RENTON — NFL games look one way when the schedule is released in April and often another when it comes time for kickoff in the fall.
Few games could have looked differently – and more advantageously for Seattle — from how it did in April than Sunday’s contest with the Saints, the first New Orleans had to play without injured quarterback Drew Brees.
Which is why Seattle coach Pete Carroll was left Monday with nothing but regret over the myriad mistakes the Seahawks made that greatly contributed to New Orleans’ 33-27 win.
“It’s a missed opportunity at home for sure,’’ Carroll said.
All losses are costly, of course. But with a 3-0 start just there for the taking — and on a day when the Rams and 49ers each actually got to 3-0 — this feels like one the Seahawks will regret all season.
But before doing what the Seahawks will have to do this week — move on to Arizona — let’s review what I thought might happen and what did.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
What I said: Seattle’s secondary against Saints receivers.
What happened: What seemed like a potentially troublesome matchup wasn’t a hugely significant factor in the game as the Saints finished with just 177 yards passing.
Standout receiver Michael Thomas, who went up against Tre Flowers much of the day, didn’t go wild, with five catches for 54 yards (though a 14-yard gain on a third-and-five late in the second quarter that keyed the drive that made it 20-7 was pivotal).
Going against Bridgewater and what they thought might be a conservative, quick-passing attack, the Seahawks decided to mostly play coverage, blitzing just 18 percent of the time, according to Pro Football Focus, down from 31 percent in the first two games.
The stats indicate it mostly worked out.
What I could have said: Seattle defenders vs. Saints running back Alvin Kamara. This was the one offensive matchup that brutalized Seattle as the Seahawks struggled all day to bring him down, notably on a short pass that Kamara turned into a back-breaking 29-yard TD late in the first half.
“We missed way more tackles than we have in any other game, and it was really on one guy,’’ Carroll said. “I think we didn’t know him well enough to adjust enough tackling-wise to compensate.’’
PLAYER TO WATCH
Who I said: DE Ziggy Ansah.
What happened: Ansah played 19 snaps but didn’t record a stat in his first game as a Seahawk after sitting out the first two to allow his surgically repaired shoulder that much more time to get stronger. Carroll said Ansah will do better as he gets more playing time but noted that Ansah also mostly just bull-rushed going against Terron Armstead, a Pro Bowler last season, and will have to show more creativity going forward.
Who I could have said: RB Chris Carson.
His two fumbles in the first two games made him an obvious marked man by the Saints. And New Orleans got him with Eli Apple’s punch of the ball leading to a fumble that turned the game.
Carroll says Carson knows how to fix his issues. But the question now is how quickly and what happens if he doesn’t?
Carson is Seattle’s best between-the-tackles runner and the Seahawks have no real choice but to keep putting him out there for now, especially with Rashaad Penny nursing a hamstring injury – the hope is Penny will practice Thursday. But they also have to be more prepared than ever to have alternatives. It’s hard to figure Carson will get too many more chances.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
What I said: To stay or not to stay with the quick passing game?
What happened: After the success against Pittsburgh it was tempting to wonder if the Seahawks would stick to that game plan. The Seahawks, though, appeared to be going back to more of their play-action style attack early — Wilson had completions of 29 and 32 yards on two of the first three series. But then the game got so out of whack that Seattle had no choice but to just throw it all the time in the second half and making any real review of play-calling trends a moot point.
What I could have said: Clock management late in the first half.
To me, all of the decisions to go for it on fourth down were defensible. Carroll had every right to think his team could pick up a yard from the Saints’ 41 late in the first half. And the fourth-down pass from Russell Wilson to Malik Turner in the fourth quarter almost turned into a big play that could have legitimately made it a game again — it was 27-14 with just under 10 minutes left at the time (FWIW, Carroll on Monday said Wilson needed to make a better throw there, same as when he missed an open Tyler Lockett on a fourth down in the third quarter).
And the late decision to contest pass interference on the Turner play was just taking a desperate shot in the dark. No fault there.
Hard to defend, though, was the strategy to end the first half when Seattle got the ball at its own 21 with 29 seconds left, down 20-7. The Seahawks had two timeouts and decided to try to make something happen. Wilson threw for nine yards on first down to Nick Vannett, with the clock showing 22 seconds when the play ended.
But instead of calling time, Seattle let the clock run and there were 10 seconds left when Wilson then scrambled around and hit DK Metcalf 54 yards downfield to the 16. Time clearly ran out by the time the play ended, leaving Seattle with two useless timeouts and nothing to show for 63 quick yards.
Carroll said Monday that because time was running down and the first down gain was not much that he was not sure if it was worth taking a shot. “Had I known what was going to happen we would have just burned a time out right off the bat,’’ he said.
That, though, leads the question of why not just take the time out, anyway, after the first down play if they were going to try to make something happen at all?
Who I said: New Orleans QB Teddy Bridgewater.
What happened: It was hard to know what Bridgewater would do in his first start. He really did almost nothing until the point when the Saints already led 13-7. The biggest thing he did was not screw things up on a day when that was all Seattle was doing.
What I could have said: Special teams.
It’s not many games that turn this concretely via special teams. Seattle was basically up against it the rest of the way after the punt return for a touchdown following the opening series. The punt wasn’t great but the Seahawks had plenty of players in position to make the tackle — including a few of the rookies drafted specifically to help special teams units that struggled at times last season. And then the Al Woods penalty that turned the Saints potentially getting no points into keeping the ball and driving for another touchdown in the third quarter as a killer.
WILD CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
Who I said: Running back C.J. Prosise.
What happened: Prosise indeed saw his most action since he was a rookie in 2016 serving as the backup tailback to Chris Carson with Rashaad Penny injured, and then taking over a more significant role when Carson lost yet another fumble. Prosise didn’t have a huge impact on things – five yards on four carries, 38 yards on five receptions. But considering he may be needed to do more going forward, it was a decent first step to getting back into things.
Who I could have said: Frankly, there were no positive surprises for Seattle.
What I said: First-down running.
What happened: Seattle entered the game averaging 1.8 yards on first down runs. The Seahawks were better against the Saints with 45 yards on nine first-down runs. But the early deficit led to Seattle pretty much abandoning the running game in the second half — Wilson’s 50 passing attempts were the most of his career.
What I could have said: Red zone scoring. The Saints had nine possessions in the game and crossed midfield on just three of them. But they scored touchdowns on all three.
THE FINAL WORD
What I said: Seahawks 23, Saints 19.
What happened: So, I’m on a two-game prediction losing streak. Conversely, it was hard to imagine that game unfolding that way (though it could also be viewed that the mistakes Seattle got away with against the Steelers and Bengals it simply did not against the Saints). Three games in, though, and it feels like we’re still waiting to find out exactly what this team is.