The Seattle Seahawks have spent this short week talking about how this might be the perfect time for … a short week.
“I’m really, personally thrilled that we’re playing the game on Thursday and we get to get back to football right now,” coach Pete Carroll said.
No wonder. There’s only been three days between the Seahawks’ latest blown lead — a loss to Carolina — and their departure for Thursday night’s game at division rival San Francisco (2-4). Yet more than enough bad happened to them in those three days.
The Seahawks (2-4) had their second car crash by a running back in six days. On Tuesday Fred Jackson lost control of his 2016 Corvette just outside team headquarters and it plowed through a stop sign. On Wednesday Renton police issued Jackson, 34, what it considers a minor citation for inattentive driving. That carries a $175 fine. Jackson wasn’t hurt and will play Thursday.
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The Seahawks also lost new starting center Patrick Lewis after one game to an ankle injury. So by default Drew Nowak, who made his first five NFL starts to begin this season, goes back into the middle of their struggling offensive line that has allowed a league-high 26 sacks.
The Seahawks reinstated Derrick Coleman from their suspended list. Then they learned he got a concussion in his two-car crash last week in Bellevue that had him jailed for a day and a half and still has him under investigation for two felonies.
Bobby Wagner returned this week from a strained pectoral muscle that left the All-Pro middle linebacker out of the loss to the Panthers — and helpless to the miscommunication on Seattle’s defense that allowed Carolina to score the winning touchdown with 32 seconds left.
“There isn’t much need to be said. We just need to do what we are capable of doing and get the season going the right way,” Wagner said.
“I don’t feel like we are in any panic or anything like that. I feel like as soon as we start getting some wins together and get rolling we’ll be fine.”
That needs to — no, must — start in Santa Clara, California.
“For me, I like that we play on Thursday because I think we’ve got a lot of bad taste in our mouth from the last two games. So it gives us an opportunity earlier to kind of get rid of that,” said Wagner, who had game-highs of 10 tackles in each of the two games Seattle beat San Francisco last season. “Everybody wants to get back on the field as soon as possible to get a win.”
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing offense should be extra anxious.
San Francisco is last in the league in pass defense, allowing an average of 306 yards per game. The 49ers’ defense, decimated in the offseason by sudden retirements, injuries and arrests, is ranked 31st overall.
If how the Niners have fared against Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Green Bay, the New York Giants and Baltimore is any indicator perhaps Wilson will finally get some time to throw. San Francisco has nine sacks in six games. The Niners have the NFL’s fifth-lowest rate of sacks per opposing pass play, and the 139 first downs they have allowed are second most in the league (New Orleans has allowed 145).
Sustaining drives has been one of Seattle’s biggest problems, especially while the defense has similarly been melting down in the fourth quarter. Another has been scoring touchdowns in the relatively few times the Seahawks have gotten inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Seattle has just four touchdowns in 13 trips into the red zone, a rate of 28.6 percent. That is the lowest in the NFL.
That’s absolutely not the rate the Seahawks expected when they traded two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round draft choice to the New Orleans Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Graham was supposed fix Seattle’s red-zone woes. But Wilson usually hasn’t had time to wait for Graham to run routes into the end zone before the quarterback has scrambled to keep from getting implanted into the turf each game.
“I think first of all, in terms of that stat, we’ve got to get down there more. We haven’t been down there that much. I think we’ve been down there the least amount of times,” Wilson said of the red zone.
“We have to be better on third down and get down there more, and give our guys a chance and just punch the football in. … We’re not playing very great football yet, in our opinion. We can do a lot better and we believe that we’re going to do that.”
The defense Wagner will be back directing will be facing a new version of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Wagner and Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright have noticed Kaepernick is standing in the pocket longer, throwing the ball down the field from there more and not taking off running as quickly as his pass plays this season.
Kaepernick had two touchdown passes, five interceptions and 14 sacks through four games. San Francisco lost three of those. He has four TD throws, zero interceptions and five sacks in his last two starts, including last weekend’s 25-20 home win over Baltimore.
“He’s a little bit more comfortable in the pocket. He’s making his decisions a lot faster,” Wagner said. “He’s definitely still using his legs. We’ve got to take something away.
“We just make sure we’ve got some eyes on him. I think some of the games he makes plays he’s left alone (while trying to pass) sometimes.”
Veteran Anquan Boldin, 35, might get the chance to try to become the first 49er to have 100 yards receiving in three consecutive games since Jerry Rice in 1995. But he is questionable to play because of a hamstring injury.
Bullish running back Carlos Hyde is also questionable for the 49ers. He has replaced departed Frank Gore as the mainstay runner in an offense that is 10th in the league in rushing (118.3 yards a game) — but 30th in passing offense (202.8 yards) and 32nd — dead last — in points per game (16.7).
It’s a game the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks cannot afford to lose. But haven’t we said that already this young season?
“What, a must-win game? Every game is a must-win for us,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “If we go out there and do what we are capable of doing, we will like the results.”
As Wright said of Seattle’s defense and thus its 2015: “We can only get better. Our season can’t keep going like this.
“It’s not in our DNA.”
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (2-4) at SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (2-4)
5:30 p.m. Thursday, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
TV: Ch. 7, NFL Network. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Seattle leads the regular-season series 17-15. It’s 15-11 Seahawks since they joined the 49ers in the NFC West in 2002. Seattle has won five of the last six meetings. That includes the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field at the end of the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl championship season. San Francisco is 10-12 and has since fired coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff.
SEATTLE’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Give him time to throw, for a change: The 49ers have the league’s worst-ranked pass defense and have just nine sacks in six games. But Seattle’s poor, porous offensive line has allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked a league-high 26 times. If the Seahawks can give Wilson even a little bit of a pocket to see Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett run complete patterns, there should be big plays available down the field. If not, Wilson will be picking all that ridiculously loose, Santa Clara sod out of his face mask — and the Seahawks offense will be missing a grand opportunity.
6, not 3: The Seahawks got Jimmy Graham at a hefty price to fix their red-zone problems of touchdowns on just 52 percent of their trips there last season. This season they’ve been twice as bad down there, last in the NFL at 26 percent red-zone TDs. It’s partly why they haven’t put teams away late. Against the soft 49ers’ pass defense, Seattle should have time to let receivers run into the end zone.
Talk to me: Not since before Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone have people had more trouble talking to each other than these Seahawks. “Miscommunication” has been the excuse for everything from blown coverage to bad pass protections to bad pregame meals. All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner’s return should fix some of last week’s problems on defense. Center Drew Nowak’s return to starting might add to those problems along the offensive line.
Seahawks, 20-7. Even with Seattle’s late-game problems, this still should be a game that is over before that. The Seahawks will overwhelm the 49ers on offense and do just enough with their own offense to keep alive hopes of a season rebound.
He was not a happy Seahawk after Sunday’s last-play fiasco. He
vows they are better than this.
His return to the middle of defense should get everyone playing
the same coverage. Hey, it’s a start.
Back to starting role because Patrick Lewis is hurt.
Communication has been his problem. He needs to fix it, pronto.
Has looked skittish, almost spooked in the previous two games
against Seattle. Is he different now?
Missed past two meetings because of knee injury. Seahawks
coach Pete Carroll says he looks as good as before.
New addition gives 49ers deep threat they’ve lacked recently
vs. Seattle. He will test the Seahawks’ secondary.