Grading the Game: Seahawks can’t convert on offense, can’t stop Chiefs’ running game
In the first of a six-game gauntlet that figures to determine the course of the 2014 season, the Seahawks came up just short.
Seattle Times staff reporter
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A year ago after 10 games of the season, the Seahawks were 9-1, holding a comfortable lead in the NFC West, already priming themselves for the playoffs.
A year later, they find themselves at 6-4 with an uphill climb just to get a wild-card berth following the 24-20 defeat Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Seattle players, though, said afterward that hope remains.
“We still have so much football left,” said safety Earl Thomas. “We’re still a good football team.”
Still, the defeat Sunday illustrated many of Seattle’s flaws, as our weekly grades will detail.
While Seattle didn’t win, it was a bounce-back game in many ways for Russell Wilson, who had a quarterback rating of 98.2 after three weeks of being below 78, and also contributed to the rushing attack with 71 yards on eight attempts (in the process breaking his team record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback of 539 set a year ago). Wilson has 571 rushing yards on the season, 484 in the past seven games.
Marshawn Lynch is dealing with calf and rib issues, and also has a sore back. But you’d never know it the way he ran Sunday with 124 yards on 24 attempts, his second consecutive 100-yard game. No one else did much, though, as Robert Turbin and Christine Michael had just 9 yards on five combined attempts. And the Chiefs kept alive their streak of not allowing a rushing touchdown this season.
Going against a pass defense ranked the best in the NFL coming in, Seattle was able to make a few plays, but couldn’t get much going downfield. The Seahawks averaged just 8.9 yards per catch (compared to a season average of 11.1) with a long of 24, that coming on a short throw that Jermaine Kearse turned into a longer gain. Doug Baldwin, Kearse and Paul Richardson were the only receivers to be targeted. And while drops were largely few, Kearse had one in the end zone in the second quarter on a drive where Seattle was forced to kick a field goal.
As expected, newcomer Tony Moeaki played a lot, and scored a touchdown on his first reception as a Seahawk. And Luke Willson had his best day of the season receiving with three catches for 51 yards, with a long of 27. At the end of the game, though, it was mostly Moeaki and Cooper Helfet (who had one catch on three targets) who were on the field.
Early, the line picked up where it left off last week against the Giants as the Seahawks rushed for 118 yards in the first half with Lynch getting 68 on 12 carries. Seattle finished with 204 on 37 attempts, its third-highest rushing total of the season. Things changed noticeably, though, once center Max Unger went out with a high ankle sprain midway through the fourth quarter — the failed fourth-and-one run among the most notable. And the pass blocking was again an issue as the Chiefs had nine quarterback hurries.
Seattle coaches and players said later it was hard to really tell how much Brandon Mebane was missed, noting that the Chiefs did a lot of their running damage on plays that went outside. Still, it’s hard to think it’s totally a coincidence that in the first game without Mebane Seattle allowed a season-high 190 rushing yards. Kansas City also threw just 16 times, so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to get to Alex Smith. Seattle didn’t officially get credited with any quarterback hurries.
Seattle went back to a linebacking corps featuring K.J. Wright in the middle, Malcolm Smith on the weakside and Bruce Irvin at strongside. There were a few too many missed tackles and open gaps all around, especially early as the Chiefs averaged 7.8 yards per carry in the first half. Smith, though, came up with one of the best defensive plays, stopping Knile Davis on a third-and-goal run from the 3.
The Chiefs didn’t pass much, going for just 108 yards, while leaning on their running game. More critical was the run defense, and Earl Thomas, to name one, had a mixed bag of a day. He was officially credited with both forced fumbles, but also took blame later for a missed tackle on Jamaal Charles’ 47-yard run that led to Kansas City’s go-ahead touchdown.
A mixed bag here, too. Baldwin replaced Richardson as the kick returner after a fumble and a 4-yard return. And Seattle allowed kickoff returns of 39 and 32 yards.