Hey, Pete Carroll; let's brainstorm.
Too little too late
The Seahawks possessed the ball for less than 19 minutes on Sunday, both failing to establish the running game early and throwing away opportunities in the second half; the Seahawks took two consecutive kneel downs to end the game. Hasselbeck said after, "We knew how they would play us and we had some idea of how to do things. But we didn't accomplish our goals." Not even close.
20: The Seahawks gained 20 yards rushing Sunday, which includes two -1 yard kneel downs, dropping their season average to 77.9 yards per game, last in the NFL. I must note in the pregame post I clearly expected Fullback Michael Robinson to play Sunday and his absence was yet another example of the Seahawks running game needing it's versatile Fullback healthy. The offense, again, failed to show a commitment in attempting to establish a balanced offense; Marshawn Lynch continued to receive the majority of carries, managing a paltry 9 yards on 4 carries in the first half, while Justin Forsett had 0 carries at halftime. Coach Carroll explained during Monday's press conference, "We never got our chance to get a focus on the running game. This is not the way we want to play; we want to get back to more balance." I disagree that the Seahawks truly attempted to balance the offense Sunday, as the more versatile, effective #20 had 0 carries and one catch at halftime. If the Seahawks are going to "start over," re-allocating touches in the running game, expanding Forsett's role, would be a wise decision. Attempting to find a place for Leon Washington—he crept in front of Cameron Morrah on the Seahawks first kickoff return to throw a crucial block and springing Morrah into Chiefs territory, the start of an outstanding day for Seahawks Special Teams --or Golden Tate in the wildcat could be beneficial; the nifty formation where a Receiver or Runningback lines up as the quarterback in the shotgun could create big play opportunities down the road. The Seahawks need to change the rotation and use their running backs more effectively; they need to start next week vs. Carolina.
The fourth down follies continue: On the Seahawks first possession, down 7-0, the offense faced a 4th and 1 on the Chiefs 38 yard line. Hasselbeck lined up under center for a passing play that ultimately resulted in a 20 yard lob down the left sideline, a ball Golden Tate never really had a chance of catching. I do applaud the aggressiveness of the call, as the play looked eerily similar to the USC 4th and 9 call late in the 4th quarter vs. Notre Dame in 2005, a Matt Leinart drop back, lob pass down the left sideline to a 6'4 Dwayne Jarrett. On Sunday, without the 6'5 Mike Williams, the 5'10 Tate was put in the position to make the play; why did Coordinator Jeremy Bates call a 4th down sideline throw to a slot receiver, best at gaining yards after the catch on short passes? A better way to use Tate in that situation would be to line up in a Shotgun, 4 Receiver formation; putting Tate in the slot for a quick throw would have been a much better way to get one yard and his utilize his strength and yard after the catch abilities; at worst, Brandon Stokely would likely be open on the other side of the formation. Bates' failure to adjust to his personnel on short yardage passing plays has penalized the Seahawks two weeks in a row and for the second time in three games, a crucial 4th and 1 was not converted.
Break the mold: The Seahawks needed to game plan creatively and effectively to both work around the absence of Mike Williams and re-establish the running game; the offense was successful at neither. Instead, they tried to replace Mike Williams and abandoned the running game. The Seahawks had an opportunity to work two new wrinkles into the game plan:
- The return of Tate created an opportunity to experiment with 4 Receiver formations. As pass protection has become strength, lining both Stokely and Tate in the slot to work the middle of the field would have been extremely in helping establish the short, quick passing game, a strength of Matt Hasselbeck and the absent Mike Williams; They ran 1 play, an incomplete pass, from this formation and did not find an answer for missing their top receiver.
- The Seahawks run the majority of the offense out of two formations: "11" is primarily a passing formation-- 1 Back, 3 Receivers and 1 Tight End; "12" is more balanced in play calling—1 Back, 2 Receivers and 2 Tight Ends. Justin Forsett plays primarily in the "11" and Lynch plays primarily in the "12." Coordinator Jeremy Bates has done a poor job of disguising the running plays in the pass heavy "11" formation and Forsett has struggled to find room to run; giving Forsett an opportunity in the "12" formation, as well as Lynch in "11," is a simple way to change the look of the offense and make it a little harder for the defense to identify the play; this could help bring balance to the running game.
The Seahawks defense emphatically showed it was nowhere near capable of regaining its form from over a month ago. The unit hasn't been able to consistently compete at the line of scrimmage and have allowed opposing teams to both run and throw on them at will in four of the past five games.
The defense, or lackthereof, against Dwayne Bowe: The Seahawks approach towards covering Bowe on Sunday was less than effective; the Secondary continually failed to account for Bowe when he would motion across the formation pre snap, allowing him to begin his route cleanly with no defenders legally jamming him within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Bowe was often uncovered, or might as well have been; Kelly Jennings was torched by Bowe all game and a meek bump at the line of scrimmage by Lawyer Milloy, a physical leader of this defense, left Bowe free for his 36 yard touchdown catch. He was targeted 17 times, catching 13 balls for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns, bringing his total to 13 touchdowns in his last seven games. The Seahawks failed to play man coverage against a weak receiving core—without Dexter Mccluster-- none of which, other than Bowe, had more than 3 targets Sunday. Additionally, neither Kennard Cox, responsible for the punt block, nor versatile, veteran safety Jordan Babineaux got much of an opportunity to use their size, 6'0, in defending Bowe. The Seahawks failed to create a game plan focused on containing Bowe; they paid the price, as he had the biggest game of his career.
270: The Seahawks badly missed injured Defensive Tackle Colin Cole Sunday as Thomas Jones established his efficient running style on the Chiefs first drive and Jamaal Charles slashed the Seahawks with his big play ability on a 26 yard run to start the second drive; even Quarterback Matt Cassel contributed to the Chiefs' rushing total on a 23 yard first down scramble late in the first half, as they ran for 270 yards against the Seahawks and were able to do whatever they wanted running the football. Coach Carroll's explanation on Monday for his teams' poor play: "We got outside the discipline of our run defense. We were not in right spots. Guys took opportunities to make plays, 'outside' the defense and it didn't work." In my post 10 ways to fix the formula I noted for the Seahawks defense to be successful in the second half of the season they must continue to adhere to the discipline of the defense and not try to force plays, which causes mistakes. Sunday, case and point.
The Jamaal Charles 3 yard touchdown run to start the 4th quarter proved to me no one man is responsible for the poor play of the defense; Brandon Mebane was 5 yards deep in the backfield but behind the play; the Charles stiff arm turned Kentwan Balmer to goo; Earl Thomas over ran the tackle; Lofa Tatupu was late to the play and underneath Charles in the endzone. Charles made "a heckuva run" but the Seahawks certainly aided the process; the run shows a defense that prides itself on stopping opponents at the goal line breaking, providing evidence that changes need to be made.
A personnel review: Pete Carroll noted on Monday he will have to wait and see how his players respond at practice Wednesday; He could make some changes to the defense that would illicit many responses. David Hawthorne made a great play to stop Charles on the goal line in the 2nd quarter and as noted above, Tatupu failed to make a similar play. Kelly Jennings had a game he needs to quickly forget; Kennard Cox made a touchdown saving tackle on Darren McFadden and tipped a pass filling in for both Jennings and Walter Thurmond in the game against Oakland and continued to show his playmaking ability Sunday. Craig Terrill showed push at the line of scrimmage on special teams resulting in a blocked field goal, yet saw little time on the field defensively. As an organization that focuses on constant competition, consistent preparation and continually trying to get better, the Seahawks need to show that they are willing to be critical of themselves. Coach Carroll emphasized on Monday there was a "strict focus in meetings on staying inside the defense" and noted the importance of both players and coaches "being overly critical on this critical day." When the Seahawks take the practice field Wednesday, I expect to see that the early week critical thinking session had an effect on this defense.
A sense of urgency
Coach Carroll made it clear "We wanted to keep the momentum going (after the loss to New Orleans) and now we need to re-create it. We must start again with an utmost sense of urgency." He acknowledged instead of improving, peaking at the right time, the Seahawks started their race to win the division in reverse. Coach Carroll also acknowledged his goal from day one has been to win the NFC West, a goal that becomes more irrational to fans and analysts by the week. One of Carroll's most interesting, and telling, remarks Monday; "Teams need to learn what it means to be in the champion position." Based on the performance last week, a game that was supposedly approached with the mindset of a championship game, this team has not learned what it means to be in that position. Back to the basics will be the theme of the week for this team, as we refocus on "program competition." If the Seahawks want to win the division, they better start by focusing on competing like a champion in practice starting Wednesday as the Seahawks prepare for a week 13 game at Qwest vs. the Carolina Panthers.