Were the Seahawks as promising as they looked at 4-2 or as abjectly miserable as they played these past two weeks? To-may-to or to-mah-to? There’s a case to be made for both sides.
On the one hand, the Seahawks are a team that has managed to win four games despite ranking No. 30 in yards gained and No. 27 in yards allowed. On the other hand, they rank No. 30 in yards gained, No. 27 in yards allowed and have lost their past two games by a combined score of 74-10. Were those two games an injury-induced aberration or a road sign for the trouble that lies ahead? That depends largely on Seattle’s ability to address fundamental flaws evident these past eight games.
If Seattle is going to correct the course of this season, there are certain nonnegotiable improvements that must be made, a to-do list, so to speak:
1. Stay healthy along the offensive line
For the second consecutive year, continuity up front has been more rumor than reality. The Seahawks have started five offensive-line combinations in eight games; they started six groups of linemen last season. They have started three different left tackles this season; they started four players at that position last year.
Rookie Russell Okung is expected back this week, and he might be the most important player in improving an offense that has been held to a single score in three of the first eight games. In the six-plus quarters he was on the field, Seattle gained 210 yards on 48 carries, an average of 4.4. Without Okung on the field, Seattle’s rushing average is 3.3.
But the offensive line is the one part of the team that can be reasonably expected to improve if it stays healthy. That’s imperative.
2. Find something — anything, actually — that resembles an offense.
Thought the Seahawks offense couldn’t get any worse after it scored 280 points last season, the fewest since 1993? Well, Seattle currently has 130 points and even that doesn’t capture the full depth of problems, because Seattle has returned two kickoffs and one interception for touchdowns.
What is Seattle good at right now? Hard to find any hallmark. The Seahawks have thrown for seven touchdowns. Only three teams have fewer. Seattle averages 3.6 yards per carry. Only two teams average less.
The defense that was so stout the first five games has been hit hard by injuries, so the Seahawks can’t expect to win by attrition. They need to have an offense that isn’t an albatross and actually contributes.
3. Button down the defense
An impotent offense has not only left the defense on the field too long, but that has led the defense to take some chances, because somebody’s got to score points, right? There are times those chances have resulted in big-play opportunities, all right. For the opposition.
The Raiders had three plays gain 50 or more yards in the third quarter alone, the longest of which occurred when safety Earl Thomas went for the ball, trying to make a big play instead of making sure he got the tackle, which allowed Darrius Heyward-Bey to score from 69 yards.
“It was close, close, close,” coach Pete Carroll said of the loss in Oakland. “And then we try to do a couple too many things to try to make some plays to change the game.”
The game did change. In the wrong direction. Seattle allowed 290 yards and 20 points in the final quarter of the 30-3 loss in Oakland and gave up five consecutive touchdown drives to the Giants. Seattle allowed five plays of 40 or more yards in the first six games. It has given up five such plays in the past two losses alone.
4. Start better
The Seahawks have scored 10 points in the first quarter, second-fewest in the league. They have not come back from a deficit larger than seven points, nor have they won a game in which they trailed at any point of the second half.
Seattle can’t count on its defense to keep games at a stalemate until the offense starts moving in the second quarter. It must find something to get going earlier, or this season that started so promising is going to end up buried behind lopsided defeats like the ones Seattle suffered the past two weeks.