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Swerving Points, Week 4: Three plays from Seahawks-Cardinals with potential season-long repercussions

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
is this a football which i see before me
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

As always, the Swerving Points column does not concern itself with the tier-one highlights of the game completed. Usually it finds the plays that shaped the game on a secondary level, because they’re important too, and it’s nice to remember that a football game is more than just the scoring plays or interceptions.

Today I’ll bring up three developments and decisions from Glendale that figure to shape the rest of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2018 season. None of them are Earl Thomas’ injury. There has been much e-ink (eenk?) spilt all over this site and others about that crappy turn of events.

Fine, before we dive in, you can have one Sportscentery highlight, one actual turning point. It’s Mike Davis’ second touchdown. Since we’ll be seeing more of him, again, than a lot of us figured. Partially because he is good.

Now, we swerve.

Interior pass rush shows up, by Jarran Reed and Poona Ford

Samuel Gold hooks us up again. If you’re on Twitter, you probably want to follow him.

The sack is Reed’s third of the year. Needless to say, but gonna be said anyways, if an interior lineman were to produce a 12-sack season, that would be news, and would surely earn Reed some accolades and honors.

The fact that it comes on the Cardinals’ first drive is a bonus because it forces adjustments. On a third down, too. But what’s equally important here is that Reed got help.

“Poona Ford got a good Pro Football Focus grade. So what?”

I hear your skepticism. In fact it’s quite rare for me to cite PFF grades at all, because their opaque process is questionable at best. But he was in for 17 plays and made a positive impression. It’s one thing for PFF to give Aaron Rodgers a negative grade on a 333-5-0 day. A false positive seems much less likely. If Ford was disruptive, it would be reflected in a good grade. If he was absent or a non-factor, not very likely. Anyway, the Seahawks are a team that desperately needs interior pass rush because the defensive ends are beat up. Ford trucking people would have a (C)heavy impact, allowing Seattle to maybe Dodge a loss or two.

The Will Dissly sadness

Slightly overshadowed by the game’s other significant injury (and controversial hand gesture) was Dissly’s injury. He played all of eight healthy snaps, and on the ninth one the ghost of Jimmy Graham stole Dissly’s patella tendon, wrecking his 2018 and maybe even sending his 2019 season into doubt.

The stadium that has often been called Seattle’s home away from home for excellent reasons, such as this 2013 post-game scene —

— has turned into a real-life haunted house, where Seahawk seasons and careers end. Among other unfortunate events.

Dissly has been a revelation. In a Brian Schottenheimer offense, the tight end is heavily featured. Now it’s up to Nick Vannett to take up the much-targeted mantle of TE 1 until Ed Dickson returns, though return is the wrong word since he’s never played a snap for Seattle.

Through three games, Dissly had served as Russell Wilson’s most productive target besides Tyler Lockett, ranking second in yards and TDs with 151 and two scores. He’d also won the starting job and validated the Seahawks’ decision to use a fourth-round pick on a supposed blocking tight end.

Without him, it’s not clear what production the team will get out of its TE room. It’s not even clear who the room will feature a week or two from now. For as inconvenient as Doug Baldwin’s injury and Brandon Marshall’s numerous drops have been for the offense, losing Dissly might be the biggest setback of the year so far. Which would’ve been a silly sentence to write a month ago, but NFL seasons have a way of doing their own thing.

The decision to play for three

Schottenheimer and Pete Carroll teamed up with Wilson to get Seattle within striking range for a long game-winning field goal — and it worked! It also didn’t work against Atlanta or Arizona last year. It’s bad process, to play for three. The longer the kick, the worse the process.

It’s baffling to me how the Seahawks coaches can watch a cautious strategy fail for them twice last year, then once for their opponent in this same game, and decide to put their eggs in the kicker’s basket at the expense of their playmakers.

The trend is worrisome. Carroll didn’t wake up on Sunday and decide to play it safe at the end of the game. It’s his reflex now, after seeing it in action thrice in his last 13 games.

These paragraphs aren’t about how Sebastian Janikowski redeemed himself with a buzzer-beater after missing twice earlier in the afternoon. It’s really cool that he doesn’t have to be the goat. It’s really cool that he made the kick, because a) that was the first winning kick as time expired in the Russell Wilson era, and b) winning is fun. We’re talking here about how Carroll didn’t trust his best players to take the chances that would have led to a better shot at winning. Seabass made it, but it’s such bad process,

What’s even worse is that not five minutes earlier, he’d just seen the Cardinals employ the same strategy and fail miserably, costing Arizona a chance to win. With a first down at the Seattle 31 and 2:59 to play with, the Cardinals called three David Johnson runs and set up for a go-ahead 45-yarder. Phil Dawson pushed it wide right.

I understand that Janikowski was acquired specifically for situations where a long kick makes sense. Big leg, blah blah blah. But when you have 2nd and 1, at the opponent’s 43-yard line, with 1:06 left, you need to do better than:

  • 3-yard run up the middle
  • 6-yard pass in bounds
  • 0-yard run up the middle
  • spike
  • kick

The two Seahawks runs combined to remove 0.52 expected points off Seattle’s drive. They also were a clear signal that no shots would be taken at the end zone, or at the sidelines to increase the kick’s percentage.

Again, it is good that the field goal was successful. I’m just afraid the positive result will prompt Carroll to trust a negative process even more. And it doesn’t appear too likely that a couple well-timed field goals will get the job done against the Los Angeles Rams this coming Sunday.