As good as the Seahawks’ defense has been over the first month, it is about to face its biggest test of the season — and that means Seattle’s offense is going to have to be a lot better than it has been if it is going to win a shootout.
Seattle ranks seventh in overall defense, fifth against the pass and sixth in takeaways — rankings built against some of the league’s poorer offenses. Now, without Earl Thomas, they go up against a Rams unit that ranks first overall and second in passing and scoring.
It’s the ideal time for Russell Wilson and company to find themselves.
Under Brian Schottenheimer, the offense still is having trouble figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up.
In the first two weeks, they failed to run the ball and were bitten by Wilson’s typical flaws of holding the ball too long and not making quick decisions to help an offensive line under siege. The last two weeks, they have run the ball a ton (over 56 percent) and won with the help of a plus-four turnover margin.
But receivers are still having problems getting open consistently, Wilson is not trusting them one-on-one, Brandon Marshall is dropping passes, Schottenheimer has not called many play-action passes for a QB who excels at them, the Hawks have not hit many big plays, and they have been terrible on third downs.
The unit ranks 28th in yards (302 per game), 24th in points (21.3) and is second to last in third-down conversions at 27.5 percent.
It’s really just the same usual poor start for Seattle. In fact, they were in pretty much the same position last year as they prepared to face the similarly powerful Rams in Week 5 (and beat them).
Maybe the revamped defense will rise up and shut down Jared Goff and company again. But Seattle’s offense still needs to figure out how to put together its first complete game of the season. And it certainly needs to play better than last December, when the Rams embarrassed the Hawks 42-7 in Seattle. In that game, Wilson had his worst completion percentage (46.7 percent) in two years and was sacked seven times to match a career worst.
If the defense can’t contain the Rams, it doesn’t bode well — Carroll’s Hawks are 2-22 when giving up 30 points — unless the offense figures out how to score more than a couple of TDs. Since 2012, when Wilson arrived, the Seahawks are 24-4 when scoring at least 30 and 8-0 when hitting 40.
So how do they get to 30? Run the ball, use misdirection, play-action and quick passes and then, once the defense is focused more on stopping the run, go for some deep shots.
Schottenheimer also has to change up his formations and calls. He has been far too predictable — one reason Seattle lost in Chicago on the pick-six.
Hopefully he has better route combinations than they have run so far this season, too. In the preseason, Tyler Lockett talked about how Schottenheimer’s offense was fun because it allowed players to get themselves open. But the flip side of that is Schotty also does not seem to be scheming his guys open. Guys like Marshall, Nick Vannett and Jaron Brown are not getting any separation.
Wilson also still does not trust most of those guys to win one-on-one battles. He did trust Marshall, but the aging vet has dropped three or four passes and David Moore is getting more snaps as a result. Doug Baldwin is back, so perhaps that will help.
Schottenheimer also admits he needs to call more play-action passes for Wilson, who is annually one of the NFL’s best passers off that concept but is throwing them just 12 percent of the time this season.
“I think now that the running game is going, it certainly helps,” Schottenheimer said. “… For us to be able to do that would help us, and then it’s making the runs and the play (action) passes look the same; I think (that) is important for our success. He’s a great play-action passer. … We’d love to get a few more of them called.”
Schottenheimer also admits Seattle needs to go deep more. The Seahawks are 30th in yards per play (4.9) and in the bottom six in explosive plays (13).
“Luckily for us, we’ve been running it really well and (Wilson has) been hitting a lot of completions,” Schottenheimer said, “but for us to be as explosive as we want to be and be able to score the way we want to score, you need to hit those big plays. That’s something that we’re looking at and we know we can get better.”
It needs to start today if they are going to help their defense against the rampaging Rams.