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The Drive: Russell throws a pick-six

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks began the game with a win probability of 64.8% and were favored to win on every down previous to Russell Wilson throwing a pick six. That play was worth 28.1% of win probability. DK Metcalf’s fumble recovered by Marlon Humphrey for a touchdown was worth 19.3%. Which means the net value of every other play, 17.4% in Baltimore’s favor, was less than the value of Humphrey’s touchdown return. That’s how much this game swung on two plays.

If you’re looking for hope after an ugly loss, that’s probably the best I can provide. Seattle failed very badly twice, and in football, yards after turnover are mostly randomly determined. Which is to say bad play begat horrendous luck. But let’s look at the pick six anyway.

Seattle breaks with an empty backfield. This is a bit strange. Seattle predicates its passing attack off play action, and an empty backfield eliminates any chance of a play fake. Even when Seattle is not actively faking a run, having a back in protects Seattle’s linemen by opening the possibility of a run. While I do not have statistical backing for this claim, I believe the Seahawks are much better at run blocking than pass blocking. Whatever the case, pass rush was not a major factor in Wilson’s decision making.

No pass rusher was within five yards of Wilson when he threw.

The play design is ... interesting.

Three of the five routes run short of the sticks. CJ Prosise at the top and Jaron Brown at the bottom both simply turn toward Wilson making themselves available. Brown, in particular, is not a marvel of run after the catch. Seattle must have either been prioritizing improving its chances to make a field goal, or planning on going for it on fourth down.

DK Metcalf, who is running from the left slot, gets open deep.

That may be the most painful part of all this. Metcalf gets crazy open. Wilson isn’t under pressure. But he panics. That’s what it looks like. He is fidgety without pass rush. He reads Brown, looks off Jacob Hollister (who is wide open and has a decent chance of being able to make the first with run after the catch), and throws not to Brown but several yards ahead of him. That’s the fatal mistake.

Here’s the moment Wilson passes. Marcus Peters is about eight yards from Brown.

Here’s the moment Peters intercepts the pass. This is from the broadcast because it’s much easier to see.

Wilson leads Brown by four to five yards. That halves the distance Peters has to run. He picks it off and we know the mfing rest.

My late grandfather used to read Field Gulls. I guess he used to do everything that he ever did. Anyway. We were estranged toward the end—not by either of our choosing—but I remember my mom telling me he read Field Gulls. She said he would get so happy when something I wrote seemed to really whip up the comments section. He’d say “John’s really got ‘em going again.”

This game seems to beg for angry accusation. Maybe if I wrote ten posts a week instead of one, I would fit in a fire and brimstone post detailing the Seahawks’ many failures. But I think, if I only have a little to say about the whole crappy affair, I will reserve it to: This loss probably doesn’t mean much except for the loss itself. After weeks of composure in tough situations and good luck, Seattle crammed all of its panic and bad luck into one game. A rookie fumbled in a really silly way. That got returned for a touchdown. The MVP candidate quarterback made a terrible read and compounded that terrible read with a pass that facilitated the interception. That too got returned for a touchdown.

Maybe Earl being back psyched out Wilson. He’s a very emotional person, which I admire. Maybe the roulette wheel is bound to land on 00s occasionally. Seattle’s offense was very bad. The special teams will be bad all year. But the defense was better than it’s been. The Ravens field the fourth best offense in the NFL by DVOA, and the Seahawks held them to 340 yards and 16 points. It’s not a triumph, and factoring in that Baltimore got two freebie touchdown drives on turnovers, it’s probably not even good, but it’s incremental progress. Wilson will bounce back. Seattle’s defense needs to turn a corner, and maybe with Jarran Reed back, it’s beginning to.

Burn the tape. Burn it burn it burn it. And earn a rematch or at least the chance for a rematch. This loss probably doesn’t mean much except for the loss itself.