Jarran Reed, after playing his first game of the season, was asked for his biggest takeaway from the Seahawks’ 30-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Without hesitation, Reed replied, “Lamar Jackson is fast.”
Perhaps this unseemly, discouraging Seattle defeat goes no deeper than that: A singular player, a unicorn of a quarterback, who was simply too fast, too strong and too elusive for anyone to stop.
Jadeveon Clowney said he thought he had Jackson corralled for a potential sack on a crucial play, only to have him escape for a big gain.
“There he go … and there he went,’’ said Clowney, encapsulating Jackson’s day in seven words.
Shaquill Griffin put it slightly differently, but no less cogently, when asked if it was tough to figure out when Jackson was going to run and when he was going to throw.
“It wasn’t hard to know what he was going to do,’’ Griffin replied. “It was just when he did it, being able to stop him.”
Such expressions of wonderment, and awe-struck testaments to Jackson’s unique abilities, were rampant in the postgame locker room. And because there’s only one Lamar Jackson, and they won’t face him again this year (except possibly in the Super Bowl, LOL, as the kids say), no need to dwell too long on this defeat.
Well, that’s one way to look at it. There’s another, more troubling takeaway from this game, the Seahawks’ second defeat in four outings this season in what used to be considered an impenetrable CenturyLink Field.
Namely, that the loss to the Ravens exposed warts, flaws and deficiencies that had been lurking beneath the surface during the Seahawks’ 5-1 start.
Consider that four of those five victories were by a grand total of eight points. One was by a point to a Bengals team that is now 0-7. One was by two points to a Steelers team without Ben Roethlisberger for the second half. One was by a point to the Rams only because ultrareliable kicker Greg Zuerlein somehow missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired. And one was by four points to a mediocre Browns team that couldn’t hold onto the ball at crucial times.
Those four teams, by the way, have a combined 8-18 record. Seattle’s other victory was by 17 points against Arizona, which has since won three in a row and possesses a quarterback in Kyler Murray with many of the same qualities as Jackson — and whom they will meet again.
Now, you could counter by saying there is an art and toughness to winning close games, that Seattle’s defense forced the turnovers that undid Cleveland, and that good teams win the games they are supposed to win.
All true. But it’s also true that whenever they’ve faced a top-tier opponent — New Orleans and now Baltimore — the Seahawks have been exposed in a variety of ways. And that the Seahawks have displayed an inordinate reliance on the magic and resourcefulness of Russell Wilson to bail them out of dire predicaments.
That’s a fantastic weapon to have, because Wilson will no doubt continue to be great on his run to a possible MVP award. But when he falters, as was the case Sunday, the Seahawks have failed to find other answers.
Most troubling, perhaps, is that the defense thus far hasn’t been the disruptive, intimidating unit that provided the team’s identity for so long. That’s hardly surprising considering the slow but steady departure of bedrock players such as Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas (who was predictably gleeful in victory Sunday).
There is still considerable talent on hand, and it has the potential to jell into a championship-contending unit. As numerous players pointed out, the bulk of the season still remains. The Seahawks have a golden opportunity for an instant pick-me-up on the road Sunday against the nose-diving Falcons.
But the disparity between Wilson getting hit seven times behind an injury-depleted offensive line by the blitzing Ravens, and Jackson leaving the game virtually unscathed, was alarming.
Jackson did get sacked once, for minus-2 yards. It was officially credited to Branden Jackson, but the reality is that the Ravens quarterback slipped on the wet turf. That was the only statistical hit of the opposing quarterback in two weeks. It’s laudable for Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei to record a clean sheet on the CenturyLink pitch; for the Seahawks’ defensive front, not so much.
The Seahawks continue to preach patience when it comes to their front four. Reed was making his first appearance of the season after serving a six-game suspension, Ziggy Ansah missed the game with an injury and Clowney is still rounding into form after sitting out the preseason with a contract holdout.
“Everyone knows our core pass-rushing group is going to be Ziggy, JD (Clowney), Q (Quinton Jefferson) and J-Reed,’’ said Branden Jackson. “That group hasn’t rushed together yet. At the end of the day, that’s just timing, with them getting that going and anyone else who goes in there.”
Speaking of his rapport with Reed, Clowney said, “We’re just trying to get the feel of each other. … I’m glad to have him back there with me rushing the passer. We’re going to get on the same page much more as we keep playing with each other.
“We keep getting these games in together, me and him, and keep rushing together in practice, we’re going to eventually get great, because we’re going to work at it. I ain’t worried about it.”
The Seahawks are going to keep working at getting great. But after Sunday, it’s fair to be worried about it.