Here are five thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks after having watched the All-22 copy of Sunday night's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. All numbers are courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.
1. Coach Pete Carroll was asked this week about how Russell Wilson played Sunday and how he's looked all season.
"I think he’s playing like he plays," Carroll said. "He’s making his plays with his feet. He’s made some great throws. ...He’s worked with the rush as he’s had to. I think that in this game, we talk about the ones that got away, the throws that got away from us, and the opportunities that got away, there was plenty of them in there.
"He’s just working at being really consistent with his reads and his footwork so that he can make the plays that are there when they’re available. And he’s going to make a lot of stuff happen otherwise. So it’s always to try to make sure we’re maximizing every play that we get. And we have to look at every one of them individually and see what happened. Was there a breakdown? Was there a guy that came loose? Could the throw have been this or that? And the reads and all that stuff. He’s just trying to get better, like all of us are. But he made some marvelous plays to give us a chance, and we missed a few opportunities that we needed to make a difference too."
Wilson finished 14-for-32 for 240 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was the first game all season in which he completed worse than 60 percent of his passes. Tyrann Mathieu pretty easily could have had three picks, but two popped out of his hands. Wilson fumbled the ball and took a safety on a botched screen in the first half. And in the fourth quarter, he took a costly intentional grounding penalty. Bottom line: He looked uncomfortable throughout.
2. Having said all that, I finished re-watching the game wondering whether the Seahawks are putting him in great position to succeed. Pass protection was a disaster once again Sunday, and there aren't many signs that suggest the offensive line is improving. The penalties that continually put the team in unmanageable situations were not Wilson's fault. And Jimmy Graham failed to come down with three balls he had chances on (two drops).
The Seahawks' offense lacks an identity. Some weeks, they want to be a power run game, but it seems obvious they don't have the blockers to get that done consistently. And the zone read shotgun runs have been more effective. It seems clear that the constant pressure Wilson's been under has taken a toll, and I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect a young quarterback to develop under the current conditions. He's supposed to take fewer sacks but also improvise and make up for offensive line deficiencies? Wilson needs to play better, but the shaky offensive line is making it awfully difficult to fairly evaluate him.
3. Defensively, Kris Richard made a nice adjustment in the second half calling on the blitz. In the third and fourth quarters, when he sent pressure, Carson Palmer averaged just 3.46 yards per dropback. The pass rush was excellent all game long, but oftentimes Palmer did a fantastic job of navigating the pocket, buying time and connecting downfield. On Cliff Avril's strip sack, Bruce Irvin dropped in coverage while linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright blitzed. That left Avril unblocked. Later, Richard blitzed both A-gaps (between the center and the guards). Wright got free and forced the fumble. On the Michael Floyd 27-yard touchdown, Richard Sherman was responsible for the deep quarter of the field, but bit on a shallower route. On the 35-yard touchdown to Floyd past Cary Williams, Palmer made a fantastic throw. On the 14-yard touchdown to Jermaine Gresham, Kam Chancellor could have carried the seam, but again Palmer made a great throw past both safeties. And the 48-yard Andre Ellington run was a great call. Wagner had a chance near the line of scrimmage, Chancellor took a bad angle, and Williams couldn't get off his block.
4. Marshawn Lynch played with an abdominal injury and only got eight carries. He had 42 yards, but consider this: Lynch had 43 yards after contact. In other words, he was getting hit in the backfield all game long. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell tried to give the line help, but nothing worked. On one play, the Seahawks had seven players to block five rushers, but Wilson was still pressured. Later, Bevell only sent two receivers out into routes off a bootleg, but Graham got called for holding. It seems like the biggest issue with this team is that the coaches are trying to hide the deficiencies of the offensive line, and they don't have answers.
5. Leftovers: The screen game was a disaster. On one, Wilson ran into Russell Okung, fumbled and took a safety. On another, he probably should have been called for intentional grounding. ... I wonder if the Seahawks try to get too cute with mixing up their personnel. They went to Chris Matthews on a go route vs. Patrick Peterson. It had no shot. ... I've seen the Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers live this season. I think the Cardinals are the best and most complete team out of that group. ... All of the Seahawks' offensive penalties looked legit to me. The defensive flags were less black and white.