It’s easy to explain the Seattle Seahawks’ struggles in 2015, right?
The offensive line, never the strength of the two-time defending NFC champions even when Pro Bowl center Max Unger called Seattle home, is a laughable bunch with three different players trying to learn how to play up front at the NFL level.
In fact, if Pete Carroll was being honest, he might be OK with giving Chris Petersen a call in the U District and trading his “offensive” line for the Huskies’ big uglies, and letting the kids try to block for Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.
But that’s only part of what ails the Seahawks these days and it certainly doesn’t explain the supposed strength of this team, the generation’s best defense, faltering again and again down the stretch of games.
For the second straight week and the fourth time this year the mighty Legion of Boom imploded Sunday, and this time it was even worse because it happened in front of the 12th man, presumably football’s top home-field advantage.
A week after Andy Dalton made Richard Sherman and Co. look mortal in Cincinnati, it was Cam Newton’s turn as the Panthers’ dual threat connected with tight end Greg Olsen on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left as surprising Carolina stayed unbeaten by rallying for a 27-23 win.
Seattle, meanwhile, is 2-4 after giving up the fourth quarter advantage in every single one of its setbacks.
It’s fair to point to the fact Seattle’s competition over the past couple of weeks is a combined 11-0 so there remains a sense that the sky isn’t falling just yet but lowered expectations is often the first sign of a crack in the foundation.
“We’re a team that has tremendous expectations,” Carroll said after the latest disappointing loss. “To be where we are right now, it puts us in a position of tremendous adversity. It calls on you (to do) a lot of stuff, but it calls on us to believe in the guys in the locker room and believe in what we’re doing and hang together until we get things right.”
Hanging together proved to be tough against Newton, who piloted the Panthers to consecutive scores on their final two possessions, turning a 23-14 deficit into the stunning victory.
To make matters worse for Seattle, it was miscommunication between All-Pros Earl Thomas and Sherman that allowed Newton to find the streaking Olsen wide open down the seam behind the defense for the winning score. Sherman thought the Seahawks were in man coverage while Thomas had Seattle’s familiar cover-3 on his mind and the result was another fourth-quarter meltdown and just Seattle’s second home loss in the past two seasons.
“We made a mistake,” Carroll said. “We made a mistake on the calls. Guys got confused on the signal. It was unfortunate, obviously, and they get an easy play.”
Thomas, the leader of the defensive backfield, jumped on the sword, admitting parts of the secondary “played different defenses,” but Sherman had the right call, while he and his running mate, Kam Chancellor, were mistakenly in the cover-3 look.
The home cooking for Seattle actually started long before Carolina even reached CenturyLink Field as a fire alarm was pulled in the Panthers’ hotel in the early morning hours, and perhaps that lack of rest hampered the Panthers early because Ron Rivera’s team trailed 20-7 midway through the third quarter before getting the late wake-up call.
Newton and Co. then got the ball at their own 20 with 2:20 remaining and a chance to win it when the former Heisman Trophy winner completed two quick passes to get the ball to the 46 at the two-minute warning. Another hookup to Ed Dickson put the ball at the Seahawks 40 before the Seattle stop unit stiffened a bit as Bruce Irvin got loose for a sack which forced the Panthers to burn their final timeout.
The hiccup was just that as Newton responded by finding rookie Devin Funchess for 16 yards and following that with a little seven-yard gain to Jerricho Cotchery. A spike of the ball stopped the clock before Newton saw the confusion on the back end of Seattle’s defensive backfield and struck the death blow to Olsen.
“(Carolina) did a great job to finish the game again,” Carroll said. “I said the same thing last week, but this is the truth. It’s a fantastic job of them finishing the game. It didn’t have to go that way. I know you guys don’t want to hear it, but we have six games we should have won, and we know that. That’s how close they are.”
Close is not supposed to be the mantra for a Super Bowl winner that was one play away from back-to-back Lombardi Trophies. The Seahawks of old used to take close games, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s not what happened; it’s how we’re going to handle it,” Carroll said. “We’ll find out. These guys will hang, and they’ll work together to bring a really good effort again next Thursday (against San Francisco). We’ll see where we are once we get cranking. It is very challenging.”
— John McMullen is the national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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