O-line costs Hawks the No. 1 seed again

logo-tampa-bayIt’s all but official: The Seahawks’ decision to ignore the offensive line has cost them the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Again.

After their third turd of an offensive game this year, an inexplicable 14-5 loss in Tampa Bay, the Hawks (7-3-1) are now 2.5 games behind dominant Dallas (10-1) in the NFC. With five games left, the Hawks now have to hope they can hold off Detroit (7-4) and Atlanta (7-4) for the No. 2 seed.

They won’t do it unless they fix their offense. They have now scored under seven points three times this year – just the third time in 41 years a Seattle offense has been so feckless. They are 0-2-1 in those games, by an average score of 10-5.

The defense, despite myriad injuries, clearly has held up its end – still the No. 1 scoring unit in the league. So this is all on the offense, which continues to operate like a teenager driving a stick shift – lurching along, popping the clutch, stalling out.

After putting up over 400 yards in wins over New England and Philadelphia the past two weeks, it seemed like the Hawks had started to get it in gear. Even with Justin Britt out, it seemed like they should be able to score on the Bucs, who were giving up 267 passing yards, 115 rushing yards and 26 points per game.

But the Hawks looked at least as bad as they had in a 9-3 loss in Los Angeles and a 6-6 tie in Arizona. The line played perhaps its worst game in a season full of them, giving up six sacks and letting Russell Wilson get pressured on almost every play.

The result was his worst game of the season – a mere 17 completions in 33 passes for 151 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. His 38.8 rating was his worst since a 38.7 in a 13-6 loss to the 49ers in the seventh game of his rookie season.

George Fant could not handle Noah Spence, who whipped him for 1.5 sacks and numerous pressures. And the right side of the line was horrendous, too. Germain Ifedi was flanked by two new players – Joey Hunt replacing Britt and Bradley Sowell ousting Garry Gilliam – and that trio clearly was not in sync.

Pete Carroll admitted the obvious: “They beat us up front.”

It all resulted in a ridiculously bad loss that has shaken the confidence of fans who thought the Hawks had hit their stride.

The players apparently shrugged it off as a bad Sunday drive in that standard transmission. But Carroll is the one who drives this rig, and he knows where the blame belongs.

“We didn’t play like we play, and it didn’t feel like it,” he said. “That starts with me. If everyone plays a little off, then that’s me.”

But it’s more than just one off day. It’s a recurring theme: a crappy offensive line that has burned any chance the Hawks had at the No. 1 seed and still could threaten their hold on a first-round bye and guaranteed home playoff game.

It’s nothing new. Line issues have hampered the Hawks throughout Carroll’s tenure, and they usually have overcome them. They also usually lose a game or two in November and December.

In 2013, they went without their starting tackles for eight games, starting a journeyman and an undrafted rookie, and they lost to the 49ers and Cardinals in December — and still won the Super Bowl.

In 2014, they were without Max Unger for 10 games, starting two guys at center in his place, and still claimed the top NFC playoff seed and reached the Super Bowl.

Last year, they made a horrendous coaching decision at center, yet they fixed it at midseason and somehow went on to put up the most prolific offensive season in team history. Of course, when it counted, the offensive line was horrible again: They beat Minnesota on pure luck and were dominated in the first half of their ouster at Carolina.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that they now get ready for a big-time revenge game on “Sunday Night Football” against those Panthers – not knowing which offense is going to show up.

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