USA TODAY US Edition
How Seahawks can save season
The Seattle Seahawks started 3-3 last season before surging for a second consecutive Super Bowl trip. This time they’re 2-4 entering a Thursday night visit to the San Francisco 49ers that will have the feel of an elimination game for both teams.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll is one of the best at managing adversity. His team is still loaded from a personnel perspective. And it’s not like the Seahawks have been getting blown out. Their four losses have been by 20 points total — three to teams that remain unbeaten.
The Seahawks’ wins came against a Chicago Bears team with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and the struggling Detroit Lions, who were deprived of firstand-goal inside Seattle’s 1-yard line with less than two minutes to go because officials missed a penalty.
Four blown leads in the fourth quarter have put the Seahawks in this hole. Herere are four thoughts
on how they can climb out of it, again: GET TOGETHER After a loss at the Kansas City Chiefs last November, veteran leaders called a meeting to get everyone on the same page. From there, the Seahawks closed the regular season with six consecutive wins in which the defense allowed 39 points total. They might need to do something similar after last weekend’s home loss to the Carolina Panthers, who had tight end Greg Olsen wide open for the winning touchdown because Seahawks all-pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were playing different defenses. There were communication problems in the previous week’s loss at the Cincinnati Bengals, too. However things are breaking down in the signal process and otherwise, it needs to get fixed. Talent isn’t enough if guys aren’t playing with and for each other.
All-pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner’s absence vs. the Panthers because of a chest muscle injury shouldn’t be overlooked. The Seahawks missed Wagner’s range, coverage ability and physical presence, and his absence weakened two spots with K.J. Wright moving to the middle and Kevin Pierre-Louis playing on the weak side. Toss in injuries at cornerback that have forced safety DeShawn Shead to play the slot in nickel, and it’s no wonder opponents have been attacking the middle of the field. If you can protect long enough, their zone coverage is vulnerable in the seams. Wagner says he will play Thursday, and that would be a huge lift. FEED THE (OTHER) BEAST The loss to Carolina showed Seattle doesn’t have to overhaul its offense to get tight end Jimmy Graham involved. He had 140 yards on eight catches, including a 45-yarder from an inline position against safety Roman Harper in a scramble drill. That type of play can make a defense think twice about playing man coverage with a single-high safety, which Seattle sees plenty because of how it runs the ball. Every resource an opponent dedicates to taking away Graham is one it can’t deploy to contain Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ potent run game, and vice versa. Don’t make the game harder than it needs to be. Use your weapons. STAY CALM Shaky offensive line play isn’t helping. But if Russell Wilson wants to be mentioned with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, he needs to play above what’s happening around him. Wilson has taken a league-high 26 sacks. He makes some of his best plays when things break down, but there are times he could step up in the pocket rather than bailing out. With right tackle Garry Gilliam (ankle) and center Patrick Lewis (knee, ankle) in doubt for Thursday, Wilson will need to be on top of his game.