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Swerving Points, Week 2: Seahawks killed their own drives vs. the Bears

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
Jermaine Kearse watches Jimmy Graham spike the ball after yet another touchdown, waiiiit
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night’s game was ugly, no need to make this column too long. Let’s expand on Tuesday’s blurb about sacks, then spend some quality-over-quantity time with flags, and finally try to end on a non-downer note by saying some nice things about the depleted defense.

Your sacks are on fire

(Really wanted to type “let’s talk about sacks, maybe” but turns out I used that joke already in 2014, as everyone here today will assuredly remember.)

By now it’s pretty common knowledge that the Seattle Seahawks lead the league in sacks allowed (We’re No. 1, We’re No. 1, oh shit, that means We’re No. 32). By now, if you’ve watched football, it’s also pretty common knowledge inside your head that sacks kill drives.

Do they ever. Six given up by Seattle on Monday night, and all six stung.

Sack 1: Ended the first drive when Aaron Lynch dropped Russell Wilson on 3rd and 2.

Sack 2: Maimed the third drive. This is the almost-safety one. 2nd and 15, Wilson takes the snap at the eight, drops back all the way toward the goal line (really?), doesn’t throw the ball as the pocket closes, absorbs a hit on the goal line itself, and falls forward to avoid gifting a couple early points to the Bears. Sets up 3rd and 22, which the Seahawks surprisingly fail to convert.

Sacks 3 and 4: They happen in quick succession (first and third down), therefore the fourth drive never has a chance to get started. Two on the same series. Fast-forward to Michael Dickson, who has been sacked zero times in his pro career. Everyone be more like Michael Dickson.

Sack 5: Almost killed the sixth drive, but A) Wilson scrambles to complete a long third down, and Sebastian Janikowski’s titanium left leg eventually converts an 56-yard field goal to curtail an almost unwatchable first half on offense.

Sack 6: Khalil Mack forces a fumble, a fourth-quarter turnover that helps seal the game, along with other events that have been plenty documented already.

The five possessions that featured sacks combined for three total points, so 0.6 points per drive. The seven sack-free possessions led to 14 points.

Seattle can win games with 2.0 points per drive, if they’re playing offensive challenged teams like Chicago. They just can’t win games with 2.0 points per drive and also 0.6 points per drive alongside. They simply can’t allow six sacks and hope to still put up enough points to win.

As you might’ve seen in the link above, the Seahawks had much of the same problem in 2014, but cleaned it up by season’s end. It’s not apparent, however, that they have the same level of talent as their brothers who won the NFC that season. We’ll see.

Penalties: Not half bad

Good news! Seattle cleaned up their penalty situation. Bad news! They waited until the second possession to do so, after giving seven points that turned out to be the margin of victory.

Five flags for 37 yards ought to be reason for celebration. In fact, two games of relatively clean football place the 2018 Seahawks in rare air, by the franchise’s recent standards — the fifth-least penalized team by volume and the fourth-least by yardage. It’s true. Click and see. And recall that Seattle led the league in penalties in both 2013 and 2014.

The problem on Monday night was no longer the volume of flags, but the sequencing. A great baseball team can get beat if they scatter their 12 hits all over the nine innings and get just three runs to show for it, while their opponent bunches up their six hits and scores four. That’s kind of the scenario we’re looking at here for Week 2. Three penalties (half of the Seahawks’ total) happened on the first drive, and they occurred on:

1st and 10 from the 4: offside on Quinton Jefferson makes it 1st and 5 as the Bears escape the shadow of their end zone.

1st and 5 from the 9: hands to the face on Shaquill Griffin sends the ball out to the 27 for another first down

1st and goal from the 6: defensive holding on Akeem King in the end zone gives Chicago half the distance to the goal and a new first down.

All in all, those three flags helped the Bears construct and sustain a 96-yard drive. But after that? Only two more penalties on Seattle, for a meager 14 yards. A hold on J.R. Sweezy cost them nine, a false start by Germain Ifedi another five. It was an exceptionally clean game in all three phases after the first drive. A shame those first three penalties had to matter so much, and be a swerving point all their own.

Run defense: actually good

The whole Tom Johnson move was a wacky part of a wacky week off the field for the Seahawks, as detailed here by Mookie, but maybe it didn’t hurt them that much in this game.

No Chicago running back gained more than eight yards on any run play. After the opening drive, on which Trubisky scrambled for 17 yards and the Bears accumulated 25 yards rushing, the home team managed just 61 yards on 24 attempts, or 2.5 ypc. The run defense adjusted quickly to Trubisky’s mobility and to whatever Jordan Howard (14-35-0) was trying to accomplish out there. Seattle, at the defensive line of scrimmage, kept their teammates in the game as long as they could. Pete Carroll’s defense limited explosives — what do you know? Perhaps this week is when we begin to notice that they can make a team one-dimensional, like in the good old division-winning days.

It’s also possible that Week 2 could turn out to be a swerving point in the linebacker pecking order. K.J. Wright’s in the last year of his contract, and Austin Calitro played well in his first start for the Seahawks. Eight tackles, one pass defensed, and 100-percent of the defensive snaps makes for quite a debut. Wright will presumably regain his starting spot when he returns from surgery, but the competition for the rest of the season and beyond just swung wide open.

The Dallas Cowboys swerve into town Sunday — should Seattle continue to play very good run defense and cut down on mental errors, they’ll have a good chance to nab their first victory. Unless. Unless the sacks. Please, not the sacks.