SEATTLE – A last ditch pass with no time remaining from Russell Wilson slipped through the fingers of wideout David Moore and the Seahawks fell to the Los Angeles Chargers 25-17 Sunday.
And while the loss is disappointing, there are plenty of positives to be taken away from a performance in which a young secondary responded after LA’s twin Pro Bowlers Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon dominated the second quarter.
Though Russell Wilson posted the prettier fantasy football statistics, Rivers was masterful in his efficiency, completing 13 of 26 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. He alternately dinked and dunked short and intermediate crossing routes to Keenan Allen and the Chargers’ two headed backfield of Gordon and Austin Ekeler while also challenging Seattle deep on vertical shots to LA’s Williams duo, unrelated big receivers Tyrell and Mike, each of whom caught touchdowns Sunday.
At times, Rivers seemed to be toying with Seattle’s young defensive backs, finding his biggest star – Allen – all alone on this all-too-easy 54 yard reception.
Characterized as questionable all week long with a hamstring strain, Gordon certainly looked 100% on Sunday, repeatedly gashing Seattle for chunk plays and ultimately rushing for 113 yards (on just 16 carries), including a 34-yard jaunt down the right sideline early in the second quarter that gave the Charges a 12-7 lead they would never relinquish.
Pete Carroll entered the week acknowledging Rivers’ stellar play, which was made even more difficult to defend Sunday when starting strong safety Bradley McDougald was lost with a knee injury.
To this point, McDougald has rivaled only second-year starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin as Seattle’s best defender over the first half of the season. Losing the heady, physical defender for any extended amount of time would be a significant challenge.
If there was a silver lining to the dark cloud of McDougald’s injury, however, it was the promising play Sunday from his backup Delano Hill, who recorded three tackles – including a tackle for loss – in the third quarter after being inserted into the lineup.
Hill, a second-year pro out of Michigan, possesses nearly the exact same size (6-1, 216) as McDougald, a six-year veteran signed away from Tampa Bay. Given McDougald’s greater experience in the NFL – as well as the fact that he played cornerback at the University of Kansas – perhaps it isn’t surprising that he is viewed as the better pass defender to this point, showing excellent key and diagnosis skills as well as agility and ball-skills.
Hill showed flashes of improved awareness and communication with fellow second-year starting safety Tedric Thompson on Sunday, however.
The Chargers’ ability to spread the field with all of their weapons left Thompson scrambling throughout much of this game but his speed, aggressive pursuit angles and ability to trip up ball-carriers seemingly out of his reach was especially noticeable in run support against Gordon. Known for his ball-skills while at Colorado, Thompson also showed excellent timing and hand-eye coordination to break up at least two passes in this game.
Perhaps most encouraging has been the play of rookie cornerback Tre Flowers, who showed terrific resiliency as the game went on after Rivers showed off the pinpoint accuracy that may one day result in his being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I mean, just look at this throw.
As he has all year long, however, Flowers showed maturity beyond his years, moving past this play to perform well, batting away another well thrown pass from Rivers later in this game.
A home loss that dropped the Seahawks back to .500 at 4-4 is obviously disappointing. But for many, this season is all about the developing of talent.
In the secondary, at least, it looks like the Seahawks are well on their way to finding some answers.