Pete Carroll expressed his disbelief with how things turned out on Saturday at Lumen Field.
“I have no place in my brain for this outcome,” Carroll said following the Seahawks decisive, 30-20, defeat at the hands of the Rams. “We were planning on winning and moving on.”
He has no reason to be surprised. Surely most Seahawks fans aren’t. Nearly the entire second half of Seattle’s regular season foreshadowed the fashion in which the Seahawks lost in the Wild Card Round to their division rival.
It started with a Week 10 loss to the Rams in which Seattle scored just 16 points. The Seahawks offense then scored just 10 points in a gruesome Week 13 loss to the Giants that cost the team the NFC’s No. 1 seed, they didn’t put up a point against the WFT over the final 28 minutes of the game in Week 15 and they failed to score a touchdown in the first half in Week 16 and 17 against the Rams and 49ers, respectively.
The common thread to Seattle’s woes offensively was their opponent’s ability to eliminate the explosive pass plays that came in bunches over the first half of the season.
That trend continued on Saturday where the Seahawks scored just 13 points prior to a garbage time touchdown once the game was already well out of reach. Russell Wilson completed just 11-of-27 passes for 174 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, a back-breaking pick-six in the second quarter. The offense as a whole gained just 278 total yards and went 2-14 on third down. Wilson was sacked five times and hit on 10 occasions. An off-schedule 51-yard touchdown to Metcalf was the lone bright spot.
Carroll tipped his cap to the Rams defense – led by Brandon Staley, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey – for a dominant performance.
“Against that group, it’s just tough,” Seattle’s head coach said. “And it’s no surprise, this is how they’ve played against other people.”
But the Seahawks aren’t other people. Seattle has the offensive firepower – with Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson – to expose any defense, even one as talented as the one they played on Saturday.
That’s what makes Seattle’s late-season struggles so troublesome, especially now that the season is over and the offense was never able to flip the switch back to the high-scoring attack we saw early on. After the narrow win in Washington, Carroll was adamant that there was nothing to worry about offensively.
He went so far as to scoff at the notion that there might have been a negative takeaway.
“You guys do that. You go ahead and be concerned. I ain't concerned at all,” Carroll said back on Dec. 20.
His tune changed on Saturday.
“It seemed like during the course of the season, after the halfway point, we had hit so much early, we’d been so effective, that people found ways to stay back and bleed us and make us throw the ball underneath,” Carroll said. “We were maybe really going for it more than we needed to and we didn’t take advantage of switching gears a bit there as effectively as we would have liked, because we like chunking them and going after them. I’ve got a lot of work to do to figure it out. … I wish we would have adapted better under those circumstances.”
That’s about as big of an admission of guilt as you’ll ever hear from Seattle’s relentlessly-optimistic head coach.
This isn’t to suggest that the Seahawks were ignorant to their regression in production. Surely they tried to make adjustments. But whether it was a lack of urgency (they very well could have felt things were mostly OK given the wins kept coming) or the inability to pull the right strings, the lack of a solution made the offense paralyzingly one-dimensional far too frequently, like Pedro Cerrano trying to hit a curve ball.
Wilson offered one potential theory, suggesting that Seattle strayed from its up-tempo ways that made the offense so successful early on.
“I think that teams know we throw it down the field well, but I think teams also fear our pace and our tempo and all that,” Wilson surmised. “When the game is on the line, there’s 2:00 left in the game, team’s obviously fear that because of the feeling of me going. That’s something along the way, you can kind of lose track of a little bit. I think we kind of lost track of that maybe. I think that could have helped.”
Wilson may be right to a degree, which would seemingly be an unintentional indictment of the coaching staff, but he shoulders plenty of the blame as well. The Seahawks star QB unquestionably regressed in the second half of the season. He appeared gun shy at times and was uncharacteristically mortal in his production.
Now, is that more on Wilson or the coaching staff putting him in positions to fail? That’s the million-dollar question, but to completely exonerate Wilson would be misguided. In Year 9, he has the keys to the offense and a voice influential enough to implement changes he wishes to see.
Regardless of the division of blame, Seattle’s inability to find a counterpunch was accentuated on Saturday. The Rams seemed to be the only team that benefitted from the familiarity of the two regular season matchups against Seattle.
Staley’s defense looked as comfortable as a Vegas goer sipping on mai tais while floating down a lazy river. Conversely, Wilson and his offense had as much command as a white-water rafter without a paddle.
An embarrassing and unceremonious ousting in the first round of the playoffs, by a rival no less, may lead to shakeups on the coaching staff. There needs to be some deep soul-searching that takes place over what will be a long and crucial offseason, one in which Seattle will not be given any benefit of the doubt after failing to reach the bar set by last year’s club.
During that process, there needs to be an understanding by all involved that Saturday’s loss was months in the makings. The Seahawks should be feeling a myriad of emotions right now, but surprise isn’t one of them.