Through six weeks of the NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves staring at a 2-4 record, with a very real chance of missing the playoffs.
Miscommunication on defense has been a theme in every loss this year. Part of this could be because of Kam Chancellor’s training camp holdout, part of it could be that the defense is still adjusting to the new defensive coordinator Kris Richard. One thing is certain: the Seahawks need to turn things around, and fast.
These problems reared their ugly head last Sunday, Oct. 18, as Seattle watched a 9 point fourth quarter lead evaporate in the final five minutes of the game. Through the first six games, the Seahawks have been outscored 61-27 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Much of the fourth quarter struggles can be attributed to the offense. In the fourth quarter against the Panthers, Seattle only managed to gain 48 yards of total offense, and held the ball for just four minutes and 16 seconds over the course of three drives. This is not how you win football games in the NFL, especially against an undefeated team like the Panthers.
Seattle left the door open, and Carolina slammed it shut. With just over eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Carolina orchestrated a nine play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 32-yard catch and run by Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen would be tackled at the 1 yard line, but running back Jonathan Stewart would finish the drive off with a 1-yard run.
Seattle failed to move the ball on its next drive, gaining just 12 yards of total offense before being forced to punt. Carolina would answer with another eight play, 80 yard drive, and scored the go ahead touchdown with just 32 seconds left to play.
Many of the talking points have focused on Carolina’s last offensive play. Quarterback Cam Newtown connected with Olsen deep down the middle of the field for a touchdown. After the play, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas could be seen arguing over who was supposed to be covering Olsen.
“It just was a confusion about what call we were in. There were a couple calls being signaled in that were different. And the game’s at a fast pace so you’ve got to make a decision,” Sherman said.
“Coach Richard said he called LA. Sherm [Richard Sherman] was playing LA, which is true, and I was playing a cover 3. Kam [Chancellor] was playing cover 3 also, the whole backside was playing cover 3. But I think Sherm was so close to the sideline he got the correct call. But we didn’t get the job done,” Thomas said.
Seattle has struggled against tight ends this season, and Greg Olsen continued that trend, finishing the game with seven catches for 131 yards and one touchdown. The week before, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert torched the Seattle defense for 90 yards on eight catches with two scores. According to the statistic gurus over at Football Outsiders, Seattle ranks 30 in the league against opposing tight ends this season.
Despite losing another fourth quarter lead, there were some bright spots. Tight end Jimmy Graham had his best outing of the season, catching eight passes for 140 yards. In addition, Marshawn Lynch was able to return to action, carrying the ball 17 times for 54 yards and one touchdown. Outside of that, the offense was mediocre.
At 2-4, Seattle finds themselves in third place in the NFC west, tied with the San Francisco 49ers. As fate would have it, the 9ers and Seahawks will square off in a divisional matchup this Thursday, Oct. 22, down in San Francisco.
To call this a must win game would be an understatement. Having squandered an opportunity to pick up a game on the Cardinals, the Seahawks now find themselves on the outside looking in. This is unfamiliar territory for the back-to-back NFC Champions, who have earned a reputation of finishing games in the fourth quarter.
Seattle heads into Thursday’s matchup having won four out of the last five games against San Francisco, including a 19-3 win during their last trip to the Bay Area.
Unfortunately, this team has not played as well as last years team. But neither have the 49ers. The winner of this game has a chance at salvaging their season and making a late playoff push. For the Seahawks, a win is necessary if they want to stay in the hunt.
Things should get better for Seattle going forward. Four of the Seahawks’ games this year have been against playoff teams last year, two of which have been on the road. Seattle’s next two opponents have a combined record of 4-7, however at 2-4, no team can be overlooked.
The talent is still there, and many analysts and experts agree that the Seahawks still have one of the best rosters top to bottom, however they haven’t been able to put it all together yet.
“It’s very frustrating,” safety Earl Thomas said, “especially when you know we had them. We don’t suck. We know who we are. We’re not finishing.”
AJ can be reached at [email protected]