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Identity Shift: Even Pete Carroll doesn’t recognize these Seahawks

Probably because they’ve (d)evolved in December, a most atypical course for them

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
at least russell escaped with his health?
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Football things you can count on:

  1. The Pete Carroll Seattle Seahawks winning in December
  2. The Russell Wilson Seahawks in the postseason (and winning!)
  3. The Carroll-Wilson Seahawks getting better as the season advances

Swiss clockmakers set their gears to those immutable truths. Until, well, now. Things turned so funky this year that Carroll dropped an identity bombshell you wouldn’t have seen coming a couple years ago, or even a couple weeks ago. He actually said this, in the wake of Seattle’s [redacted] loss to the [redacted]:

Even in the context of the team’s worst home loss in six years, Carroll’s words are harsh, jarring, and full of self-indictment.

With the Seahawks’ known knowns taking a rude shot across the bow in 2017, allow me to propose three actual truths you can count on:

  1. Health affecting teams’ entire seasons
  2. Teams figuring other teams out because everyone pays their scouts
  3. Parity always winning*

*may only apply to 31 of 32 NFL teams

In the end, the story of this season will end up being either that the indefatigable Seahawks overcame harrowing circumstances and unfavorable odds to snare yet another playoff berth — or that injuries and incompetence at rushing the football were collectively too forbidding of a river to ford.

You could take a third way, too — that a one-dimensional offense and a hot-and-cold defense can only get you so far, specifically to nine wins or so.

(Fine, fourthly, here’s always “you’d better win your close home games if you want any postseason treats.” One less turnover against the Falcons, one more made kick against the Skins and this article doesn’t exist in anything resembling its current form. Although we’d still be tracking the narratives anyway. They just wouldn’t be quite as dreary.)

1. The Seahawks are a second-half offense

Narrative status, last week: Definite Identity Match

Narrative status, this week: Definite Identity Match

No reason to change the answer, not after consecutive scoreless first halves for the Seahawks. Consecutive first halves. That’s a whole game of not scoring, within the last two games.

In six games this season, Seattle has scored three or fewer points in the first half on offense — at Green Bay Week 1, vs. Indy Week 4, at New York Week 7, vs. Washington Week 9, plus of course the last two outings at Jacksonville and hosting Los Angeles.

In six games, Seattle has punted the first half, figuratively and literally. Losing four of those six games has gone a long way toward ruining the Seahawks’ campaign. A couple more early scores might easily have produced a 4-2 record instead. Strange to think that this non-scoring play from the first quarter of the opener —

— continues to have an outsized effect on the entire season.

Breaking it down further, as usual:

Qtr 1: 21st, 3.5 ppq

Qtr 2: 28th, 4.4 ppq

Qtr 3: 6th, 6.1 ppq

Qtr 4: 1st, 8.9 ppq

From last week’s column:

The Seahawks have scored more points in the fourth quarter alone than in the entire first half. Read that sentence on loop.

Looping. Still true, so we loop.

2. Penalties called against Seattle are excessive

TrendCon, last week: 3 (medium concern)

TrendCon, this week: 2 (second-highest concern)

The Seahawks continue to set the league pace in penalties, in net penalties, and in most yardage lost via penalty. They continue to post outlier-type numbers that are more than twice as bad as the fifth-worst team in each category. Not more than twice as bad as the average team; twice as bad as one of the already bad teams.

Net penalties (last week’s ranking)

5. Oakland and Philadelphia, 14 (unranked)

4. Kansas City, 17 (still 4th)

3. Denver, 27 (still 3rd)

2. San Francisco, 32 (still 2nd)

1. Seattle, 38 (still 1st)

Net yardage lost via penalties (last week’s ranking)

5. Cincinnati, 123 (unranked)

4. New Orleans, 155 (unranked)

3. Kansas City, 205 (4th)

2. San Francisco, 250 (2nd)

1. Seattle, 322 (1st)

Jacksonville has a 172-yard penalty suprlus, which is the NFL’s best mark. Seattle’s 322 yards in the hole. In other words, Seattle’s net penalty yardage is about twice as bad as the best team’s is good.

3. NEW: Fumble luck has favored the Seahawks’ opponents

Narrative status, this week: n/a

Narrative status, this week: Mostly Dubious

With the retiring last week of our explosive play tracker, why not a quick glance here at season’s end at whether plain old bounces have conspired against Seattle? It’s on a lot of our minds after another game in which the Ramdon random bounces didn’t help.

Excluding Wilson’s illest-advised backwards throw out of bounds in the second quarter, four fumbles happened last Sunday against the Rams. All four results favored the visitors. Seattle lost its fumbles; Los Angeles retained its own. Is this a trend that helps explain 2017, or a one-game anomaly?


Seattle: 6 fumbles, 1 lost

Opponents: 7 fumbles, 4 lost

If anything, the Seahawks started out with plenty of fumble luck to spare.

Season’s first half:

Seattle: 9 fumbles, 2 lost

Opponents: 11 fumbles, 6 lost

By midseason, the Seahawks had forced more fumbles and recovered more. Luck was on their side early on.

Through 14 games, i.e., the present:

Seattle: 15 fumbles, 5 lost

Opponents: 20 fumbles, 10 lost

In four games, the Seahawks lost one or more fumbles. In eight games, their opponents lost one or more. There is no dark force at play keeping fumbles from the hungry arms of Seattle players. If anything, there’s a circle of protection around Wilson — he’s responsible for 11 fumbles, but only two have fallen into enemy hands.

Weeks 16 and 17 might bring another story to be told, but for now, it makes no sense to hang the misfortunes of this season on the blind fate of an oblong ball’s vagarious pirouettes.

4. The Seahawks are now a passing team

Narrative status, last week: Definite Identity Match

Narrative status, this week: Definite Identity Match

The needle isn’t moving much.

Through Week 8: 59.5 percent passing

Through Week 9: 60.0

Through Week 10: 60.1

Through Week 11: 60.8

Through Week 12: 60.1

Through Week 13: 59.9

Through Week 14: 59.8

Through Week 15: 60.3

Working on two years now of a 60-40 split favoring the pass. After 59.4 percent last year and upwards of 60 percent this year, it’s folly to call Seattle a run-first team.

5. Pass protection issues

TrendCon level, last week: 3

TrendCon level, this week: 2 (second-most worrisome)

The Jaguars put Wilson under pressure 47 percent of the time in Week 14. It wasn’t gonna get worse against the Rams, right — not at home, right? Not with the division at stake, right?

LA sacked Wilson seven times, a season high. They pressured him on 61 percent of dropbacks, a season high. It got worse, where there was scant room for worsening.

It’s no wonder Wilson completed less than half his passes, and down 27-0 in the second quarter, felt such desperation that he heaved a pass 16 yards in the wrong direction while flailing in the black-hole-like grasp of Aaron Donald.

QB hits update: 108 and counting, third-most in the league.

Sack percentage update: 14th most. Wilson’s escapability is still a weapon.

6. The RB job will be done by committee, right?

Narrative status, last week: Worth Monitoring

Narrative status, this week: Worth Monitoring

Seeing Mike Davis get the bulk of the carries again means he’s been handed the ball 43 times since his debut against Atlanta. J.D. McKissic and Eddie Lacy have each had 21 rushes since then as well.

Davis is the lead back, by workload. He doesn’t have a 4.0 yards/carry average and he doesn’t have a touchdown on the ground. But he’s the main man. For now. Carroll agrees.

Over the course of the year, five Seahawks have accumulated between 42 and 69 attempts, which hardly represents a cross between the answer to life, the universe and everything nice.

Maybe Davis will perform better on the road, without CenturyLink around?

7. The defense’s return to dominance

Narrative status, last week: Worth Monitoring

Narrative status, this week: Mostly Dubious

On their first seven drives in Seattle, the Rams went FG, FG, TD, INT, TD, TD, TD. Then, halftime. But at least someone at the CLink was playing a little defense. Seahawks used their first seven possesssion to go fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt. So the game wasn’t a total loss from a defense-loving fan’s perspective.

Defensive rankings

Points allowed: 21.0 (13th, down five spots)

Passing yards allowed: 217.9 (13th, up three spots)

Yards/attempt against: 6.3 (9th, up four spots)

Passer rating against: 82.8 (11th, down two spots)

Rushing yards allowed: 112.9 (17th, down nine spots)

Yards/carry against: 4.1 (13th, down five spots)

Sacks: 2.4 (15th, down two spots)

Takeaways: 1.5 (T-10th, down one spot)

Turnover margin: +4 (does not count stops on downs or safeties)

Rushing defense has taken a hit over the last two weeks. After the Eagles game, the Seahawks were actually 7th in yards/carry against and in yards allowed.

In fact, two games ago, the defense was top ten in every single category listed above, excepting turnovers.

But then. Oy. But then. 400 yards on the ground is what then. 156 in Jacksonville, 244 at home. Last season’s Seahawks gave up 384 rushing yards -- in their last five games combined. If an elite rushing defense returns (fyi: Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are both listed as “probable” for Christmas Eve in Dallas) then maybe the Seahawks’ road to the playoffs is not blockaded. Let’s see what roster news the Cowboys have in their backfield and...

...oh right.