Seahawks Versus Rams Review

The fact that the Seattle Seahawks lost in the manner they did on Sunday – in a close game and partly the causation of the outcome was due to a poor coaching decision – brought back those yucky feelings from last year’s Super Bowl. Losing to the Rams 34-31 in overtime in St. Louis was not wholly unexpected nor should it give Seahawks fans reason to think the sky is falling. The Rams are a good team with a great defensive line. Still, there are some worrisome aspects that came out of Sunday’s contest:  1) Seattle’s coaches decided to begin overtime with an “onside kick,” or whatever it was supposed to be; 2) the offensive line could not keep the Rams from renting a timeshare in Seattle’s backfield most of the day; 3) Dion Bailey is not Kam Chancellor and Chancellor still has no plans to return.

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One could wonder whether the Seahawks coaches think they are smarter than they are. Seattle has some excellent coaches. The players know what they are supposed to be doing. Most players who arrive and stick with the Seahawks become better football players. But those late game decisions…that is another issue. As we all know, the Seahawks elected to throw the ball on their last drive in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots and that pass ended up in the arms of a Patriot player. The safer play would have been to run the ball. Sure, the Seahawks decided to run the ball on fourth-and-one in overtime but running back Marshawn Lynch never had a chance to get out of the backfield. The difference between running it against the Rams versus the Patriots is that the Rams defensive front was better than last year’s Patriots front, and Lynch would have still had two more chances to score last year. In this game, he was one-and-done. The problem was not the play call. The issue is what happened to set up the Seahawks to be in a position to have to score: the “onside kick.”

Head coach Pete Carroll says the kick was not designed to a classic onside kick. Kicker Steven Hauschka said after the game he did not want to get into particulars of what the kickoff was supposed to be like, but that he muffed the attempt. It appears the plan was to have Hauschka kick the ball to the Rams 15-yard line so that Rams returner Tavon Austin would not be able to bring the ball out. In 2014, 38.16% of Hauschka’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Seahawks ranked fifth in kickoff return yards allowed. Austin may be a very good returner, but the Seahawks would have been better off doing what they practice most: kicking it deep. Instead, Hauschka booted it badly and the Rams began the initial drive of overtime in Seahawks territory. This is the second straight game, counting the Super Bowl, that Seattle’s coaches made a decision to do something “different” that negatively affected the game. This is a ad trend to continue.

The second worrisome point was not unexpected. The Rams have a very good defensive front. The Seahawks, though, if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs need to fix their offensive line issues quickly. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked three times in each half, and did not have a lot of time to throw when he was not being sacked. Lynch ran for 73 yards and a 4.1 average yards per carry. Twelve of those yards, however, came on one run where Lynch literally ran with six Rams holding on to him. Yes, the Seahawks as a team scored 31 points, but 14 of those points were not scored by the offense (returner/receiver/phenom Tyler Lockett scored on a punt return and defensive back Cary Williams scored on a fumble return). The Seahawks absolutely needed the line to block well enough for Lynch to pick up one yard and a first down in overtime, but he did not even have a chance to get back to the line of scrimmage. Offensive line coach Tom Cable is a good coach, but he has work to do to get this line where they need to be. Otherwise, the Seahawks will not make the playoffs.

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The final concern from week one is simply Seattle needs Kam Chancellor back. Bailey’s issues in preseason were with pass coverage. With Seattle leading 31-24 and needing to stop St. Louis late in the game, Bailey fell down in one-on-one coverage and the Rams completed a 38-yard touchdown pass for a touchdown. Players slip and bad things happen sometimes. Chancellor would not have slipped. Plus, the secondary has several communication problems. If Chancellor returns those problems almost completely cease immediately. There have been too many years with safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and Chancellor playing together for there to be many communication issues. Bailey might be a decent player; he is not Kam Chancellor.

There were a few good moments from week one. Lockett continues to show that he was a steal by being drafted in the third round. He is incredibly gifted as a kick and punt returner, and he looks like he will contribute in the passing game sooner than expected. Cornerback Williams played better than expected, including being solid in pass coverage and causing Rams quarterback Nick Foles to fumble on a sack, which Williams then picked up and ran in for a touchdown. Thomas played well in his first game action since being injured. Defensive end Michael Bennett was great, with four tackles and a sack and just being everywhere.

This week’s game does not get easier. Seattle travels to Green Bay for a Sunday night game. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has had poor games against Seattle, but without Chancellor he should be better. For the Seahawks to start off this season at 0-2 would not be surprising. The season is long, though, and Seattle should still be expected to make the playoffs even with a bad start to the year.