A quarter of the way through the season, the Seahawks are right where we figured they would be: 2-2.
It’s what you have to expect from a typically slow-starting offense that is once again trying to build an offensive line.
“We have been close to doing a lot of good stuff; it just hasn’t clicked like we like it,” Pete Carroll said.
If they could have added a few more points in the first half, they easily could be 4-0. Instead, they have been Seattle’s worst first-half offense after four games since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012.
The Seahawks are tied for the NFL’s fourth-worst first-half scoring offense at 6.5 points. They scored just three in Green Bay (but led 3-0 at halftime of a 17-9 loss), were tied 6-6 with the 49ers (won 12-9), trailed Tennessee 9-7 (lost 33-27) and trailed Indianapolis 15-10 (won 46-18).
Slow offensive starts are nothing new for the Hawks. They’re just a little slower than usual. In 2013, the year they won the Super Bowl, they averaged 8.8 points in the first half of their first four games. But they started 4-0 because they dominated in the second half, averaging 18.4 points.
In 2014, they started big — averaging 16.2 points in the first half in a 3-1 start. Then they slumped to 7.2 in a 2-2 start in 2015. They were at 11.8 in a 3-1 start last year.
The slow starts this year have often put their defense in bad position, especially in the Nashville heat — where the cramping defense gave up three big touchdowns in the third quarter.
The offensive line has had its predictably bad moments, but Wilson shares just as much of the blame for the poor starts.
Wilson’s biggest failing has been waiting too long to find a receiver and not making quicker decisions to throw or run. He should know he can’t afford the luxury of time. It’s not like it’s new. He has been the most pressured QB in the NFL since he arrived in 2012 — and a big part of it is that he tries to extend plays beyond their life expectancy. His linemen are already at a deficit, especially as they learn to play together early in the season. When Wilson fails to make quick decisions, it hurts the entire team (as the defense marches back out).
Wilson had a good game against a Colts defense that has been pretty weak (giving up 396 yards per game). He hit 21 of 26 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Carroll said Wilson has been trying to be too perfect but changed his approach for the Colts game.
“I think that Russ was really just in the … best frame of mind going into the game,” Carroll said. “He’s played great in every game at some point or portion of it, basically after the game got started. The game didn’t get started the way we would like, but I think he is just trying so darn hard to do so well. He was trying to do perfect. …
“He prepared during the week to be clear and not try and do too much with the first series, second series and all that,” Carroll added. “He did great. When we needed it to happen, he was there for us and he was on it. He made some huge plays, some great scrambles, good runs, good decisions, saw a couple things just beautifully and fixed calls to get us in good positions to make plays. He played a terrific football game.”
One of the huge keys for Wilson is to recognize more quickly when he needs to move off his reads and throw the ball away or, better yet, run. He failed to do that on a couple of throws where he was ruled down, including a safety, but he made the decision early enough on his 23-yard TD dash — getting to the end zone before the opening for the big play had closed.
He needs to make those kinds of quick decisions more often — and earlier in the game — as the season goes on.
Wilson has to keep running to keep defenses honest while the offensive line continues to mature. The upcoming game against the always-troublesome Rams defensive front should provide a better gauge of where the line is.
“They’ve continued to do better,” Carroll said of his linemen. “We projected that they would. You can see it happening. We rushed for almost 200 yards (vs. the Colts). … We did some good stuff up there in pass protection as well, so we are just improving. They are just fitting together better and hopefully we can keep that group together and keep them growing.”
Rees Odhiambo suffered a bruised sternum against the Colts, so it remains to be seen whether the group will remain together this week. It might get its second change in three weeks, if Matt Tobin joins new right guard Oday Aboushi and company.
“It’s really consistency right now is what we’re looking for,” Carroll said. “We can count on the guys to make their blocks and make their calls and give us a chance and make the same adjustments in the passing game. They’re just doing better just because they’ve played together longer. It’s taken us a month really to get to this point, and we have improvement ahead of us, too. We have a chance to get better.”
Overall, Carroll thinks the Hawks turned the corner vs. the Colts. But, if the Hawks can’t fix their poor starts, they will continue to have an uphill battle to get above .500 for the first time. The Rams are 3-1 and scoring a league-best 35.5 points per game.
“We can get started better,” Carroll said. “I think we are ready to move on. I really think we can keep going with it, and I think our guys have really captured what we are after in terms of the formula of it. It always comes back to the running game and converting on third downs for the offense, playing good run defense and staying on top on defense.”
After the explosion against the Colts, the running game now ranks 11th in the NFL at 121 yards per game. But Seattle has scored just twice on the ground — both against the Colts (J.D. McKissic ran from 30 yards).
After converting 10 of 15 third downs vs. Indy, the Seahawks are now converting 41.7 percent (tied for 10th). The run defense needs to get better; Seattle ranks 27th at 134 yards per game and 30th at 5.0 yards per carry — thanks to big runs by Carlos Hyde and DeMarco Murray.
The Seahawks will have to keep Todd Gurley, the NFL’s No. 2 rusher at 362 yards, from breaking out this week.
“We are playing a very important game for our division positioning right now, which doesn’t mean anything this time of year,” Carroll said, “but we know where we are.”
Where they are is 2-2, as expected, but they have to start scoring in the first half if they are going to end up where we all expect them to.