How loud was it Sunday at the Clink? So loud that we couldn’t hear the klaxons going off in the boiler room. Pete Carroll joined the rest of football America in admiring a fabulous freak show put on by Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. But below the banquet room, pressure-valve needles were pinned into the red:
DANGER! Implosion imminent!
When a Carroll-coached team gets five cumulative rushing yards from three running backs, as the Seahawks did Sunday in their preposterous 41-38 triumph over Houston, I am reminded of a legendary expression from Micheal (that’s how he spelled it) Ray Richardson, a loquacious, volatile guard for the New York Knicks.
Asked to describe the 1981-82 team that was headed to last place after a 50-win season, he said, “The ship be sinking . . . and the sky is the limit.”
As you ponder that wrenching juxtaposition of cliches, know that I’m not suggesting the Seahawks are headed to last place. But they are closer to it than the 5-2 record suggests.
The collective record of three of the defeated, the 49ers, Colts and Giants, is 3-20. The other two wins, over the Rams and Texans, were harrowing scream-fests. And the Packers and Titans handled the Northwest visitors readily.
Nothing in the Seattle record so far suggests the modern version of the menance of the Mongols of the 13th and 14th centuries. If you don’t agree, then hear what Carroll said Monday about the abject failure of the running game.
“We got knocked around yesterday,” he said.
Never in his time as Seahawks coach has he said such a thing. Even in the first two years of losing, there was a quality of smackdown to the line play that foreshadowed two dashes to the Super Bowl.
Now, when it comes to the run, the offensive line has turtled. They are on their backs, waiting for someone to tip them upright.
I do not know if Duane Brown is that guy. But I do know the Seahawks are desperate, because there is no other description for giving up second- and fifth-round picks at midseason for a 32-year-old. I will mention CB Jeremy Lane in passing only because the Seahawks had to throw in his $5.25 million salary to make it work under the cap, not because he otherwise had asset value. His Legion of Boom epaulets had been stripped away earlier.
The deal announced Monday with the Texans to acquire their left tackle, who protected Watson Sunday in his first game back from a contract holdout, was surprising, in that conventional NFL wisdom says that blending O-linemen without time in copious amounts normally reserved for Catholic weddings, is foolish.
But this is also not surprising for Seattle, for reasons stated. Rees Odhiambo tried hard, and he may be an adequate NFL guard, but he has no business starting at left tackle in the NFL. He replaced George Fant, lost for the year to a knee injury in August, because the Seahawks had no one else.
Odhiambo’s primary foe Sunday, all-world Texans DE Jadevon Clowney, had four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a forced fumble. He blew past Odhiambo so swiftly at times that the toll camera couldn’t read his jersey number. Orthopedists shudder at the carnage that would have taken place Sunday had the Texans’ J.J. Watt been healthy.
The pitiful run results were overshadowed by the derring-do of Wilson, but Carroll Monday recounted in some detail what scared him.
“We were getting knocked into the backfield,” he said. “You have no running game if that kind of leakage is happening. (Success) is being right technically, it’s also being right assignment-wise, and that is identifying things.
“It is very much the same as it is in the passing game (but) for whatever reason, we are ahead in pass protection more than we were in the running game. We got to turn it into being physical at the line of scrimmage. We need to do better.”
He said all that before news of the Brown acquisition broke. But even Brown’s arrival can’t fix left guard, where rookie Ethan Pocic went the whole way in his first start in place of Luke Joeckel, out for a few more weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery.
“Ethan did really well in the passing game and we had some issues in the running game, really kind of across the board,” Carroll said. “We are seeing here over the last couple weeks that we miss Luke. Luke was a big factor. Once you lose George and now Luke too, those are major changes.
“We got to work our way through it. It’s not exactly the way we had set out for it to be. We thought we would be ahead of this a little bit in the running game.”
So Plan A for the O-line has failed, and there is never an in-house Plan B for the O-line (J’Marcus Webb, anyone?). So they broke the unofficial rule and traded for a veteran lineman.
Brown, an offensive captain with the Texans, is likely to be a good fit in the locker room, where he will find numerous kindred spirits with similar outspoken ways.
Just back from a contract holdout, Brown strolled into the whirlwind Friday after team owner Bob McNair’s quote from an owners meeting (“we can’t let inmates run the prison”) made him the NFL’s political controversy of the week. Brown helped avert a player boycott of practice, but was neither happy about McNair nor his compensation. So he is likely to be a little more content in Seattle, even if has to help save the savior almost before he knows where the bathroom is.
Draft picks are always expensive, but it would be far more costly to depend on a weekly miracle from Wilson over the next two months. Somebody has to turn off the klaxons.