When Pete Carroll hired Brian Schottenheimer to be his new offensive coordinator a year ago, skepticism was rampant. Many people thought he had made a lateral (or worse) move from Darrell Bevell.
We withheld judgment until after this season. Well, after poor scheming cost the Seahawks four games, ending with a 24-22 wild-card loss to Dallas, the doubters sure look like they could be right.
And how ironic the way it unfolded.
Carroll and Schottenheimer didn’t run the ball enough in the first two games of the season, losses in Denver and Chicago where Russell Wilson was under assault. Seattle committed to the run the rest of the season and ended up the No. 1 rushing team in the league as they won 10 of the final 14 games.
They took that rushing mentality into Dallas against the fourth-ranked run defense, but they could not run. Passing yards were clearly there for the taking, but Schottenheimer refused to take them.
The Hawks were three-and-out on their first three series as Chris Carson and company ran into Dallas’ brick wall.
It wasn’t until the fourth drive that Schottenheimer got a little creative. Wilson hit Ed Dickson for 26 yards on a nice action play, then he hit Tyler Lockett for 40 yards on another play-action throw. In the red zone, though, Schottenheimer got conservative: Carson ran twice for three yards and the Hawks ended up settling for a 27-yard field goal.
On the next series, Schottenheimer came out throwing again before again reverting to the run. Wilson hit Lockett for 25 yards, but Carson lost four on another run and Seattle had to settle for a 42-yard field goal.
Despite the aerial success late in the first half, Schottenheimer went back to the run in the second half. Other than a couple of nice runs by Rashaad Penny, including a 28-yard burst, Seattle remained stonewalled. And yet Schottenheimer still refused to alter course.
When Seattle got the ball at the Dallas 44-yard line, Schottenheimer called three straight runs — which begat a fourth-and-5. A great 22-yard catch by Doug Baldwin kept that drive alive, but Schottenheimer called five straight runs after that. The Hawks scored only because Wilson kept a couple of zone reads, including the 4-yard scamper into the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, one drive was ruined by another negative run by Carson and another by offensive line penalties. The Hawks then got down 24-14, forcing Schottenheimer to go hurry-up, and Wilson threw six times for 75 yards to cut it to 24-22.
Too little, too late though, as Dallas ran out the clock after a terrible onside kick — leaving Seahawks fans to wonder why the Hawks didn’t throw the ball more in a game where they clearly had an edge there.
Wilson threw just 12 of his 27 passes to wide receivers (but only to Lockett and Baldwin), making Seattle 0-6 this season when half his attempts didn’t go to wide receivers (10-1 when they did).
Asked whether he thought they should have thrown the ball more against Dallas, Carroll said, “We would like to have. The protection was good on the play passes. (Wilson) threw some strikes. Yeah. Easy to say that now.” (Um, Coach, most of us were saying it in the first half.)
This loss, added to the first two losses and the one against the Chargers, can be pinned largely on Schottenheimer not scheming a better attack or adjusting well enough to what opposing defenses did in those games.
The offense certainly took some big steps in 2018, leading the league in rushing and scoring the second-most points in team history. There certainly were games where Schottenheimer and Wilson worked well together — wins over Carolina and Kansas City specifically come to mind — but this avoidable loss in Dallas obviously leaves a bad taste.
And we now have to wonder whether the doubters were right (i.e., Schottenheimer is terrible) or whether this year was just growing pains that will subside as Schottenheimer and Wilson review the season and figure out how to do it better in 2019.
The run defense bit the Hawks again. Dallas ran for 164 yards — the eighth time a team went over 145 vs. Seattle, which lost five of those. The big blow was the 44-yard run by Zeke Elliott on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. Akeem King and/or Shaquill Griffin made a mistake on the play, cheating inside too much as Elliott bounced off right tackle. Carroll has to fix that, adding a good inside stopper and settling his linebackers.
That brings us to K.J. Wright, who was Seattle’s best defender in Dallas. He came up with the big end-zone interception on top of nine tackles, one for loss and a pass defensed. His Seattle future will depend on whether (1) his knee is not a concern and (2) he will play for much less than the $7.2 million he was paid in 2018.
He said the team still has not talked to him about a new deal. “I definitely want to be here,” he told Q13 right after the game. “I believe it would be in the organization’s best interest if I am here.”
Carroll said, “Having K.J. back is so valuable to us. He’s such a great player and a great leader and … he gives other people strength just being around him. He’s unbelievably valuable in that regard.’’
Old Man & the Sea Bass comedy show needs to close down. A hamstring injury on a 57-yard attempt? The 40-year-old was hurt twice in the last month and needs to retire. The Hawks should have kept Jason Myers out of camp, and now they must find a new kicker this offseason.
Seattle’s guards were not up for this one. It was going to be tough enough going against the league’s No. 4 run defense, and J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker obviously were not 100 percent. Seattle ran for just 73 yards on 24 carries.
Four monster (and properly called) penalties ruined Seattle’s fourth quarter. Justin Britt held and Fluker plowed into a Dallas defender after a play, ruining a Seattle drive. Then Wright and Justin Coleman both were called for pass interference on third downs, helping Dallas drive for the clinching TD.
Seattle’s tight ends played well. Ed Dickson caught four passes for 42 yards and Nick Vannett made big blocks on the third-quarter TD drive and two-point PAT. Although the Hawks have Will Dissly returning from injury, Dickson played hard in the final weeks and showed he’s probably worth keeping in 2019.
Special teams really finished the season poorly — three bad games in the final four. In Dallas, in addition to Janikowski’s injury on the missed 57-yard kick, the punt team gave up a 51-yard return to Tavon Austin and Michael Dickson botched the last-gasp onside drop kick.