RENTON – Sunday morning, some of the national analysts considered the Seattle Seahawks an NFC West contender.
By Sunday evening, the Sea-hawks were looking up from the division cellar.
San Francisco thumped Green Bay on the road. The St. Louis Rams took a late lead before falling in the Motor City, 27-23, against a highly regarded Detroit team.
And in Arizona, the Seahawks lost to the Cardinals, 20-16, but not without a fight and a resourceful second half that gave them a fourth-quarter lead.
In the end, though, they had a first down on the Cardinals’ 6 but could not score the winner in four plays.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who was incomplete on his final five pass attempts (with two Arizona interference calls in that span), is the convenient culprit.
But it was the failing of the offensive line that doomed Wilson, and the Seattle offense.
“Russell was under siege,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday afternoon at the team headquarters.
I’m not sure “siege” is the appropriate military usage, because that implies Wilson was contained behind a protective wall. It is more accurate to say he was overrun by Cardinals defenders.
He was sacked three times and took seven hits, and when he wasn’t sacked or physically abused, he was hurried, or his receivers were blanketed. And, at times, he misfired on his own.
Four of the five linemen up front are veterans, joined by rookie right guard J.R. Sweezy. They should be better. It is not surprising that the Cardinals’ talented defensive front beat them on occasion – physically – but they shouldn’t have fooled them as frequently as they did.
Left tackle Russell Okung had three false starts to add to the problem.
The young line went through growing pains last season, but Carroll thought that was in the past.
Although the pass protection was Carroll’s prime complaint, the line also was not nearly as effective run blocking as it had been in the second half of last season.
Running back Marshawn Lynch finished with 85 rushing yards and a 4.0 average, but much of that was the result of his own efforts.
This team is built to run the ball. The Seahawks ran for 178 yards at Arizona last year. And that’s what they need to do again to be competitive.
The Seahawks were inconsistent almost across the board. Although defensive end Chris Clemons got pressure in the second half, rookie rush specialist Bruce Irvin did not, and the Seahawks made one sack in 36 pass attempts.
It’s hard to win games like that.
The rest of the defense was fast and physical for the most part, and the returns of Leon Washington kept the Sea-hawks in the game in the second half.
But a problem that crippled the Seahawks last season, and has been a staff focus, arose again: penalties, a baker’s dozen of them against the Cardinals.
Carroll said avoiding penalties is such a priority they even have film breakdowns of the refereeing units that will work their games each week to scout their tendencies.
The penalties, he said, were “really disappointing.”
But the penalties didn’t tilt the competitive balance. The Cardinals were penalized 10 times for 102 yards.
And even with his few misfires, Wilson didn’t lose the game, either.
If the offensive linemen had protected as they should have, Wilson’s passing would have been a smaller factor. Had they blocked for the rush better, third-down conversions would have been easier, and they’d have controlled the clock.
Carroll rightly credited the Arizona defense, particularly Darnell Dockett. And he said the Seahawks linemen henceforth will benefit from the fact that not every team has a Dockett up front.
No, but the 49ers have Justin Smith, and a defense that controlled the Packers. And the Rams have a secondary that intercepted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times in the first half on Sunday.
He said the Seahawks linemen will grow from the experience and be stronger and better for it.
They better, because this Sunday the Dallas Cowboys are coming to town with linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who has averaged 18 sacks the past six seasons.
And to have any chance of evening their record at 1-1, the Seahawks must have a better performance by their offensive line.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling