CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 23: Defenders Kennard Cox #35, Anthony Hargrove #94 and Earl Thomas #39 tackle wide receiver Greg Little #15 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Seahawks went to Cleveland hoping to build on their Week 5 win in New York and get back to .500. Instead, they walked away with a frustrating loss and squandered the opportunity to return home winner in three of their past four games.
Seattle had two weeks to prepare for Cleveland, knowing there was a good chance that they would be starting their backup quarterback and backup center, also fully aware of the possibility they could be rusty out of the bye.
Charlie Whitehurst looked spooked-- my pregame optimism he wouldn't stink it up has resulted in a charlie-horse-and the offense didn't convert a third down in the final 40 minutes of the game.
The game after Carroll told them they didn't have to lose anymore and they were ready to turn the corner, they lost. This didn't look like a team that wouldn't lose anymore; some would say they looked like a team that could lose a lot more.
This was a frustrating loss, period. Carroll admitted they had their chances, but they just couldn't get it done. Because of how close this game was by score, everything was magnified.
Cleveland managed to hold the ball for nearly three quarters (42:56) of the game. There's no denying the defense hung and hit tough, but Cleveland still converted 50% on third down. 130 of Cleveland's 298 yards came on their 12 third down conversions.
Seattle didn't give up any plays over 20 yards, but they simply couldn't cash in on any opportunities. Red Bryant blocked a field goal after a 13-plus play drive not once, but twice. Seattle had first and goal twice on the same drive.
Marshawn Lynch dressed, and then didn't play--I think this had at the least a little bit of an effect on the offense, if not a fair bit. There were bad calls by the referees that severely impacted the game. Seattle had the ball for a little more than two minutes in the fourth quarter.
This just wasn't Seattle's day and that happens. Teams are 3-9 after the bye thus far. Seattle finishes with 6 of 10 at home, and they'll have more opportunities. So yeah, it was a sucky loss when it could have been something very different.
Then I found the following quote from Mike Williams-not given any context by the article- on Monday morning and was a bit puzzled; "I don't want to disrespect Cleveland...but we are better."
He's a vocal leader on a team that was 2-3 heading in and looking to right the ship after a shaky start. The title defending division champion doesn't mean much at the moment, as the 49ers are currently sitting unchallenged atop the division. Seattle was unable to win this game, regardless of backups and injures, largely because of the offense.
So now I'm wondering; how did this young team interpret Carroll's message after the win in New York? Then, Carroll told his team; when they come back, they must "get back to work, we've got to keep marching, keep moving." Were they too confident after one unexpected win; what was the mindset coming out of the bye?
Before going any further, there was a game that deserves some attention... but given that we're nearly half a week out at this point, we'll do the short-answer variety only:
--Pregame, I said "STOP THE PENALTY MADNESS!!!" Seattle's three penalties on the first drive - one more was declined- was the opposite of what I had in mind. Now, six games with more penalties than the opponent. The start of the game in general set the tone of varied tempo with little to no rhythm on offense. I'm not the only one completely sick of these mistakes, right?
--Did I mention the Browns held the ball for nearly 43 minutes? Oh, I did, sorry. I didn't mention that Cleveland had five drives of 11 plays or more and 24 offensive third down attempts. 24 is my favorite number, seriously.
--My favorite part about Red's monstrous performance was he showed the entire arsenal. He was knocking down McCoy, blocking kicks and just being a beast along the line of scrimmage. Alex Smith said he didn't taunt Bryant. I watched the replay a couple times, and I'm confused. Red has been a leader for this team all year, and he's got to bounce back.
--Earl Thomas was not much of a factor in this game around the line of scrimmage. He was used a bit blitzing, standing still off of the edge and rarely, if ever, in the middle, and often found himself overrunning or knocked out of the play. I'm looking for more moving him around and attacking the middle through creases. He wasn't as effective getting to the ball carrier, and he bounced off of a couple players that he could have wrapped up.
--On the contrary, keep bringing Chancellor off the edge. He was a beast, and it sucks he didn't hit with the crown of his helmet and still got flagged.
-- Hopefully this was David Hawthorne's breakout game for this year. I've always liked him and I'm glad to see that he finally looks healthy. He absolutely brought the heat in this game. He showed his ability to play the deep drop in 2009 versus Detroit when he had two interceptions, and he picked off Brees at the goal line last year. Seattle needs more of this. I really hope the heater is back.
-- Anthony McCoy's drops are getting to me. Hawthorne's interception gave Seattle a chance to gain some momentum after halftime, and McCoy dropped another catch over the middle, this one on third down. McCoy was up-and-down blocking in this game, and it's unfortunate they are so banged up at tight end. Though I didn't have high expectations for McCoy heading into the year, he has played below whatever they were.
-- On more than a handful of occasions, Brandon Mebane's jump off the snap stood out. Mebane went to Cal with Browns' center Alex Mack for three years, and ‘Banger was a monster on the inside. Can't say for sure, but it looked like Mebane used history to his advantage. On a side note, the leftover players from the Holmgren regime defense maybe played with a chip on their shoulder? They all hit hard in this game.
--Unfortunately Whitehurst made a handful of forced, off target throws and wasn't very careful with the football. The play that stood out to me was the fumble, turnover. Against the Giants, Whitehurst failed to identify a third down, backside safety blitz by Deon Grant, got hit and somehow held on to the ball. The turnover in Cleveland came on a third down blitz by the backside, slot corner. Whitehurst had plenty of time to get rid of it or run, and didn't. Very similar mistake, two weeks in a row; this one was costly. Competition cries should be put to rest, and hopefully the home crowd will now unite behind Jackson. I apologize for bringing it up, and won't again...unless Jackson plays like Whitehurst did for games in a row, and then some.
--Cleveland had two third down conversions that stood out on their second to last drive. The first was the McCoy scramble; the ‘Hawks blitzed Cox and Chancellor off the defensive right side just as they had been doing all day--like the play that Chancellor drew the penalty (that play was Thurmond)-- but this one wasn't executed as well. Cox eventually missed the tackle that let McCoy loose.
The other conversion was their last of the game (not including the Bryant penalty on the last drive). On 3rd and six at the Seahawks' 34, Seattle came out with three down lineman, two linebackers. Anthony Hargrove was at the nose, Cleveland saw the personnel defending the pass, and made a great call with a run up the gut out of one back, one tight end (11). Having Bryant, Branch or ''Bane really could have helped there.
--I was a freshman at Cal during the days of J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett; I've always liked Forsett and thought this was his year to breakout. But I'll be honest; he just doesn't seem to have the same elusiveness or small-back power we've seen in years past. Just look at this '09 highlight video, especially around the 50 second mark. In my opinion, not currently the same guy...
--Too bad for Walter Thurmond. Richard Sherman played well enough, but I still miss Byron Maxwell and want to see more Jeron Johnson. I do wonder if Cox will get cut when Roy Lewis and Byron Maxwell come back. His performance was underwhelming, and he hasn't stood out on special teams much.
--I can't say I paid attention to Robert Gallery much. But when Seattle had 1st and goal on the two, I thought this was a situation where he could really step up. Seattle ran behind him and Cleveland blew up the hole. He didn't do much on the play.
--Sidney Rice on the quick screen is bothering me. Personally, I want Rice getting the ball downfield when he's 1 on 1 and can use his big frame/catching radius; not around the line of scrimmage when he's exposing his frame and having to juke a bunch of defenders. We saw Obo score the touchdown on the screen in Week 5, and Tate on a screen type play Week 1. I'd rather see them or even Leon split out wide...
--...Actually, we did see Washington on a quick screen, but I thought it was an obvious call. On 2nd and 3 Washington motioned out right, with McCoy and Morrah inline right. With an empty backfield, Joe Haden sniffed it out easily. Haden must have watched the film because Seattle ran the same play from the same formation with Marshawn Lynch in Week 3. Then it was 1st and 10 in the red zone. That play went for two yards, set up a field goal. This play set up a three and out. Let's see a variation here...
--Trends of note heading in: Seattle is 0-4 when they lose the turnover battle; they are now 0-6 in the time of possession battle, Week 7 being their worst performance thus far. This trend is becoming increasingly concerning. Cleveland had both of their field goals blocked after 13-plus play drives, but Seattle kept the streak of no "13 play drive equals a loss" alive.
Make the loss in Cleveland count
When asked how the team can get over this loss, Carroll said;
"We need to deal with the frustration, we have to get over it, get this thing out of here. This thing can affect you a little bit because it was so frustrating, one of those ones that can bug you. We have to put to rest just like we always do, we have a mechanism of how we do that and hopefully we can do that well, come back to work and put together work that everyone can have some fun here at CenturyLink."
Seattle had the bye week to prepare and even a blueprint from last season of how to approach before and after the bye. They lost a 6-3 football game and we're only talking about changing one or two plays, not necessarily altering the complexion of the game, for Seattle to get the win.
That back against the wall, sense of urgency simply was not there for the entire team. In absolutely no way am I trying to take anything away from members of the defense, John Ryan, Leon Washington and members of special teams, but Seattle scored three points and held the ball for just over 17 minutes. The offense converted one third down in the first quarter, one in the second. That's it. No post halftime burst, something Seattle has done quite often this season. Seattle looked wholly flummoxed on offense when they had ample time to look even semi-flummoxed, not even putting a ‘7' on the board.
I don't have a wholly rational explanation for it, but this loss has left me with the same, sour taste as the week 14 loss at San Francisco last season.
The Seahawks should've been prepared for that game, given their ties to the 49er organization through players, coaches and the front office. But they came out flat, and simply got annihilated. The footing on the field was an issue, an issue Carroll acknowledged he should have had his players prepared for, after a week where he praised their preparation.
Seattle was coming off a big win in Week 13 - 31 unanswered points against Carolina - and looking to keep the momentum they captured. That win was one of those hell yeah, we just pulled that off kind of wins; a bit similar to the surprise of the win with the backup, as double digit underdogs in the Meadowlands.
I'm not trying to directly compare the games, or even the situations leading into the game. What I'm getting at is the mindset; are there any similarities between the Week 14 loss and the Cleveland loss. Seattle talked a prepared, ready to go game heading into the bay; Seattle, Michael Robinson in particular, talked a big game into and out of the bye. Heck, Carroll even said last Friday there was a good chance of "great" quarterback play. Umm...
And that's why the Williams comment struck me. Why is one of our most outspoken players, coming off of a one catch game, talking smack about the team that just out possessed them nearly 3:1?
Yes Seattle was injured heading in, but that's not the crutch to lean on here. Williams' comment makes me wonder if this team's mindset maybe got a bit ahead of their record during the off week. After the loss, I wasn't thinking man, Seattle looked better than Cleveland and they are primed for good things; I was thinking how on earth did we not score at least seven points, like, really? Why wasn't Williams saying, "we have to find a way to pull this one off and get the W?"
When Carroll told them after the win in New York they didn't have to lose anymore and hey had turned the corner, maybe it was too much swag, too soon. Many people outside of the 12th man, and some Seahawks fans for that matter, thought week 5 was a fluke; this game did little to change the perception.
I'm not saying the Seahawks should stew and brew on the loss in Cleveland, but they need to learn from it; they need to forgive the performance but they can't forget the sour taste that they had afterwards because frankly, it should still be there just a bit. Plus, Cleveland and Cincinnati are the Ohio back to back. Both team names begin with "B." I'll stop.
Heading into week 15 of last year and into Week 8 this year feel the same to me; drop the expectations. Prepare, focus, and persevere. Don't flush it out of the system too quickly before you have the chance to learn how much it sucked and how badly it felt. This was an emotional game for the Seahawks; we saw that through Red Bryant.
I'm not saying go into this week all foggy headed and emotional at all, but this team should feel like they have a bone to pick. Fuel the fire with the field goal, flop-fest from Week 7.
This loss isn't the end of the world. It sucked, but Seattle lacked most of the core of their starting offense in a hard fought, lopsided, somehow only three point loss. We didn't have T-Jax, which made a difference. It didn't look like everyone's minds may have been right, either.
Seattle is currently 2-4. The next month will decide if they will they be near .500 and marching, or becoming closer to what was possibly always the inevitable - a top draft pick - when the spotlight comes to Seattle in December; Philly and St. Louis, back to back, in front of the nation.
Now, it's on everyone to step up; try to turn this thing around, or watch the season start to spiral down the drain. That was potentially a pendulum swinging loss in Cleveland. The big three game stretch coming up has not gone away, and now Seattle begins the fight with their back against the wall. Going forward; less optimism or promises of performance, more sense of urgency. Be ready on a week to week basis like its win-or-go-home, and it starts with Cincinnati. Regardless of the results, just let the wins or losses do the talking.