Of all the ponderables in a game that featured a Russell Wilson-led offense getting zero points, one stood out: The Seahawks offense targeted wide receivers 23 times and produced six receptions, which is about five more than what SpongeBob SquarePants could have done (he figures to connect once going deep).
The problem in the 17-0 flop at Green Bay Sunday wasn’t just that Wilson’s repaired finger impeded his throws; it was also the month away from practices and games.
It appeared that Wilson, coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron under-estimated the degree of difficulty in assimilation. Carroll demurred.
“I don’t know if we were underestimating anything,” he said at his Monday video conference. “it’s just that you have to deal with it, and these are the circumstances. You are going to come back after a layoff, and you have to get going. We expected to come out and pop the ball around and look like we did in practice. We weren’t as sharp at getting the ball thrown and caught. (The Packers defense) had something to do with that.
“But I would say that there is no question that if you don’t play for a month, it’s going to affect you. Maybe in this week coming back, we will be a little more on it and more precise.”
Maybe so. It’s also possible that an alternative might have been found. Like running the ball. In fact, the Seahawks averaged a more-than-respectable 4.7 yards per rush, which included 32 yards on five carries from Wilson.
But they ran it only 16 times.
Carroll was willing to buy in on that premise.
“I didn’t like that we didn’t get to run the ball more,” he said. “In a close game like that, I would have expected that we would have run the ball more than we did. The running backs carried the ball 11 times. That’s not enough. It’s not enough to get into a rhythm, not enough to get a feel for the game.”
That suggests something is amiss between Carroll and Waldron. Carroll has never given such indication, yet he’s obviously exasperated at the failure to have makeable third-down plays, which has been the biggest culprit in the failed drives, leading to the worst time of possession in the NFL (25.3 minutes).
“We just have to just stay with it and keep working off it,” he said. “When we convert, we will. It’s been the same story for a while now. I hate keeping the topic alive. I want to get this thing and put it behind us.”
Sunday, the problem was compounded when Wilson seemed to want to make Superman plays when he was, temporarily at least, Clark Kent. Asked whether he was concerned Wilson was trying to do too much, Carroll turned terse: “No.”
Yet Wilson post-game took full responsibility for two passes that turned into end-zone interceptions. Both were forced; he couldn’t accept his Kent-like limits.
What has been made clear over the last month there is no talking around the fact that the Seahawks are more dependent than ever on a healthy Wilson. Carroll spent time Monday venting about “gripes” he had with dubious officiating calls. Even if he was correct on identifying the errors, it is a mark of desperation that he seemingly is out of plays and playmakers to overcome the inevitable blown calls.
Nobody is stepping up.
When the Packers’ top rusher, RB Aaron Jones, went down with a knee injury, second-year bruiser A.J. Dillon delivered 21 carries and 66 hard yards, the kind Seattle wishes it could get from Rashaad Penny, the former first-round pick who was healthy but was never called upon to play.
On his Sunday pre-game radio appearance on ESPN 710, GM John Schneider talked up the readiness of top draft pick WR Dee Eskridge to have a big contribution after recovering from “a really bad” concussion, echoing Carroll from earlier in the week. Eskridge had five snaps and touched the ball once, a fly sweep that everyone at Lambeau Field knew was coming, and was tackled for a loss.
It wasn’t the fault of Eskridge; it was an illustration of how meager are this roster’s answers beyond Wilson.
In a Sports Illustrated story Monday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur talked about the resourcefulness his team showed in grinding out a win against a good Seattle defense when they knew QB Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t be top-shelf after his controversial 10-day absence from COVID-19.
“I think it’s so important to be able to win in different ways in this league,” he said. “Each and every week, the competitive balance in this league is unlike any other league, in my opinion. And you see it; there’s examples every week of teams that probably should win, that for whatever reason, don’t. And that’s why you could be on your game, and on point, every freakin’ week, otherwise you’re gonna get beat.
“I don’t know what the right word is, but something happens naturally where you just understand what you have to do. I don’t want to say up your game. But I think a lot of guys just inherently understand the circumstances of each and every game and what they have to do in order for this team to win.”
Even at 3-6, it is not too late for the Seahawks to understand their circumstances in the wildly vulnerable NFC, especially with a team now good on defense and special teams.
But on offense, Wilson has to learn to turn it down, everyone else has to turn it up, and Waldron has to turn on the running game.
That will be hard, because they’re all starting from zero.