If you had not known Drew Brees was sidelined by injury and then someone told you the Saints beat the Seahawks 33-27 on Sunday, you probably would have shrugged and said, “Not a surprise. The Saints (who should have been in the Super Bowl last season) are really good.”
In fact, way back when the schedule came out, we expected this to be a loss and for Seattle to be 2-1, just like they are.
The thing that made it disappointing is that Brees was not playing and the Hawks beat themselves in a dozen ways to make that loss a reality. If they’re still going to win our predicted 11 or 12 games, they have to clean up their game, from the top down.
The Seahawks lost this one largely because of special teams, running backs and coaching.
“We just had a really hard time getting out of our own way,” Pete Carroll said. “I had a particularly bad day. … I tried too hard at times and kind of got in the flow of it. Just really disappointed. Just really disappointed across the board.”
The Hawks gave up a 53-yard punt return for a TD on their first series, they committed a penalty on a missed field goal that kept the Saints driving for a TD, and were pinned inside the 5-yard line twice by Thomas Morstead, who netted 52 yards a punt.
One of those big punts basically set up New Orleans’ second TD, as Chris Carson fumbled on a 23-yard run and Vonn Bell returned it 33 yards for a TD.
Carson and Alvin Kamara had diametrically opposed days. Carson slipped three times in the first half (even after changing shoes) and then fumbled — and was benched briefly for C.J. Prosise. Carson gained just 53 yards on 15 runs (3.5 per carry). He also was stuffed on fourth down in the second quarter, and the Saints drove 58 yards for a touchdown.
Kamara, meanwhile, carried the Saints to the win. He scored twice while tallying 161 total yards on 25 touches. He bounced off Seahawks all day — Bradley McDougald and Lano Hill both missed him on the above touchdown as Kamara took a pass 29 yards to put the Saints up 20-7. He even gained five yards after slipping on one play (while Carson lost yards every time he fell).
A week after Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer made a nice coaching adjustment in Pittsburgh, Carroll made a number of mistakes vs. the Saints.
He was conservative on fourth down at the Saints’ 39, having Michael Dickson punt (to the 10). Then he had Carson, who had been slipping all over the place, run it on fourth-and-1 at the Saints’ 41 — he was stuffed. Carroll said he regretted that and should have punted. But it really was the choice of play that was the problem.
The Hawks then got the ball back with 29 seconds left, down 20-7, and were uncertain about their plan. Russell Wilson hit Nick Vannett for nine yards to the 30. Instead of using one of their two timeouts though, the Hawks took their time and finally got the snap off with 10 seconds left. Wilson avoided the rush and heaved the ball downfield, where it was caught by D.K. Metcalf for a 54-yard gain to the 16. But time expired — and Seattle went into the locker room with two timeouts unused and a missed chance at an easy field goal to make it 20-10.
Carroll had a nonsensical explanation, saying he wanted to play it safe. But, if that were the case, why not just run it or sit on the ball? Maybe Carroll did not communicate his desire to Wilson, who also should have taken the timeout if he was going to throw the ball on the next play. However it happened, it was a bad clock-management gaffe that unfortunately has become typical of Carroll’s club.
With 9:47 left in a 27-14 game, Carroll inexplicably decided to go for it on fourth down from his 28. The Saints stacked the line and Wilson checked to a pass to try for a touchdown, but he overthrew Malik Turner after Tyler Lockett was tied up in the middle of the field. Carroll challenged for pass interference, but it was another wasted timeout (he is 1 for 4 on PI challenges this season).
That allowed the Saints to put the game away with a short touchdown drive, burning five minutes off the clock in the process.
Carroll topped off his poor coaching day by failing to go for two after Wilson’s run cut the deficit to 33-20. A 33-22 margin would have meant a touchdown, two-pointer and field goal could have tied it — if the Hawks could have done that in two minutes.
Asked about that, Carroll sighed: “Yeah, we didn’t do that right either.”
That about summed up the day.
It was a key loss in the NFC race, and Seattle also is a game behind in the NFC West now. But the good news is Wilson is playing great (he had some historic numbers in this game that don’t really matter to us) and the Hawks obviously have the talent to play with anyone. They just need to stop making so many mistakes.
“We’ve just got to start faster,” Duane Brown said. “We got away with some things in the first couple games. Today it just kind of bit us.”
As Tyler Lockett said, “You can’t just put yourself in a hole and expect to always find a way to come back every single time.”
Carroll hopes this is the jolt he and his team need: “Maybe this is the one game that we learn from and grow from and put this stuff behind us.”