Perhaps in three months, the Seahawks will be 12-4 and playing for a division title. Perhaps in four months, they’ll be in the NFC Championship Game and vying for a fourth Super Bowl appearance.
After all, the AFC-champion Chiefs are 1-2, and nobody is dismissing them — just as few dismissed the world-champion Bucs after posting the same record through three weeks last season.
But these past two Seattle defeats have been particularly glaring. Once known as world-class closers, they’ve become closers sans the “c.” And though the blame can be spread to a number of areas, in this space I’ll ask: Is much of this on the coaching?
Reason No. 1 for such a question — the penalties have been dumb with a capital, bold and italicized D. Granted, coach Pete Carroll and Co. aren’t the ones out there drawing these penalties, but they are tasked with keeping the players disciplined throughout the season. However, in the Week 2 overtime loss to the Titans, all the Seahawks saw was yellow — earning flags for taunting, or unnecessary roughness, or late hits — as third-down stops turned into first-and-10s.
No, the flags weren’t as frequent in Sunday’s 30-17 loss to the Vikings, but safety Ugo Amadi’s defensive-holding penalty on third down in the second quarter breathed life into a Minnesota team that was on the verge of being vanquished.
“Not going to blame it on one play, but that definitely was a big play,” Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed said of the penalty, which led to a Vikings touchdown and allowed them to crawl within three points of the lead.
Reason No. 2 for such a question — Seattle’s opponents are adjusting, and the Seahawks are not. Entering the Week 2 matchup with Tennessee, the Seahawks were 65-2 in games in which they held a lead of four points or more at halftime since quarterback Russell Wilson arrived in 2012. They ended up blowing a 24-9 halftime advantage. And though they weren’t up at halftime against Minnesota, they were ahead by 10 before being held scoreless for the final 41 minutes of the game.
In other words, they were outscored 24-6 in the second half and overtime against Tennessee — then outscored 23-0 in the final two thirds of the contest against Minnesota.
It’s fair to give Carroll the benefit of the doubt given how dominant Seattle has been with leads during his tenure here. But what if this is the start to an unsettling trend? What if new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is brilliant when designing the first 15 plays of the game but paralytic when forced to go on the fly? What if defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s schemes — which get input from Carroll, no doubt — have become predictable and ineffective?
Reed’s postgame candor Sunday when discussing the defensive disappointment was revealing.
“Schemed our ass up,” he said. “It just felt similar to the Bills game last year (a 44-34 loss). Whatever we was doing (we were) just getting schemed up.”
Added fellow cornerback Tre Flowers, when asked about his play: “It’s a schematic thing, I feel like. I’ve got my own questions to ask.”
Reason No. 3 for such a question — the Seahawks don’t seem short on talent.
At quarterback, they have Wilson — the eight-time Pro Bowler whose 133.6 passer rating is the best in the NFL. They have receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, who have combined for 529 yards and five touchdowns.
They have seven-time Pro Bowler Bobby Wagner, who’s leading the league in tackles with 44. They have Jamal Adams — the highest-paid safety in the league — and fellow Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs.
There’s running back Chris Carson, there’s defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap … there’s just a lot of dudes, man. But the Seahawks as a unit? They’ve vanished in the second halves of the past two games.
“We didn’t hold it together. We got to play better. Got to play more disciplined,” Carroll said. “Just have to keep staying together and connected and keep giving ourselves the opportunity to have a great season. Only way to do that is to hang.”
It’s still way too early to make a judgment. The Seahawks were 1-2 in 2015 before finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs. They were 1-2 in 2018 before going 10-6 and making the playoffs. But they’re also in what is likely the best division in the NFL.
Everyone in uniform has to be better. That’s likely true of the guys not in uniform, too.