The Seahawks in 2017 are not unlike Seattle traffic: Aggravating, but if you stick with it, you get where you’re going.
Where the Seahawks are at the moment is 4-2, including four road games. They have an offense that has produced more than 400 yards of total offense three times, a defense that has given up 35 points in its past three games, and solid special teams. Only one team in the NFL has fewer losses.
But in the wake of the bifurcated 24-7 win (box) in New Jersey Sunday against the Giants, most Seahawks fans feel more gaggy than giddy.
A first half pickled with penalties, dropped passes, a lost fumble and a bewildering sequence in which 10 plays from the 10-yard line or closer produced no points, left many Seattle witnesses with stomach acid backing up in throats. Fercripesakes, the opponent was the 1-5 Giants, whose many injuries caused them to fill the roster with cooks from the Stage Deli.
But it wasn’t just fans flirting with high anxiety. The same apprehensions were also felt along the Seahawks sidelines.
What looked to be an argument between WR Doug Baldwin and assistant coach Tom Cable became pushy for a moment and was caught on TV cameras. Things settled out quickly. But with no background information, it seemed as if the Seahawks were about to come apart.
It looked somewhat like the Atlanta regular-season game a year ago, when Richard Sherman’s angst exploded into a public spat with coaching decisions. Unlike that moment, however, the player took full responsibility.
“I lost my cool,” Baldwin said. “One hundred percent my fault.”
Baldwin explained that he was trying to get his offensive teammates to chill and be accountable for the task at hand and not second-guess the play calls.
“I was really frustrated with the team,” he said. “Not the coaching staff; players. We had the play calls; whether it was passing. blocking, catching, jumping off-sides, we weren’t executing. There’s nothing a coach can say. We have to take accountability.”
Apparently Cable was about to give the same message to players, along with QB Russell Wilson.
“I wasn’t going at Cable,” Baldwin said. “He said what I was basically going to say. I wish I would have done it differently.
“I got a little passionate. Y’all know I love Cable to death. We have one of the best coach-player relationships. I already apologized. He knows how I am.”
Baldwin didn’t want Cable butting in, especially because the six-year veteran understood well that slow, unproductive starts are something of a Seahawks tradition that younger players, and many fans, misinterpret.
“I’m the oldest guy there,” said Doug E. Not-So-Fresh, a ripe old 29. “You gotta be poised. I can’t say what I said, but the basic sentiment was, ‘What are we doing?’ We have all the talent in the world, everything we need. It’s not the play-calling. It’s not the other team. It’s us. Just settle down. This is a process. Don’t get too excited.
“I was able to instill that message in a less antagonistic way at halftime: We’re good. Still a close game. Everything will work out.”
Turns out he knew what he was talking about. While he wasn’t claiming prophecy, the Seahawks scored three second-half touchdowns and put up 425 yards in 71 plays, including Wilson’s 27-for-39 passing for 321 yards, no picks and a single sack.
Veteran Seahawks fans and players have seen the pattern many times. Pete Carroll’s basic game plan is to try to run the ball out of different formations and personnel groupings to induce defenses to believe they know what’s coming, even when the plan produces sluggish starts.
“With young guys, it takes time” to understand what’s happening, Baldwin said. “We’re going run the ball down your throat, and when you come up to stop it, we go to our explosive passing game. It’s a process.
“It doesn’t matter how crappy you play in the first half. You still have an opportunity to win the game. Fortunately, we have one of the best defenses in the NFL that keeps us in the game.”
That’s the Seahawks formula: Invest heavily in a premier defense that has the capacity to do what happened Sunday — break the spirit of the opponent offense. Then let the offense, led by a premier QB, work a game-long con until the big plays open up.
Had TE Jimmy Graham hung on to a pass in the end zone and another when he was alone on the sideline, and had Wilson not twice overthrown Baldwin deep, this game would have been 45-7.
The Seahawks lead the cumulative score in the first quarter of the six games 9-2. That’s right; 9-2. In the fourth quarter, it’s 53-9.
Obviously, the plan doesn’t always work; the other teams have plans too. But elsewhere in the NFL Sunday, three teams were shut out, one had a field goal, another had three field goals and two had single touchdowns. The Seahawks are hardly alone in their offensive struggles.
Sure, the rash of QB injuries is part of it, but the Seahawks are missing their original starting left tackle, left guard and running back, and traded their No. 2 receiver in September for a defensive tackle to replace their injured top draft choice.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Carroll said. “I like where we are.”
No points in 10 tries from the 10-yard line will leave a scar, and even prompt sideline disputes. But as with Seattle traffic, if you stop pounding the dashboard and screaming, you’ll get where you need to go.