The Seahawks could barely get out of their own way in Arizona, missing two field goals, going 0 for 10 on third downs, committing eight penalties, losing Earl Thomas and Will Dissly.
If it weren’t for a 171-yard rushing day, some stout defense against David Johnson and rookie QB Josh Rosen and Arizona dropping some passes, the Hawks might not have evened up their record at 2-2 as they prepare to host the juggernaut Rams, who sure look like the NFL’s top team at this point and come to Seattle as touchdown favorites.
The Hawks are a game off our projection due to the loss in Chicago, but how does Pete Carroll see his team after the first quarter?
“We have made marked improvement,” he said. “We’re finding ourselves; we’re finding our way to play the game. We have a chance to continue to improve. I think we’re just getting rolling.”
The defense is top 10 in yards and points and has been very strong vs. the pass. But the offense ranks 28th in yards (302 per game) and 24th in points (21.3) and is second to last in third-down conversions at 27.5 percent.
“There’s a lot more to come on the offensive side of the ball in terms of how we mix and how we do the things we want to do,” Carroll said. “We really needed to focus and establish that we could run the football and find our offensive line’s nature. I think we’ve really tapped into that. That’s really important.
“It’s a long, long season. There’s so many things that are going to happen during the course of the year. The start isn’t really the telltale of what these seasons are all about. The fact that we’ve made progress and we have found something that we really like and the way we want to go is huge.”
Here’s a look at the status of Seattle’s roster through the first quarter of the season, as that big division game vs. the Rams looms:
Wilson is playing with a hamstring injury but actually ran his first zone read keeper of the season — something we should see more of. We also should see more play-action passes; Seattle has used them just 12 percent of the time but has succeeded much more than when it doesn’t. Other than third downs, where Wilson and his receivers came up empty, he put in a good effort in Arizona — especially with a couple of downfield blocks on Mike Davis runs (the block on the first touchdown run was great). Wilson also got rid of the ball quickly much of the time, which might explain why he didn’t throw the ball downfield. He also hit what might have been the best RB screen of his career, with Davis gaining 16 yards.
Key stats: 75 wins by Wilson, breaking the team record he had shared with Matt Hasselbeck. Wilson also has 19 career game-winning drives, tied with Matt Ryan for No. 2 in the NFL since 2012.
Carroll on Wilson’s blocking: “We told him that was the best block he’s ever thrown. Set a new standard. … I noticed the first time, Mike hadn’t really come to appreciate his blocking ability so, as Russ was out in front of him, instead of getting out behind him, he kind of cut up and went inside. But, after the next one, when he knocked a guy down, then he went right for him and he was going to use him.”
With Chris Carson (hip) injured, Davis started instead of Rashaad Penny and made the most of the chance, rushing for 101 yards and two scores on 21 carries. Penny added 49 yards on nine runs as the Hawks tallied a season-high 171 on 34 runs (5.0 average). If Carson continues to have injury issues, it will be interesting to see whether Davis remains the No. 1. Carroll said, “He needs to play. He needs to be a part of it. We’ll work that out.”
Key stat: The Seahawks have hit the magic 50 carries/completions the past two games.
Carroll on using Davis over Penny: “I talked it over with Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer) about who we thought would handle it the best and would be the most comfortable. Mike’s played more and he’s been around and started games and all that. We just thought we’d go that way and keep Rashaad kind of in the role that we had projected going into the game, where he would come in off the bench.”
Doug Baldwin’s return came up a little short in the productivity department; he was a yard short twice on third downs. But it was good to have him back out there with Tyler Lockett, whose TD streak ended at three games. Those two were Wilson’s top targets, as they should be. David Moore played 43 snaps to Brandon Marshall’s 26 and Jaron Brown’s 15. Moore caught two balls for 39 yards, Marshall dropped another pass and Brown oddly didn’t see a pass his way against his former team. Looks like Moore has moved into the third spot.
Key stat: Marshall has three or four dropped passes this season and has a 47.6 percent catch rate that is among the worst in the league.
Carroll on Baldwin: “He played a good, solid football game. He felt great about it, came out of the game great, and we’re very fortunate for that. We’ll take care of him again this week as he builds some background in being back in the fold, but I’d expect him to play a ton this week.”
Dissly was a big loss, especially with the Hawks having just two tight ends. Ed Dickson is targeting Oct. 28 for his return, but the Hawks will promoted Darrell Daniels, who was waived last week and put on the practice squad.
Key stat: Dissly and Nick Vannett are third on the team in targets (14 each).
Carroll said: “We’re going to miss (Dissly). He’s a good football player and everything we’ve ever said about Will; he was just getting started. He was a factor in there, so Nick has to step up and do a nice job. … This is the best he’s ever been. He’s the most complete in terms of blocking and running his routes. He’s a good catcher, really knows our scheme. He knows all the intricacies and stuff, so we can do a lot with him.”
J.R. Sweezy has supplanted Ethan Pocic at left guard, and this unit is starting to get some good push in the running game — 284 yards with Sweezy and D.J. Fluker at guards after just 138 the first two games. “We feel really comfortable with D.J. and Sweezy playing the guard spots for us,” Carroll said. “Ethan (Pocic) is a versatile football player. He can play tackle, guard and center, and that’s a real benefit to have him available to us, particularly as he’s working his way back in.” Justin Britt played “really physically” in his return from a one-game absence due to a shoulder injury.
Key stat: Wilson has been sacked just four times the past two games after 12 in the first two.
Carroll said: “I think it’s really worth noting that the offensive line continues to improve. When you look at the first couple of weeks when we had all the sacks, the last couple of weeks we just haven’t. Way better pass protection-wise and also the running game has really come to life. Running the ball over 30 times the last couple of games is really a message that we are trying to project that this is how we want to play these football games.”
Jarran Reed dominated the middle of the line vs. Arizona, tallying five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a QB hit. He has three sacks this season. That sack was the only one the Seahawks got against the rookie Rosen, but they did hit him seven times. Branden Jackson also played well in his first game after being called up from the P. squad, and Poona Ford was very effective, especially in the pass rush, so we might see more of him (over Nazair Jones, who still has not earned much PT). In injury news, Dion Jordan will return this week, but Rasheem Green will remain out for “a bit,” Carroll said. We read that to mean he probably won’t return until after the Week 7 bye.
Key stat: Reed’s three sacks are one more than star Rams DT Aaron Donald has.
Carroll on Jordan: “He’s played good, tough football. He has not missed a snap of playing hard and he’s got some good push. He’s been really close on some rushes, so I look at him as he’s still a young, new player. He’s a developing player. He hasn’t played a lot of football. (He comes) with a great body and speed and his motor is good, too. We have really high hopes that he can be a factor.”
The Seahawks have some moving parts with Mychal Kendricks now suspended and K.J. Wright apparently not returning until after the Week 7 bye (although Carroll holds out hope for next week). Austin Calitro has played well, though, so he will step in again at weakside linebacker. Bobby Wagner played probably his best game of the season against Arizona (he brought the pillow for Rosen, too).
Key stat: Kendricks tallied 15 tackles and two sacks in his three games with Seattle.
Carroll on Wright: “K.J. is stepping up his workouts. We’ll know more later in the week here (as to) where he is, but he is running and so he’s on the road back now. I can’t tell you when that’s going to happen.”
The secondary has been one of the NFL’s best through the first quarter, but now they are going to have to do it without Thomas. Tedric Thompson gets his shot to prove he can start for Carroll, and the Hawks could be bringing back Maurice Alexander and adding former Colts second-rounder T.J. Green as reserves. Meanwhile, Tre Flowers had maybe his best game and is rapidly turning into the next great grad from the Pete Carroll Secondary School.
Key stat: The Hawks were one of the top-five pass defenses with Thomas — third in interceptions, fifth in yards and fourth in passer rating.
Carroll on Thompson: “I remind you that Tedric had the best camp and really late offseason work of anybody. He was the most spectacular player we had, making plays and doing things on the back end. I don’t know how high expectations were around about how our secondary was going to play, but these guys are playing good football. I would expect Tedric to jump in there and do the things that he does really well.”
If Sebastian Janikowski had not nailed the winning 52-yarder, he would be in a very precarious position on this team. He has missed three kicks and is the only still-employed kicker in the league to miss from under 40 this season. If the Hawks don’t have some guys on speed dial, they are stupid, because the 40-year-old’s inaccuracy is going to cost them a game at some point. Meanwhile, Penny has taken over kick-return duties since he can’t crack the top rushing spot.
Key stat: Janikowski is hitting just 62.5 percent of his FG attempts, 28th in the league.
Carroll on Janikowski: “There was a mechanical thing that he misfired on, he thought, on the first one he missed (from 38). … I don’t know why, but he and Brian (Schneider) feel there’s just stuff that we’re working on that we’ve got to get clean on — a little bit of where we align the snap. There’s some little mechanical things we can help (with), so we’re going to count on him to keep hitting the big ones.”