The Seattle Seahawks are in a world of trouble.
With another second-half defensive collapse last Thursday night, the Seahawks fell 26-17 to the Los Angeles Rams in a pivotal NFC West clash. The loss dropped Seattle to 2-3 and three games behind first-place Arizona in the division.
But all of that was overshadowed by the pair of injuries Russell Wilson suffered to the middle finger of his throwing hand, which are expected to sideline the franchise quarterback for at least the next three games.
Here’s a rather bleak post-Week 5 edition of ‘Hawks by the Numbers’ — a weekly numerical look at notable trends and storylines surrounding the Seahawks:
165 — Consecutive starts by Russell Wilson, including the postseason: Wilson is set to miss the first game of his 10-year NFL career, ending a streak of 165 consecutive regular-season and postseason starts. His 149 straight regular-season starts is the longest active streak for an NFL quarterback, as well as the sixth-longest by a quarterback in league history. Aside from late-game blowout situations, Wilson had missed less than a handful of snaps over the course of his career prior to last Thursday night. Most notably, he started every game in 2016 while playing through a high-ankle sprain, a sprained MCL and a strained pectoral. After undergoing surgery last Friday, NFL Network initially reported Wilson was expected to miss “roughly six weeks.” However, another NFL Network report over the weekend said Wilson is aiming to return after four weeks. Either way, Seattle will start someone other than Wilson at quarterback for the first time since Jan. 1, 2012. Wilson has a Pro Football Focus offensive grade of 90.3 out of 100 this season, which ranks second among all quarterbacks behind Tom Brady.
2 — Scoreless first-half possessions after driving inside the Rams 30: Even with Wilson’s injury midway through the third quarter and the defense’s second-half collapse, the Seahawks might have been in position to beat the Rams if they’d capitalized on more scoring chances in the first half. Unlike its previous game against San Francisco, Seattle actually moved the ball pretty well early on against Los Angeles. The Seahawks totaled 177 yards in the first half — and that doesn’t include the 47 yards Tyler Lockett drew on a pass-interference penalty. However, Seattle had two instances in the first half in which it came up empty after driving inside the Los Angeles 30-yard line. First, there was Alex Collins’ failed fourth-and-2 run up the middle from the Rams 29. The decision to go for it on fourth down was likely the correct move analytically, but running into a loaded box and directly at all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald was certainly questionable. Then there was the Seahawks’ final possession of the half, when they drove to the 15-yard line before coming away scoreless due to a holding penalty that negated a touchdown pass and a missed field goal that left them with just a 7-3 halftime lead. Given what transpired after that, those missed first-half opportunities ended up looming large for Seattle.
450.8 — Yards allowed per game: After an encouraging performance a few days earlier against San Francisco, the Seahawks’ much-maligned defense played pretty well early on against the Rams. Seattle held Los Angeles to just three points in the first half — with some help from Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who gifted the Seahawks an interception in the end zone and struggled with accuracy issues while playing with an injured finger. But any hope that Seattle’s defense had turned a corner quickly evaporated after halftime. The Seahawks were gashed by Stafford & Co. for 23 points and 301 total yards in the second half, at an average of 9.7 yards per play. Once again, receivers were frequently left wide-open as Los Angeles marched downfield with ease for three second-half touchdowns. Through five weeks, Seattle’s defense is allowing 450.8 yards per game, which is on pace to break the 2012 Saints’ NFL-record 440.1 yards allowed per contest. Last year, the Seahawks’ defense was also on pace for that ugly distinction before turning things around over the second half of the season. Seattle will need a similar sort of defensive resurgence to keep this season afloat, especially with Wilson out.
62nd — Jamal Adams’ Pro Football Focus position ranking: The Seahawks’ defensive woes go far beyond any one factor. It’s been a collective failure from players and coaches alike. But one of the bigger storylines has been the play and usage of Adams, who signed an extension in August that made him the highest-paid safety in NFL history — one year after Seattle traded away two first-round draft picks to acquire him. Adams has a Pro Football Focus defensive grade of just 55.5 out of 100 this season, which is the lowest of his five-year career and ranks 62nd out of the league’s 85 safeties who’ve reached a minimum number of snaps to qualify. Adams’ dropoff in productivity this season coincides with the Seahawks playing him off the line of scrimmage significantly more often. According to PFF, Adams has rushed the passer on just 5.2% of his snaps this year, as opposed to 12.4% of his snaps last season. And through five games, Adams has yet to record a single sack or quarterback hit. That’s a massive decline from last year, when he set an NFL record for defensive backs with 9.5 sacks and added 14 quarterback hits, despite playing just 12 games due to injury. On one hand, it’s understandable that Seattle would want to use him more like a traditional safety. Blitzing is a risk-reward move, and when it doesn’t work, it leaves the Seahawks’ already-struggling secondary even more vulnerable. But at the same time, one could argue Adams’ unique skill set is being wasted by not giving him more opportunities to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. Adams is at his best when playing in the box, as evidenced by his 73.8 PFF pass rush grade this season, compared to his 53.7 coverage grade. As Seattle searches for answers to its defensive struggles, it’ll be interesting to see if it makes any changes to how its superstar safety is deployed.
1,414 — Days between regular-season starts for Geno Smith: With Wilson expected to be out for at least the next few games, it’s now Geno Smith time for the Seahawks. The former second-round draft pick and eight-year NFL veteran is set to start at quarterback, beginning with Sunday night’s primetime game against the Steelers. It’ll be Smith’s first start since Dec. 3, 2017, back when he was on the Giants. Smith started 29 games with the Jets over his first two seasons in the league, but has made just two starts over the previous six seasons. Smith, in his second year as Wilson’s backup, was impressive when called into emergency duty last Thursday night. The 31-year-old completed 10 of 17 passes for 131 yards and led Seattle to 10 second-half points, including a 98-yard touchdown drive. It’d be foolish to read too much into the small sample size, but Smith’s performance provides at least some hope that the Seahawks can weather the storm until Wilson returns. Seattle faces the Steelers, Saints and Jaguars over the next three weeks before getting its bye week after that. The Seahawks then travel to face the Packers on Nov. 14, which is reportedly when Wilson is aiming to return. If Seattle can win two of its next three games and get to 4-4 by Wilson’s return, then a playoff berth would still seem attainable. But if the Seahawks fall to 3-5 or worse, then that’d likely be too steep of a deficit to overcome.