Thursday night carries massive importance for the Seattle Seahawks. They face about as much of a must-win game as you can have in Week 11. Losing to the Cardinals for a second time would put their hopes at an NFC West title in jeopardy.
A loss would put Seattle one game back of Arizona in the standings, which means the Seahawks would have to somehow pick up two games in the standings over the final six games of the season. Thus, winning on Thursday is paramount.
That means the Seahawks will need Russell Wilson to snap out of his recent “out-of-character run,” to steal Pete Carroll’s words. Wilson has turned the ball over 10 times during his month-long slump that bottomed out last Sunday against the Rams. Wilson threw for just 248 yards and no touchdowns while being picked twice.
“He needs to play better,” Brian Schottenheimer said on Tuesday. “He knows that. We can’t turn the ball over. … We coach him no different than anybody else. It’s non-negotiable, you have to take care of the football.”
Carroll spoke about Wilson needing to take what’s in front of him rather than forcing something that isn’t there. That notion certainly applies to Wilson’s first interception against the Rams, where he had a wide open running lane and instead chose to throw it late to Will Dissly in the end zone.
Schottenheimer shared that his talking points to Wilson this week are about simplifying his thought process. Wilson isn’t a one-read thrower, and he’s capable of processing and analyzing more information than most QBs. But sometimes, especially in the midst of a slump, players can be a victim of their own minds. “Paralysis by analysis” is the catchphrase some coaches use. Beyond that, Wilson hasn’t had time to go through full progressions with the way opponents have blitzed Seattle’s offense of late.
The combination of taking easy yards and simplifying his thought process should help Wilson bounce back.
“We completely trust Russ,” Schottenheimer said. “Russ will get through this, I really believe that.”
He certainly has to if Seattle has any hope of beating Arizona on Thursday night.
The return of Carlos Hyde should help to some degree. Schottenheimer can also assist in that process from a play calling standpoint. When the offense is struggling to move the ball on schedule, which has often been the case over the last two weeks, he needs to recognize that and adjust accordingly.
Seattle’s offensive coordinator said he has a strategy during those lulls where the Seahawks can’t get into any sort of flow or rhythm.
“What you do is you go back to your core plays that your players know inside and out,” Schottenheimer said. “Maybe it’s not the greatest play that draws up against this opponent or this coverage structure that they play, but it’s something the guys can run in their sleep.”
How Seattle handles the blitz will be a defining storyline of this game. Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was the MVP of the Cardinals overtime win in Week 7. His various blitzes foiled Seattle’s pair of drives in OT and have led to the uptick in blitzes Seattle has faced in the three games since that loss.
“You maybe see teams repeating things that we haven’t handled (well), but it really comes down to the protection unit working together and making the calls and communicating things really well,” Schottenheimer said. “That’s where we’ve been up and down.”
The Seahawks don’t have a defense capable of picking up Russell Wilson when he turns the ball over and plays well below his capabilities. That’s why it’s him and the rest of the offense to return to form on Thursday night and help Seattle avoid a costly sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.