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Don’t overreact to the Seahawks’ blowout win over Detroit

NFL: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks played very well on Sunday. In my opinion, it’s the best we’ve seen them play all season.

They rushed for 265 yards, 170 of which came from Rashaad Penny. Russell Wilson threw for more than two touchdowns for just the second time this season. The defense came away with three interceptions, despite turnovers having eluded them all season.

But this performance is not a vindication of the current regime. It does not wipe away the fact that the Seahawks are 6-10. It does not wipe away that the Seahawks have played like a bottom-third offense in the NFL this season. And it certainly does not wipe away the awful losses the Seahawks have suffered this year, including last week’s humiliating showing against Chicago.

Some context

Scoring 51 points on any NFL defense is a good thing, but it really isn’t a huge compliment to do so against a 2-12-1 opponent. The Lions were bottom-five in both yardage defense and DVOA entering this week, and had given up 34 or more points five times this season.

Meanwhile, defeating the Lions offense is just as meaningless. The Lions came in 26th in EPA/play and 29th in scoring. Sunday’s total of 29 points was just the fourth time they had scored more than 20 points all season.

The point is, winning this game is the bare minimum I expect from a coaching staff that has the slightest degree of competency. There is not a compelling reason to believe that this win suggests much more than that. Instead, there have been signs all season that a minimum degree of competency is not far from what the current staff has.

Prior failures

Before discussing offensive failures, I will grant the fact that the Seahawks did suffer greatly from Russell Wilson’s injury. However, there were signs of collapse early on that must also be discussed.

Remember when the Seahawks played Minnesota in Week 3? Everyone was healthy (except for Dee Eskridge), and yet the team managed just 17 points against what is now the NFL’s fourth-worst yardage defense, including zero in a dismal second half which saw many on this website calling for the heads of both Norton and Waldron. This was a repeat performance from a week earlier, where the Seahawks offense vanished in the second half, leading to a loss against Tennessee.

This doesn’t mean the offense was bad early in the season. Before Wilson got hurt, they were putting up over 25 points per game, which is respectable. However, upon his return, things did not improve.

Wilson admits his finger wasn’t 100% for at least a few weeks after his return, so I’ll keep that in mind when considering the offense’s performance through the Washington game. However, he was still clearly healthy enough to grip and throw the ball just fine, and any slight problems he had with his finger does not excuse the absolutely flabbergasting decision-making he’s struggled with the second half of this year.

Wilson’s injury doesn’t excuse Waldron, either. It is incumbent on the offensive coordinator to design a gameplan which accounts for any deficiencies the team may have at quarterback, and Waldron didn’t make it any easier on the injured Wilson or Geno Smith.

Waldron also failed to call games in a way that got key weapons, like DK Metcalf, involved for almost the entire season, which is inexcusable. Metcalf has only eclipsed 100 receiving yards in a game once all season, and has had no more than 63 in any game since Wilson’s return. If you were the offensive coordinator, you sure would think about helping out your ailing quarterback by finding ways to get the ball into the hands of your best playmaker, right?

Furthermore, Waldron failed to close games. Time after time, the Seahawks’ playcalling was much too conservative with the lead, and it led to blown games like Chicago and Tennessee.

Finally, Waldron failed to keep the offense on the field and in a rhythm, with the team dead last in plays run and time of possession. This seems like a pretty simple complaint, as the offense not being on the field means they likely aren’t scoring points, but it isn’t quite that basic. The secondary problem with the offense not staying on the field is that the defense gets exhausted, and collapses toward the end of games.

As a result, I’m more forgiving with the defense. Even though they are bottom-five in yards allowed, they have been very good in the red zone, and have really been put in a hard spot with injuries in the secondary. With this in mind, though, I still question whether or not Ken Norton should be employed next season. The fact remains that it’s now two years in a row where the Seahawks have needed slight mid-season improvement and a slough of bad opponent quarterbacks to avoid setting records in yardage allowed.

And, of course, all of the team’s issues remaining unresolved lay significant blame on Pete Carroll. His job as the head coach is to oversee and correct any problems that may arise. Tragically, he has been unable to. That would be a justifiably fireable offense in my eyes, especially since a lot of the offensive and defensive struggles are well-documented and have been bubbling to the surface for a few seasons now.

Conclusion

Don’t take this article to mean that the entire coaching staff and front office needs to go. There are certainly reasons to question how things might have gone differently for the Seahawks this year. But the mere existence of these questions, coupled with a blowout win over Detroit, does not mean the status quo gets a pass.

The fact remains that, coming into this week, the Seahawks were managing fewer offensive passing and rushing yards per game than their opponent, who was 2-12-1, and being led by Jared Goff and Tim Boyle, with similarly mediocre talent around them. The fact remains that of the Seahawks’ six wins this year, half have come against three of the five worst teams in the NFL, and two have come against the Niners, who the Seahawks always beat no matter how good or bad either team is. The fact remains that the Seahawks have lost to Colt McCoy, Taylor Heinicke, and Nick Foles in the last seven weeks alone. A victory against Tim Boyle (to whom the team managed to yield 29 points) means almost nothing.