A year ago at this time, the Seahawks were in the midst of an offensive meltdown that had started in Week 9 and dragged on for most of the rest of the season because Brian Schottenheimer and Russell Wilson stubbornly refused to play ball the right way.
The only time they altered philosophy was in a Week 15 game at Washington, where they used a quick, short passing game to pull off a 20-15 win.
Now, nearly a year later, the offensive funk has protracted across a new offensive coordinator as they head to Washington again. Will Shane Waldron and Wilson make the adjustments like Seattle made last year – and then sustain them?
We’re not talking necessarily about a short passing game. But Waldron needs to do all the stuff that starts with M – motion, movement, misdirection, middle throws and more. Whatever it takes to get Wilson in the groove.
Waldron actually called a pretty good game against Arizona, and Seattle’s offensive line (even with injured tackles) played well enough — but Wilson missed some key throws and reads, especially in the red zone, as Seattle’s scoring funk continued. The offense went 20 scoreless possessions across eight quarters until getting a fourth-quarter TD – just their sixth TD in five games (not including the easy win over horrible Jacksonville).
Since averaging 34.3 ppg in a 6-2 start in 2020, Seattle has scored just 21.0 ppg and gone 9-9.
Granted, the Hawks have played the sixth-toughest schedule for an offense (by DVOA) this season, but they have been their own worst enemy in most of their losses.
One thing they have started to do a lot better the past couple of games is get the tight ends involved. Gerald Everett has caught 11 of 12 passes for 100 yards – after getting just 17 targets in his first six games (he missed two due to league Covid rules).
Waldron could have run the ball more the past two games. Both the Packers and Cardinals dared them to do it. Seattle had good success when they did. In the first half against Arizona, running backs gained 60 yards on 10 rushes. Alex Collins tallied 38 yards on eight carries.
But, after the Cardinals focused on stopping the run to start the second half, Waldron went away from it – Collins carried just twice for minus-2 yards in the second half.
Once again, time of possession was the enemy – they lost it 2-1 for the second straight game and have been outheld in every game this season. Their 24:42 TOP is the worst in the NFL since at least 2003. Teams under 28 TOP have averaged just 3.5 wins over the past five years.
They are converting less than a third of their third downs. But those failures are always set up on the early downs. Wilson took a needless sack on the first second down of the game, setting up third-and-10, and then was sacked again.
On the next possession, the Hawks moved all the way to Arizona’s 41 before Wilson and Collins messed up a pitch play on second-and-6. Waldron then oddly called a surrender run on third-and-20 from the 49 instead of trying to get in field goal range.
The Hawks moved the ball well on the third drive, mixing run (20 yards) and pass (25-yarder to Tyler Lockett) to get to the 9. But Wilson could not hit DK Metcalf in the end zone and then made a bad read on third down (Lockett was open for a TD), and Seattle settled for a field goal.
In a two-minute drill after that, Wilson hit Lockett on a 36-yard pass (with a penalty added on) that put Seattle at Arizona’s 13. But Wilson whiffed in the red zone again. He threw to an open Everett far too late, missing him in the back of the end zone. On the next play, he didn’t see Freddie Swain open in the middle of the end zone. Two really bad reads by Wilson that cost another four points.
Missed scoring chances are major problems since the Hawks don’t get many because they are not holding the ball long. Against Arizona, the offense had just one drive of more than three minutes – a 5:08 possession that was ruined by that pitch fumble. The three scoring drives were all two minutes or less. Meanwhile, Arizona had five possessions lasting over three minutes.
Wilson and company are still big play or bust, as Lockett pointed out after the game. Wilson and Waldron have to fix that – and start scoring more than one touchdown per outing – if they are going to beat Washington and the rest of the teams they will have to beat to turn this around.
They are down to their last gasp, given just a 4% chance of making the playoffs by FiveThirtyEight and 5% by The New York Times. But they have a much easier road than the one they have traveled so far. Based on DVOA, they have had the toughest slate in the NFL so far. But their finishing schedule ranks 21st (or third-easiest by winning percentage).
Will Waldron and Wilson make the moves needed to run the table?