When there was still time to salvage something of the game, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, sensing the urgency, dropped back to pass on a third down.
Moments like this are usually his time to create a big play, to be the flint that sparks the rally. But by the time he retreated to his appointed drop, both his tackles had been beaten at the line so quickly, all Hasselbeck could see were Arizona helmets closing in on his damaged ribs.
When you play with fourth-string linemen, this is what you get. You get defeated, 27-3, by the Cardinals on your home field; you rush for a puny 14 yards; your quarterback completes 10 passes; you go 0-11 on third downs.
And you fall to 2-4. The Seahawks have all possibilities still mathematically reachable. But realistically? Nothing’s happening at this rate.
There are some teams left on the schedule they can beat. But if they can’t get some guys back to health, on the offensive line particularly, faulty blocking will be the main pathology cited on the obit.
Hasselbeck was sacked five times, and hit nine times. Consequently, the Seahawks could never develop rhythm, and didn’t have a prayer running the ball, registering a franchise-worst net total.
“You bring (inexperienced) guys in to play against a defense like this, and you’re going to have protection issues,” fullback Justin Griffith said. “I’m not making excuses, because we all have to do our jobs, but that’s a reality. We have to get our guys back.”
Injured starting left guard Rob Sims should be back after next week’s bye.
His spot had been filled by Mansfield Wrotto, who later made way for Steve Vallos.
But there are no guarantees that starting tackles Walter Jones and Sean Locklear will be healthy to return after the bye. The knee problems of Jones started the dreadful domino avalanche. Locklear had to move into that spot, only to be replaced by Brandon Frye after Locklear was hurt. Frye’s injury last week meant that Kyle Williams – the fourth left tackle of the season – had to go Sunday against the Cardinals defense.
“I’ve got to have the same mind-set the starters have,” Williams said. “I want to help this team out and fill my role until the starters come back. I have to be a professional.”
But the obvious fact is, he’s a guy fresh off the practice squad.
Vallos, who had been the backup center, has had to hustle to learn the guard’s duties.
“I think we covered almost everything they did,” he said. “(The blitz pressure) was their game plan; we knew they’d do it and they did. They knew we weren’t as experienced as we would be normally, and they exploited us a little bit.”
Getting behind 17-0 early didn’t help the offense, which had to become one-dimensional, making it even easier for the Cards to come after Hasselbeck.
“Still … we’re better than we played even if we don’t have our starters in there,” Vallos said. “Nothing went right for us today. We’ve got the bye now and we have to regroup and hope to get some guys back.”
Nothing happens without them.
“You can’t be mad at the guys who get stuck in there,” Griffith said. “I take my hat off to them; they’re in there competing and doing their best. But if there’s a problem, the quarterback can’t throw and the offense can’t move. We’re going to have to get healthy to start winning some football games.”
We can easily second-guess the lack of depth on the offensive line. It’s no secret Jones was aging, or that others have had health issues.
The addition of second-round draft pick Max Unger at right guard was crucial, but there are more holes to fill than the Seahawks have bodies.
The return of Jones, Locklear, Sims, etc., will make a difference, of course. But after the bye, the Seahawks play four of their next five games on the road.
So, after such a lopsided loss, fans will want to ask: Is this team dead?
We tend to overreact in both directions, to wins one week and to losses the next.
In the movie “The Princess Bride,” the character played by Billy Crystal was asked if another character was dead. He answered: “No, he’s only mostly dead.”
That may be a good way to look at the Seahawks’ status at this point.
Strange things happen. It’s a long time until January.
But if they don’t have an effective offensive line, they’re going to stumble along like this until the offseason, when they should finally stock up on free-agent talent or use as many draft picks as it takes to solve this problem.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440