Even if few at Seahawks headquarters will acknowledge it, big change is upon the NFC West. Because neither Marshawn Lynch, nor his talented apprentice, Thomas Rawls, will play Sunday at Arizona, the Seahawks moved closer to a hard-to-imagine fate: Getting swept by those who know them best.
Forget for a moment the seeding issue of whether the Seahawks’ playoff foe will be Washington, Green Bay or Minnesota. An Arizona win means the Cardinals and St. Louis Rams will have swept the Seahawks this season. Oh-and-four, home and away.
The 13-2 Cardinals already are the new NFC West champs, and they are freshly incented — as if paying back Seattle for years of beatings wasn’t enough — by the prospect of getting the home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Sunday, should 14-1 Carolina lose to Tampa.
The disarray that surprised even coach Pete Carroll in Sunday’s 23-17 home loss to the 7-8 Rams can’t be part of the afternoon against what most pundits consider to be the best team in football — one that, given how events play out Sunday and beyond, Seattle could face again in the playoffs.
The 14-2 Cardinals splattered Green Bay 38-8 Sunday, six weeks after beating the Seahawks in Seattle 39-32.
No wonder the Seahawks are hyper-eager for Lynch. They ran for a season-low 60 yards Sunday, and even with Lynch Nov. 15 against Arizona, his final game before abdominal surgery, they had 117 yards.
Carroll said Wednesday that Lynch remains in Oakland training at Empower Gym, whose trainers have a good history with Seahawks trainers. He could still show up this week, but Carroll acknowledged that Lynch still has discomfort from the surgery, as opposed to merely building strength and endurance.
“He’s not ready yet to be here,” Carroll said. “I would think he can make it back (for the first playoff game). That’s what we hear. It’s really up to that day-to-day kind of progression that he’s making.”
The Seahawks have run for less than 120 yards six times this season. They are 2-4 in those games, and probably should be 1-5 but for an ignored foul on LB K.J. Wright in the final moments of a 13-10 win over Detroit. The one good win was over Pittsburgh, in the wildest shootout of the season.
Besides a potential lack of yards, Carroll is worried about ball security. The Seahawks lost two fumbles Sunday.
“The biggest thing that we’re up against is the turnovers,” he said Wednesday. “They’ve got 33 takeaways at this point, and that can wreck a football game as we saw last week (Seattle was 0-3 vs. St. Louis).
“They certainly were able to do that against Green Bay (4-2), and just threw a game into a lopsided outcome. It’s the aggressive line, the attacking, and their ability to create the turnovers, which has really been a problem.”
Carroll, the coaches and players, are pressing the argument that Sunday’s letdown was an aberration and not a regression to the pre-bye-week disaster that nearly derailed the season.
“After the last six weeks, and you see a game like that, I’m going with last six weeks,” Carroll said. “We were so unlike what we’ve been. We didn’t play very well.”
Assistant coach Tom Cable, asked if something more was lost Sunday besides the game, kept to the party line.
“I don’t think we ‘lost’ anything,” he said. “We just missed it. Our goal every week is to find the best us. And we missed it. No excuses. Not good enough.
“I like to think we’ve broken down a bunch of walls and hurdles (after St. Louis), and I would expect us to be on it this weekend.”
The plain fact was that the several Rams overpowered their Seahawks counterparts.
“You’re always going to have one-on-one matchups,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “You know where those problem areas can be, but you try to minimize those. We just really didn’t give ourselves a chance with how we were targeting things.”
More personnel problems crept up Wednesday. J.R. Sweezy was held out of practice for the concussion protocol, which was previously unreported. TE Luke Willson, who was removed from the game, remains in a concussion protocol. LT Russell Okung, who missed the game with a calf strain, was a limited participant. The health setbacks could mean another revamped front.
One guy who is holding his place is Patrick Lewis, the center whose uncharacteristic bad shotgun snaps killed two possessions and produced a teary response in the post-game locker room.
“I just apologized to my guys,” he said Wednesday. “I let them down: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I let you down.’ That was why I was so emotional.
“It’s definitely correctable. I’ve been working a lot on that. Trying to make it not happen again. I won’t make excuses for it.”
Lots of corrections need to take place because the Cardinals, despite losing star safety Tyrann Mathieu to a season-ending injury, are operating close to maximum efficiency, if holding Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to perhaps his worst game as a pro means anything.
“It was good defense,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said on a conference call Wednesday. “It was good coverage. Guys up front, some guys were doing some good dirty work as far as running stunts. The big thing is we shut down the run, so we got them one-dimensional.”
One dimension. That’s what the Seahawks were Sunday without Lynch, Rawls, Okung and a tight end who can block. RBs Christine Michael and Bryce Brown, willing as they may be, are more least than Beast.
The Seahawks are staring at 0-4 against the Cards and Rams. Hey, a trip the following week to the frozen tundra will seem like a spa vacation.