The Seahawks showed growth in a few important aspects against Dallas, but ultimately proved incapable of overcoming their deficiencies in the 23-13 loss.
Seattle's offensive line and running game had perhaps the best game of the season, and the play calling was balanced. Seattle had only three penalties at halftime and the score was 6-6 - Seattle is yet to hold a lead at halftime this season.
On the flip side, Tarvaris Jackson had one of his worst games of the year and Demarco Murray sliced the run defense apart, an uncharacteristic game from this group. Four 3rd quarter penalties (seven total for the half) contributed to Seattle trailing by 14 heading into the 4th quarter. Even if the Seahawks believed they were still in the game heading into the second half, they fell short at the finish, again.
Though I thought the Seahawks could get back into this game, my optimism waned over the past few weeks. The inability to get it done in the two games before this loss lessened the expectation of a comeback, for me softening the blow of losing in Dallas.
This game showed the young, inconsistent Seahawks are currently nowhere near contending for a playoff spot. Given the relative clarity this loss created, the focus can shift towards what this team must do to get better.
Seattle is 2-6 and seemingly "out" of the division race, as the 49ers are 7-1. This team is yet to get "started," even though Pete Carroll spoke to them as though it happened about a month ago. Injuries and inconsistency have hampered a team still in its infant stages; the 2-1 stretch before the bye is now a distant memory.
Now at the season's halfway mark; the focus is on how the team responds to a "below expectations" first half and what comes next. Before we get there, here are some notes from the Dallas game.
Shorter-thoughts review of Week 9
--Tackling was an issue Pete Carroll talked about after the Cincinnati game, and the Seahawks struggled last season during their mid season slide with tackling - most notably against then rookie running back Chris Ivory Week 11 at New Orleans, but also against Carolina, Kansas City and others. I really hope this isn't a problem in the second half of this season, too.
--The Seahawks used the Amoeba defense once, and Dallas would have gotten the first down if not for a great play by Kam Chancellor to knock the ball from Jason Witten. On a related note, the Seahawks are using the 'Bandit' with more regularity than earlier in the year.
--Jackson's bad game doesn't concern me too much. There's been a focus on his character lately in a positive regard, and his comments about feeling sick after this performance I think re-enforce the positive sentiments. As for the interceptions; I don't like that he threw the ball into traffic, but according to Carroll Anthony McCoy cut off his route. The towards-Rice pick confused me simply because Jackson appeared to know pre-snap he had pressure coming from the backside, and therefore could have ran or gotten rid of it earlier. The last one, Baldwin may have made a ridiculous catch, so water under the bridge. I'm focused on Jackson's bounce back game against a tough defense this week, also presumably a week healthier.
--More penalties than the opponent, again. Doh!! But, Seattle won the time of possession battle for the first time this year! In honor of this finally happening, I won't continue to bring it up at a tiresome clip...unless it's pertinent to the game.
-- One of the penalties that really bugged me was Robert Gallery's holding call early in the third quarter on a Justin Forsett run, negating what would've been four straight runs of four yards or more and a momentum building first down. In Carroll's Monday presser, he seemed irked by this penalty too. On a general note, he said Gallery is one of the veterans who can step up and be more consistent. This is a big eight games coming up for Gallery.
-- Speaking of the running game; Carroll noted that Tom Cable was demanding the offensive line take a step forward heading into this game. I'm no offensive line guru, but Max Unger continues to look good. Lynch ran angry on 23 carries at 5.9 per clip, Washington had another run of 10 yards or more and Justin Forsett busted a nine yarder after receiving no carries last week. Now the question is; can the Seahawks run like this repeatedly?
-- No targets for Zach Miller is unacceptable. But, he was everywhere as a blocker - Demarcus Ware had zero sacks - and that needs to continually be appreciated. Carroll acknowledged on Monday Miller needs 3-4 catches a game for this offense to be fully functioning.
-- On a related note; the Seahawks stayed away from the no huddle mostly due to constantly changing personnel and protections to counter the pass rush. Carroll said they would have liked to play faster, but made the concession of protection over tempo.
--Personally, I think the Seahawks could have shown more urgency on their 5:10, 10 play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. According to the play-by-play, they went no huddle on one play. Oddly enough, they were in ‘11' personnel for the majority of the drive and theoretically had a chance to go no huddle, as they weren't changing their personnel as much. Since they scored this is kind of nitpicky, but time management is becoming a weekly topic when talking about this team. And at least when watching in real time, the slow tempo towards the end of the drive irked me.
-- On Dallas' two longest pass plays, a 39 yarder to Dez Bryant over Brandon Browner and a 37 yarder to Miles Austin over Richard Sherman, the receiver got a free release when on a go-type route against what should've been, or was supposed to be, press coverage. Both plays were a major factor on each of Dallas' two first half scoring drives...Two scoring drives that would have been touchdowns if not for stout goal line defense by the Seahawks. Kudos there.
--The Seahawks allowed a 23 yard pass to Jason Witten with 10 men on the field - it looked like one DB short in the 'Bandit' - that got Dallas inside the redzone, then lost the challenge against the catch and lost a timeout. I don't have numbers, but memory leads me to believe Carroll's challenge-won percentage is dropping...and the Seahawks continue to struggle with their timeout usage, in one way or another.
--Earl Thomas appeared to have a poor game in pass coverage around the goal line. On the play where Richard Sherman knocked the ball from Dez Bryant on the one, it looked like Thomas took a questionable angle to Bryant, similar to Roddy White's 26 yard reception to the one in Week 4. Then on the Laurent Robinson touchdown; it looked like Thomas left his area of the zone to pursue Tony Romo when the play began to break down. Romo ultimately threw into the hole created by Thomas. What Thomas' responsibility was I don't know--he stayed in that spot on Romo's goal line slide in the first quarter. Regardless, the open space allowed for the touchdown.
Will the Seahawks make progress in the second half?
The Seahawks are transitioning, and they aren't playing the formula of football that Carroll is accustomed to. He noted this week he's used to his teams finishing games, and despite having chances this team simply has been unable to finish. They are also losing the turnover battle repeatedly, and that's an area Carroll strongly believes his team must win.
Carroll was asked what constitutes success in the second half, especially given the fact that they are well behind the 49ers? His answer; gaining some momentum. They need to "feel the improvements we have made," and now turn them into victories.
He mentioned experiencing the feeling of finishing well last season, but I think hinted at the fact that this is a different situation. This is a new locker room, a team trying to build momentum for the long term. He likes this team's work ethic, strength, potential and leadership. He apparently has no intention to deviate from the "plan." Getting a glimpse of winning could ultimately help the plan.
The first half is done and Carroll spoke about going forward; "We'll hit it hard today (Monday) and again on Wednesday, about the things that are so important to us. It's really simpler than you would think. It's about doing things like you're capable of doing them, time after time after time and just keep doing them, and keep doing them right. That's what we haven't accomplished yet. You see us do it in spurts, not over periods of time. We haven't embraced the importance or significance of that (doing it repeatedly)."
Carroll said "we'll find out" when Brock Huard asked about the mood/temperature of the locker room. Carroll did say they have a sense of "they know they are going somewhere," but admitted losing a lot is a challenge and they will focus on keeping their preparation strong. He noted they are tracking "daily" who will be part of the core going forward. It's a conversation Carroll and John Schneider have often.
I'm not trying to make a point either way here, but I thought Carroll's sentiments on what success is for the next eight games and his interpretation on the composition of the locker room were two pertinent pieces of information at this "turning point."
When Mike Salk asked what the team was missing, Carroll slowly and carefully said, "we need consistency in our performance that allows us to do the right things throughout the game."
It's less likely we'll learn this current team's true potential unless they can process Carroll's message and become more consistent on a day to day basis. They need to cut down the penalties and other mental errors during games, but those mistakes can be lessened with sharper daily preparation and experience.
I'm not really a believer in losing one way is necessarily worse than another, in this case meaning I don't buy into going 6-10 or 7-9 and into record-purgatory is worse than going 2-14. Losing is not winning, and both scenarios are losing.
If you have to lose; lose and learn so winning is part of the future. If this team really is better than their current record, theoretically the record in the second half will show improvement. If not, we'll have a harsh assessment of how many holes still exist on this roster. But we'll still be looking up at the future. I'd rather the team take a legit step forward by going 7-9, costing themselves 8-10 spots in the draft. If they take no forward and go 2-14, so be it.
The point is in no way am I on-board with sacking any of the season to pick a couple spots higher in the draft. It can be fun to look towards the future, but there is a whole half of the season to play and a lot to learn about this team; starting at who could or should be the QBOTF, and going from there.
Carroll noted they've been in catch-up mode since the season started; how does this team play when not in that mode, if they can get out of it? We don't know if this team can finish consistently, if at all, and Pete Carroll isn't used to having the ability to finish be in question. How does the coaching staff handle the growth process?
I'm looking forward to learning more than we know, in regards to how far this team is from being a finished product.
Can the young leaders from the 2010 team draw upon the lessons learned from last season's whirlwind end and help turn this season around?
Can Carroll draw upon his history of finishing and winning to help the Seahawks begin to learn that feeling, game by game? Can he make them better equipped to finish in the future, when the wins and losses could mean something much bigger than just jockeying for a top draft pick?