All year long the offense bailed them out in the most theatrical of fashions. From Week 1 on, late-game drives, spectacular throws and last-second touchdowns rescued the guys on the other side of the ball.
The Seahawks’ defense has been atrocious throughout the year, but players such as Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett did it solids five games in a row. Sunday night, however, Seattle’s “D” couldn’t return the favor.
Many of the fears you may have had about the Hawks came to fruition in Arizona. That 37-34 overtime loss to the Cardinals underscored the glaring flaws that could end up plaguing Seattle. Up by 10 with less than three minutes to go, the Seahawks couldn’t finish off what once looked like a sure win. And though you can point the finger in various directions, the defense deserves the brunt of the blame.
“Obviously not good,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when asked about the defense. “We didn’t get off the field.”
The Seahawks (5-1) came into the game last in league in total defense by a gargantuan margin. The 471.5 yards they allowed per game were nearly 40 more than anybody else. Yes, they forced some turnovers and made key plays throughout the year. But to see a “D” so consistently porous was alarming to anyone thinking about the playoffs.
Sunday, that defense went from worst to, well … I’m not sure there’s an appropriate adjective. The Cardinals put up 519 yards as they excelled by air and by ground. Quarterback Kyler Murray finished with 360 yards on 34 of 48 passing. More conspicuously, he didn’t take a sack.
In the early part of the broadcast, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said that if the Seahawks don’t end up going to the Super Bowl, it’s because they can’t get to the quarterback. Shortly after came a graphic showing that the Seahawks got pressure on just 20.8% of their opponents’ drop backs, which was the worst in the league.
A concern throughout the offseason, Seattle partially addressed it by signing Bruce Irvin, who had 8.5 sacks in 13 games with Carolina last year. But when he tore his ACL in Week 2, Seattle’s pass rush went from barren to bare.
Just look at some of these Arizona drives: Nine plays for 75 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Six plays for 75 yards and a touchdown in the second. Twelve plays for 93 yards and a touchdown in the third. Then 14 plays for 75 yards to bring it to within three in the fourth.
Whenever the Cardinals needed a score, they got one. The most egregious drive from the Seahawks’ perspective came when Arizona went 54 yards in 52 seconds to set up the tying field goal as time expired. The Cardinals set themselves up for another short field goal on their first possession in overtime but missed, then kicked the game-winner after a Wilson interception.
That Wilson pick, by the way, was his third of the game. And though he takes the blame for the loss, he doesn’t deserve it. This was the first time all year that No. 3 wasn’t exceptional, and his defense couldn’t cut him some slack. Linebacker Bobby Wagner knows that.
“We’re nowhere where we want to be. We have to play better. We have to execute the plays better and be more consistent,” Wagner said. “We can’t put the offense in the situation that we put them in. It’s going to take some focus to make up your mind and say we’re going to play good defense.”
Granted, there were a couple diamonds in that field of coal for Seattle’s defense Sunday. Poona Ford forced a fumble in the first half that linebacker K.J. Wright recovered. Cornerback Quandre Diggs made a diving interception. And the Seahawks shut out the Cardinals on a first and goal, forcing them to walk back to the sideline with no points on the drive. But those moments were very much the exception.
Midway through the fourth quarter, it seemed like the story of the day was how this Seattle team is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The truth is, unless the “D” pulls its weight, they can’t be viewed as an elite team.