Flying high after last week’s statement win in prime-time, the Seattle Seahawks came crashing back down to earth in a 30-24 loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Early signs of a familiar, grind-it-out game for the Seahawks was washed away following Bobby Wagner’s hamstring injury, as the Jaguars would score touchdowns on the next three plays from scrimmage.
Seattle’s fourth quarter comeback wasn’t enough, despite two touchdown passes from Russell Wilson in the final period as he set the NFL single-season record for fourth quarter touchdowns. In the end it was a team depleted by injury, going across the country against an incredibly difficult team to play, allowing chunk plays and turning the ball over; a losing recipe in almost any situation.
Here are the quick thoughts from Sunday’s loss:
Credit to Blake Bortles — there were several times where he had to make a throw outside the numbers in a big situation, and he did just that. But for the most part, the Jaguars’ offense went up and down the field relying on a simple strategy. Their run game was as effective as ever, running the ball 33 times compared to 27 pass attempts by Bortles, however it was the passing game where they consistently were able to move the chains. Jacksonville had terrific success on passes over the middle, using play action to draw the Seahawks’ linebackers down and vacating the hook/curl zone underneath, before hitting a receiver on a crossing pattern in the vacated zone, with a cornerback chasing. Seattle didn’t have an answer for it, and it was made worse after losing both Wagner and K.J. Wright during the course of the game.
Prior to leaving the game with an injury, Mike Davis tightened his grip on the Seahawks’ starting running back spot. Including opening a drive with four runs for 49 yards, Davis looked every bit the decisive and explosive runner that he was last Sunday against the Eagles. What impresses me most about Davis is the way he is able to cut up-field with zero wasted movement, combined with his constant leg churn upon contact, resulting in extra yards gained on seemingly every carry. Seattle continued to sprinkle in power run concepts, pulling Justin Britt, Luke Joeckel and Duane Brown at different times with success.
Like last week, Byron Maxwell didn’t have a completely clean game -- most notably failing to get his head turned around in time on a pass to Dede Westbrook down the sideline. But like last week, he answered the bell physically, coming up and making important tackles on the outside in three different instances. Maxwell also popped up with a timely pass breakup, on yet another pass over the middle, to give Seattle a shot at a game-winning drive. I can’t see Maxwell returning next season with the Seahawks, but his late-season addition has gone as well as anyone could’ve hoped.
Contribution from defensive line depth
In the two games prior to Sunday, it was Marcus Smith showing up in a big way as a rotational player. All season long, it’s been Nazair Jones with unexpected production. And during Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars, Quinton Jefferson gave Seattle plus-play in limited snaps. Obviously his game ended particularly ugly, and embarrassingly, but for 58 minutes he enjoyed a solid game. With Sheldon Richardson playing often on early downs to contribute to stopping the run, Jefferson got playing time on passing downs and made a stop early on, before coming back the next possession, working laterally and making the tackle on Leonard Fournette. In addition to Jefferson, Branden Jackson - another player who has made the most of limited snaps this year - made the tackle on the Jaguars’ final scoring drive, forcing Jacksonville to kick a field goal. Injuries are depleting the Seahawks at every level of their defense, but if they can win out and find themselves in the playoffs, defensive line depth won’t be an issue.
Russell Wilson’s fourth quarter
Although they came up short in the end, Wilson continued his insane fourth quarter play in 2017, connecting with Paul Richardson on a 61-yard touchdown pass, before putting another on a rope to Tyler Lockett for a 74-yard touchdown. Wilson now has 17 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter this season, the highest single-season total of all-time. The two splash plays didn’t leave Wilson with much volume in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but his stat line from the final period is still ridiculous: 4/6 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. It’s his clutch play that gives Seattle a chance week in and week out, and it will be his play that gives the Seahawks a chance come January in the NFC playoffs.