The Seahawks lost their offensive rhythm just like they found it.
In a hurry.
Seattle’s no-huddle offense lasted all of two minutes Sunday in Cleveland before it evaporated amid a flurry of penalty flags and sustained immobility.
“We never got rolling,” coach Pete Carroll said. “You have to make a first down and keep the thing going.”
The Seahawks made a couple first downs to start the game, and they didn’t huddle up for any of the first six plays. Then came — in order — a false-start penalty, a sack of Charlie Whitehurst, a delay of game followed by another false start. Just like that, Seattle was facing third-and-31, and the tone had been set for a three-point loss. Seattle was going nowhere fast.
“We just had a couple busted plays that happened in there,” Carroll said. “It kind of just didn’t feel right.”
It didn’t feel any better the next possession when Whitehurst was bumped by running back Leon Washington while attempting a quick screen, the ball fluttering into the air for a fumble Whitehurst recovered. Whitehurst threw incomplete the next two plays, and Seattle punted having used all of 29 seconds off the clock before kicking the ball away.
“We got off to a bad start,” Carroll said. “It was kind of shaky, and we weren’t quite sure we were ever going to get clean with what we were doing.”
The Seahawks were starting over, so to speak, going back to the beginning of this season when it was hard to know what — if anything — this offense could rely upon. The Seahawks scored a total of 37 points in the first 14 quarters and were considered among the worst offenses in the NFL.
The no-huddle offense had been Seattle’s salve for the previous game and a half. Seattle scored 57 points in the previous six quarters entering Sunday’s game while using a no-huddle, hurry-up offense almost exclusively.
All the progress and promise of the past game and a half disappeared on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland when the Seahawks managed 137 yards of total offense, its second-lowest total in a game in the past 10 years.
Seattle’s struggles were so severe it completely masked the fact that Carroll said afterward there were times the offense tried to accelerate the pace between plays later in the game. The team couldn’t sustain a drive to show that it was going with a hurry-up approach.
This was about more than just backup quarterback Whitehurst. The absence of Marshawn Lynch left a sizable hole in Seattle’s game plan, and the Seahawks were also missing starting center Max Unger, who is a nerve center of sorts for the line. Lemuel Jeanpierre started in his place.