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Chargers 25 Seahawks 17: Winners and Losers from a frustrating home loss

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Well that sucked, didn’t it? The Los Angeles Chargers are a very good team and a sneaky Super Bowl contender, so this was always going to be a tough game for the Seattle Seahawks to win, but the way they lost it has to irk a lot of people, because they had so many misfires and mistakes that were then combined with awful officiating... and yet they still had a chance to force overtime, and almost did.

Almost.

That defines the Seahawks right now. This might not be a playoff team given the schedule and the way the NFC has played out through the first-half of the season. They’re almost there, though. This doesn’t look like a team in need of a complete rebuild, and you can see young stars emerging. However, until they prove otherwise, they’re not among the elite teams anymore, but they sure as hell aren’t 4-12 bad like asinine pundits were predicting prior to the season.

Let’s look at Winners and Losers from this inauspicious start to November.

Winners

Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright

Wagner is the best defensive player on the team, bar none. 13 tackles, 5 of them solo, and he broke up three passes. Wright also had a pass defensed and a tackle for a loss on a jet sweep (which had killed the Seahawks earlier in the game). Really, they’re the only clear-cut winners on defense, even with Seattle tightening things up in the 2nd half against that talented Charger offense.

Nick Vannett

That was a great touchdown grab to get the Seahawks back into the game late, and he had 6 catches for 52 yards on the afternoon. He’s no Will Dissly (then again, no one is), but he does seem to be gaining trust from Russell Wilson as a safety valve and asset in the quick-passing game. Last week he had a touchdown taken away from him, as well as a third-down conversion overturned to a drop, but this was better.

Michael Dickson

Almost everything else about this special teams unit is below-average to downright bad. Michael Dickson is an exceptional punter, and he averaged 52.8 yards on his six kicks, with four of them pinning the Chargers inside their own 20. I dread to think how this ST group would look with a league-average punter or a declined Jon Ryan booting the ball.

Jaron Brown

Three of his last four targets have been for touchdowns. He could’ve had another one if Russell Wilson had hit him in stride to start the 3rd quarter, but it didn’t materialize. As the apparent #4 option, he’s emerged as a quality threat in the red zone. I presumably won’t be writing about him for another two weeks, when his next target goes for a TD.

Losers

Russell Wilson

After being almost perfect last week, Wilson had a performance that looked alarmingly like some of his form from 2017. He missed easy throws (including the aforementioned Brown play), his timing was off, there were coverage misreads, he took bad coverage sacks, and the pick-six to Desmond King was just inexcusable. Even the Vannett touchdown was a bad decision with a good outcome, as Mike Davis was totally uncovered. 43 dropbacks for only 202 yards is inefficient and downright ugly. This was disappointing all-around and he has to take a lot of responsibility for why the Seahawks offense so often stalled out. If Seattle wants to make the playoffs, Bad Russ can’t show up.

Time management (which faults Wilson, Pete Carroll, and Brian Schottenheimer)

What the hell was that clock management all about? Wilson makes some shocking decisions in two-minute drill situations, and that end-of-half was unacceptable. They had all three timeouts in LA’s half of the field with a minute to go and somehow blew every timeout and ended up kicking a field goal. Wilson refuses to throw to the sidelines in two-minute/hurry-up offenses, and this is not an isolated incident. On the play preceding the Tyler Lockett end-zone DPI call on the final drive, he checked it down to Mike Davis despite having no timeouts and under 20 seconds to go. WHY?!

On the Vannett touchdown drive, the Seahawks really did damage to their slim chances of winning with zero lack of urgency. The drive started at 6:38 and they didn’t score until 1:50 left. It took 14 plays to drive 54 yards, and they had three designed rushes! Score on the other side of the two-minute warning and you’re not thinking about an onside kick.

That’s a failure on the part of Wilson, plus the philosophy of Peteball/Schottyball. The gameplan seemed to fall apart when Chris Carson went out, and Carroll’s obsession with clock control works against him when having to play from behind. This was my biggest fear of the running game’s revival, which was sticking to “body blows” and “establishing the ground game” even when playing from behind for a majority of the game. We saw this extend well into the 4th quarter for reasons I cannot comprehend. This was horrendous game management that should not be happening with Wilson and Carroll at this stage of their partnership. Points > Clock.

Run defense

Melvin Gordon led the way with 113 yards on just 16 carries and a 34-yard touchdown, and the Chargers as a whole had 160 yards on just 22 attempts. The first two jet sweeps to Keenan Allen completely caught the Seahawks out, and the defense had serious issues bringing Gordon down. This was probably not a good day to only have two active defensive tackles, having made Naz Jones and Poona Ford inactive.

Tre Flowers and Tedric Thompson

Thompson had consecutive missed tackles on Keenan Allen on that 54-yard catch on 3rd and 15, then on the Melvin Gordon touchdown run. Really the biggest problem I have with Thompson isn’t that he’s necessarily a bad tackler, but he takes such poor angles on a consistent basis that make life so much harder for him.

Flowers got beaten for two touchdowns, one a brilliant catch by Tyrell Williams, and the other an alleged “touchdown” to Mike Williams that for some reason was allowed to stand. Even the pass break-up Flowers had to deny the Chargers a 3rd quarter TD was partially an underthrow by Rivers, as Flowers was clearly beaten on the play.

I still have hope Flowers will continue to develop well, whereas Thompson even as just a second-year player doesn’t seem to have a particularly high ceiling.

Shawn Hochuli and Crew

Holy shit, that was abysmal. The third-down conversion cancelling David Moore pick play that wasn’t. The Mike Williams touchdown that wasn’t. The unnecessary roughness penalties on DJ Fluker and Justin Britt that were soft, at best. They called 22 accepted flags for almost 200 yards on both teams, and in fairness to the Chargers, Shaquill Griffin got away with a pass interference in the 3rd quarter, and that Melvin Ingram roughing the passer on the game’s final possession seemed iffy.

That said, the worst calls seemed to tilt heavily against the Seahawks, and the game as a whole felt like I was watching some Pac-12 garbage. Oh, I wonder why that is...

Joey Hunt, hung out to dry

DJ Fluker went down with a calf injury, which if serious could kill this Seahawks running game for however long he’s out. Joey Hunt, usually a center, filled in at guard... it went poorly. Ethan Pocic was a healthy scratch despite playing as a center in college and being the former starting guard before J.R. Sweezy took his job. Not ideal!

Final Notes

  • Frank Clark and Jarran Reed were both liabilities at times in run support, but they each had pivotal sacks to being their respective totals to 7.5 and 5 on the season.
  • Doug Baldwin caught 4 passes for 77 yards, and should’ve had more if not for the David Moore pick play OPI. He’s still clearly not healthy, although that doesn’t mean he’s totally ineffective.
  • This punt and kick return units are complete ass. Rashaad Penny’s one return only gained 19 yards, and Tyler Lockett is either getting creamed upon receiving the ball or making questionable decisions with fair catch/non-fair catch calls.
  • David Moore could’ve gotten that end-zone grab on the final play, even with the deflections, but it was still a tough catch to make as a result of the slight change of direction. I’m not worried about him, as he’s performed beyond expectations already.
  • Rashaad Penny needs to show some open-field elusiveness. He’s getting open-field tackled far too often. With Carson on the mend, we might see him get more touches.
  • Mike Davis was culpable on one Wilson sack due to an awful blitz pickup whiff, and he ran backwards out of a first-down on a screen play, gaining only nine yards instead of eleven. Don’t do that again!
  • We may be a little ticked off about Sebastian Janikowski’s 51-yard miss, but it could be worse... Caleb Sturgis has probably already been cut. He’s really a substantial reason the Seahawks even had a game-tying TD opportunity since he seemingly can’t make any kicks.