Attempting to close out the second half of the 2011 NFL season with a 6-2 record and an overall mark of 8-8, the Seahawks fell victim to a future Hall of Famer, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, in overtime and lost to the Arizona Cardinals 23-20 in Phoenix. Art Thiel and Steve Rudman provide their takes on Sunday’s game, and what comes next for the Seahawks.
STEVE: In every media briefing Pete Carroll conducted during the week, he insisted the Seahawks would “get after it” against Arizona and “end this thing” (the 2011 season) the “right way.” The Seahawks had the requisite determination and second-half execution to prove Carroll correct when they rallied from a 20-10 deficit to force overtime, but ultimately they couldn’t control Fitzgerald (9 catches, 149 yards) in the extra period. His three OT catches, all spectacular, set up A.J. Feely’s game-winning field goal and cost Seattle a chance to finish 8-8.
ART: The rally from first-half lethargy was commendable, but in the end the inability of Tarvaris Jackson to hit enough big passes in the fourth quarter was the undoing. He did it once, a 61-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Lockette (first TD of his NFL career), yet another undrafted free agent, but three other drives ended in futility. The outome may well have been different if the Seahawks had injured WRs Mike Williams and Sidney Rice, so harsh criticism of Jackson is unwarranted. But it’s splitting those hairs in the off-season — what was the responsibility of Jackson and what belonged to his teammates — that will determine whether the Seahawks pursue another QB.
STEVE: The touchdown pass to Lockette, I thought, was more about the former Fort Valley State track champion than about Jackson. Where Jackson failed to produce was in two red-zone forays in the second half that resulted in one field goal and one hideously blocked field goal attempt. I won’t be overly harsh on Jackson, other than to say that the Seahawks need to purse another quarterback.
ART: Matt Hasselbeck, maybe? He had a fine year. But let’s not re-hash that right now. Jackson showed me enough that, with the original starting offensive line and receivers in 2011 healthy for 2012, I could see him as quarterback of a Seahawks playoff team. The 7-9 record is the same as 2010, but the Seahawks are the youngest team in the NFL and have room under the salary cap. Improvement was easily visible. The Cardinals outcome makes me think that a bigger priority is a pass-rushing end to complement Chris Clemons. Arizona’s mediocre young backup QB, John Skelton, should not have been given the time to make Fitzgerald such a pivotal weapon.
STEVE: This is why the Seahawks are so difficult to assess. We’ll never know how good they might have been if they hadn’t lost three starters on the offensive line — OTs Russell Okung and James Carpenter and OG John Moffitt — and two of their best receivers, Rice and Williams. Like you, I can see — under ideal conditions — Jackson quarterbacking a playoff team. But I don’t see him as a quarterback who is a difference maker.
ART: But if he’s a Trent Dilfer-like game manager with a better arm, that’s playoff-worthy in 2012 instead of worrying about forcing a draftee into the game (Seahawks will pick 11th or 12th in the first round in April). The Seahawks have far fewer holes to fill. “Were way different than last time,” Carroll said of 2010. “We won a couple of games at the end of last year that got us a lot of excitement, but we’re so much closer now. Those double-digit losses (in 2010) were embarrassing. This year, we had opportunities to win four, five, six games. If we had done it a few times, the season would have been really good. Those are the areas were we have to grow.”
STEVE: The season was not really good, but it was very interesting. After a 2-6 start, the Seahawks made a nice resurgence in the second half. Sunday, they came within two red zone malfunctions in the second half and the all-pro Fitzgerald (he had just one catch for one yard in the first half) of finishing 8-8. They’ve got some quality pieces in place (such as Doug Baldwin, the first undrafted free agent receiver to lead his team in receptions and yards since James Jett a billion years ago). But consider: Green Bay today rested QB Aaron Rogers today and started a backup, Mike Flynn. All he did was set a franchise record with six TD passes. Also, Indianapolis lost, ensuring the Colts, with just one wretched season, can draft QB Andrew Luck as a replacement for Peyton Manning. Seems like other teams play on greased skids, while Seattle is always crawling through mud, hoping for incremental progress.
ART: That has been the case, but upon reflection about 2011, the biggest separator between the Seahawks and the NFL’s upper echelon was the lockout. The two likeliest Super Bowl teams, Green Bay and New England, were loaded with quality veterans who missed the off-season workouts the least. The Seahawks had to work in a passel of kids in place of veterans such as Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu. They even dumped a No. 1 pick, Aaron Curry, at midseason, to go with a rookie MLB, K.J. Wright, and got away with it. Some people say the lockout was the same for everyone, but that’s plainly piffle. The Seahawks picked up so many contributors from lower draft rounds and rookie free agency that a full off-season of practices would have made a one or two-game difference. Now, they have a season under them, lessening the pressure to move up in the draft for a high-profile QB.
STEVE: Carroll produced 7-9 records in his first two seasons in Seattle. When the Seahawks hired him, a lot of people thought he was a fabulous college coach but ill-equipped to coach at the NFL level. What’s your verdict on him so far?
ART: My forecast for this season was 5-11, so I have to be impressed with 7-9, especially with with the discovery of players such as CB Brandon Browner, even if he does foul more than Danny Fortson (look him up, Sonics fans). Carroll had his bonehead moments (remember the 61-yard field goal attempt?), but he showed great flexibility in personnel and strategies. The players continued to buy in, which I recall didn’t happen with Dennis Erickson, the coach last time the Seahawks went to college. So, yeah, I say he’s done well — certainly better than his old defensive coordinator at USC.
2011 Seahawks Schedule/Results (7-9)
|9/11/11||at San Francisco||1:15 p.m.||FOX||L||33-17||0-1|
|9/18/11||at Pittsburgh||10 a.m.||FOX||L||24-0||0-2|
|9/25/11||vs. Arizona||1:15 p.m.||FOX||W||13-10||1-2|
|10/2/11||vs. Atlanta||1:05 p.m.||FOX||L||30-28||1-3|
|10/9/11||at N.Y. Giants||10 a.m.||FOX||W||36-25||2-3|
|10/23/11||at Cleveland||10 a.m.||FOX||L||6-3||2-4|
|10/30/11||vs. Cincinnati||1:15 p.m.||CBS||L||34-12||2-5|
|11/6/11||at Dallas||10 a.m.||FOX||L||23-13||2-6|
|11/13/11||vs. Baltimore||1:05 p.m.||CBS||W||22-17||3-6|
|11/20/11||at St. Louis||1:05 p.m.||FOX||W||24-7||4-6|
|11/27/11||vs. Washington||1:05 p.m.||FOX||L||23-17||4-7|
|12/1/11||vs. Philadelphia||5:20 p.m.||NFLN||W||31-14||5-7|
|12/12/11||vs. St. Louis||5:30 p.m.||ESPN||W||30-13||6-7|
|12/18/11||at Chicago||10 a.m.||FOX||W||38-14||7-7|
|12/24/11||vs. San Francisco||1:15 p.m.||FOX||L||19-17||7-8|
|1/1/12||at Arizona||1:15 p.m.||FOX||L||23-20||7-9|