Playing at home against a four-win football team that is missing its starting quarterback shouldn't be a gigantic hurdle for the Seahawks to clear.
But it was on Sunday.
The offense sputtered and struggled to move the football against a solid New York Giants defense and Seattle's defense cracked just enough as the Seahawks lost 17-12 to the Giants on Sunday.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' offense were just 4-of-13 on third down chances to keep possession alive. They also failed twice to convert on fourth downs and Wilson lost a fumbled snap and tossed an interception that were blows to the team's chances. The interception off the hands of running back Chris Carson gave the Giants a short field that led to a field goal that pushed the lead to five with just under 10 minutes to play.
The loss to the Giants dropped Seattle out of the lead in the NFC West race and served as a continuation of the issues the Seattle offense has seen in recent weeks. Wilson is not close to the level of play that he was performing at in the early stages of the season. The lack of a complementary rushing attack is also putting more of the burden of production on Wilson's shoulders.
The Seahawks defense played plenty solid enough. Given the enormous numbers they were allowing early in the year, allowing just 17 points on 290 yards of total offense is a fantastic showing for the unit. It should be enough to win a football game.
Just not against the Giants on Sunday. Here are the takeaways from the Seahawks' loss to New York:
-- Russell Wilson is not playing very good football right now and it helped cost them a game to the Giants
The Russell Wilson MVP train can be considered officially derailed.
Wilson's performance through the middle stretch of the season has cratered compared to the way he played through the first half of the season. For Wilson's standards, which are absolutely incredibly high due to track record, he is not playing good enough.
Important disclaimer: This doesn't mean that Wilson is a terrible quarterback, the worst to ever play the game, should be benched for anyone else, etc.
Outside of three interceptions in the loss to Arizona in Week 7, Wilson's first eight weeks of the season were sublime. He had thrown for over 2,100 yards with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating was 120.8 and he was averaging over 300 yards a game.
The offense just has not been able to produce anywhere near that level in the weeks since. In the four games prior to Sunday, Wilson had thrown jut five touchdowns with four interceptions. His yards per game had dropped to 266. His yards per attempt have dropped a nearly a full yard from 8.4 to 7.7. He'd been sacked 16 times the last four games as opposed to just 19 times over the first seven.
Sunday's performance won't help any of those numbers as Wilson was 27 of 43 for 263 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt and was sacked five more times.
"Offensively we just, we had trouble all day long and give them credit, they've been playing really good ball," Carroll said. "But I need to look at the film see what the heck happened, why it was like that so much so.
"We didn't move the ball. We weren't making plays to change field position. We didn't chunk them at all. We actually ran the ball pretty well early but throwing the ball was a struggle. Took some monster losses in the sacks that take you out, the whole drive is just totally challenged from there on. They were six- or eight-yard sacks, they were like 20. And so unfortunately all of those situations kept us from getting any momentum at all. We never got moving. It just isn't like that. None of us have seen us play like that so it was very difficult."
Wilson appeared indecisive and caught in-between on his decision making process against the Giants. He never appeared fully comfortable with what he was seeing. Whether that was concerns over the security of the offensive line, the scheme and coverage of the Giants defense, the play of his receiving options around him, or some combination of everything, Wilson and the offense just wasn't clicking.
Wilson said he didn't feel indecisive but said the Giants did give them problems with their coverage.
"I didn't feel like I was indecisive," he said. "I have to go back and watch the film. They're a good defense, to be honest with you. They've done a good job, coached well. They had some things covered up and kind of tried to keep everything in front. Didn't really have anything down the field or anything like that.
"I didn't feel indecisive by any means. Sometimes they have things covered too sometimes and sometimes you have to move around and they made a couple big plays in certain situations."
Wilson was reverting to bad habits that have mostly been cleaned up over the past two-and-a-half seasons. He wasn't getting rid of the ball on time. He was extending plays too long and trying to run away from pressure backward only to be chased down for sacks and forced into bad decisions. Wilson heaved a ball out of bounds for an intentional grounding and put a pass in peril throwing for Carlos Hyde behind the line of scrimmage for a 6-yard loss on a pass that could have been intercepted. Because of how late the throw came, Damien Lewis had moved downfield as well, resulting in a penalty being called (but declined).
These maneuvers didn't just result in bad plays but it also resulted in Wilson taking a beating.
Wilson took five sacks and was hit nine times by the Giants. While the offensive line did struggle too (as we'll get to), Wilson was responsible for some of those shots due to holding the ball too long and running into pressure himself. It was a flashback to his 2017 season when he was frequently too stubborn to give up on a play.
It's unfortunate for Seattle that the downturn in offensive success has coincided with the improved play from the defense. That side of the ball is fully pulling its weight now. If the offense was functioning more cohesively - as it did early in the season - the Seahawks' aspirations for a deep playoff run would seem wholly justified. But that hasn't happened yet and Carroll said he needs to dive into what happened to figure out exactly what isn't working.
"I'm going to look at this game and break it down and figure it out. Talk to Russ. Talk to Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) and get to the essence of it," Carroll said. "I'm not going to just throw out some thought right now randomly. I'm really surprised that this is how we looked against this game plan that they had. I thought that we could do a lot of stuff that just didn't happen for us. I need to see why and really break it down. I can't tell you right now."
-- Seahawks deliver another December dud.
Pete Carroll has always prided his teams on being at their best in the latter stages of a season. But far too often in recent years, a curious defeat in the final month of the season has served as a massive blow to the team's aspirations.
Just a week ago, the Seahawks benefitted from the Los Angeles Rams losing to the San Francisco 49ers to move into the lead in the NFC West race. It moved them into the second seed in the conference as well with five weeks left to play.
Then a home loss to a bad Giants team playing without their starting quarterback gave it all back again.
"This stings. I'm pissed off," safety Jamal Adams said. "Obviously, coming from where I came from, a New York team (Jets), it just hits a little bit different for me. But it's not about me. Obviously, we're going to bounce back. We're going to figure it out. We're going to correct the mistakes but it definitely stings. Definitely stings."
Yes, the Giants had been playing better football recently. They had won four of their last six games entering Sunday's matchup with three straight victories as well. However, those wins came against Philadelphia, Washington and Cincinnati, two fellow poor NFC East teams and a Bengals team without top overall pick Joe Burrow at quarterback. They were facing Seattle without their starting quarterback, Daniel Jones, and Colt McCoy was making just his eighth start in the last eight seasons.
That's not a game the Seahawks should lose as an 8-3 football team at home. It's not a game that the offense should only score 10 points against.
They still control their destiny for the division title as they play the Rams again in Week 16 and can make up a nominal deficit in the standings with a head-to-head victory. But the Seahawks had an advantage already in their pocket against a four-win team and squandered it away.
Three such losses have come to the Arizona Cardinals in recent years.
Last year, it was the 27-13 home loss to the Cardinals when Kyler Murray had to leave the game due to injury with Brett Hundley at quarterback and Kenyan Drake at running back carrying the Cardinals to a win. In 2017, it was another loss to the Cardinals in Week 17 where Wilson was intercepted three times in a 26-24 loss. The year before that it was a Week 16 defeat, 34-31, that cost Seattle a chance at the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
There types of games aren't always contained to December. A 17-14 loss to Washington at home in November 2017 helped set the table for the team to miss the playoffs for the only season of Wilson's tenure as starting quarterback.
Exactly how detrimental the loss to the Giants will be remains to be seen.
-- Injury shuffling at right tackle led to some trickle down problems.
The Seahawks were down to their third-string right tackle to being the game and finished with their fourth-string option in the lineup.
Brandon Shell was out because of a high-ankle sprain and Cedric Ogbuehi had a calf injury surface in practice on Friday that forced both players to be inactive for the game. Jamarco Jones got the start instead before he, too, had to exit the game because of a groin injury in the fourth quarter. Jones was replaced by Chad Wheeler, who was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday as additional depth because of the injury to Ogbuehi.
"It was in a walkthrough and Cedric tweaked something. It was very late in the week so we didn't have any time to prepare for it with Jamarco," Carroll said.
Wheeler immediately struggled as well at tackle as Jabaal Sheard and others were able to bull rush him back into the pocket multiple times.
Carson rushed for 65 yards on 13 carries for Seattle but the running game just wasn't a focal point of the offense. A fourth-and-inches call was for a play-action boot pass for Wilson instead of trying to pick up the conversion on the ground. Carson and Carlos Hyde combined for just 15 carries as Wilson tossed 43 passes with seven runs of his own coming off pass sets.
When Wilson did drop to pass, pressure in his face was a bit more constant from the Giants that other teams have been able to muster this season.
It wasn't a debilitating problem but it's never ideal having to go that deep into your depth chart for guys to play.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 06: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is hit by Leonard Williams #99 of the New York Giants during the second quarter at Lumen Field on December 06, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)