For the first time since last December, I am writing a game review following a meaningful Seahawks loss. The Seahawks fell to the San Diego Chargers 30-21 on Sunday, dropping to 1-1 on the season. The Seahawks are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams for 2nd place in the NFC West. The Chargers improve to 1-1 and currently have sole possession of 2nd place in the AFC West. This loss marks the first game since November 6th, 2011 that the Seahawks have lost by more than one score. As resilient as the Seattle offense appeared to be at moments, it was the defense that failed to step up to stop the powerful Chargers offense. This is what I took out of this week’s game.
Offense Played Well Enough to Win: The Seahawks offense scored 21 points and in any other game that would probably be enough to hold on for the win. Throughout the entire game I held the confidence that if the defense struggled, the offense could go down the field and get us right back into the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson had a very solid game going 17/25 for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite a lack of pocket awareness which Wilson showed at untimely moments, he did not turn the ball over which was great to see. The only Seahawks turnover came on special teams when Percy Harvin fumbled a kickoff in the second quarter. I was impressed with the way Robert Turbin stepped in for Marshawn Lynch, gaining 45 yards and scoring his first career touchdown at the end of the first half. As a team Seattle was able to pound out 108 rushing yards against a stout Chargers defense which is definitely an optimistic sign. Ultimately and unfortunately, our offense simply could not hang with a Chargers offense that proved that their performance last week in Arizona could be considered a fluke.
Offensive Line Showed its Weaknesses: Although San Diego only sacked Russell Wilson twice on Sunday the Seahawks quarterback was constantly under pressure. The right side of the offensive line was not able to withstand a barrage of San Diego pressure especially on passing downs later on in the game. J.R. Sweezy was called for a crucial holding penalty on a first-down conversion. The penalty nullified the gain and the Seahawks eventually punted back to the Chargers. The left side of the San Diego defense, like I highlighted in my game preview, clearly found holes in the game of rookie right tackle Justin Britt and later in the game the majority of the Seahawks offensive plays went to the left side of the line to try to take some of the pressure off of Sweezy and Britt.
Penalties a Problem: On Sunday the Seahawks were called for 8 penalties totaling 53 yards. I consider the number of penalties to be above average with the penalty yardage decent. The reason why I bring up this point is that in this game like some of our close losses in the recent past, our penalties seemed to come at the most inopportune of times. The majority of our offensive penalties occurred on first down conversions while defensive penalties came on 3rd down stops which would of halted San Diego drives. Instead, defensive penalties directly led to 14 of the Chargers 30 points.
Gates Unstoppable and Rivers Picks Defense, Legion of Boom Apart: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was thrown to 4 times on Sunday and in each instance Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw completions. Sherman however was never burned over the top for a big gain. All of the passes thrown in Sherman’s direction were zone coverage plays. On only one play do I distinctly remember Sherman turning the wrong way, leading to a completion from Rivers to Keenan Allen on a quick slant which resulted in a San Diego first down. The kryptonite for the Legion of Boom this week was tight end Antonio Gates who caught 7 catches for 96 yards and a career-tying 3 touchdown receptions. Other than Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Gates may be the biggest matchup nightmare among tight ends in the NFL. His size advantage creates a problem even against the big, long, and physical style of the members of the Legion of Boom. Gates beat Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, and K.J. Wright on his three touchdown catches. Upon watching the film of Gates’ performance, I do not understand why the Seahawks were using our outside linebackers to cover Gates, especially after his second touchdown when it was proven Gates could easily beat our linebackers down the middle of the field. All in all the Seahawks defense allowed 276 passing yards, a number that we must work to decrease in practice this upcoming week, especially with Peyton Manning up next for the L.O.B.
Third Down Defense a Major Weakness: The Seahawks defense simply could not get off the field on third down this week. San Diego’s offense went 10/17 on third down on Sunday. The 59% third down efficiency of the Chargers is the worst percentage the Seahawks have surrendered in a loss since the Detroit Lions were 75% effective on third down in a 28-24 Seahawks loss in October 2012. 70% of San Diego’s third down conversions came through the air, with the majority coming in short to moderate yards to gain. At home next week I believe the Seahawks will recover and play a more sound game with the 12th Man behind their backs, but our inability to stop drives this week raises questions about our defense in a road environment, as the Seahawks have historically had trouble in this area on the road in seasons past.
Irvin Potentially Cost Us the Game: You look at the score and see that the Seahawks lost by two possessions but I believe that one bonehead play by defensive end Brice Irvin potentially altered the outcome of this game. The play in question came with the Chargers driving deep into Seahawks territory towards the end of the third quarter. With San Diego leading 20-14 and facing a 3rd down and 7, Seattle was successful in forcing Philip Rivers out of the pocket. Rivers scrambled to the right sideline short of the line to gain. As it was clear that Rivers was giving himself up on the play and stepping out of bounds, Irvin came in to give Rivers an extra small shove, drawing a personal foul late hit penalty. The Chargers would have likely lined up on 4th down to kick a field goal giving them a 23-14 lead with plenty of time for the game to be salvaged. Instead, the flag on Irvin gave San Diego a first down in the redzone and two plays later Rivers connected with Gates to make it a 27-14 ballgame. The touchdown also resulted in a momentum swing to the home team for the remainder of the game, as the Chargers were successful in holding onto the lead for good. The penalty was completely unnecessary and in my opinion it is one of the dumbest plays Irvin has made in his career. Ultimately I believe that penalty is in essence handing the victory to San Diego on a silver platter.
Thoughts on San Diego: I underestimated the San Diego Chargers, plain and simple. I understand that it was their home opener, there was record setting heat down on the field, and that the home crowd was amped up but it all comes down to this point: If the Chargers can pick apart the best defense and best secondary in the league, they can pick apart any defense. Before the season started I did not think the Chargers were capable of making another playoff run but after Sunday, it is very possible to think that barring injuries San Diego can challenge for a wild-card spot for a second consecutive season.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks matched their navy jerseys with grey pants this week. The last time they wore that combo was last season in Carolina. The Seahawks are now 2-2 in that uniform combo all-time… The all-white look of the Chargers is pretty cool. Although I love the fact that the Seahawks are the only NFL team to have never worn white at home, the idea of a white-out early on in the season is a cool possibility the Seahawks might want to consider for future seasons… I remember 4 years ago I went to see the Seahawks play the Broncos in Denver and the game time temperature inside the stadium flirted with the 100 degree mark. It was miserable. I am sorry for all the dehydrated, sunburnt, upset Seahawks fans who went on the road, sat in the heat for over three hours, and saw us lose. It is a miserable feeling… I want to give a lot of credit to the Chargers home crowd. They were clearly the louder voice this week after it was presumed that the 12th Man was going to have another very strong following to San Diego this week. To Chargers fans: Bring the kind of intensity you showed this week to Qualcomm for every home game. Match that intensity with the great play of the Chargers offense and you will be hard to beat at home throughout the season… Here are a couple of points to the “glass half full” Hawks fans out there. The last time the Seahawks gave up 30 or more points in a game, we went on to win our next 7 games. Also, of the last 10 seasons we have started 1-1, we have made the playoffs 7 times, won 4 division championships, went to 2 conference championship games, and made it to one Super Bowl (XL)… It helps that the 49ers also lost this week but immediately following our loss I was surprisingly not too upset. I think it has something to do with the fact that even though we lost, the Seahawks still have a Lombardi Trophy. That’s a feeling that perhaps comes given that the city of Seattle had been starving for a sports championship for so long and now that we finally have a Super Bowl win, it makes the sting of these regular season losses more bearable. Am I the only one out there that feels that way? It is an interesting yet prideful feeling in my opinion.
The Seahawks now get back to work as they prepare for the AFC West leading Denver Broncos in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII. Check back Saturday for my Broncos preview. Have a good week 12th Man. Go Hawks!