Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense are getting lots of credit for a 17-play drive that yielded the winning field goal in Dallas — the first time in four chances this season Wilson has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
But let’s not let one very inefficient winning drive confuse the facts: This is the worst offense the Seahawks have had with Wilson at quarterback.
The Seahawks scored just once in the skintight 13-12 win in Dallas — the fourth time in eight games they have tallied one TD on offense. In the four other games, they have scored just two TDs. They have yet to score three touchdowns in a game.
In fact, they are the only offense in the league not to put up a TD trifecta. New England has done it in all seven. Arizona has done it five times. Even Oakland has done it four times and Jacksonville three.
Pete Carroll likes to say “it can’t be pretty and perfect all the time” or some silly copout like that, but does it really have to be so ugly and imperfect every damn game? The answer, Pete, is no. No, it doesn’t. If you knew anything about offense, you would have figured that out by now.
The Seahawks are a dismal 4-4 — before the season, we considered that the worst-case scenario for the first half. They have four wins only because their defense is No. 3 in points, giving up 17.5 per game. The offense has not done its part.
Even in 2013, when the Seahawks were without both tackles for half the season, they had seven games with at least three touchdowns. Last year, without Max Unger for much of the season, they had eight. Even in Wilson’s rookie year, they scored three TDs in eight games.
This year, they’ve been lucky to sniff two TDs in any game — and that clearly has not been enough for anything better than a very underachieving .500 record.
Much of the struggles stem from the fact that the Seahawks are the worst red zone team in the league, having converted just 29.4 percent of the time. That number is even worse when you consider that they have the fewest red-zone possessions in the NFL. At 2.1 per game, they are more than a full possession lower than each of their past three seasons. Add it up, and they are set to match the worst red-zone performances the league has seen over the past decade — just 0.6 RZ TDs per game.
As crazy as it seems, Wilson and the Seahawks actually have gotten worse in the red zone over the past four years. In the quarterback’s rookie season, they scored TDs on 53.9 percent of their RZ drives. In each of their Super Bowl seasons, they were over 52 percent. Nothing to boast about, but the middling numbers complemented Seattle’s big-play ability.
It’s not happening this year, and the RZ decline directly correlates to Wilson’s worsening play inside the opponent 20-yard line. As a rookie, his passer rating in the money zone was 105.6 — fifth best in the league. It has plummeted every year since, sitting at 75.9 this season (28th in the NFL).
Carroll and Darrell Bevell have blamed the red-zone issues on third downs. But it is so much more than that. It is poor play calling. It is horrid run blocking. It is bad decisions by Wilson (reflected in the passer rating).
The inexperienced Seattle line gets its butt kicked in short yardage when teams know Seattle is going to run it. On the first drive of the win over San Francisco in Week 7, Marshawn Lynch needed five runs to score from the 3-yard line.
It happened in Dallas, too. The Seahawks were 0 for 2 in the red zone. On the first one, Lynch ran twice for five yards but Wilson couldn’t find a receiver on third down. On the so-called winning drive, Lynch lost four yards on two carries and the Seahawks surrendered on third down, settling for the field goal and hoping their defense would finish it off in the final minute.
If the Seahawks have any intentions of getting back to the Super Bowl, the offense is going to have to get it together. NOW. Seattle can afford no more than one loss — two if it is lucky — the rest of the way.
It’s frustrating because upon occasion Bevell and Wilson put together good drives, mixing run and pass, using misdirection, sending tight ends up the seam. But then they always revert to mediocrity, failing to finish.
The first drive in Dallas showed how it can work. Two strong runs by Lynch were followed by an upfield strike to Jimmy Graham. Then Wilson rolled out to his right and hit Doug Baldwin for nine yards. Lynch followed that up with a run for the first down.
After Lynch was stopped for a 2-yard loss, Wilson flipped the ball to Fred Jackson, who gained 10 and brought up third-and-2. Bevell then called one of his stupid bubble screens, but Tyler Lockett managed to convert down to the 13-yard line.
Then it fell apart as Bevell called his typical red zone combo: run-run-pass. Lynch ran for five yards on two plays, and Wilson scrambled out of the pocket and threw in the dirt in the end zone.
The Seahawks went three-and-out on their next two drives — largely because Wilson screwed up. On third-and-6, Wilson could not hook up with Lockett. On the next drive, Wilson pulled the trigger too early on a short pass on second-and-11, leaving Seattle in another third-and-long, and Wilson threw behind Graham, who was open for the first down.
The Seahawks then put together their only touchdown drive, with Wilson finding Luke Willson twice down the seam for 41 yards and the score. And that was it for the offense until the final drive.
The Seahawks have shown signs that they could become average on offense again — “average” for them is good enough to make the Super Bowl. In Dallas, they did not give up any sacks for the first time all season. They put together three drives of over five minutes — a season high. They had three scoring drives of at least 65 yards for just the second time. And they finished with the 17-play drive to go ahead.
They still have half the season to try to go from one of the league’s very worst offenses to the mediocre crew that was good enough to reach the past two Super Bowls. But they need to get to the red zone a lot more — and convert once they get there.