Not Good Enough

For a Super Bowl contender, the Seahawks looked mighty flawed in their squeaker over the Rams. Short-term problems, or something deeper?

By
Robert Klemko
· More from Robert·
Among the more worrying stats, fifth-round rookie Zac Stacy pounded the Seattle defense for more yards than longtime Ram Steven Jackson ever gained against Seattle. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Among the more worrying stats, fifth-round rookie Zac Stacy pounded the Seattle defense for more yards than longtime Ram Steven Jackson ever gained against Seattle. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — Golden Tate knew he’d screwed up. The Seahawks receiver’s taunting bye-bye wave to Rams safety Rodney McLeod on the way to a third-quarter touchdown set Seattle’s kickoff team 15 yards back during a one-score game. So Tate went to apologize to that kickoff unit, which had to work that much harder, running at full-speed, in what is indisputably the most dangerous play in football when the ball is returnable. 

“Yeah, he apologized, and the next time he does that he’s going to run down on kickoff and cover it too,” said Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, smiling in the moments after yet another Seahawks win. “Wait till you score, dude. Wait till you cross the goal line. But he knew it. He knew he made a mistake.”

Tate should know something else, readily apparent after Seattle’s 14-9 Monday night victory in St. Louis: The Seahawks are not that good. Despite being 7-1, they’re not good enough to give up 15 yards on a kickoff and keep a 3-4 team led by a second-string quarterback from scoring (after a holding penalty the Rams began at the 22 instead of the 12 and eventually kicked a field goal). They’re not good enough to keep their own second-year quarterback off the ground long enough for him to make a second and third passing read. And surprisingly, they’re not good enough to avoid getting gouged by fifth-round rookie running back Zac Stacy for 134 yards on 26 carries—a wake-up call in the midst of a winning start if there ever was one.

They just kicked our ass, bottom line.

In a primetime football game played before a stadium filled to just 60 percent capacity, with a World Series going on six blocks away and as many visiting fans in the building as home supporters, the strangest sight was the supposed top team in the NFC getting pushed around. 

Stacy’s exploits left Seattle’s defensive line core of Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Brandon Mebane huffing and puffing long after the final whistle, the last group to de-pad in a corner of the visitors locker room reserved for big men.

“They just kicked our ass, bottom line,” Bryant said flatly. “Looking at them on tape, we really didn’t feel like they could rush for 200 yards today. It was a total surprise.

“We were still able to get the win, but we do pride ourselves on not letting teams run the ball. We’ve got to watch the tape and see exactly what was allowing them to hit those creases.”

Seattle’s porous line allowed seven sacks of Russell Wilson, the most-hurried quarterback in the league this season. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Seattle’s porous line allowed seven sacks of Russell Wilson, the most-hurried QB in the league this year. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In lieu of film study, Bryant and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner offered some instant analysis: Seattle lagged in its gap discipline, and Stacy had the patience to take advantage of it, rushing for more yards in one game than Rams great Steven Jackson did against the Seahawks in any game over nine seasons. But that doesn’t explain how or why Sam Bradford understudy Kellen Clemens was able to convert passes of 18 and 21 yards into the heart of Seattle’s defensive—its Legion of Boom backfield—on the way to 1st-and-goal at the six yard line with a chance to put Seattle away in the final minute. That ship sailed for St. Louis when Clemens’ final pass from the 1 fell flat.

Of course, the Rams were only in that position because their vastly underrated defensive line was able to sack Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson seven times. Blame goes to a host of injuries. There’s the absence of wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was expected to debut this week after offseason hip surgery but is still day-to-day. His presence might have discouraged St. Louis from stacking the box and sending extra rushers at Wilson.

But more than that, fingers point to a patchwork offensive line, missing tackle starters Breno Giacomini—expected to return soon from knee surgery last month—and Russell Okung, on the short-term IR after tearing a toe ligament. In their absence, Marshawn Lynch had just 23 yards on eight carries and Rams ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long each logged three sacks while lining up across from left tackle Paul McQuistan and right tackle Michael Bowie. With Long and Quinn coming off the edge unperturbed for long stretches, it was easy to forget which team had six wins and which had three.

It’s been this way for a while now, with McQuistan and Bowie allowing a combined 39 sacks, hits and hurries in their 10 starts, according to Pro Football Focus. The result: Wilson has had less time to throw than any other quarterback in the NFL.

Golden Tate will be waiving bye-bye to Seattle’s championship hopes if he and his mates don’t correct the glaring errors exposed in what was expected to be a walkover. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Golden Tate will be waiving bye-bye to Seattle’s championship hopes if he and his mates don’t correct the glaring errors exposed in what was expected to be a walkover. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bowie, the lumbering seventh-round rookie listed at 332 pounds, looked helpless against the speed rush of Long, yet he put an oddly lenient grade on his own play: “I gave up one sack in the last series of the game, so I guess that’s a win,” he said. “My performance was alright.”

Seattle’s final offensive possession ended in Long sacking Wilson on third and 7, and the Seahawks punting to the Rams 3. Then the Rams marched 96 yards on Seattle’s vaunted defense, coming within one yard of an upset. That’s far from alright if the Seahawks still fancy themselves Super Bowl contenders.

More from The MMQB: Greg Bedard on the decisive moments in four big wins, Robert Klemko on the Cowboys’ blown opportunities and Peter King on Andy Dalton’s ascension.

91 comments
PhilliusThomas
PhilliusThomas

They should be getting better when the new guy comes in. They are getting that one guy from Colorado right? They should be more complete a team with him.

P. Thomas | https://carcreditmonster.com/

djs425
djs425

Sheesh the seahawks WON in spite of all the injuries on the OL! That's a damn good team to play like that and win! Hilarious, 1 "bad" game and they're not good? I doubt the writer has even watched the Seahawks play. While teams like the Broncos have an AWFUL D, Seahawks have 1 bad offensive game and the sky is falling? How bout that "great" broncos team who can't play defense? 15-3 in the last 18 games for the Seahawks so please stfu

Arthur7
Arthur7

If the Rams kicker had not just missed the 50 yard field goal (and he's made kicks of 58 and 60), all the Rams would have needed on the final drive was a field goal, not a touchdown.

Seattle dodged a bullet, but I'm more disturbed about the punishment Wilson is taking than losing a game to the Rams. It's got to stop.


Goof
Goof

Look at the main picture at the top of the article. How many holding offensives do you see? Officiating usually favors the home team, as is evidenced in this photo.

appleinaz
appleinaz

There was some over-confidence here that should never happen with a Seahawks team that's had more lean years than good. It's a stupid victory; there was nothing to celebrate. I say that as a Seahawks fan. I've been saying since Game 2 that there's no strategy at all when you're relying on your QB - as good as he is - to be a main rusher.

Macmeda
Macmeda

Lazy writing stating the obvious and trying to incite reactions (working!).   poor reflection on Journalism school from U of Maryland but expected from a USA today writer...


Hawks are 7-1 lets enjoy the accomplishment...

Highwater
Highwater

As a Seahawks fan, I hope everyone takes this article to heart.  Yep, the Seahawks suck again.  Their 7-1 record is a fluke.  They're just not very good, despite all the wins.  Richard Sherman is just a 5th round pick.  Russel Wilson is just a 3rd round pick, and he's too short. And Lynch?  He's just not himself this year.  No way their team should be at the top of the power rankings.   


The more people believe that, the happier I'll be.

EricaSt56843562
EricaSt56843562

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KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Expectations.  Hawks aren't built to put up 35 a game like DEN & NO, but their bodacious banter & big-play D (Sherm) gives 'em vibe the press eats up.  They center on run (Lynch), stick (Wagner), use well-placed big play (Harvin was to enhance) and Wilson's still green, managing fear-flight (3-8-10-13-10R).  A 4-1 rd-record is pretty nifty, Bob, and, like player's often say, "a win is a win," meaning, besides Vikes & Jags in '13, every NFL game's a big challenge.

As for the hurts, every club's got 'em (See; GB).  Well timed topic.

OK
OK

The offensive line sucks because both tackles are injured, imbecile.

Jmill
Jmill

Did anyone watch the Seahawks-Rams games from last season?  If so--in addition to the injury situation--the outcome of Monday's game should not have been that much of a surprise.

jhymas25
jhymas25

Not a Seahawks fan, but I did watch the game. The offense will get better as the line improves. It was amazing to see how easily the DE for the Rams were blowing by the OTs for the Seahawks. Although injuries should not be used as an excuse as every team has them (including the Rams who were missing Bradford). The worry is that the pounding taken now will affect Wilson later on. An issue in this game was the play calling. Lynch should be getting more touches against one of the worst run defenses in the league. 

The only possible long-term issue I really see is the run defense. The Rams have been a terrible running team this year, averaging under 100 yards/game. And the Seahawks run defense has been pretty good before this game. So the question is, was this just a bad game for the run defense? Or was this a exposure of a team weakness? I wish the author would have looked into this instead of merely stating things anybody watching the game could say. 

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

It's a pretty old story: They're a different team on the road. Not a bad team -- they're 5-1 -- but not the same dominant one they are at home. They get bogged down in slugfests. It's not pretty, and against good teams like Indy, it costs them. But they only have three more road games, and only one against a quality opponent -- SF. Really, the whole back half of the schedule is pretty forgiving. I'm no Seattle fan, but this team had 14-2 written all over it, ugly or not.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

The Seahawks have been incredibly lucky to play NFL 'stalwarts' like Matt Schaub and Jeff Fisher (who unbelievably went brain dead inside the 5…I thought I was watching the 49ers again!).

This team should be 5-3.

Whoever gets home field advantage wins, and it will be interesting to see the NFL West play out.

Charlie P
Charlie P

Who cares as long as it's a win on the board?  NFL doesn't have polls or give style points, an ugly win is as good as a 3TD blowout.  The only thing that matters is how a team plays toward the end of the season when the playoffs come around.  What really ticked me off was Golden Tate's antics.  I wish the rules had allowed the refs to blow the play dead and take away the TD like in NCAA.  That classless stuff has no place in the game.

bobbbrown123
bobbbrown123

Jan 7, 2012 - New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions Darrelle Revis vs. Calvin Johnson Calvin Johnson stats: 1 reception, 13 yards.

Randall_Pink
Randall_Pink

All the seahawk fans chirping about most road wins in the NFL. You realize KC is undefeated right? That's something to hang your hat on.  I swear that fan base is as arrogant as the team and it's classless coach. Much like Tate's pre TD celebration, you'd think Seattle was the defending champs or at least a team with multiple SB rings with all the smack talk and bragging we've had to hear from them last season and this season. But Nope. Nothing. Not a damn thing. Not one SuperBowl victory to hang their hat on. Yet show me a cockier fanbase. Can't find one.  I'll enjoy watching them get bounced from the playoffs... AGAIN.

EdgarMartinez
EdgarMartinez

Recent SB champs have had games in the first half of the year that were dreadful, and had much worse records (Giants and Ravens). So, why should I be concerned about the Seahawks SB chances?

expsly12345
expsly12345

you guys defending how the Hawks played, man, get over it! The critics are dead on balls accurate, the Hawks are in trouble! I'm a major Hawks fan. And for the last 5 games the offensive line has been a complete train wreck. Sure there exist very real reasons; the O-line is missing most of its starters. But that's exactly what the critics are saying. I'm VERY happy they (the Hawks) have pulled off a 7-1 start. But a very real solution must be found or forget the super bowl, the Hawks wont complete the play offs.

JPG
JPG

God, one game and this guy is throwing the Seahawks under the bus.   Dude, go get yourself a dog or something.  The Seahawks had a bad game and still won.   Get it? A bad game and still won.

Geez, for a team that has won more road games than anyone in football, played more road games than anyone except the Giants, tied for the best Division Record in the NFC, tied with the best Conference Record in the NFC, has the best points difference in the NFC all the while playing three playoff teams you sure to dismiss their record so far.


Merv
Merv

Seattle:  Missing All Pro Left Tackle, missing starting Left Guard (he's playing L Tackle), Missing starting R Tackle   Missing Percy                          Harvin.

               The only team in the NFL with 4 road wins

               The only team in the NFC with 7 wins

               The team with the best record in the NFC

               Still leading the NFC Wes

                Doesn't have to go to New Orleans to play the Saints

BY
BY

The Seahawks are a much different team on the road, away from the noise that overwhelms other team's communication.

akrish
akrish

This is an excellent article.  Very accurate, if you only watched one Seahawks game all year and this was it.

TerrapinStation87
TerrapinStation87

When the offensive line is healthy, they are NOT in the bottom half of the league (as jacka.ss Donkey would suggest). They have been playing without three starting linemen for weeks. Russell Okung is one of the best LT's in the game and has been hurt most of the year. This is a very solid line when healthy. The larger issue is why they allowed Kellen Clemens to drive 96 yards on their defense in the final three minutes.

AnthonySparkuhl
AnthonySparkuhl

@Goof I was thinking the same thing here....I love how everyone loves hating on the Seahawks, yet we are the most productive team in the NFL...

appleinaz
appleinaz

@Highwater Well, now this is the type of comment I think most people would say is dumb. No, they don't suck. When they do it right they are an awesome force to behold and a great, entertaining team to watch. This game, not so much. You can't be a Seahawks fan and believe what you wrote.

appleinaz
appleinaz

@Jmill Except the Seahawks when they do it right are MUCH better. Is it silly of a fan to hope, to want to see the juggernaut rather than the almost-not.

appleinaz
appleinaz

@Charlie P no, it's really not. Teams build off great play, not "Oh !@#$%, we got lucky." Other teams feed off of weakness, which the Seahawks are displaying lately. 7 sacks? 

wtw877
wtw877

@bobbbrown123

September 15, 2013 - Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

Legion of Boom vs Boldin

Boldin stats: 1 reception, 7 yards.


October 17, 2013 - Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

Legion of Boom vs Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald stats: 2 receptions, 17 yards

OK
OK

@bobbbrown123  

Brownie,

But Darrelle Revis isn't White and Darrelle Revis isn't The White Quarterback.  Ergo, the NFL's Chief Spin Doctor and his band of beaten dwarfs do not write about Darrelle Revis.

Or about Calvin Johnson after piling up 329 yards receiving in a single game.

appleinaz
appleinaz

@Randall_Pink Puh-lease. Don't be dumb. There's a lot of humility on this team (and some good natured talk off field.) If there wasn't, i wouldn't be rooting for this team so fan much. I'm always a Hawks fan but sometimes you really want the people on the team rather than "the team" to get in and win big. That's this 2013-14 team.

tacolby0629
tacolby0629

@Randall_Pink We'll see what KC's record looks like after they face Denver twice and a few actual decent teams. Seattle looked like anything but a Super Bowl contender against the Rams, but combine key injuries and facing a division rival that always seems to play them tough at home (no matter their record)  and the result isn't as surprising as some may think. If they don't get healthy on the line quickly and their offensive coordinator doesn't start developing better game plans (he was utterly and completely outcoached in this game), they won't advance far in the playoffs against good teams like SF and NO...no matter who has home field advantage......and I'm a die-hard Seattle fan.

workinOvatime
workinOvatime

@Randall_Pink Pete Carroll is classless? You're an asshat. I don't even like Seattle, but come on man, Carroll is one of the most respected coaches by front office people around the league. A great professional, works his guys hard, is always fair. Listen to only a handful of Pat Kirwan's stories about working under Carroll and you'll realize you are inventing that image of Carroll in your mind.

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@expsly12345 

The solution is getting Breno and Russ back. Pretty simple. Problem with the article is nothing was "exposed". It has been like this for weeks.

appleinaz
appleinaz

@JPG People who are happy with that is why teams settle and get overconfident. Clue: Even the team knows this game stunk and they were lucky. This team does not inspire fear - with the possible exception of the LoD.

wtw877
wtw877

@BY 

And they have the best road record in the NFL as of right now

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@BY 

Really? The defense is still giving up minimal points on the road.

Donkeypunch253
Donkeypunch253

@TerrapinStation87 Prior to Okung's injury, Wilson was hurried more than 26 other quarterbacks. Breno is the most penalized lineman in the game. Sweezy gets beat consistently. A Pro-Bowl Center and Left Tackle can't make up for the other 3 positions. That needs to get fixed before next year.    

YouAnnoyMe
YouAnnoyMe

Why don't you tell me how many teams in the NFL can have both tackles on the end out and be able to let their quarterback throw a football ? And don't forget they just got their center back. That is 3 starting Pro Bowlers out . Your an asshole

Randall_Pink
Randall_Pink

@appleinaz@Randall_Pinka lot of humilty? Russell Wilson is the only guy on that team that doesn't flap his gums about how much better they are than anyone. An unnamed player texted Darnell Dockett this past Sunday asking if he was ready for another $$ whipping. Yea, real humble players.

Randall_Pink
Randall_Pink

@workinOvatime@Randall_PinkIn what world? Here in reality, there are countless articles and stories boasting of Carroll's classlessness. From College to the NFL. Let's see Mike McCarthy, Jim Harbaugh, Bruce Arians and virtually every Coach who played against him in the Pac 10.

TerrapinStation87
TerrapinStation87

@mystafugee @EdgarMartinez The Ravens were 9-1 after ten games last year- not exactly under the radar. They struggled in December before shredding the SB champion Giants, then lost a meaningless game to the Bengals in Week 17. 

BY
BY

@BigSchtick @BY And they have played a lot of offensive juggernauts, right? The Colts are really the only team so far that I would consider a good offensive team.

JimKelly
JimKelly

@Donkeypunch253 @TerrapinStation87

Brenno Giacomini has 2 penalties in 4 games. That's not the most penalized player in the NFL. Denver's Vickerson has 9 penalties for 1.125 per game, and Oakland's Barnes has 8 for 1.143 per game. That's a lot more than Giacomini's .25 per game.

http://www.nflpenalties.com/all-players.php

Last season he was the most penalized player over the first seven games, but since then he's been penalized just five times in 13 games (Nine games last year, and four games this year).

Use your brain, and do a modicum research so you don't look like a blathering idiot.

TerrapinStation87
TerrapinStation87

@Donkeypunch253 @TerrapinStation87 The Seahawks line is not in the bottom half of the league when they are healthy- period. Problems that need fixing? Of course. What line doesn't have those? They are not, however, in the bottom half of the league when healthy, as you erroneously suggested.  

getaclueortwo
getaclueortwo

@BY @BigSchtick take a look at the stats of the colts game though. It was the reverse of the rams game. The colts were beaten in nearly every category and came away with a win. Very similar

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