Hawks won’t always face defenses that bad, so theirs needs to improve

The Seahawks are in the thick of the division race – for now. But an average offense and horrible defense can’t keep them there.

Yeah, yeah, the offense put up 41 points Sunday in Detroit — against the NFL’s worst defense. That followed 23 against the league’s No. 25 scoring defense, Atlanta. But the Hawks were shut out by the NFL’s top scoring defense, the 49ers, after scoring just 17 (all in the first half) against Denver, which is a top-five defense.

So far, the Hawks have struggled vs. good defenses and scored well against bad ones. In other words, Geno Smith and Co. look like an average group that needs some help from the defense.

If Detroit’s defense was not the worst in the league, the Seahawks would have lost that game – because their defense is the second worst (28.8 ppg).

The defense has not helped since Week 1, giving up an average of 33 points the past three games and not showing any signs of getting better yet.

Pete Carroll is confident they will get it together. And history backs him. They have started like this for the past four years and have always cut down the points in the second half of the season.

  • 2022: Allowed 28.8 ppg thru first 4 (31st in NFL)
  • 2021: Allowed 25.2 ppg in first 5, improved to 21.5 (t9)
  • 2020: Allowed 30.4 ppg in first 8, improve to 23.2 (15)
  • 2019: Allowed 26.4 ppg thru 10, improved to 24.9 (22)

Carroll is tired of penalties giving offenses free yards. “You can fix those. I want those freakin’ out of our game. They turn into explosive plays that don’t really show up in the stats.”

Ryan Neal, who figures to be a big part of that fix, said the defensive failure in Detroit “reminds me of when we played Buffalo (a 44-34 loss in 2020). But that was Week 9. At least now we are in the beginning and the division is all tied up and we’ve still got an opportunity to fix it and get it ironed out. But … it’s got to be fixed right now.”

Four of Seattle’s next six are on the road: At New Orleans, vs. Arizona, at Los Angeles Chargers, vs. New York Giants, at Arizona and vs. Tampa Bay in Munich.

The offense should be able to keep Seattle in games against the Saints (allowing 24 ppg), Cardinals (25.8) and Chargers (27). But the Giants and Bucs have top-10 defenses, so Seattle’s defense will need to step up if they are to have any chance against those clubs.

The Saints are scoring just 19 ppg and might be without Jameis Winston this week. The Cardinals are at 22 ppg and the injury-riddled Chargers are at 23 ppg (just behind Seattle’s 23.8).  

Teams so far have averaged about five points over their season scoring average when playing Seattle, so project the Saints at 24 points, the Cardinals at 27 and the Chargers at 28 in those meetings.

If Smith & Co. can score like they have the past two weeks, the Hawks should be competitive in those games and potentially head to Munich at 4-5 or 5-4.

Geno has outplayed Wilson

Smith earned NFC offensive honors after his 320 passing yards and three touchdowns (one rushing) in Detroit.

He has received a lot of accolades for his consistent play so far, leading the NFL in percentage (77.3) and third in passer rating (108).

Through four games, he had outplayed Wilson in every category:

Other than getting blanked for six straight quarters by Denver and San Francisco and not being able to rally the Hawks to beat the Falcons, Smith has played well.

Some wonder whether he might be a long-term answer for Seattle. It’s a little early for any decision like that. He needs to win some more close games. Let’s see how the season plays out.

Other thoughts

Shane Waldron and Smith are using the tight ends the way we always thought the Hawks should. Against Detroit, Will Dissly and Noah Fant both scored as the tight ends combined for seven of Seattle’s 23 receptions. Dissly, Fant and Colby Parkinson have accounted for five of Seattle’s six aerial TDs.

Rashaad Penny had his 2022 breakout game, running for 151 and two long TDs in Detroit. Now the question is whether he can keep it up. Apparently he hurt his shoulder in the game.

Tariq Woolen is clearly the next Seattle secondary star. He has picks in back-to-back games, and he took the one in Detroit to the house.

As much as the young secondary has struggled at times, Cody Barton and the linebackers have been just as bad. Barton whiffed on knocking T.J. Hockenson out of bounds, leading to an 81-yard gain. Linebacker is a big need for 2023.

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