The Seahawks run of victories in the Eastern Time Zone at 10 a.m. came to a crashing halt on Sunday in Buffalo.
Josh Allen and the Bills took advantage of four turnovers from Russell Wilson and tore through a porous Seattle pass defense in handing the Seahawks a 44-34 loss.
"I don't recognize that game. We haven't seen us look like that and it's a game that I don't have any place in my brain for it," head coach Pete Carroll said.
Despite posting their most amount of sacks in a regular season game in seven years, the Seahawks defense provided little resistance to the Bills. Allen completed 31 of 38 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns against Seattle. The Bills built an early 17-0 lead and never looked back.
Two interceptions and two lost fumbles from Russell Wilson headlined a subpar day for the Seahawks offense as well. It's not often a team loses the turnover 4-0 and finds a way to win a football game. In fact, it's something the Seahawks have never done in the history of the franchise. Only twice have they managed to overcome a 3-0 turnover differential to win, the last coming in 2013 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"if we turn the ball over four times it's gonna be a hard day and I don't know what what the scores were but I think they scored every time we turned it over," Carroll said. "And that just adds to a day when you're already struggling a little bit and that's that's enough to make a game look like that."
Neither team turned to its rushing attack much as 79 passes were thrown with just 27 runs by non-quarterbacks.
"The one thing we do great is respond and we need to make sure we respond at a high level," Wilson said.
Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks loss to the Bills:
-- The defensive issues may have reached a critical mass.
The Seahawks are putting up over 34 points a game offensively. They've scored at least 30 points in all but one game game so far this season.
While they struggled on Sunday, they're more than doing their part.
But the defense? Woof.
The defense is allowing over 30 points per game and is on pace to blow away the record for the worst pass defense in NFL history.
The 44 points allowed to the Bills on Sunday is the most ever in the Pete Carroll era and the most overall since a 48-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers in 2009. The Seahawks are allowing 362.1 passing yards per game. The 2,897 yards allowed through eight games is more than 300 yards worse than the closest prior to this season as the 2002 Kansas City Chiefs had allowed 2,589 yards through this point in the season.
So exactly halfway through the season, double the total and you get 5,794 passing yards on pace for the full season. How bad is that? No defense in NFL history has ever allowed more than 5,000 passing yards in a year. The 2011 Green Bay Packers allowed 4,796 yards. The Seahawks are pace to be nearly 1,000 yards worse than that mark.
The Seahawks likely won't finish THAT badly. They still have games against the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Football Team still to come in the second half of the schedule. But they could still easily set a new benchmark for pass defense futility even with an improved second half of the season.
"We're gonna hang together. We're not gonna call anyone out. We'll stay together stay tight and turn it back around again," Carroll said.
There is potential for improvement as Carlos Dunlap adds to the defensive line and Jamal Adams returns to the secondary. Shaquill Griffin is expected back from a hamstring injury and concussion soon as well. But it has been a brutal start to the season for Seattle's defense.
Sunday's performance highlighted most of those issues.
"We gave them some stuff with some misplay," Carroll said. "We expected to play the stuff that we did play much better than we did and it seemed like we were really loose on some run after catch stuff as well. We did not plan to be off them as much as it wound up looking like and that was not the plan. So we've got to see why that happened. It's just such an out of character game across the board that I don't even recognize us."
Would making a change with Ken Norton Jr. at defensive coordinator solve anything? It is still Carroll's defensive philosophy overall and he has oversight of the unit. Carroll noted that he made the call to blitz on a third-and-16 that turned into a 33-yard screen pass to John Brown. Who takes over as defensive coordinator if you make the move? Assistant head coach/defensive line Clint Hurtt? Do you bring back Dan Quinn or Kris Richard midseason to work with players they don't know?
Such a move may not solve anything at all. But it may be getting close to the point where they have to do something.
There was one area where Seattle will hope is a precursor to improvement...
-- Pass rush starts getting sacks.
The defense has plenty of issues still to correct but there may have been a glimmer of optimism from the output of the pass rush.
The Seahawks combined for seven sacks of Allen on Sunday. It's the first time Seattle has had at least seven sacks in a regular season game since a 2013 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Jarran Reed led the way with three sacks while Carlos Dunlap, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Jamal Adams all had one as well.
"Obviously everybody was clawing and scratching out there and he's as tough as they come in," Carroll said of Reed. "I'm glad that he was able to get some numbers today. He's a true leader on this football team."
The sacks didn't stop Allen and the Bills' offense from producing, but for a unit that has really struggled to affect the passer all year it was a possible step forward. Carroll noted that he didn't expect Buffalo to be quite so pass-heavy in their approach.
"These guys didn't even try to run the football today," Carroll said. "We didn't expect that to happen. We didn't think they would totally abandon the running game. We had a real nice plan for how they were gonna run it. We have to be able to adapt better."
Could this be something the defense can build upon? With the addition of Dunlap ultimately make Seattle more effective rushing with just four so they can play coverage with more bodies? It's too soon to tell but it was one small area of progress for the embattled unit.
-- The Seahawks may have a Quinton Dunbar problem.
Right off the top we're going to give some benefit of the doubt that Dunbar may be ailing due to a knee injury he's managed throughout the season. That injury may be significant enough to have a real effect on the level of play Dunbar can deliver at the moment.
But the way Dunbar is playing at the moment just flat isn't good enough and Sunday's game in Buffalo was not pretty.
Dunbar was beat often while playing off-coverage and then seemed hesitant to make a tackle once the receiver had the ball. He did finish with six tackles on the day to lead the team because he was so frequently the player being targeted. He was ultimately replaced in the fourth quarter by Linden Stephens.
Carroll did indicate after the game that the injury at least had something to do with his play.
"I think Dunbar sucked it up today in a way that you probably don't recognize it right now because he was struggling, he was surviving a little bit more than we wanted to," Carroll said. "We need to get Shaquill back out there to help us out and then we just need to help him more too we didn't help him enough."
Griffin was out for the game, so was Ugo Amadi. D.J. Reed sustained an ankle injury during the game and Tre Flowers left briefly as well. It did leave Seattle short-handed at the position with Stephens, Jayson Stanley and Ryan Neal available in a pinch for depth at cornerback. It's likely the reason Dunbar remained in the game as limited as he appeared to be.
But Dunbar hasn't been particularly impressive throughout the first half of the season. He's had glimpses of solid play but none of it has been consistent. They need to hope that Dunbar's knee injury can improve enough to get him playing better than he did on Sunday.
-- Offense can share in this result too.
While the defense will take its lashings for the performance against the Bills, the Seattle offense shouldn't feel all that accomplished by Sunday's performance.
Wilson's four turnovers and five sacks allowed by the offensive line helped hinder the team's chances of keeping pace with the Bills. The first interception by Wilson wasn't particularly egregious as it was a fourth down up-for-grabs kind of desperation throw. But the two sacks that led to lost fumbles and the interception by Tre'Davious White that set up an easy touchdown were big blows to Seattle's chances.
"We battled. I think that we just got to be cleaner," Wilson said. "We still had a great chance to win the game despite it all. ... Despite that it wasn't our best game obviously we scored a lot of points. We did a lot of good things in that sense but we also did some bad things. We've just got to eliminate those things and I think stay focused on the mission."
The two lost fumbles were particularly painful. The Seahawks had scored prior to the half to cut the lead to 24-10 and got the ball to open the third quarter with a chance to further close the deficit. Instead, Jerry Hughes stripped Wilson and the Bills turned it into a field goal to make it a 27-10 lead.
The second fumble just served as the final dagger.
The rushing attack of DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer and Alex Collins managed just 52 rushing yards on 15 carries with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde sidelined. Having faced an early 17-0 hole, that put the game squarely on Wilson's shoulders and it wasn't enough given the turnovers.
Photo Credit: ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 08: Siran Neal #33 of the Buffalo Bills attempts to tackle Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at Bills Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)