Wake & Beek: Losing in the Trenches, Being Outschemed, and Playing as a Young Team

Mike Ehrmann

The Dolphins loss was a bad one, as is losing our cornerbacks, but don't go looking for a new club to support yet.

You look sad, my man. Here, have a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and let's shoot the shit.

The Seahawks lost, you say? On the road, even? Against a team they should've beat? Golly-gee. Well that's never happened before, let alone twice. Better pack it up and head home then. It's not like the Seahawks are lucky enough to end their season with three games at home, where they can beat anyone, and one away game on more neutral grounds against a pretty poor team. The hell you say? They do!?

Alright, fine, fine, I'll stop being sarcastic. But seriously. Have a cup of joe and cheer the Frith up. This is a tough loss to swallow because we all penciled it in as a win. But it was a loss against a team that has some weapons we find it hard to deal with, against a quarterback with an excellent performance (6th in DYAR, 3rd in QBR) a loss in a game where we were simply outcoordinated, something I was hoping I wouldn't see again after the 2011 week 12 loss against the Redskins. Heh. A home loss, remember what that felt like? I don't. But hey, remember what it felt like to get blown out by a team? I don't! The Seahawks have yet to lose a game by more than a single score. How many teams do you think can say that? The 49ers can't. The Bears can't. The Texans can't. The Packers can't. That's some elite teams.

What's that, imaginary person who is camping out on my shoulder, what's that you say? "So what?! A loss is a loss!" Oh ho ho, very true. Very true, Tiny Skip Bayless, but a segment of sports is always about luck. Winning close games, as much as some might have you believe, is a matter of luck more than anything else. We don't have a quarterback who caves under pressure, which is the only consistent factor in losing close games, and from there it's a matter of the breaks. You lose some, you win some. There is not a game the Seahawks could not have won, though there's also only a few they couldn't have lost. It sounds hollow, but it's exactly why a 6-5 team could be listed as 4th in DVOA, with 8.5 estimated wins against a league-average record before this game. In other words, feeding this team into a computer and playing it against a less hard schedule for 10 games is likely to lead to an 8-2 or 9-1 record. Hell, even with this schedule you could see how this team might've gone 8-2 or 9-1.

But they didn't, which isn't exactly shocking either. This is a really good team, but it's not quite the dominant team that can pull off that kind of run in the parity-driven league. "Oh no!" right? I mean, it's not like we're one of the youngest teams in the NFL with nothing but youth at every core position of offense and defense. We are? Oh. I'm reminded of when I had to write this. This wasn't a particularly fun weekend, but the process is still working. John Schneider and Pete Carroll somehow pulled a year-one starter at quarterback, and a seeming franchise quarterback, from round three. That alone is enough. In the NFL, that's nothing short of a miracle. If you think these guys are on any kind of short leash because they lost a clunker and got two suspended players coming up, you should probably rethink your standpoint. Tiny Skip Bayless, stop screaming.

Some specific thoughts. Pardon the rambling...

Losing Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman sucks. If you're trying to convince yourself there's some chance they might not be suspended then, well, you should probably stop that. It doesn't really matter what ludicrous stories the two come up with about their drink being spiked (though Sherman denies even making that claim) or the samples having been tampered with. Heck, the more ludicrous it sounds the more unlikely it is to make a difference. Odds are they will be suspended, live with it and move on.

It's pretty horrible, isn't it? We haven't lost two starting corners since...uh...last season, when we lost Trufant and Thurmond to injury. I find the response to these suspensions a bit overstated. These two aren't the most irreplaceable pieces on this defense, that's Earl Thomas and - at his current level of play - probably Brandon Mebane. Corners? With secondary-wizz Pete Carroll at the helm? I'm glad we get to keep them both around for the Bears, but I think we'll find a way to cope without the following four weeks. I'll be glad to have Thurmond back, and interested to see if Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane amount to anything. Lane was an interesting prospect to me though he hasn't shown much yet. But hey, neither did Sherman before suddenly being all excellent.

You think these losses are insurmountable? Look, here's what our main wildcard competitor the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost since the starts of the season: two pro bowl guards in Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, a high-level starting defensive end in Adrian Clayborn, their good, starting cornerbacks for four games each to PED suspensions, in Aqib Talib and Eric Wright. By comparison, here's starters the Seahawks have lost so far this season: ... I mean yeah, I know we've had to rotate the offensive line quite a bit, but there's no losses comparable to the Bucs until now. We have been extremely fortunate. Now we hit the first roadbump and apparently that's call for all Seahawks fans to keel over and give up. How does that work? Losing players for any reason sucks, but the Hawks were almost due a knock on the roster. We've had them each of the past two years, and have often dealt with them well. This front office is fairly good at building depth.

The Miami loss was a trench loss. I've got the game playing in my second screen while writing. I haven't reviewed it minutely yet, but here's an impression I had that's only being reinforced: the Seahawks lost in the trenches, going both ways. Miami has quite a lot of talent on both lines, but it's still disappointing, because we have put a lot of high picks and money in our DL and OL and it's not really paying off that much this season.

Our defensive front seven has been struggling for weeks now. We're past the point now where it can be dismissed as a temporary problem, and something is structurally wrong. It starts with some poor individual play. Brandon Mebane has been dropping off a little bit. Red Bryant has been a huge concern. Leroy Hill has looked really slow while our younger linebackers sometimes look really lost. I don't think there's any obvious personnel or coaching solutions. Maybe move Kam Chancellor up in the box some more, although he has been having a fairly weak season as well. Is there a structural scheme problem? That has been the question for Pete Carroll's defense since he arrived. I don't think it's necessarily true, but he should consider changing things up in how we use our linebackers and how we rotate the defensive line, because both factor into the recent spate of gap integrity problems.

The offensive line is easier: it just keeps getting wracked by injuries, and a lack of stability and continuity has been hampering the performance of the line as a whole. It's well coached, and has the talent to be really good, but that's meaningless if we keep having significant injury problems. Not offering much of a solution either, except to hope for health to improve. Run and pass blocking both were pretty poor this game. Wilson could compensate for pass blocking, but there was no compensating for the poor run blocking.

The Miami loss was a coaching loss. What particularly impressed me was the Miami offensive gameplan. They found the weaknesses in the front seven, setting up long runs, and the passing game was all about taking the stuff inside, avoiding throwing to the outside and picking on the weak coverage play of the Seahawks linebackers. On their defense, it's not so much about them impressing as us underwhelming. Bevell has been criticized a lot, and it's justifiable. He's not terrible, but he's not very good either. But he can only do what his head coach allows him to, and we have a defensive-minded, conservative coach, who would rather punt than take a risk. I don't like that. And one thing I don't like about Bevell that was on full display here is a certain stubbornness to playcalling. He likes setting up plays by doing something over and over and over. I kept waiting for crack-toss or stretch wide runs but nope, Bevell kept calling runs up the gut. Baffling.

Road and home. Part of the reason the fanbase in general is so down now is that we probably got too high after two home wins. I think I noted as much on twitter during the bye week. Thing is, at its core, the problem is simple: this team is young. Young teams will be inconsistent. You can be a fan of being young, you should be a fan of being young, but with no veteran core this team was going to be inconsistent, and that inconsistency splits primarily over home and away. First the offense struggled away, now the defense. In both cases it is less about quality and more about youth.

That's another reason not to get too high. I mean, I dunno what you were thinking, Tiny Skip Bayless? Were you thinking deep playoff run? I liked the idea of this team going to the playoffs because it's a good experience for a young team. And you know, anything can happen. But realistically? A team that would need three away games to get to the Superbowl? Haha, no. This is and was likely a one-and-out team. But it's still a valuable experience, for a team that is just at the first year of a competitive window. I'm still pretty positive about this season, but I'm really positive about where the franchise is heading. But to be truly competitive, this Seahawks team has to pass the San Francisco 49ers. That's daunting, because they're really good, but it's not unthinkable. We've been here before, joining the NFC in 2002 and looking up at the unbeatable Rams, and going *gulp*. In fact, in franchise curve this team is not that different from that one, and I expect it to be at least similarly competitive for some years.

Did we expect this team to be elite? I feel like most of us would have taken 6-5 at this point going into the season. But the team played much better than expected, and expectations exploded. Realistically, though, this team came a long way from when PC/JS took over, and doesn't have that far to go before becoming elite. The inestimable Rob Staton once again said exactly what I was thinking and states our #1 need is DT. And, as fellow writer Davis Hsu has been speculating, I could see the Hawks go wide receiver in the 2nd round, and follow the Packers "add more wide receivers!" method of building. Opportunity permitting, adding those two talents, and some more experience for players like Wagner, Wright, Wilson, Tate and the OL, and this team is on the cusp of elite. Next season. This season? We'll have to settle for "really good", with some bad luck.

Russell Wilson is a goddamn miracle. Seriously. Seriously! He's on pace for 25 TDs, one shy of Manning's rookie record. He hasn't thrown an interception since his excellent away game against the Lions. He's been shining for two away games now, something I didn't expect to see this year. He almost set a franchise record this game for consecutive passes completed. His 16 consecutive passes completed is a rookie record. His performance was 5th in the NFL in DYAR and 1st in the NFL in QBR. On the season, he's 12th in QBR including this game, 15th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA excluding this game, likely to go up in that list. He's not used as much as other quarterbacks, so his total value (DYAR) is lower than his value per play (DVOA).

I was pretty high on Wilson in the draft, but apparently I wasn't high enough. What this guy has been doing behind a changing, patchwork line, with receivers he didn't have a full off-season with, the improvement he's showing week-on-week, even away, it's nothing short of miraculous. Seriously though. How awesome is that?! He's kept us competitive even as the defense struggles. Which is something you can expect more from a franchise quarterback, and not something any of us expected this season.

Our defense will hopefully recover, at home if not away. But our offense has been so much better than I could have dreamed. Lynch had his worst game of the season but will recover. We're still competitive. Even against the Bears, and without Sherman and Browner after the Bears.. Any Given Sunday. We're built similarly to the 49ers and they killed the Bears. I don't expect a win, and I think we can swallow a loss, but it sure would help win back this grumbling fanbase. Stop grumbling guys. The future is bright, and the right now is pretty alright. Pretty alright, and still in the driving seat for the second wild card spot.

I have Tiny Skip Bayless on my shoulder. Someone help me.

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