SEATTLE — Midterms have arrived for the Seattle Seahawks.
And Sunday’s first test made for a difficult read on whether they will earn passing marks this term.
“Judgment November” began with a 25-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, and the nature of Seattle’s performance did little to push forward the idea the Seahawks are for real.
“There’s been some highs, there’s been some lows, there’s been bad plays and good plays,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said of Seattle’s first eight games. “But there’s definitely been a lot of growth. A lot of our young guys have gotten a lot of experience, and us needing to grow needs to happen now. I like our team. I know we have the ability to make the plays, we’ve been in a lot of situations and we’re still pretty confident.”
The big question about Seattle as it reached the midpoint of the regular season was whether this version of the Seahawks — devoid most of the defensive stars who gave the team its identity the previous six seasons — was a legitimate playoff contender. Seattle was showing signs it deserved advancement into honors classes, but the faculty wasn’t ready to make the move just yet.
November should tell us if the Seahawks are ready for the greater challenge. Seattle’s four games this month against the Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay and Carolina constitute a course load worthy of an Ivy League law student. Those four teams came into the week with a combined 21-7-1 record, so this month will reveal where the Seahawks slot into the class standings.
It sure seemed like Seattle had boned up for these midterms, winning four of its previous five games. The question was whether the Seahawks had truly absorbed their textbooks, or whether they were skirting by using Cliff’s Notes. Seattle faced little competition in those four victories, as those four teams — Dallas, Arizona, Oakland and Detroit — came into the week a combined 9-21. The 28-14 road victory last week against a Lions team that appeared to be the best of the bunch seemed like a good practice test, but the real grades didn’t start getting handed out until this week.
So how did Seattle fare Sunday? That depends on which class this happened to be. If this was a higher-math class requiring precise calculations then the Seahawks would have been given an F. But if it was a creative writing course, the professor might have decided the sheer audacity of Seattle’s work may have warranted an A.
The Seahawks did so many things that warranted red ink plastered across their blue book.
Seattle prides itself on preventing explosive plays, and the Seahawks came into the game having allowed just 25 plays of 20 yards or more over their first seven games. However, the Chargers had eight plays of 20-plus yards Sunday, and their four explosive running plays matched the number Seattle had allowed all season.
The Seahawks dominated with their run game the previous four weeks, racking up at least 155 yards on the ground in each of the four games. Seattle still managed 154 rushing yards Sunday, but most of those came on the Seahawks’ first drive or when Los Angeles was playing soft defense because Seattle was in throwing situations. The game-controlling run game wasn’t present the way it was in Seattle’s recent victories.
On five occasions the Seahawks had the Chargers backed up inside their own 16-yard line to begin drives. On all five occasions Los Angeles gained at least 16 yards within two plays. Seattle defenses of the past never would have allowed an opponent to break out of jail so easily.
Then there were the inopportune penalties, the sacks, the pick-six … the list of places where points could be deducted seems endless.
And yet there was Seattle, on the game’s final play, seeing a pass bounce off the chest of receiver David Moore in the back of the end zone. If Moore holds onto that ball, and if the Seahawks convert the 2-point conversion, the game goes to overtime. As poorly as Seattle played, it still had a chance right down to the end against one of the NFL’s best teams.
One could say the Seahawks bombed this midterm, yet still stumbled into enough correct answers to earn a passing grade.
“These guys in this locker room, they’re vibrant, they have the energy, they have the right mindset, it’s just they’re young,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “There’s still some growing that needs to be done and there’s no better opportunity to grow than when you go though the fire. I think this will be beneficial for us in the long run.”
Will that long run include this year’s playoffs? Sunday’s performance didn’t really answer that question. But if the Seahawks want to survive this semester’s midterms, they’re going to have to hit the books a lot harder. Seattle has three more tests coming up this month, and they aren’t going to get any easier.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.