Sunday night the Seattle Seahawks dropped their first game of the season to the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the team with a 5-1 record heading into the Week 8 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The Hawks had more than their fair share of chances to win the game, but between penalties, turnovers and other bad plays, they obviously came up short.
The defense surrendered more than 500 yards for the third time in six games and has yet to hold any opponent under 20 points or 400 yards yet this season. Yet in spite of three turnovers and a myriad of penalties, Seattle faced a third and two with 1:42 left and a chance to seal the win with a first down. Instead, a single rookie mistake cost the team the ability to close out the victory for the win.
Here’s the pre-snap, pre-motion alignment for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense.
Here the Hawks have Will Dissly to the offensive right side, which the Cardinals counter with strong safety Deionte Thompson (22). Dissly then motions across the formation, taking Thompson with him and resulting in an alignment that looks like this when the ball is snapped.
With Dissly reset on the offensive left side, the strength of the formation is clearly visible, while the offensive right side is set up perfectly for Brian Schottenheimer’s play call. The Seahawks have a matchup that gives the offense what should be a hat-on-hat matchup at the point of attack for Carlos Hyde as he looks to gain the first down and end things.
From this point, knowing the offensive playcall is a zone run to the offensive right side, a win seems almost all but guaranteed. Right tackle Brandon Shell will fire out at and block Haason Redick (43), right guard Damien Lewis will block the defensive left tackle Angelo Blackson (96), center Ethan Pocic will bump Leki Fotu (95) and then work to the second level to engage Tanner Vallejo (51) with left guard Jordan Simmons coming over to take on Fotu after Pocic releases. Lastly, left tackle Duane Brown is responsible for defensive right tackle Corey Peters (98). It’s a great set of matchups for Seattle, as by design it should be hat on hat with no additional help readily available in the second level to stop Hyde once he is past the line of scrimmage. It should be an easy first down. Here is a rough approximation of what all that should look like in terms of assignments.
That’s it, nothing fancy. Just hat on hat blocking for the offensive line against a very light box, with any support in the second level needing to come from the backside of the play. Unfortunately, rookie mistakes happen, and here is the replay both at full speed first and then in slow motion. Pay particular attention to right guard.
Lewis goes the wrong way. He fires out to his left as Pocic comes out strong to his right. The result is a collision that clogs up the middle and ties up Pocic, preventing him from getting to the second level to engage Vallejo. That leaves Vallejo unblocked and able to easily fill the hole and make the tackle.
And just like that it’s fourth down and the Hawks are punting the ball back to the Cardinals.
This is not to place the blame for the loss on Lewis. Even after that failed third down attempt and Michael Dickson’s 66 yard punt, the Cardinals still had only 52 seconds to get into field goal range from their own 20 yard line without any timeouts. And yet, the once legendary Seattle defense allowed the Cardinals to go 54 yards in seven plays to get into position for the game tying field goal.
In short, what it all comes together to mean is that there is plenty of blame to go around for why the Seahawks dropped their first game of the season. The offense turned the ball over multiple times, the defense couldn’t stop Murray or DeAndre Hopkins or Larry Fitzgerald or Christian Kirk, or really much of anything when Arizona threw the ball. For all the issues the Seattle offense had with penalties and turnovers, Murray had only seven incompletions over the course of the entire game, with the majority of those incompletions coming on spikes to stop the clock. And yet, in spite allowing Arizona to run at 4.8 yards per carry, in spite of letting Murray complete 82.9% of his passes, in spite of largely being unable to generate pressure with its pass rush, the Hawks did not get blown out. They suffered a loss they will likely spend the rest of the season looking back feeling they should have won, but they remain atop the NFC West for at least one more week, with the San Francisco 49ers coming to town in Week 8.