SEATTLE - OCTOBER 30: Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #15 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch against the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field on October 30, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Bengals defeated the Seahawks 34-12. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
A few things that people are talking about following the Seahawks loss to the Bengals on Sunday.
Well, there's a lot of things that could be said about the Seahawks loss to the Bengals on Sunday so I'll try and sum them all up here. This isn't meant to be comprehensive, but I'll give this a shot.
Pete Carroll's coaching:
People naturally call into question the coaching decisions in a game like this, especially when those decisions don't work out well. Pete Carroll has been known to make a few, ... interesting... decisions from time to time - a 61-yard FG attempt at the end of the Atlanta game is the most recent, and criticizing these decisions is all part of the coaching territory.
Pete's decision to call timeout with 14 seconds left in the first half and then go for it on 4th and 2 from the 3 yard line will be debated probably this whole week. There are two sides to the argument, with some gray area in between. Some people are ok with the aggressiveness of the call but only with a timeout remaining. People think he should have just taken the 3 points. People think he should have thrown it. People think all kinds of things, and no one is technically correct, because it's a strange world and no one knows what would have happened if things had gone differently. The butterfly effect is alive and well in the NFL and it hurts my brain trying to figure out how different I would be today if Pete Carroll had made a different decision.
My take is that I'm fine with the decision and I can live with the mistake of calling timeout prior to it. Like I heard this morning from Brock Huard on his radio show, players make mistakes, they drop passes, they get penalties, they fumble the football and they don't execute at times. But that doesn't mean they should be fired immediately. As long as the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin, you learn from those mistakes and move forward. In my estimation, Pete Carroll's good decisions and management of the team far outweigh a few mistakes in the course of a game. Obviously that's totally subjective and you may feel the opposite, but that's the gauge I'm using to figure out if this is a story.
The offensive struggles:
The defense again did enough to put the Seahawks in a position to win the game, had the offense managed to put up some points. The final score of 34-12 does not accurately convey how close this game was down the stretch. It was a five-point game, 17-12, with under 9:00 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. It was an eight-point game, 20-12, still one score, with just over 4:00 minutes remaining. Only then did the wheels fall off with a punt-return touchdown and a pick-six on the ensuing drive for the Bengals that put the game away and accounted for the final score of 34-12.
The offense did manage to put up 411 yards of total offense; 350 through the air and 61 on the ground. They made 20 first downs to 18 by the Bengals. They had 71 offensive plays to the Bengals 57. They turned the ball over twice and the Bengals matched that with two interceptions. This was against at team that came in ranked 2nd in the NFL in total defense so really I'd say it could have been a lot worse.
They simply didn't finish.
They need to be better in the red zone. They went 1/3. They need to be better on third down. They went 5/15. In crunch times, they didn't execute. And that's why they lost, in a nutshell. You can take it down to a play-by-play basis and criticize play-calling or coaching decisions, but ultimately they didn't do enough to win the game. 11 penalties for 80 yards lost. Awful. The run game struggled. That kind of thing cannot be fixed overnight, but the personnel now on the line and in the backfield have potential, in my mind. Scheming and experience should bring improvement.
The good news? Tarvaris Jackson appears to have turned a corner and has really been slinging it in his past three appearances. He put up 323 yards passing in just over two and half quarters. That's something to build on, assuming he's healthy enough to keep playing.
A bourgeoning defense:
If there's something tangible to be excited about, it's this Seahawks' defense. A massive, run stopping line that's leading the NFL in opponents' yards per carry at 3.2 yards per rush. A youthful but deep secondary who we'll get to see in action for the rest of the season with Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond on the IR. A new-look linebacker corps that has been holding its' own.
A new attitude. Athleticism. Toughness. Brandon Browner fricking suplexed a guy. Not even exaggerating.
They're not elite by any measure, but the personnel that has been brought to the defense is something to be hopeful about. With a few more pieces to the puzzle, this defense could really be special. At least there's that.
In summation, another frustrating loss for the Seahawks. Another winnable game that slipped through their grip. It's frustrating but this is a young team and resounding and well-executed wins aren't exactly the norm, so it's not super surprising.