By Julian Rogers
That won’t get it done against the NFL’s highest scoring offense in week 5
Slow start #4? No worries. The Seattle Seahawks limped to a 10–15 halftime deficit at home against the Indianapolis Colts, then exploded for 36 second-half points in an eventual route on Sunday night. Problem solved. Ship righted. Right?
Slow start #3? Some worries. The Seahawks managed only seven first-half points at the Tennessee Titans (week three) and ended up losing 33–27 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Slow start #2? Yes, worries. The Seahawks, in their second outing and first home game, managed only six first-half points against the (still) winless San Francisco 49ers. They amassed 12 points on four field goals to get their first win of the season.
Slow start #1? Serious worries. The Seahawks could only muster three first-half points in a week one loss (9–17) at Green Bay. They did not score their first offensive touchdown until the second quarter of week three at the Titans.
At least the trend is going up (ish) for the Seattle Seahawks. After only three first-half points against the Packers, they got six points in week two, seven in week three and cracked double digits in week four. At that pace, they’ll get maybe 12 first-half points against the Los Angeles Rams.
Anyone feeling good about Seattle’s chances if this trend continues?
You might feel good about it, depending on whether or not the Seahawks can convince the Rams to start the game in the third quarter. Since that seems unlikely, the blue birds need to find a way to get their offensive engine jump-started earlier in the contest. Since the Sean McVay-led Rams of 2017 are averaging a league-best 35.5 points per game, the Seahawks must counter with nine points or more per quarter to keep pace.
This is the very definition of a tall task. In their 16 quarters of play, the 2017 Seahawks have scored nine or more points in a quarter three times; two of which were in Q3 and Q4 against the Colts. The 12s had better hope the latter half Seahawks are the new Seahawks for the rest of the season.
And they might be. There were definite signs of life as the Colts faded from competitiveness in the latter half of the game.
Tomorrow never knows
Time and again, we’ve learned that how a team plays in the first quarter of the season bears little resemblance to how they play in November, December and (hopefully) January. The Seahawks, by dint of their 2–2 record, combined with the 3–1 record of the NFC West Division-leading Rams, are essentially starting the season over, one-quarter of the way in.
The winner of this game will have early (for what it’s worth) control of the division. The Seahawks are right there, and have determined what works — and perhaps more significantly, what doesn’t work — on offense.
We’ve seen what the Seahawks are now: a sketchy passing attack for most of their 2017 possessions. Poor run-blocking that’s getting worse. Russell Wilson running for his life on almost every down. The Seahawks consistently move the ball when they spread defenses out and go up-tempo. The results say: Do more of that.
Despite the two-halvesness nature of the Seahawks’ offense, a quick examination of the team’s offensive statistics does reveal a remarkable symmetry in the Colts game. Three different receivers totaled more than 60 yards in receptions; none as much as 70. In total, eight different receivers caught passes, including four receivers, two running backs and two tight ends. Quarterback Russell Wilson is a master at running Darrell Bevell’s offense and remains willing and able to target any individual based on matchups and opportunities on any given play.
His trustiest target, No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin, was not among the top three receivers in the Colts game, with only 35 receiving yards. No matter. Given favorable field position, thanks to a highly effective defensive performance, Wilson was able to find all of his receiving weapons when he needed to, despite tossing two interceptions (21/26, 295 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 2 INTs, 1 safety).
While the Seahawks have churned their way through running backs (as has become their recent custom) due to injury (Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson) ineffectiveness (Eddie Lacy; all of the others, at times) and inexperience (J.D. McKissic), they may have just found the right combination against the Colts.
Now that Carson is out long-term with a nasty lower leg injury, Eddie Lacy looks to be the current workhorse back, with McKissic providing the occasional big-play spark. Lacy’s most recent stat line: (11 rushes for 52 yards) combined with McKissic’s (4 rushes, 38 yards and 1 reception for a 27-yard touchdown) are a more than solid combination.
They’ll need it to keep pace with the NFL’s second-leading running back (to rookie phenom Kareem Hunt), dual threat Todd Gurley (86 carries, 362 yards [4.2 YPC], 4 TDs and 3 receiving TDs).
What the Seahawks have known about Gurley since his rookie season of 2015 is that he is the whole deal for the Rams offense. So far in 2017, he’s the real deal — and a complement to the blossoming second-year quarterback Jared Goff’s suddenly potent passing attack.
Goff, whose trajectory has spiked upward, has been (I’ll say it) surprisingly aided by the addition of two former Buffalo Bills receivers, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, and Eastern Washington rookie Cooper Kupp. Not only are the Rams the highest scoring offense, they also own the fifth-ranked passing offense and the 15th-ranked rushing offense. The Seahawks, after the second-half outpouring against the Colts, are 13th and 11th, respectively.
The biggest difference: In Los Angeles, the sexy yards come from Gurley. In Seattle, they come from Wilson.
Good day sunshine
It’s a new day in the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams leading the division with the league’s highest flying offense. It’s a new opportunity for the Seahawks, who have managed to stay within a game of the Rams while sorting through their offensive slow starts and injury woes. Could this week five matchup be a defining moment in not only the 2017 season, but the course of both franchises going forward?
Regardless of records, recent history tells us that the Seahawks have a hard time against the Rams, whether in Seattle, Los Angeles or St. Louis. The Seahawks are 2–4 against the Rams since the 2014 season. The Seahawks were a playoff team in those years; the Rams were also-rans.
Whoever triumphs on Sunday will own the division now that the preliminary month has concluded. This is no “must win,” but it will be a determinant win — for one franchise.