistency this season.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Who I said: Jarran Reed.
What happened: Reed had a solid game in his return from a six-game suspension, playing 50 of Seattle’s 59 total snaps on defense and earning a grade of 66.9 from Pro Football Focus. “He played good, hard football,” Carroll said. “Had a couple plays that he would like back, but other than that he played tough and he felt good coming out.”
Who I could have said: Jacob Hollister.
Hollister, promoted from the practice squad Oct. 11, had his first three receptions of the season, for 20 yards, and played 37 of 72 offensive snaps (compared to Luke Willson’s 34). Joey Hunt played three snaps as an extra blocker. Tight end is a position in transition. Carroll hinted last week that the team was looking at a potential addition there, so we’ll see what that might mean this week.
And somewhat lost in the unfortunate news last week that Will Dissly would be lost to another season-ending injury is that the Seahawks have also been without Fant — their other top blocking tight end — since his temporary move to left tackle. “We are missing George playing there,” Carroll said. “Regardless of whoever else we had with Will and the guys we’ve had in the past, nobody blocks like George. That’s a factor that we’re hoping we can get back to soon.”
What I said: Russell Wilson hadn’t thrown an interception in his first six games.
What happened: Oops.
What I could have said: Plus-6.
Through six games, the Seahawks were third in the NFL in turnover margin, at plus-6, after leading the league in 2018 at plus-15. Against the Ravens, they were minus-2 in turnover margin — with Wilson’s interception and DK Metcalf’s fourth-quarter fumble both returned for touchdowns. Oops, indeed.
THE FINAL WORD
What I said: Ravens 34, Seahawks 32
What happened: It’s not quite as simple as Lamar Jackson was really, really, really good and the Seahawks made two uncharacteristically awful turnovers … but actually, yeah, it was that simple Sunday.