At 2-4, season is not over, but Hawks have no room for error now

“Postponing judgment is a powerful tool.” – Pete Carroll

As much as some fans might want to put the nails in Seattle’s coffin after just six games, the simple fact is the Seahawks (2-4) are still breathing – the season is far from over.

But they are going to need to win their next two home games if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.

We figured they might start 3-3, especially with four of the first six on the road. The loss to Tennessee in Week 2 was the big upset in this opening third of the season. That and Russell Wilson’s finger injury, of course.

Not that Wilson’s offense was lighting it up anyway. With Wilson always looking for the big play, the offense was incredibly inconsistent from quarter to quarter and terrible on third downs. Wilson had led the unit to one measly touchdown against the Rams in Week 5 before Geno Smith rallied the Hawks to 10 points in the fourth quarter (and then an unlucky interception ruined the rally).

The Hawks started poorly in Pittsburgh, too, before the running game took over in the second half and led them to 20 points. Then Smith’s propensity for turnovers appeared yet again as he fumbled away another shot at a comeback in overtime as the Hawks lost 23-20.

“I can’t keep coming up short,” Smith said. “That’s solely on me, and I vow to be better.”

He will have to be. His performance might mean the difference between the Hawks repeating 2011 or mimicking 2015. They opened 2-4 in both seasons. In 2011, pre-Wilson, they went just 5-5 the rest of the way; in 2015, with Wilson, they finished 8-2.

This time the Hawks are without Wilson for at least two more games.

They have three home games and a bye over the next five weeks, with a contest in Green Bay as well. This stretch will determine whether the Hawks go the 2011 route or take the 2015 journey. Historically, a 2-4 start means a 9% chance to make the playoffs (the 2015 Hawks were among 19 out of 205 such teams to pull it off since 1990).

“This didn’t start the way we planned,” Pete Carroll said. “We will not be able to call the story of this season for a couple months.  It’s going to take eight to 10 games before we know what’s going on. It’s going to be a long way down the schedule. There are a lot of things that will happen around the league, and we have to take care of our business.

“Postponing judgment is a powerful tool. … We have to stay really focused and postpone what the story is going to be.”

Unlike some fans, that is what we are doing. The Hawks are one game off where we thought they might be in the worst case, so they have no room for error as the New Orleans Saints come marching in.

They have to put together their best game Monday night and then beat Jacksonville in another home game in Week 8. That would draw them to 4-4 heading into their bye. Then the next two games would truly define the potential of their season.

Would Wilson be back for their post-bye game in Green Bay? Would it even matter since they always lose there anyway (nine straight, including four in the Carroll/Wilson era)?

Arizona (6-0) then comes to Seattle. If the Hawks are 4-5, this game will tell us once and for all whether the Hawks are any good in 2021.

Carroll has a history of getting his team to respond after slow starts. In 2018, Seattle started 3-3 and finished 10-6. In 2015, it went from 2-4 to 10-6. In 2014, it went from 3-3 to 12-4 and the Super Bowl.  

In Pittsburgh, we saw some signs that the Hawks might be getting it together.

They may finally have solved their corner problem. Tre Brown looked good over on the left side in his first NFL game. He will make some mistakes, for sure, but he was aggressive and instinctive, and Carroll said he will play more.

Jamal Adams played in the box more and had his most impactful game of the season. He was more effective than when he plays in coverage (where he whiffed on a pick that hit him in the face). They need to continue to use him in the box – and then get a lot more out of him.

It has been hard to get much pass rush against most of the quarterbacks they have faced because quick passing has been the norm. Ben Roethlisberger followed that plan as well, although Seattle tightened up its defense.

As long as they face quick-trigger passers, they will need to play like they did against the 49ers and Steelers, flooding the secondary with defensive backs.

They need to ease off the zone drops by their LEOs in the red zone though; it cost them another TD in Pittsburgh because Benson Mayowa could not over Najee Harris.

Shane Waldron’s inconsistent offense needs to get better. The Hawks were terrible on third downs yet again, winning just 3 of 12. We’re seeing some of the same issues we have always seen in the Carroll/Wilson era: receivers running routes short of the marker, screen passes going nowhere, runners being dropped for losses, the QB taking sacks.

The running game is a big key, as we saw in Pittsburgh. Alex Collins had a huge second half (16-82, TD) that spearheaded the comeback. Running kept pressure off Smith. They will need to continue that.

As Carroll said, “I think some really good things happened … and hopefully we make some headway with it.”

If they don’t, the nails will indeed be in the coffin.

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