Closing Thoughts: Uneven Performance Dooms Seahawks in Week 9 Defeat

The Seahawks fought to the final second, but they left too many plays on the field to beat a talented Chargers squad.

Beset by penalties and sloppy offensive execution, the Seattle Seahawks dropped a hard-fought 25-17 defeat at the hands of the visiting Los Angeles Chargers.

The Seahawks produced over 380 yards of total offense, but this yardage often didn’t translate to points and Russell Wilson threw a critical pick-six in the fourth quarter to further complicate a potential comeback effort. And while Seattle’s defense played lights out in the second half, opposing quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon carved up Pete Carroll’s unit building a 19-10 halftime lead.

Some thoughts on Seattle’s latest loss that put a damper on the team’s playoff prospects:

  • If Russell Wilson played his best football against Detroit a week ago, his latest performance might fall closer to the other end of the spectrum. The franchise quarterback completed 26 of 39 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns, but he also missed on several throws he normally would make, made some questionable reads in the pocket, and reverted to holding onto the ball too long in several instances. He notably missed receiver Jaron Brown on a potential 61-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, misjudging his depth down field and subsequently underthrowing the pass. He also misfired on a would-be first down to Tyler Lockett in the first half and uncorked an ugly interception returned 42 yards by Chargers cornerback Desmond King for the eventual winning score.
  • For those in the running backs don’t matter crowd, Chris Carson’s hip injury proves otherwise. As Wilson said in his press conference after the game, Carson did everything he could to be able to suit up today and he battered the Chargers for 40 yards on eight carries before aggravating the injury. Once he departed, Seattle’s rushing attack went from great to average, as Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny simply can’t replicate his physical, bruising running style. Carson continually dishes the punishment to opposing defenders and his penchant for seeking contact fires up the offensive line. Losing him for any length of time would be a major blow for the Seahawks offense, as he’s a big part of their reclaimed identity.
  • Seattle couldn’t get much going with the vertical passing game, but Nick Vannett had one of his finest games as a pro. With the Chargers playing softer coverage and forcing Wilson to throw short and intermediate throws, the third-year tight end out of Ohio State caught six passes for 52 yards and made a critical fourth-down touchdown reception on a 100 mile per hour fastball from Wilson to bring the Seahawks within one score late in regulation. Looking healthy after dealing with back issues during the bye week, he’s taken a big leap forward after barely seeing the field in his first two NFL seasons.
  • Some of the penalties called against Seattle were questionable at best and put Wilson and his teammates behind the 8-ball, but the team’s putrid third down performance represented a regression to earlier in the season and played a huge role in the team’s inability to sustain drives. After picking up all three third down conversions on their opening scoring drive, the Seahawks only converted one third down through the final three quarters of this game and finished 4 for 15 on the afternoon. To truly be a playoff contender, the offense has to stay on schedule and due to numerous factors, that simply didn’t happen on Sunday.
  1. The Seahawks may be regretting the decision to dress only two defensive tackles, as Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 113 yards on 16 carries and consistently sprinted through huge running lanes between the tackles. With Rasheem Green back from injury, Seattle chose to make Nazair Jones and Poona Ford healthy scratches, limiting big bodies available to eat up space in the interior of the defensive line. Additionally, the Seahawks surrendered a couple explosive runs off of fly sweep motion, as defensive end Frank Clark lost contain in both instances and the runner was able to explode around the corner for big yardage.
  • After a very quiet opening two quarters in which Rivers was able to sit comfortably in the pocket and pick apart Seattle’s secondary, the pass rush found some life in the second half and brought Rivers to the turf at opportune moments. With the Chargers facing a 2nd and 12 at their own 40-yard line with 8:50 left in the fourth quarter, Frank Clark shot around the edge to ambush Rivers, eventually forcing them to punt for a third time in four possessions. Once the Seahawks scored on Vannett’s touchdown to cut the lead to eight, defensive tackle Jarran Reed came through in the clutch by sacking Rivers on third down to give Wilson one last chance to engineer a game-tying drive. If Seattle would’ve been able to knot up the game on their final untimed play, Reed would’ve deserved a lot of credit for providing the opportunity in the first place as he continues to play at an elite level.
  • Seattle’s secondary showed its youth at times in this game, though the biggest mistake in the first half belonged to veteran safety Bradley McDougald. The Seahawks had the Chargers backed up a their own 12-yard line needing 15 yards to move the chains on third down. Yet, somehow, receiver Keenan Allen got past cornerback Shaquill Griffin and McDougald to haul in a 54-yard pass down the seam, immediately putting Los Angeles in scoring position. McDougald appeared to get lost staring in the backfield and didn’t react when Griffin passed Allen off to the safety, leaving him wide open for Rivers to deliver a strike downfield. One play later, Gordon shot out of a cannon for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Chargers their first lead.
  • Michael Dickson once again was a game-changer for Seattle on special teams, averaging nearly 53 yards per punt and pinning four of his punts inside the Chargers 20-yard line. His finest punt came late in the third quarter, as the football bounced directly sideways after hitting the turf and pinned the Chargers at their own 5-yard line. He continues to be a weapon for the Seahawks as they try to win the field position battle each week, though he didn’t run for any first downs on a fake punt like he did against the Lions in Week 8.