For Seattle Seahawks fans, the NFC championship game was, well it was still hard to watch, but at least an acceptable end results.
It also served as a reminder of how interconnected the game is, even - or especially - at the top of the class.
The San Francisco 49ers lost 31-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles, amidst all the bizarre plays, injuries, calls, and emotions made for a memorable day. Brock Purdy went down, Josh Johnson reminded everyone that he’s even in the league, and promptly exited, and it just never broke the Niners way.
Among the most lopsided events of the day, The 49ers ran 42 offensive plays to the Eagles’ 69. They attempted only 18 passes while Philadelphia put up 31 points.
That 31 is significant. It only happened three times against San Francisco all season. Once was against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the other was an overtime game. In their last three games, the 49ers held the Seahawks to 23, the Cowboys to 19, and the Cardinals to 13. At the midpoint of the season, they had a seven-game stretch where teams scored between 0-17 points. Three of those opponents made the playoffs.
So what happened?
I mean if you watched the game, you know what happened, but it does serve as a fresh perspective on what’s happened with the Seattle defense in recent years, and why they truly might not handle this offseason the way many expect.
San Francisco did not suddenly fall off a cliff defensively. They did cliff dive during the NFCCG, but it was gradual, penalty-and-emotion-aided, and had a lot to do with abysmal offense.
Their offense had 3.9 yards per play for the game, and the team lost three fumbles. Teams typically don’t come back from that.
It was only a season ago that the Seahawks fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. A year ago last week, actually. They’d come out of the gates in each of the previous three seasons threatening to be historically bad. One of the issues at hand was how many snaps the guys were playing on defense. Bobby Wagner set some records.
After putting up 58 points in the first two games, Seattle found itself slipping, slipping, and landing at 16th in the NFL in points per game that year. It turned out that the defense was not good, giving up 23 or more points for much of the year.
But at the same time, the offense revealed itself to be equally bad, scoring between 13-20 eight times in 2021.
My point is this: The 49ers had arguably the best defense remaining in the playoffs, yet were absolutely steamrolled to a tune of 31 points and 148 rushing yards, primarily because of a hyper-catastrophic offensive situation. It manifested itself in several ways, in particular on the Eagles second touchdown drive, with three defensive penalties in coverage. Or later still, when Pro Bowler Nick Bosa jumped waaaaay inside to defeat a run, only for Boston Scott to easily score outside.
Boston Scott rushing touchdown pic.twitter.com/LZ1AVwOvh9— Shannonnn sharpes Burner (PARODY Account) (@shannonsharpeee) January 29, 2023
I swear, you have seen that play before.
Nick Bosa pilfered that blown assignment from the ‘22 Seahawks— Tyler, like Lockett (@TylerjAlsin) January 29, 2023
The real point is this: The Seahawks defense sucked this year, and last year, and the year before, but forget not how connected this game is. For several years, Russell Wilson operated as the best deep passer in the game and one of the worst third-down QBs in the game. This season, the team adjusted to a brand new starting QB, two terrible linemen inside, often no third receiving option, and a very good (rookie) running back who liked to score touchdowns or run negative six yards.
This team has done a marvelous job of setting itself up for failure too often. Are they atrocious against the run? Absolutely. Is it as dire as getting two new linebackers and four new linemen? I don’t think so. They’ve had too many three-and-outs over the years. They’ve struggled to find this “balance” thing too often. The defensive players have been on the field for 2/3rds of the game too many times. Sound football players have overplayed and made dumb decisions.
John Schneider would do Pete Carroll a world of blessing by getting one more dude on the line, as talented as possible. But for those who’ve been clamoring “Draft seven defensive players and sign three” above all else, that might not be the way the team goes. They’re really not far off from being a powerhouse offensively, and that goes a mighty long way in helping out the brothers on the other side of the ball.
Championship Weekend served to prove that a little bit.