The play caller admitting he has to change the offense and give the ball more to the star running back — the one who stomped off the field after getting replaced before a key fourth down last week.
Injuries that have four starters out for this weekend’s game, forcing a second-year cornerback into his NFL debut the same week he is returning from knee surgery.
Trading the team’s highest-paid player, the wide receiver/tailback around whom that play-caller had centered the offense, just as it is leaving for an important division game. Tales of locker-room confrontations. Of “chemistry issues.” And “a bad fit.”
Whoa. That was all in three days.
The Seattle Seahawks got the deluxe package of Distractions That Can Derail a Super Bowl Champion crammed into less than half of this past week.
We’re about to find out how resilient the Super Bowl champions really are.
“Well, we stay in our routines. We have real habits that we stick to — to make sure that we stay on track,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday.
That was just before the team (3-2) pulling away in buses from its headquarters in Renton to its flight that arrived here Friday night for Sunday’s game at the St. Louis Rams (1-4). It was also minutes after Carroll had been upstairs at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where general manager John Schneider was finalizing the stunning trade of Percy Harvin to the New York Jets. That deal became official Saturday.
A league source with knowledge of the trade said Seattle is getting a conditional sixth-round selection from New York in the 2015 draft. That could become a fourth-round pick, depending on how often Harvin plays and how well he performs for the Jets.
“Although this was an extremely difficult decision, we are constantly evaluating our team and believe at this time, that this is in our best interest to move the team forward,” Schneider said in a team statement issued Saturday. “We thank Percy for his efforts that contributed to a Super Bowl XLVIII victory and wish him well.”
If this week of upheaval doesn’t knock the Seahawks off track to play, maybe nothing will.
Indeed, there is a renewed sense within the team of a professional athlete’s favorite stance: us versus everything going on around us — including two losses in four games after only two in the first three months of last season.
“I think sometimes adverse situations bring you closer as a group,” All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said.
“To be totally honest, the two games that we lost, to me, as far as the defense’s side of the ball, it’s just character issues when it gets tough like that. I think we’re a new team; we’re not like last year. We have to understand who we are when situations get tough and not stray from the men we say we are.”
They are men without Harvin now.
What wide receiver Doug Baldwin said flatly last Sunday after the home loss to Dallas and then on Wednesday gained more context with the Harvin trade.
“We have to stop BS-ing ourselves,” Baldwin said after the Cowboys loss.
On Wednesday he said the losing — not yet the loss of Harvin — “just kind of refocuses us and lets us know we’re not as good as we think we are and we’re not as good as everyone thinks outside here.”
So will Team Upheaval became Team Uprising under the Gateway Arch? What will the Seahawks’ offense do after sending away the man to whom offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was at times force-feeding the ball — on fly sweeps, bubble screens and even tailback runs on read-option plays with quarterback Russell Wilson?
How about giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch? And often.
You remember that guy. Long dreads. Longer rushes. Runs like somebody egged his house. The masher who has made four Pro Bowls and romped for more than 1,200 yards last season.
He has had six and 10 carries in Seattle’s two losses this season. The Seahawks are 2-9 when giving Lynch 10 or fewer carries since they acquired him from Buffalo four games into the 2010 season.
But, ah, Seattle is 24-5 when Lynch rushes 20 or more times, including 16-2 the last two seasons. And the Rams have the league’s 26th-ranked run defense, allowing an average of 139.8 yards on the ground per game.
Guess which way the Seahawks want to lean Sunday.
“Marshawn is a huge key for us winning the game,” Bevell said this week, even before the trade of Harvin, whom he had coached in Minnesota in 2009 and ’10.
“And we do — and I — have to do a better job of giving him the ball.”
Running Lynch more Sunday could get Seattle in better second- and third-down distances than it had last week. All but one of the Seahawks’ 13 third downs against Dallas had 6 or more yards to gain. That’s why Seattle only converted five of those into first downs, and why the offense ran just 48 plays against the Cowboys.
For the season the Seahawks are converting 38 percent of their third downs. That’s 23rd in the league.
Running Lynch would also help slow down a Rams pass rush that has been overdue for a rampage for weeks. St. Louis didn’t get a single sack in last week’s 31-17 loss here to San Francisco, becoming the first team since the 1960s to have just one sack through six games.
Last year the Rams were third in the league with 53 sacks, behind All-Pro end Robert Quinn and 2008 No. 2 overall pick Chris Long.
Long is injured and out for this season. But Quinn, sackless so far this year, knows a key to Sunday’s game is his teammates pushing through a Seahawks’ offensive line that has been pushed around in pass protection this season and getting to the 5-foot-11 Wilson. Quinn had three of St. Louis’ seven sacks of Wilson the last time the Seahawks played here, a 14-9 escape last October. That ended with Seattle turning away the Rams from its goal line.
“He’s a shorter quarterback; not trying to take anything away from him. He definitely makes plays when asked,” Quinn said. “But if you keep him in the pocket, offensive linemen are 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 and you push them back into his face, it makes it harder for him to see his receivers. So I think the best thing is to try and keep him inside the pocket and go from there.”
If Bevell does indeed run Lynch more, it will likely be between tackles Russell Okung and rookie Justin Britt because who knows what blocking Seattle will get at tight end Sunday. Starter Zach Miller is still out because of ankle surgery. His backup, Luke Willson, is questionable because of a groin injury he got this past week. No. 3 tight end Cooper Helfet might get his first NFL start, with RaShaun Allen as Helfet’s backup. The team signed Allen off its practice squad on Saturday when it placed rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh (broken foot) on injured reserve.
Marsh’s fellow reserve defensive lineman Jordan Hill is also out with a sprained ankle. That means only five of the seven defensive lineman Seattle began rotating in on the first drive of last week’s game are available Sunday.
The Seahawks’ defense will also be without do-it-all middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. He is wearing a cast after his turf-toe injury against Dallas and looks to be out multiple games. K.J. Wright moves from outside to middle linebacker as he has in previous season when needed, with Malcolm Smith the starting weak-side linebacker and Bruce Irvin on the strong side.
The defense needs to be better on third down against the Rams, and everyone else. Dallas converted 10 of 17 third downs last week. That’s the same rate the Chargers converted them while playing keep-away from the Seattle offense in winning last month in San Diego.
After facing Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo already this season Seattle’s defense gets Rams quarterback Austin Davis. At this time last year Davis was a volunteer assistant for a Missouri high school team. As of late August he was the Rams’ fourth-string quarterback. That was before they lost Sam Bradford for another season to a knee injury, and Shaun Hill got hurt 13 passes into replacing Bradford.
Davis has been impressive early in games and is completing 63.8 percent of his passes for an offense that is fourth in passing despite all the injuries. But he’s been sacked 15 times in less than five full games, and foes have returned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter to turn close games into Rams losses. Kirk Cousins of Washington is the only NFL quarterback with more interceptions in the final quarter.
That sounds like a chance for the Seahawks to get right — following a week that included plenty of wrong.
“How right can we get our football team? We really put it all back on them this week,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said.
“They feel the urgency to get it exactly right.”